Category Archives: The Blog

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Argentina’s Bondage

It isn’t that often that you see a country defending itself in a US court. But in the last week of March Argentinian representatives were in New York district court trying to defend their country over its 2002 default on $100 billion national debt.  This hearing was a part of an ongoing legal battle over a portion of this debt which was not restructured after the initial default and the negotiated restructuring that occurred in both 2005 and 2010. This eleven year legal battle over an outstanding $370 million dollars was the catalyst for the seizure of an Argentinian Naval tall ship  in Ghana in October 2012.

The plantiffs in this cases which include hedge funds and individual investors have argued that if Argentina has been capable to pay back portions of their restructured bonds, they are capable to payback the same portions to the non-restructured bonds (equal step clause).  Argentina fears that if the court rules against them, it will cause a surge in “what about me” claims where restructured bond holders then begin asking for full payments again; this is why the Argentinians have made three separate offers to the outstanding bond holders to restructure and discount their holdings, all of which have been refused.

As result of these debt concerns the price to insure Argentina bonds has risen and unless another settlement is reached the country is set to default on payments due at the beginning of June. So while the world watches the people of Cyprus suffer as the pain of the recent bailout cripples their nation, a country with an economy 20 times its size is on its own path to default.

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Photo Credit: The Sagamore Journal

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Russia’s Green Light?

In light of the revelation that the two Boston Marathon bombing terrorists were of Chechen ancestry, does this give President Putin a green light to finally crush the simmering rebellion in the region?

After two wars in the breakaway Russian state from 1994-1996  and from 1999-2009  the region has fallen into an uneasy peace for the past couple year. This peace hasn’t halted the ongoing terrorist campaign by separatist organizations striking at targets both inside Chechyna and in Russia as a whole.

With the 2014 Sochi Olympics quickly approaching President Putin who’s hardline on Chechen terrorist/rebels will want to ensure no threat is presented for the upcoming games. Should the Boston brothers be traced back to a specific Chechen organization will the Russians use this to crackdown on terror organizations in Chechnya and the bases that they use in surrounding states?

For decades the United States has intentionally avoided confronting Russia on the Chechen issue. The standard response from the US government has been calling for “peaceful resolution” to the conflict in the region, while condemning  human rights violations by both Russian military/government forces and Chechen rebel organizations. The question moving forward is whether the US chooses to engage the Russians on the Chechen issue? Will the US turn a blind eye if the Russians decide to crackdown on these organizations and individuals in the run up to the 2014 Winter Games? It is probably too early to say one way or another to how Russia will react to this situation but that reaction will determine the stability of the entire Caucasus region.

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Photo Credit: BelyakovPhoto

North Korea from South

North Korea: What If We Had It Wrong The Whole Time?

Give the bellicose rhetoric coming out of North Korea you would think they have a hidden super weapon and Kim Jong Un was doing his best Dr. Evil or Bond villain impersonation. Yet the world is now fixated on a nation that can barely feed itself, its military is several decades out of date and despite their claims it’s missiles cannot reliably hit the continental United States.

Now this is not to understate the fact that a war on the Korean Peninsula would have catastrophic costs to the Korean people but the fact of the matter is; the war would be short and the North would lose badly; one of the most repressive regimes on earth would fall and the Korean peninsula would likely emerge united and democratic.

The nuclear deterrent that this pariah nation possesses is not of the scale of the Cold War and its ability to deliver these weapons accurately is questioned. The response to American or allied troops (Japanese or South Korea) being killed by a North Korean nuclear attack would be a response in kind and the North would run out of rubble before the Americans would run out of hydrogen bombs.

What this surmises to is a situation where the only way the North Koreans can make good on their threats is if we have had it wrong the whole time. That every assumption and intelligence estimate that has been made about the North is wrong, and that Kim Jong Un truly is a bond villain, stroking his cat and a super laser ready to strike.

