Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Terrorismo? Quale terrorismo? Come la comunicazione aggrava il problema della definizione

Perché è così difficile definire il terrorismo?

{Dipartimento di Studi Strategici (War Studies), King’s College London}

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]rovare una definizione per la parola ‘terrorismo’ è di certo uno dei rompicapi più impegnativi dell’epoca moderna. Tale fenomeno si manifesta all’interno di un complesso mosaico di problematiche che influiscono sul breve tempo che si ha a disposizione per poterlo valutare. Sebbene sia diventato elemento cruciale della maggior parte delle agende politiche già all’indomani dell’11 Settembre, ancora non vi è un consenso unanime circa la sua definizione. Per citare un esempio, nel secondo dibattito presidenziale Mitt Romney ha criticato aspramente il presidente Obama per non aver definito l’attacco all’Ambasciata degli Stati Uniti a Bengasi un attentato terroristico, cosa che il Presidente in carica ha fatto solo due settimane dopo lo stesso.  In maniera simile, il leader libico ad interim ha definito la vicenda come un atto di violenza criminale. I politici prima, e i media poi, si sono dimostrati riluttanti, imprecisi e vaghi nel voler far rientrare questi avvenimenti sotto l’etichetta di atti di natura terrorista. Il presente saggio presenterà dunque una parte di quello che è il dibattito intorno al problema della definizione, sebbene alcune questioni saranno omesse. Tuttavia poiché il terrorismo è strettamente collegato a motivazioni di carattere politico e a ragioni retoriche, che vanno di pari passo con l’evoluzione della comunicazione moderna, è comprensibile la difficoltà nel trovare una definizione univoca al concetto.

Alcune definizioni

Il primo passo da compiere è capire perché è così importante fornire una definizione del termine. A partire dall’11 Settembre, la parola ‘terrorismo’ è entrata a far parte sempre di più del lessico della società moderna, tanto da rievocare nell’immaginario collettivo immagini alquanto violente, di sacrificio e catastrofe. Sappiamo tuttavia comprendere ciò che è davvero il terrorismo? Molti accademici e professionisti si cimentano costantemente nella ricerca di una definizione e, allo stesso tempo, rifiutano quelle già esistenti. Walter Laqueur, che è forse il più illustre della categoria, sostiene che una definizione “non esiste e non la si troverà in un prossimo futuro.” Allo stesso modo, Jeremy Waldon e George Fletcher, in opere separate, riconoscono che ci sono troppe domande ma non risposte sufficienti. Entrambi sembrano lontani da una reale definizione e credono piuttosto che il miglior modo per capire cosa sia il terrorismo sia quello di assistere a una delle sue manifestazioni.

Anche l’Ambasciatore britannico alle Nazioni Unite pare essere sulla stessa linea d’onda. In un discorso successivo all’11 Settembre ha evitato di darne una definizione affermando, “ci dobbiamo concentrare su questo concetto: il terrorismo è il terrorismo … ciò che appare, puzza e uccide come il terrorismo è solo terrorismo.” Tuttavia, se il terrorismo viene considerato come una questione transnazionale, e non all’interno di un paradigma Stato-centrico, sostenere che ogni attacco terroristico presenti determinate caratteristiche che sono sempre evidenti, non solo è banale, ma va a discapito di ogni tentativo di progettare una strategia antiterrorista vincente.  Se, dunque, il terrorismo è una questione globale che interessa diversi Paesi, la sua definizione è di vitale importanza per capirlo e, infine, combatterlo.

È opportuno pensare che la lotta al terrorismo necessiti di una definizione, per quanto sia un’impresa molto ardua. Alex Schmid, il cui pensiero è diventato una pietra miliare all’interno del dibattito definitorio, ha posto l’accento sui “metodi derivati dall’ansia” che sono inflitti alle vittime “generalmente scelte… (bersagli di opportunità).” Un particolare interessante è che egli annovera gli attori statali all’interno della sua definizione e quindi aumenta la necessità di una classificazione in quanto non separa chi o che cosa commette gli atti di natura terrorista. In una risposta diretta a Schmid, Weinberg non include elementi di carattere psicologico all’interno della sua definizione ma pone bensì la politica come ragione principale dietro la strategia terroristica. Allo stesso modo Bruce Hoffman sostiene l’importanza delle motivazioni di carattere politico e le considera lo strumento principale per comprendere il modus operandi dei terroristi. Tuttavia, motivare che un gruppo terrorista agisca esclusivamente per ragioni politiche chiarisce solo un aspetto della questione, così come se si ignorano le motivazioni religiose o ideologiche l’ambito di analisi ne risulterà limitato. John Horgan si allontana dall’idea di Weinberg, mettendo l’accento sull’uso psicologico del ‘terrore’ che, nelle sue parole, “rivela una parte del mistero” nella comprensione del terrorismo.

 L’uso del terrore è di vitale importanza per valutare un attacco perché, come sostiene John Mueller, rompe il codice morale penale rispettato da quasi tutte le popolazioni. Pertanto, la comprensione delle potenziali tattiche e dei target individuati non solo aiuta a polarizzare attori statali e non-statali, ma permette anche una migliore comprensione dei potenziali obiettivi di un gruppo. Non vi può essere una definizione univoca ed esclusiva, ed è appropriato sostenere che il dibattito accademico aggiunge maggiore incertezza alla definizione di terrorismo. In ogni caso, se proprio si volesse utilizzare un singolo concetto esplicativo di terrorismo, questo includerebbe inevitabilmente una serie di parametri che siano in grado di valutare l’attività terroristica.

