Arlington VA April 5, 2015
The recent rampages of both Boko Haram (Kenya and Somalia) and ISIS elements (Syria, Iraq) continue to play out a peculiarity in the ongoing battle between economies and politics. In doing so, the stability of several major markets, the continued viability of nation-state actors, and the domino effect on the world stage become very much apparent.
The next several articles will take aspects on this ongoing drama to show how complex the issue is in reality, and how complex is the potential solution. In these discussions, I want to separate some major points, and then bring them together in contrast in the final piece. We will discuss:
- Political insecurity as a means to enhance terrorist activities
- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a catalyst for increased domestic terrorism
- Criminal activity under the guise of religious fundamentalism
- The declining influence of Western major powers in curtailing terrorism i other parts of the world
- Empathy and the "Stockholm Effect" among terrorist groups and followers
So, where do we start in this journey?
Looking at the Middle East, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, we see massive infiltration and conflict from several groups, some acting as potential state actors, such as ISIS, and other, such as Boko Haram in Somalia, North Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya who are inserting themselves in states with weak or no viable government, and whose people have been long used to conflicts among themselves.
The scenarios are very similar; a former colony or protectorate of some western power, given independence, and then left to their own devices to build and maintain stable governments. Some, such as Syria and Iraq were creations of political bargains following World War I. Others were similar bargains, some following World War II, and still others, especially the French and British colonies, over the period between 1952 and 1975.
In most of these cases, a strong political leader emerged and either seized control, or was elected and then turned to near-dictatorship to maintain control. Arising out of these political bargains was a small, but ardent group of opposition groups who, while not having enough resources to overthrow the government, could create a constant friction, preventing any real improvement in the economic conditions of the country.
In the oil-producing countries, the governments in power often had the necessary money and economic power to prevent overthrows, and maintain control, but often only through brutal repression; something which further enhanced the influence of the opposition. While we do see some of the opposition arising from the poorer segments of state society, we also have seen the rise of more educated opposition leaders; those who understand that the way to topple a government over time is to reduce or cripple their economic hold on vital resources.
Add to that picture the desire by Western governments to retain influence themselves in the region, through economic grants and foreign direct investment, thus providing alternative sources for needed cash to continue their rule, and you have the makings of a triad--the Government, the Opposition, and foreign governments support the existing regime. The government uses every means to eliminate the opposition, the foreign powers are drawn into a protected economic battle, and the opposition hates both. In these kinds of situations, there is no real winner; certainly not the people who have no influence on current affairs.
Political insecurity is one of the principal assets of the opposition or an insurgency, either of which have as their principal aim to take over the government. The major difference is in the method. The opposition, whether a party or simply a group, will more often than not try to do with peaceful means, stopping short of anything more than protests and civil disobedience. The insurgency will use any means, including armed resistance to achieve its goals.
One of the unfortunate side effects here is that opposition groups often migrate toward violence to achieve their goals, as in Egypt, Syria, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, to name just a few. When opposition groups become active insurgencies, as we see currently in the Arabian Peninsula, and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines, and down into South-west Asia, armed conflict can rise to the level of civil war, or, as we see in the middle East broad sectarian conflict.
Interestingly, the more violent the opposition/insurgency becomes, the more likely they will eventually prevail. The installed government is forced to reallocate resources to combat the violence and upheaval, leaving the lower levels of society to fend for themselves. Often, as a result, the opposition groups step in with community, public health and welfare, and other humanitarian aid; quickly becoming more popular with the people. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and many others have achieved their successes against governments by being seen as the supporters of the people.