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Photo credit: kalleboo

Vatican

Power Of The Pope

Following the election of Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy as Pope Francis the First it had me wondering, what sort of power for change will he truly have? As we all probably know, the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the approximately 1.2 billion individuals who categorize themselves as Catholics. The election of a South American Cardinal has been considered by some as an effort by the Church to tap into some of the fastest growing Catholic populations and his membership in the Jesuit order and modest lifestyle could signal that the church may dedicate some its vast wealth to aid the poor and needy.

Even with these advantages, the new pope faces a number of challenges, so much so that Canadian Cardinal Marc Oulluet (an early front runner in this election) was quoted as stating that being Pope “would be a nightmare”.  Beyond the spiritual responsibility it seems that almost every month a new report of abuse emerges against members of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile in one of his final acts, Pope Benedict decreed that a secret report that had been submitted to him on the “Vatileaks” scandal would remained sealed to all but the new Pope leaving some discontent among the electing Cardinals. The new Pope will have to battle against a Vatican bureaucracy and institutional inertia to effect change.

Despite the backing of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, I suspect that many within that number are what could be called “Sunday Morning Catholics” who religiosity extends to Sunday mass and major holidays. Calls for reform from church outsiders and members that could potential stem the decline of church attendance  are up against push back from entrenched hard line Cardinals who seek a continuation of traditional doctrines. Either way, Pope Francis is damned. Should he move towards reform he will alienate traditional elements of the Church. While if he maintains the status quo he will face greater push back from everyday Catholics who seek a more open and inclusive church in the 21st century. Either way, the new Pope’s power to effect change will be constrained.

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Photo credit: dslrtravel.com

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Britain’s Defence Industry: Decisive Dealers in Death

As Osborne plans to impose £11 billion of welfare cuts or tax rises, the arms industry in Britain in contrast is an ever increasing chief expenditure. In 2011, after the US Britain was found to be ‘the world’s biggest defence exporter’, and shamelessly remains the fourth-biggest military spender in the world. By shamelessly I mean proud, exemplified by Cameron last December as he admired the ‘outstanding performance‘ of the Typhoon fighter jet in Libya.

From an impartial British citizen’s perspective it is tempting to believe Cameron when he says:

Boosting exports is vital for economic growth, and that’s why I’m doing all I can to promote British business … so [it] can thrive in the global race. Every country in the world has a right to self-defence, and I’m determined to put Britain’s first-class defence industry at the forefront of this market, supporting 300,000 jobs across the country.

In actuality, the defence industry makes up a mere 1% of the workforce. More importantly, what does increasing your own nation’s GDP mean when it comes at such a barbaric cost elsewhere?

Within just four months in 2009, as the Sri Lankan civil war between the government and the Tamil Tiger’s culminated, up to an alleged  75,000 people were killed. A recent Independent article reveals how during a similar amount of time, over a mere three month period last year, the UK sold nearly £4 million worth of weapons to Sri Lanka – regardless of numerous reported human rights abuses.

The following article is about the recently revealed execution of the 12 year old son of the military leader of the Tamil Tigers, shot dead by the Sri Lankan army. If you can’t relate to the 75,000, perhaps you can relate to a young individual in order to realise that it is time to regulate the arms trade. It is time to stop profiting from deaths.

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Counter Terror Expo 2013

CTX 2013

Counter-terrorism it has become big business. In recent times the growth of an entire terrorism-industrial complex has developed around the real, and perceived, threat of terrorist attacks. This type of fear driven commercial activity raises all manner of ethical questions, not least in terms of maintaining the ‘threat-level’ in order to sell more products. Often however, the counter-terrorism industry is not the Neo-con monster it is perceived as, but can provide the impetus for fresh innovation and research, as well as driving the development and emergence of new technologies, many of which have far grater scope than their original remit and benefit society at large.