L’uso improprio del termine ‘terrorismo’

L’ambiguità del mondo accademico su come interpretare le manifestazioni del terrorismo, contribuisce a lasciare irrisolto il problema concettuale. Generalmente, il modo in cui gli attori politici e personalità influenti utilizzano tale termine, ha una valenza molto più ampia, che distoglie dal vero significato e dall’uso del sostantivo ‘terrorismo’. All’interno della sua opera provocatoria, ‘Intrappolati in una Guerra al Terrore’, Ian Lustick affronta l’argomento  ponendo l’accento su come il terrorismo è diventato il fondamento cruciale della politica di Bush. I discorsi pregni di sentimenti patriottici che rimandavano a nostalgiche emozioni di guerra, hanno aiutato a legittimare le decisioni politiche dell’ex Presidente, e a fuorviare la percezione della gente da ciò che effettivamente è il terrorismo. Si trova riscontro di quanto detto negli svariati errori commessi dall’amministrazione Bush nel tentativo di combattere una ‘guerra al terrore’.

Altrettanta confusione è riscontrata nel momento in cui il terrorismo è analizzato, o quando un attacco pare enucleare tutte ‘le caratteristiche e le sensazioni (suscitate da un atto) di terrorismo’: è in questo momento che si ricorre al termine per eludere la mancanza di consenso unanime sulla natura di un atto così violento. Le semplificazioni imposte a livello governativo sono inesorabilmente e ulteriormente aggravate dall’uso sistematico di un “allarmismo apocalittico”, in cui viene impiegata una soffocante varietà di  tattiche intimidatorie – in particolar modo negli Stati Uniti. Ad esempio, la politica concernente la Homeland Security (attività di sicurezza interna contro il terrorismo, NdT) non solo descrive solo la minaccia di terroristi in possesso di armi CBRN, ma anche la loro capacità di utilizzare queste stesse armi “da casa all’estero”. Dichiarazioni imprecise e approssimative sembrano celare altre motivazioni. Fred Kaplan ha sostenuto sulle pagine del The Guardian che “le politiche messe in atto riscuotono il massimo sostegno se sono legate alla guerra al terrorismo”. Di conseguenza, se si adopera il terrorismo in correlazione ad altri argomenti di natura politica, al fine di acquisire il sostegno dell’opinione pubblica, un problema di ordine metodologico sorge inevitabilmente: è possibile separare la realtà dalla finzione ed essere finalmente in grado di fornire una definizione precisa dell’oggetto in questione?

Il ruolo esclusivo della comunicazione

La manipolazione interpretativa dei governi sulla natura del terrorismo è aggravata dallo sviluppo di fenomeni legati alla globalizzazione e al conseguente sviluppo tecnologico che, parafrasando Manuel Castells, ha creato un “nuovo spazio di comunicazione” nei centri di potere. La diffusione di alcune idee politiche presso popolazioni e territori precedentemente estranei e geograficamente distanti, e le accresciute possibilità di comunicazione tra le comunità emigrate con la propria madrepatria, ha creato una complessa dicotomia bollata da Sir Richards come “rete globale di rivendicazioni.” La rapida crescita della tecnologia e l’esplosione dei social media hanno trasformato pareri e opinioni in uno spazio informativo virtuale. Questo permette alle persone di muoversi “rapidamente e senza fili” all’interno di un mondo virtuale. David Betz ha correttamente definito questo fenomeno come il Web 2.0, in cui tutti i vettori della società interagiscono simultaneamente e, di conseguenza, il pubblico non ricopre più il ruolo di spettatore passivo ma rappresenta invece la componente attiva del mondo dell’informazione.

Le tecnologie moderne hanno dunque fornito una potentissima piattaforma per attuare una comunicazione orizzontale attraverso un arcipelago di confini nazionali e internazionali. Se il messaggio è incorretto o fuorviante può scatenare conseguenze imprevedibili, dal momento che fornisce informazioni errate ad un’intera comunità. A tal proposito, i messaggi politici stanno diventando sempre più messaggi mediatici e hanno l’immediata capacità di influenzare tutti i campi della società. D’altro canto, la tecnologia moderna permette ai cittadini la possibilità non solo di eludere i controlli statali tradizionali, ma anche di trasmettere informazioni false. Questo è ben noto all’interno della relazione sulla tecnologia del Generale David Richards nella quale sostiene che la comunicazione moderna “si situa ben oltre la capacità dello Stato di esercitare il proprio controllo senza minacciare tutte le altre funzioni di quello stesso Stato.” Ciò nonostante, tale affermazione è vera in entrambi i sensi e pertanto i governi sono in grado di esercitare un certo grado di autonomia nell’uso dei processi mediatici moderni. Pertanto, come sostiene David Kilcullen, i fini e i mezzi che conducono allo sviluppo di fonti d’informazione si caratterizzano per una scarsa trasparenza che rende molto difficile distinguere l’origine o l’affidabilità delle fonti stesse.