A stark illustration and interesting case in point is that of the forthcoming Counter Terrorism Expo (CTX) event at the Olympia, London on 24th and 25th April 2013. This is an amalgamation of conferences, workshops, and trade shows, bringing together an array of private and public organisations all with a focus on security and counter-terrorism. The event hosts a number of features including (but not limited to) the Cyber Security Conference and Solutions Zone – focusing on the strategic analysis of cyber security for governments, critical national infrastructure, and private corporations. CTX brings together representatives and professionals from police, emergency services, government, military, intelligence and security services, private sector, oil and gas, cyber, maritime/anti-piracy and critical national infrastructure. It provides a platform for some the leading suppliers of integrated security solutions with a full trade show and workshop programme concerning themes such as intelligence reporting and analysis, investigations and detection, video management and CCTV, blast protection and resilience systems, CBRE protection and suppression, armoured and support vehicles, and command and control technologies.

Far from being adverse to this, I believe a multi-solution approach to security is absolutely essential for a dynamic, intelligent response to security threats and a holistic appreciation of the sector. Indeed, I would like to see events like CTX in the future go a step further and also include scholarly presentations from appropriate academic institutions, like the Jill Dando Institute at UCL or the War Studies Department of King’s College London. This would not only complement the professional experts and workshops discussing operational strategies, but also provide sober political and risk analysis, and allow practitioners access to the most up-to-date research from across the field. Nonetheless, with 400 exhibitors and an audience of over 8,500, CTX 2013 will no doubt prove to be a unique showcase for emergent technologies, equipment, and services in the security sector.

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Photo Credit: counterterrorexpo.com

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Legacy of Lines on a Map

In Robert Kaplan’s recent book Revenge of Geography,  Kaplan argues that geography, particularly land masses and oceans, have played a distinct role in determining the geopolitical fault lines of the world both in the past, present and he predicts into the future. Although this idea isn’t particularly new, Kaplan argues that it is one that has largely been forgotten and has resulted in the development of many of the geopolitical trends that we see today. Although Kaplan spends most of the book looking at six distinct areas: Europe, Russia, China, India, the Middle East and finally North America and how geography has shaped the ebb and flow of power within and between each region. A more interesting analysis is how these rules of geography can be applied to the periphery of the world system.

When looking at many of the protracted conflicts from recent history and today there is a common thread that seems to tie them together. That common thread is geography. What I mean by geography is that I am not speaking specifically about rivers, plains and mountains although they do play a role; I am more speaking about the lines that we find on a map. So many of the protracted conflicts that are festering around the world have to do with where arbitrarily lines have been drawn on a map.

Look at Afghanistan, the ongoing insurgency is largely based in Pashtun region that straddles Afghan/Pakistan border which prevents proper counter-insurgency operations from being carried out. Had the British drawn the borders a little different, it would have dramatically altered the battle against Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Even before the US invasion, northern portions of the country where Tajik, Uzbek and Turkman population are centred, battled as members of the Northern Alliance against the governing Taliban.

The same can be argued for Africa, the divorce between North and South Sudan illustrates the same issues as do the ongoing conflicts in the Congo, Mali and the East African horn. Lines drawn on a map with no acknowledgement of geography are often plagued with instability due to the fact that geography often dictates the cultural and ethnic distinction of the peoples within a region. So when geography was ignored in the past, it has resulted in instability in the present and future.

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Photo Credit:  Eric Fischer

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I’m Eating A F*cking Salad!

Healthy food is too expensive. And unless you’re clearly overweight, it’s almost frowned upon and sometimes a little embarrassing.

The moment you pull out your lunchbox, flamboyant salad leaves edging to spring out on to your surroundings as you peel the lid off because you’ve stuffed it with as much as you possibly can.

Then there’s always that leaking residue from whatever dressing you’ve decided to acquaint your salad contents with, so this time you have decided to wrap the lunchbox in extra plastic bags. This was a very sensible, practical idea at the time you did it, but now that it’s time to eat amidst the public, it feels like the music has stopped , pass the parcel has landed on YOU, and every breathing soul in the room is watching you unveil and devour your food. Even the ones who aren’t facing you.

All you can think is, “Holy fuck I hope the people sitting near me don’t think the fishy smell is coming from me… Well, it is, but it’s my tuna salad!”.

For a young female, the narrative of eating often goes something like this:

If you eat the unhealthy option i.e. burger, crisps, chocolate, chips, fat-ass triple sandwich – you’re potentially categorised as a fat bitch. You go for the healthier option, you must be on a diet, and the cries of “Oh, don’t be silly, you don’t need to lose weight” echo.

A big problem with going for the healthier option isn’t just social pressures though, it’s also the fact that it is usually obscene in price in comparison to the naughtier options, and also frugal in choice.

So society should back off when bitch be getting her Aldi seasonal salad out for lunch. Being healthy is not the same as being on a diet, and this message deserves greater emphasis. Many people are insecure, especially when they’re young and weight conscious. If healthy food was cheaper and more accessible, then choosing that option wouldn’t set you apart so much.

Whilst fast food chains have noticeably introduced healthier options, the prices are still not as cheap as they should be. Considering going to McDonalds for a salad seems like going to a crack house for vitamins, or a whore house for a hug, you would think it would be cheaper. It really shouldn’t cost this much to eat a f*cking salad!

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Photo Credit: sa_ku_ra

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Europe Needs Modern Journeymen

Recently Berlin was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Elysee treaty of friendship between Germany and France. The celebration gave rise to several discussions on the status of the European project and the possibility of a political union.

One long standing criticism of supporters as well as opponents of European unification has been the assessment that the European project is very much a elitist idea and undertaking driven by intellectuals and politicians in a top down process. What Europe is lacking is a demos, it’s a Europe without Europeans. Several smart measures have been suggested to remedy this issue, but many are so disconnected from the times we are living in that the are just borderline ridiculous; who still believes that French intellectuals or German novelists are important for European understanding is really lost to this century; this is the old elitist discourse we need to get rid off.

The European experience needs to be made tangible for everyone. University students who have understood the importance of Europe on more than just the intellectual level; on the emotional level, often have enjoyed the benefits of the Erasmus program. However, it is an abomination that such programs that support student mobility across Europe have mainly been limited to university students who due to the nature of their profession have a high affinity to the international world anyway.

What we need in Europe is a massive program to facilitated the exchanged of young trainees and professionals; blue-collar workers. They are most important for the future of the Europe and need to understand that there is something beyond their immediate environment that has important implications for their lives. Giving them the opportunity to learn about foreign countries and cultures is crucial in establishing the necessary awareness. On the more concrete side of things, they will also be able learn new technics and ways of doing business that will enrich their lives and work at home. This idea is not a pipe dream; an historical precedent exists.

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Photo credit: fdecomite

London

Towards A Bomb-Proof Underground?

The Madrid bombings of 2004 and the 7/7 London Underground attacks of 2005 killed 191 and 52 civilians respectively. The horrific scenes of carnage and destruction vividly demonstrated the devastating reality of explosives detonating inside confined rail carriages. The NewRail programme based at Newcastle University’s School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering, and funded by the EU’s SecureMetro project, is tasked with reducing this potential. In the future this is likely to spawn a whole new generation of ‘bomb-proof’ tubes, but has already had notable successes developing carriages which are far more resilient to explosives detonating inside them.

The project’s sphere of activity concentrates around two primary aims; containing the impact of the blast, and reducing the amount of resultant debris – which is often the foremost reason for fatalities, not necessarily the explosion itself. These engineers have also explored ways to revise the dividing structures, both between and within carriages, by introducing energy-absorbent materials to reduce blast velocity.

Analysing train wreckage from 7/7 alongside controlled, yet full-scale, explosions of a variety of Over and Underground carriages, the team were able to better understand the nature of explosions within rail vehicles. Particularly the way in which the wave travels along the length of the carriage. A better appreciation of such blast mechanics is also key to understanding how the interior furnishings react to the force. Addressing such vulnerabilities, proposals for the re-designed and target hardening of current trains has resulted in a prototype (which itself has undergone full-scale testing) specifically with blast resilience in mind. Securing ceiling panels and seating with retention wire, applying plastic layer coating to windows, replacing heavier equipment with light-weight alternatives, and introducing energy-absorbing materials, were just some of the key alterations made.