Difatti, un messaggio del governo diventa immediatamente l’input per l’elaborazione dei messaggi da parte dei media, e il relativo output ricopre un ruolo cruciale nel plasmarne la definizione. Se anche il terrorismo è sottoposto a questi filtri di comunicazione, va da sé che il risultato sarà un caleidoscopico insieme di definizioni. Tali definizioni, a loro volta, vengono poi servite all’opinione pubblica, ai leader e ai soliti stereotipi sulla politica estera. A tale proposito John Horgan sostiene che per analizzare il terrorismo nel suo insieme di definizioni è necessario discostarsi dai media. Tuttavia, ottenere un tale distacco appare molto difficile poiché i governi sono i primi attori che sempre più spesso ricorrono ad un utilizzo del termine in un contesto erroneo, con i media pronti ad associarlo a questioni di carattere politico.

Conclusioni

Questo questo saggio ha preso in considerazione una varietà di fonti ma non ha proposto in alcun modo una conclusione esaustiva sul dibattito concernente il problema della definizione. Si è voluto porre l’accento sul ruolo del governo statunitense per via del suo compito esclusivo nella lotta al terrorismo, in quanto le indagini portate avanti in altri Paesi avrebbero potuto generare conclusioni molto diverse. Ad ogni modo, la cattiva informazione imposta dai governi potrebbe riferirsi ad ambiti diversi della vita di tutti i giorni, e le conseguenze della stessa sono ulteriormente aggravate dalle modalità della comunicazione moderna. In ultima analisi, questo rende ancor più arduo il tentativo di fornire una definizione precisa di terrorismo.

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Saggio tradotto da: Valentina Mecca

Articolo originale: Terrorism is Terrorism? How Communication Exacerbates the Definitional Problem

Photo Credit: bixentro

Terrorism is Terrorism? How Communication Exacerbates the Definitional Problem

Why is terrorism so difficult to define? {Department of War Studies, King’s College London}

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A definition of terrorism is arguably one of the woolliest concepts of modern discourse. Its manifestations arrive from a complex mosaic of compounding issues that affect any real brevity in assessing it. Since 9/11 it has been promoted to the forefront of most political agendas and yet no definitional consensus has followed. In the second presidential debate for example, Mitt Romney lambasted President Obama for not calling the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi a terrorist incident, of which Obama took 14 days to finally call it such. The interim Libyan leader in comparison described it as an act of criminal violence. Politicians and subsequently media organisations have been careless, imprecise and sloppy in labelling incidents as acts of terrorism. This essay will therefore, scale back from the larger definitional debate and acknowledges that issues will be omitted. However, by arguing that terrorism is wrapped up in political motivations and rhetoric in tandem with the rise of modern communication, ultimately has a greater impact in understanding why terrorism is so difficult to define.

A Definitional Overview

To argue with clarity, the first logical step is to assess why terrorism is so important to define. Since 9/11 the word ‘terrorism’ has increasingly become intertwined in today’s society, and is synonymous in creating powerful images of violence, self-sacrifice and catastrophe. However, are we any closer in understanding what constitutes it? There are many academics and professionals who not only struggle to grapple with a definition, but utterly refute any notion of needing one. Walter Laqueur, perhaps the most prominent in this category, argues that a definition “does not exist nor will it be found in the foreseeable future.” Additionally, Jeremy Waldon and George Fletcher, in separate works, acknowledge that there are too many questions and not enough answers. Both seem to deviate from any real conclusion and believe the best possible course in understanding terrorism – is to know it when you see it.

The British Ambassador to the United Nations also shares this argument. In a post 9/11 speech he shunned the attempts of a definition by stating, “let us be focused about this: terrorism is terrorism… What looks, smells and kills like terrorism is terrorism.” However, if terrorism is taken as a transnational issue and not a single state-centric paradigm, to simply say every terrorist attack has characteristics that are obvious in all instances and consistently the same, is not only trite, but affects any sort of successful counter-terrorism strategy. Therefore, if terrorism is a global affair encompassing many different countries, a definition is vitally important to understand and ultimately combat it.

It is fair to argue that a definition is imperative in combating terrorism. However, coming to that conclusion is not an easy feat. Alex Schmid has become a cornerstone in the definitional debate and arguably places significance on “anxiety-inspired methods” which are implied on victims “generally chosen… (targets of opportunity).” He interestingly includes state-actors within his definition, which further adds weight to the necessity for a classification, because it can separate who or what are committing the acts. In a direct response to Schmid, Weinberg et al conclusively found no room in their definition for psychological effects and place politics as the primary reason behind terrorist strategy. Bruce Hoffman also asserts the importance of politics and views it as the key tool in understanding terrorists modus operandi. However, viewing a terrorist group in the sole constraints of politics reveals only a partial picture, as ignoring religious or ideological motivations limits the scope of analysis. John Horgan moves away from the idea of politics by putting explicit importance on the psychological use of ‘terror’, which in his words “removes part of the mystery” in understanding terrorism.

The use of terror is vitally important in assessing an attack because, as John Mueller identifies, it breaks down the moral criminal code that almost all populations abide by. Thus, understanding the potential method and targets not only helps polarise state and non-state actors but also allows a better degree of understanding of what the potential aims of a group are. There is arguably not one definition to use and it is fair to say that the scattered academic radar adds more uncertainty to how terrorism is defined. Nevertheless, if a definition is used, it does enable a set of parameters to be implemented allowing terrorist activity to be assessed.