“Preventing flying objects is the key. Tethering ceiling panels reduced the risk of fatalities and injury from flying shrapnel and also meant the gangways were kept relatively clear of debris, allowing emergency staff quick access to the injured… The windows are blown outwards – putting anyone outside, such as those standing on a platform, at risk from flying glass.  With the plastic coating applied you see a clear rippling effect as the blast moves through the train but every window remains intact, apart from the safety windows which are designed to be easily knocked out.”

Conor O’Neill, Newcastle University’s NewRail research centre

Replacing the entire Underground network with new ‘bomb-proof’ carriages is clearly both impractical and economically infeasible in the immediate future. Nonetheless, incorporating new blast-resilient technologies and materials into existing units, to create trains which are better able to withstand terrorist attacks is an intelligent move in the short-term. How the PR and information campaign that surrounds these upgrades is handled will also be key; increasing public awareness will both improve the commuters feeling of security and reduce the appeal of the Underground as a potential terrorist target.

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Photo credit: dChris

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Bye Bye Merkel?

It is an election year in Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel just turned into a “lame duck”. Her governing coalition has lost the majority in Germany’s second chamber (representing the state governments) to the opposition; a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens won the state elections in Lower Saxony on Sunday by the closest margin possible (69 vs. 68 seats). This will severely limit Merkel’s policymaking leeway (some observers have noted that her government hasn’t done much anyway over the past three years).

Commentators have not yet decided what the consequences of Sunday’s election means for national elections in fall. While Merkel’s CDU lost the government in Lower Saxon it is polling at a five year high nationally. At the same time, the SPD and Greens were running against a popular MP and especially the SPD was under a lot of pressure due to a media campaign against its candidate for Chancellery, Peer Steinbrück and is far from having started serious campaigning. Merkel’s coalition partner the FDP, without which is will become hard for her to form a government, is consistently polling below the 5% election threshold, nationally. Social Democrats and Greens have argued that they will beat Merkel during campaign, believing their political programs are superior. Germany’s Chancellor is considered by many to be devoid of any political program since she abandoned her neoliberal ideas after the election in 2005 which she almost lost against Gerhard Schröder. However, this has not been an obstacle for her popularity so far.

The elections in Germany are much more open than many international (and domestic) observers believe. While widely considered the most powerful woman alive, she might soon be an elder stateswoman.

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Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos

young girl with gun

Games with Guns

Written in direct response to Jamiesha Majevadia’s blog “POW! Act Tough On Play Fighting And Vaccinate Against Mass Shootings.

In her article Majevadia requested we stay away from “THAT” debate on video games and promised a follow up on gender issues.  This piece will therefore try and focus away from those issues as much as possible.

The concept of various elements of modern life, from news to video games to swearing, numbing the youth to extreme violence is a common one. The left turns to it as part of its culture of aversion to all violence and suffering, the right turns to it as a scapegoat for gun violence (anything but admit that the guns themselves are the primary culprit for killings involving guns).

However the battle between them has created a situation in western society where they have disproved one another. Liberal focus on clamping down on schoolyard activities under the banner of health and safety has dramatically reduced violent games which used to be the stalwart of (especially boys, gender is an inescapable issue in these arguments) playtime fun. However at the same time as games such as cowboys and indians, cops and robbers or bulldog have faced cutbacks, shootings by youths has skyrocketed. There are hundreds of issues which can explain that fact, but playing cowboy clearly is not one of them.

As someone who shot rifles for years and was part of a military cadet group, I can say without a doubt that guns are exceptionally “cool” in a way many of my peers (mostly female ones, gender rears its head again) simply do not understand. I absolutely love them, the noise, the smell, the physicality, the achievement of blasting down another target. Few things have given me the sheer sense of being awesome (and I mean that in the literal sense, not the slang) as shooting down five 200m targets faster than those around me. I was a very good shot and loved being good; I also thoroughly enjoyed my time in uniform, including two camps at British military bases.