The Misuse of ‘Terrorism’

The understandable academic ambiguity around the manifestations of terrorism is one that will continue, however, it is arguably not the basis of why terrorism is so hard to define. The way the word is used in its entirety by political apparatuses and influential individuals has a far larger footprint in misguiding the real meaning and use of terrorism. Ian Lustick’s thought provoking book ‘Trapped in a War on Terror’ portrays this argument and crucially identifies how terrorism became the Bush administrations political foundation. Patriotic fist pumping speeches that hark back to old veteran sentiments helped legitimatise policy-making decisions and misalign people’s perceptions of what terrorism actually is. There is perhaps little to dispute with this argument especially when assessing Bush’s clay footed notion of fighting a ‘War on Terror.’

Other hazy statements seem to be in abundance when terrorism is assessed and the idea of an attack to have a ‘look and feel of terrorism’ seems to be the optimum phrase when there is no uniformity concerning a violent attack. The blurry platitudes imposed by state echelons is unrelenting and is further compounded by the systematic use of “apocalyptic alarmism” whereby a top down smothering of scare tactics is employed – specifically in the United States. Homeland Security for example, not only portrays the threat of terrorists having the capability of CBRN weapons but also the ability to use those weapons “from home and abroad.” The imprecise and often inaccurate statements seem to have other motives. Fred Kaplan, in The Guardian, believes “policies will gain maximum support if they are linked to the war on terrorism.” Therefore, if terrorism is bound up in political drives for public support it begs a very serious question whether it is possible to separate truth from fiction and thus provide an accurate definition.

Communications Unique Role

Government’s apparent manipulation of the subject nature of terrorism is compounded by mushrooming nature of globalisation and the subsequent rise of modern technology, which in Manuel Castells words has created a “new communication space” where “power is decided.” The expansion of ideas to previously untouched parts of the world and the connection of disparate communities to their home nation has created a complex dichotomy that Sir Richards labels as a “global network of grievances.” The rapid expansion in technology, and the explosion of social media sites has arguably transformed opinions and debates into a virtual, informational space. This, allows people to move “rapidly and seamlessly” within a virtual world. David Betz has aptly labelled this as Web 2.0, in which all vectors of society can interact simultaneously, and subsequently, the public are no longer passive spectators but an active cog in the informational world.

Modern technology has therefore now provided an unprecedented platform to move messages horizontally across an archipelago of national and international borders. If the message is incorrect or misleading it can have exponential consequences by smattering the population with distorted information. In that respect, a political message is increasingly becoming a media message and has the ability to influence all spheres of society instantaneously. However, on the other hand, the role of modern technology also means people can circumvent not only traditional state controls but also contrived information. This is evident with General Sir David Richards’ summary of technology where he argues modern communications “are way beyond the state’s ability to control without threatening all the other functions of that state.” However, this works on both feet and allows governments to wield a certain degree of autonomy in the use of modern media processes. Therefore, as David Kilcullen argues, the ends and means of developing sources of information have a paucity that makes it very hard to distinguish origins or accuracy.

A government message is thus now instantly input into the media and the subsequent outlets play a significant role in shaping how it is defined. If terrorism is put through these many different communication filters, the outcome is a kaleidoscopic mesh of compounding definitions. They are connected to public opinion, leader personality and the usual platitudes around foreign policy. John Horgan therefore argues, to assess terrorism in its definitional entirety; a movement away from the media process is vital. However, with governments increasingly using the term in its haziest context and media being completely associated with political issues, this arguably is not possible and subsequently affects coming to terms with a definition of terrorism.

Conclusion

To conclude, this essay has focused on a very selective variety of sources and is not by any means conclusive in bringing the definitional debate to a finish line. It has specifically focused on the US government’s role due to its unique place in combating terror and an investigation into other nations could lead to a very different argument. However, misinformation imposed by any government can arguably filter down into everyday life and is further exacerbated by the role of modern communications. This ultimately gives a larger footprint and further muddies the water in trying to come to terms with an accurate definition of terrorism.

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Photo Credit: bixentro

Good Luck President Obama, You Need It!

Most of Obama’s policies are completely unchanged from those of his predecessor. The War on Terror continues, the drone program has expanded, relations with western Europe remain strong whilst those with Russia remain hostile. But what of the second term?

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President Obama looking serious

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“The best is still to come” was the soundbite which has resonated from Obama’s victory speech last night. Time will tell if this is the case, but the facts are that the US public has overwhelmingly supported the status quo in this time of economic trouble. The President remains in office, the Democrats keep the Senate and the  Republicans keep the House of Representatives. In that respect nothing has changed. But with no future election to worry about, will Obama’s foreign policy change from the Bush spillover which dominated his first term?

In 2001 George W. Bush faced one of the most dramatic changes in international affairs since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Faced with two falling towers and thousands of dead Bush was faced by a US public desperate for answers, for justice and for vengeance. The result of this was the first term of the War on Terror, 2001 in Afghanistan, 2003 in Iraq. Wars that were supposed to be short interventions to create a change in the Middle East became festering pools of suffering for almost a decade. Tens of thousands died across the Middle East, and by his second term Bush was desperately trying to hold together a mission that was going from bad to worse.

Obama inherited that mission. Bush’s surge in Iraq had already stabilised the country ready for a withdrawal Obama only had to keep on target. However, the ongoing mission to attempt to stabilise the Middle East, destroy the leadership of Al-Qaeda and mend relations damaged by the 2003 invasion of Iraq remained the same.

What Obama faced in taking office was a battle between his lofty ideals and promises and reality. His compromise was pragmatic, driving towards aims slowly and cautiously and making no significant and unbalancing changes to the foreign affairs of the second term of Bush.

What did change was so gradual the world’s population at large barely noticed it. There was a shift from the Middle East to the Pacific with troop deployments in Australia and a new agreement with Japan over Guam and further military cooperation. Although this shift has been slowed by the Arab Spring and the continued fighting in Syria, it is symbolic enough to prompt China’s own challenges for the South and East China Sea. There were significant defense cuts which have placed an emphasis on less of everything, but a greater emphasis on technological and training superiority. Obama has orchestrated a gradual lean to a more impartial role in the Middle East than under Bush, one aided by his faux-pas with Nicholas Sarkozy and the intervention in Libya against a secular dictator on the side of Islamists as well as liberals. More generally there has been a shift away from democratic transition by pressure or force and towards a focus on stability. Transition is now pushed towards supporting stable governments and pushing them towards liberal reform. Again, the Arab Spring was an unexpected reversal of this trend. And, of course, Osama Bin laden is dead.

However, most of Obama’s policies are completely unchanged from those of his predecessor. The War on Terror continues, the drone program has expanded exponentially, relations with western Europe remain strong whilst those with Russia remain hostile. But what of the second term? What of 2012-2016?

Well the answer is: Probably much of the same, but don’t expect the US foreign policy world to look the same in 2016 to 2008. The track of Obama’s presidency has been a gently-gently turn from Bush’s policies to Obama’s, and the US should look very much like Obama’s legacy by the end of the next four years. A turn from the Middle East to East Asia, from military intervention to diplomatic and economic pressure, from antagonism of Muslim states to partnerships based on the national interest of influence.These policies have already proved fruitful and will continue to do so. Japanese support for military bases was prevented from collapse just long enough to actually step up cooperation important to limit China’s expanding Pacific potential. Sanctions in Iran have its economy on the verge of collapse and popular support of Ahmadinejad beginning to turn against him. The intervention in Libya and support for the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions has given Obama political capital there not seen for decades. Despite the Benghazi attacks popular support is actually for the US as militant groups were forced out of Eastern towns across the country by anti-extremist protesters.

That said, just like the Arab Spring revolutions, the 9/11 attacks and the fall of the Soviet Union, sudden and unexpected events can throw the best plans into disarray. How Obama deals with potentially disastrous events could change his foreign policy dramatically.

  • Afghanistan: Withdrawal in 2014, if too soon, could devastate the region and NATO’s influence.
  • Syria: The conflict must be restrained to the country to avoid regional collapse.
  • Iran: Although sanctions are working, should Iran turn to desperate measures or should Israel overplay its hand things could turn very dangerous.
  • Yemen: A potential second Afghanistan/Somalia. Though the risk is smaller should the state collapse, the threat of a new front could give extremists a valuable new refuge.
  • South/East China Seas: The competition between the South-Eastern/Eastern Asian powers over the seas is not a battle the US can involve itself in overtly or risk facing backlash. However it is one which needs to be carefully monitored and one where soft power could be at its most important.
  • West Africa: The continued rise of Bokko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQM) and other extremist Islamist groups in this region could be a new front in the most need for intervention but with the least popular support for it. So far the US has only been able to give token support for these states, but as things go from bad to worse in Mali this cannot be expected to be the end of the conflicts.

Congratulations Barack Obama, but I don’t envy you in the four years to come. You will face a hostile House of Representatives and a demanding public. You will face the challenge of keeping North Africa on your side and yet still combat Islamic extremism, of limiting China without antagonising it, of realising your potential without ceasing to be pragmatic. Good luck President Obama, you need it.

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Photo Credit: US Army

White House Leaks: Where’s Joe The Plumber When You Need Him?

The leaking of top secret information by the White House combined with the heavy-handed prosecution of Bradley Manning make it easy to claim hypocrisy. But, compared to the Bush Administration and the Valerie Plame affair, Obama is arguably an angel.

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the White House

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he White House is currently under fire from Republicans, who say the Obama administration has leaked sensitive national security information. Senator John McCain has called for a special counsel to investigate the leaks to be appointed. Under this pressure, the Justice Department announced that they would investigate the leak accusations.

While the President himself has strongly denied this, his administration has leaked information to journalists and authors. This isn’t that unusual. Every White House gives select journalists information they can’t give publicly in an attempt to spin news or draw attention to certain actions of policies. There is a long history of leaks involving national security information.

The Obama administration seems to be leaking successes of its national security policy, which wouldn’t get attention otherwise. This is especially true of the drone campaign. While controversial, the campaign has killed hundreds of suspected terrorists (along with a significant amount of civilians) in Yemen, and elsewhere. The drone campaign puts lie to the conservative accusation that Obama is some kind of dovish peacenik. While the drone campaign began under George W Bush, they have increased exponentially under Obama.