However I’m also aggressively anti-gun politically, in the respect that gun laws should be extremely restrictive and comprehensive. The article I co-wrote with Tom Hashemi should bear witness to that. I have received various threats for my stance in the gun debate and yet continue to passionately argue the case against freedoms to gun ownership even as I plan my next trip down to the pistol range. My experience of violent play as a child or that I have grown up in a low-regulated environment surrounded by rifles has certainly desensitised me to their presence. I have never jumped at gunshots and I have plenty of plastic replicas in my childhood toybox. The concept that this has somehow normalised violence and death or made me any less aware of the danger of these weapons is ludicrous. If anything I have a far greater respectful fear of these weapons than I ever would have done isolated from them.

The idea of guns as “seriously cool” (they are, it’s as undeniable as the coolness of monster trucks, explosions and rugby) does in no way coincide with a flippant attitude towards gun laws and anger at how the pro-gun lobby has betrayed those killed in the United States. Rifle shooting is no less a acceptable sport than the equally violence-based Olympic events of javelin and archery. When correctly safeguarded and protected, guarded by highly trained and vetted professionals, guns are no less dangerous than swords in the hands of fencers. It is ensuring this state of affairs which should be the priority, not clamping down on a child’s playfulness for the whims of the political climate.

Playing with pretend guns as a child is not something that can be simply cut out, it is an inevitable consequence of a child’s competitive nature, playful aggression and the “coolness” that guns will no more shake than will the swords and arrows they also play with.

My only hope is that their play, and the gradual realisation of the concept of death, will slowly teach them the respectful fear that these weapons rightfully deserve.

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Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

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Bad Food is BAD

“DID YOU KNOW BAD FOOD IS RELATED TO LOTS AND LOTS OF BAD HEALTH ISSUES?”

It seems as though BBC News has adopted the Daily Mail’s ‘everything gives you Cancer’ theme, with their incessant publications based on the idea that bad food is unhealthy. Take for instance their latest piece entitled Fast-food linked to childhood asthma and eczmain which they disclosed a colossal finding:

“Evidence suggests that the vitamins and antioxidants found in fresh fruit and vegetables have a beneficial effect on asthma therefore Asthma UK advises people with asthma to eat a healthy, balanced diet including five portions of fruit or vegetables every day.”

Five a day and a balanced diet could improve our health? There’s news, and then there’s plain obvious. According to the BBC the population isn’t just overweight, it’s stupid too.

A previous article on the topic highlighted how asthmatics are also more likely to be overweight, due to the ‘inactivity asthma encourages’. They look at a study conducted in 2007 consisting of 330,00 people and they found that for every normal weight person with asthma, there were 1.5 who were overweight or obese. (As if half people need even more problems).

I’m getting mixed messages here, BBC News. So if one has asthma, one has a perfectly valid excuse for being obese. If one does not have asthma but eats lots of naughty food, one could potentially get asthma. The only sensible conclusion that can be made here therefore, is that if one already has asthma, one should simply ‘fuck it’ and eat all the shit one likes, because chances are one will be fat anyway. YOLO.

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Photo Credit: Kevin Krejci

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The Boko Haram Bandwagon

Founded in 2001 by flat-worlder Mohammad Yusuf, the Salafist group Boko Haram (“Western education is sinful”) morphed into a Jihadist entity and, under Abubakar Shekau‘s guidance, launched their wave of violence against Northern Nigeria circa 2009/10. Assaults have predominately targeted government staff and politicians, security personnel, Christian communities, and even Muslim religious leaders. Although initially a local insurgency concentrated in Borno State, from 2011 Boko Haram have forged international ties with a number of jihadist militias outside Nigeria including Mali, Somalia, and the Sahel — the 1,000 km biogeographic transitional belt between the Sahara desert and the Sudanian Savannas. Boko Haram’s “rapid progression from a machete-wielding mob” to a serious military contender, have seen the group accused of up to 10,000 deaths in West Africa from 2009 to date. Although claims of being a direct al-Qaeda subsidiary are disputed, Boko Haram has arguably surpassed the operational capabilities of many ‘certified’ al-Qaeda affiliates, whilst successfully applying their Salafi jihadi prognosis to local grievances and pre-existing sentiment pools.