But the campaign should be secret. Revealing in detail things such as “signature strikes” allows the targets to come up with ways around them in the future and renders them less effective. While it is understandable that the administration would want to highlight what is sees as a major success, a drone campaign in nominally friendly countries like Pakistan should at least have a veneer of deniability. The administration itself knows this, as can be seen by the fact that it had always avoided comment on it until last month (coincidentally, just as the 2012 election kicked off).

As well as information about the drone campaign, the White House has also leaked detials about last March’s raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. According to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, it had been agreed in the Situation Room that they wouldn’t release any more information about the Abbottabad raid. But over the last twelve months there has been a steady stream of information shared with the media, including for a History Channel documentary in which President Obama himself appeared (this documentary particularly angered Robert Gates).

Showing how much information is leaked for political purposes, the White House has allowed the film-makers of a movie about the raid an unprecedented amount of access. The movie by Kathryn Bigelow (of Hurt Locker fame), is going to be released right before the election in the fall by Democratic mega-donor Harvey Weinstein.

There’s a major hypocrisy factor with the way senior officials are sharing information with friendly reporters. The Obama White House has prosecuted whistleblowers in a much more zealous way that it’s predecessors. The most famous of these is Bradley Manning, the Army private who leaked hundreds of thousands of documents to Wikileaks. While Manning has been made an example of, facing life imprisonment, members of the White House staff have leaked even more sensitive information. A lot of the Wikileaks information wasn’t classified as top secret, unlike information about the Bin Laden raid or the drone program.

But as with so many others issues, this administration looks better when compared to its predecessor. As well as the usual leaks to people like Bob Woodward there was also a much sleazier leak, the Valerie Plame affair. In that instance, the cover of an undercover CIA officer was blown after her husband criticized the administration’s case for war with Iraq. Ultimately Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby was punished, though it was likely more senior officials had also leaked the name. In that instance, the Bush White House had ruined the career of someone who had spent her life defending her country as a CIA officer in order to attack her husband. In terms of motivation at least, that is an order of magnitude worse than the Obama administration’s desire to trumpet its success.

Buddy Roemer: The Best Candidate You’ve Never Heard Of

Accepting Mr. Roemer’s diagnosis of the American political system is accepting that American democracy is not only sick, it has stage IV cancer.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the recent history of American Presidential elections, apart from the two major party candidates there’s been a tradition of the scrappy third-party candidate with no shot of winning the race (or even a single electoral vote) but with the ability to shake things up and perhaps add to the conversation. In 1992 Ross Perot, running on the Reform Party ticket, took close to 19% of the popular vote. In 1996 Mr. Perot again made a, much smaller, dent with almost 8.5% of the popular vote. Perhaps most infamously, in the 2000 election Ralph Nader took only 2.7% of the popular vote nationally, but 97,388 votes in Florida. Votes that many contend would have gone to Vice-President Al Gore had Mr Nader not been in the race, changing the outcome of the race in George Bush’s favour. In 2004 and 2008 third party candidates dropped off the map, arguably because of Mr Nader’s 2000 impact, registering miniscule numbers in both elections.

Here we are in 2012, enter Buddy Roemer. Mr. Roemer is a former member of the United States House of Representatives and former Governor of Louisiana. This election cycle he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination, finishing last in the Iowa Caucus (behind ‘No Preference’) and has been denied space at every Republican debate. He is now running independently without the endorsement of a third-party.

Mr. Roemer believes his campaign can find common ground between the two biggest American political movements of the last four years, the Tea Party and Occupy. The overlap, he claims, is the role that money plays in politics. In theory this appeals to the Tea Party because corporations lobby for laws that favour them; this makes government bigger, and it appeals to Occupy because it limits the influence of corporations in politics.

This above all has been his campaign’s main focus and thus far they’ve practiced what they preach. The Roemer campaign accepts no money from PACs, does not have a Super PAC, and does not accept individual donations over $100. He is running on a platform which pushes for full disclosure of every campaign contribution, real-time electronic reporting of campaign contributions, elimination of Super PACs, limiting PAC donations to the same as individual donations, prohibiting lobbyists from participating in fundraising, and criminalizing violations to campaign finance laws.

On other issues Mr. Roemer comes down as center-right. He would support a repeal of Obamacare but keep the coverage for pre-existing conditions. He would have a flat income tax of 17% with a $50,000 exemption and close tax loopholes for corporations. On national security he supports the use of drones and questions the productivity of a cash-based foreign policy. This is not exhaustive and you can view his full platform on his campaign’s website.

The other thing about Mr. Roemer is that he is surprisingly of the ‘establishment’. He holds a BA and an MBA from Harvard and he has held State and national office, as both a Democrat and a Republican. He is in everyway middle of the road, and his major issue, money in politics, is something that would unquestionably benefit the average voter by making government accountable to people, not to special interest. When you hear him speak with his Louisiana twang, you get riled up, you get angry, he brings you in, and he’s speaking directly to you.

So why is he totally and completely unelectable?

Fundamentally I think it’s this, accepting Mr. Roemer’s diagnosis of the American political system is accepting that American democracy, which one is taught to think is exceptional, is not only sick, it has stage IV cancer. You have to accept that under the current circumstances your vote, your advocacy, and your voice are meaningless; you are powerless. The leaders that you ‘elect’, no matter how much they talk about ‘hope’, ‘change’, or their belief in America, are really bought and paid for.

This is a bitter pill to swallow but it’s time America wakes up and gets some treatment.

Negotiating With Terrorists

Under what conditions should governments negotiate with terrorists?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}

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‘You’ve got to be strong, not weak. The only way to deal with these people is to bring them to justice. You can’t talk to them. You can’t negotiate with them.’

George W. Bush[1]

[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eorge Bush articulated the above statement as part of a response to a press conference question concerning Al-Qaeda in 2003. He had clearly summed up his administration’s position on the subject in question – that negotiating with terrorists is a sign of weakness and should thus be avoided, even suggesting that merely talking to them was out of the question. His rhetoric remained consistent throughout his presidency regardless of the actor in question; if they could be successfully labelled ‘terrorist’ then dialogue was instantly deemed unacceptable and counter-productive. For instance, in 2008 he made an address to the Israeli Knesset mocking negotiations with ‘terrorists and radicals’ as half-baked attempts to ‘persuade them that they have been wrong all along.’[2] It is easy to be swept away by the conviction of these words, yet the administration’s actions did not always reflect Bush’s uncompromising language. In Iraq for example, the U.S. military was authorised to negotiate extensively with insurgents who were known to use terrorist tactics against coalition troops and civilians.[3] This essay will examine how and why the conditions arise for negotiations with terrorists and will conclude by suggesting best practices.

Peter Neumann has identified ‘a number conditions [which] must be met in order for talks to even have a chance of success’ – these can be simplified as three questions: who, when and how.[4] ‘Who’ refers to the nature of specific terrorist groups i.e. a government needs to assess ideology, propensity to violence and internal cohesion before committing to a course of action. The IRA made suitable negotiating partners for the British Government because their leaders realised that violence had limited utility and were capable of controlling the rank and file of the organisation. ‘When’ refers to the timing of negotiations in terms of strategic juncture, perhaps when the terrorists have recently suffered an tactical or operational setback, or are otherwise ‘questioning the utility of violence’[5]. ‘How’ refers to the actual format of the negotiations – ideally a ‘broad, multiparty process [which] exposes the terrorists to democratic practices.’[6] In Northern Ireland this was achieved through encouraging the participation of Sinn Féin in the democratic process.

Particularly contentious is Neumann’s assertion that ‘…a government should begin formal negotiations only after the terrorist group has declared a permanent cessation of violence’[7] which is directly contradicted by Jonathan Powell’s declaration that ‘it is always an error to set a precondition to a negotiation.’[8] There is a long, well documented history of deceitful or capricious behaviour by non-state ‘terrorist’ negotiators and the setting of preconditions is intended to provide assurances (mainly) to the government. However, the very act of securing these assurances, such as agreeing upon mechanisms for implementing and monitoring a ceasefire, can derail the whole process. The Government of Colombia has repeatedly experienced these frustrations with FARC.[9]

Neumann does not consider the conditions imposed by the nature of the state actor. It is important, for instance, to contemplate the effects of the counter-terrorism model adopted by the state in question.  In broad terms there are two ways for states to deal with the threat posed by those sub-state actors labelled ‘terrorists’. One might be forgiven for deducing from the above statement alone that George Bush advocates the criminal justice model, which was internationally prevalent until he dramatically declared ‘war on terror’ in an address to congress nine days after the 9/11 attacks. The war model sees terrorism as an act of war (as opposed to a criminal act), leverages military rather than law enforcement assets to provide a maximum force response and proactively searches for terrorists wherever they seek sanctuary (as opposed to the reactive, minimum force employed by the criminal justice model).

The problem with the war model is its high economic and human cost. Currently U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan number 6,399[10], spending on the ‘9/11 wars’ is in excess of $1.3 trillion[11] and consequently the U.S. is growing weary of its open-ended commitment to ‘war on terror’. Hence, in direct contradiction of the above statement the U.S. sought after a negotiated settlement with terrorists in Iraq and similarly the search is now well underway for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and Haqqani network.[12] This turn of events should not have been unexpected. Indeed ‘since the 1990s the majority of armed conflicts have been ended through dialogue, negotiation and compromise’[13]. The war model thus makes negotiations more likely, given the difficulty of developing a plausible theory of victory for Afghanistan or the war on terror more generally. Additionally, terrorists are arguably raised to the international plane (alongside nation-states) by the very act of declaring war on them. This puts the state at a relative disadvantage, hence the war model should only be used where a rapid military victory is realistic and sustainable, a notable recent example of which is the Sri Lankan campaign against the Tamil Tigers 2006-2009.

Bush’s rhetoric therefore seems increasingly nonsensical. However, there is one possible explanation: secret negotiations. Browne and Dickson have examined the secret negotiation policies of other world leaders who have made hard-nosed declarations which condemn terrorists and apparently forgo the possibility of negotiations. In 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel reneged on an earlier assertion that his government would never negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). In 1999 José Aznar of Spain entered into peace talks with Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) despite his stated policy of no negotiation being ‘one of his party’s strongest weapons’.[14] Browne and Dickson go on to offer the plausible explanation that this behaviour is actually designed to reduce the state’s bargaining power, thus encouraging terrorists to come to the table. This is because engaging in secret negotiations while publicly decrying them increases the potential ‘audience cost’ for the state – i.e. ‘a leader who denounces a counterpart, but then negotiates with him anyway, and then fails to achieve an agreement may pay a particularly harsh price for appearing irresolute, incompetent, or both.’[15] Despite this risk, secret negotiations are preferable to public negotiations because they avoid conferring the same degree of legitimacy.