Today, Boko Haram’s links to the militants of Mali, the Sahel, and wider afield have allowed it to obtain and dispatch regular assistance to other regional Islamists. Consequentially Boko Haram are capable of existing far beyond their original operational hub, even if the Nigerian security forces drive out influential figures like Shekau. The utility of al-Qaeda modelled pretexts by Boko Haram, to rationalise and exploit anti-government and anti-Western opinion in perimeter provinces of Northern Nigeria, have allowed them to justify their existence and ensure their longevity, whilst effectively radicalising and mobilising new recruits. This blurring of both national and convocational boundaries has been a shrewd move.

The world has seen the devastating result of itinerant Islamists militia sweeping in on the coattails of Tuareg fighters returning home from fighting for Colonel Gaddafi. The mobility of Boko Haram across the Sahel is not an encouraging sign. Nigeria’s troubles could well become the concern of other West African nations, such as Mali, Niger, perhaps even the smaller, less equipped, Muslim majority countries of Guinea, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, or Senegal. Most of these countries have woefully inadequate schooling and low educational attainment, meagre employment opportunities, high economic deprivation, artificial national boundaries, brittle democracies, and entrenched ethnic divisions. They have often experienced brutal Islamist incursions and witnessed their own people travel to Mali to join the jihad.

Although the ethnic composition of many of these countries may differ to Nigeria, Boko Haram could represent a dangerous regional rubric, or even act as the catalyst for emulative West African copycat groups to follow suit. During an awkward period in which the al-Qaeda franchise has been arguably diluted, Islamists may no longer have to join the jihadist monopoly, they may simply need to dabble in a spot of ideological property theft, get mobile, and go freelance. Figuratively and literally jumping on the bandwagon!

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Photo Credit: Marxchivist

german flag waving

Germany Won’t Fight

France has intervened in Mali to stop an assault of rebel forces from the north of the country. While Britain has supplied two transport aircraft to airlift equipment to the West African state, Germany initially remained hesitant. What is clear is that the country will not send combat forces, but will probably provide logistical, humanitarian and/or medical support. Comments from the governing coalition experts pointed towards a lack of consensus regarding what such help would entail. Nevertheless, Tuesday night it was reported that France and Germany are in negotiations to use German Transall aircraft and that a decision will be announced by Thursday.

Germany’s role during the war in Libya drew a lot of criticism from its partners. Hence, it was clear that Angela Merkel’s government would not be able to stay out of this conflict entirely. However, its reaction sticks to an established modus operandi. Germany has gotten rid of the highly moralized arguments that dominated the discussion about sending military forces abroad during the 1990s. The recent end of conscription went hand-in-hand with a hasty attempt to form a fully professional army. At the same time, do not expect that Germany will take such an active role again as it did in Afghanistan (some might beg to differ on the “active” part) in the near future. It will try using other measures (such as export of weapons and military equipment or supporting other countries in military campaigns where necessary) or only send troops where it can guarantee relative safety for its soldiers (Patriot rockets in Turkey).

During the red-green administration Joschka Fischer and Gerhard Schröder gave Germany an active foreign policy profile, taking a leading role on Kosovo for example. We cannot expect such an approach from Westerwelle and Merkel; their default mode for politics remains hesitation and low profile. In addition military interventions are largely unpopular in Germany and it is an election year.

Update: The German government announced today that it will indeed send two aircraft to support French operations. Merkel said that the “the terrorism in Mali is not only a threat to Africa but also to Europe”.

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Photo Credit: fdecomite