Avoiding the legitimisation of terrorism is a key aim of the criminal justice model. In contrast to the war model, terrorists are treated like regular criminals and denied any political recognition. However, this can also backfire, as was demonstrated by the hunger strikes of Bobby Sands and other IRA prisoners in 1981. The Government policy of avoiding public negotiations and offering only limited concessions behind the scenes (which were rejected) led to the death of ten prisoners and ultimately ‘growing polarisation between the two communities in Northern Ireland. In this context, the level of violence within the province climbed once more…’[16]

In summary, favourable conditions for negotiations exist when the government can easily activate existing, reliable channels of communication to negotiate secretly with a coherent and dominant terrorist leadership who have reached a strategic juncture in their campaign. Where possible, the government should use a criminal justice model over a war model, but should be open to the possibility of limited political concessions. Of course, these conditions are rare. However, they are more likely to manifest if dialogue is maintained. As Jonathan Powell puts it: ‘…we had to keep things moving forward like a bicycle…If we ever let the bicycle fall over, we would create a vacuum and that vacuum would be filled with violence.’[17] It therefore follows that to impose preconditions and risk stifling negotiations before they begin is bad practice: ‘It is best to leave the issue of weapons to the end of a peace process.’[18] At the time of writing, the government of Nigeria is struggling to open negotiations with the violent Islamic sect known as Boko Haram (BH). This has been a failure until now, but stands an increasing chance of success as the Nigerian government moves away from the war model towards the criminal justice model and attempts to open channels of communication without preconditions. However, the fractionalisation of BH and its lack of coherence, plus the absence of any apparent ‘strategic juncture’ do not bode well for the immediate future.

 

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[1] George W. Bush quoted in Harmonie Toros: ‘We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists!’: Legitimacy and Complexity in Terrorist Conflicts, in Security Dialogue 39:407 (SAGE, 2008) p.407

[2] George W. Bush: Address to the Knesset, (15/05/08) available online: http://bit.ly/FR0QkY

[3] See Michael Rubin & Suzanne Gershowitz: Political Strategies to Counterterrorism, (12/07/06) available online: http://bit.ly/aLA8oG

[4] Peter Neumann: Negotiating with Terrorists, in Foreign Affairs 86:1 (CFR, 2007) p.128-138

[5] Ibid. p.132

[6] Ibid. p.135

[7] Ibid. p.133

[8] Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008) p.317

[9] Camilo González Posso: Negotiations with the FARC 1982-2002, in ACCORD: An International Review of Peace Initiatives, (Conciliation Resources in association with CINEP, 2004) p.46-51

[10] Coalition Casualty Count: http://icasualties.org/

[11] Amy Belasco: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, (CRS, 2011) available online: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

[12] Jill Dougherty: U.S. met with Haqqani terrorists this summer, (CNN, 21/10/11) available online: http://bit.ly/nyFrUa

[13] Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bart Schuurman: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011) p.677

[14] Giles Tremlett quoted in Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) p.398

[15] Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) p.381

[16] John Bew, Martin Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co. 2009) p.92-93

[17] Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008) p.5

[18] Ibid. p.317

 

Books:

John Bew, Martin Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co. 2009)

Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, (Random House, 2008)

 

Research Papers:

Peter Neumann: Negotiating with Terrorists, in Foreign Affairs 86:1 (CFR, 2007)

Harmonie Toros: ‘We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists!’: Legitimacy and Complexity in Terrorist Conflicts, in Security Dialogue 39:407 (SAGE, 2008)

Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bart Schuurman: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011)

Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: “We Don’t Talk to Terrorists”: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010)

Camilo González Posso: Negotiations with the FARC 1982-2002, in ACCORD: An International Review of Peace Initiatives, (Conciliation Resources in association with CINEP, 2004)

 

Web Resources:

Amy Belasco: The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, (CRS, 2011) available online: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf

Jill Dougherty: U.S. met with Haqqani terrorists this summer, (CNN, 21/10/11) available online: http://bit.ly/nyFrUa

George W. Bush: Address to the Knesset, (15/05/08) available online: http://bit.ly/FR0QkY

Michael Rubin & Suzanne Gershowitz: Political Strategies to Counterterrorism, (12/07/06) available online: http://bit.ly/aLA8oG

Coalition Casualty Count: http://icasualties.org/
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The Trajectory Of Global Jihad

How can we explain the trajectory of global jihad over the past two decades?
{Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science}

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the past two decades, Islam and its international projection have been often associated to Al Qa’ida and the practice of global terrorism faithfully grounded on the global jihad against the United States and its allies. In order to understand the emergence of Al Qa’ida as the main “non-state” actor of the global jihad and how such a terrorist organization has affected Islam in international relations over this period, in this essay I will be exploring the trajectory of global jihad by identifying the crucial factors which underpin its own rise and development.

According to Wiktorowicz, understanding Al Qa’ida entails framing it in that “dense ideological network … known as salafis”, where the original Arabic term “salaf” is referred to an Islamic movement whose main purpose concerns the return to the example of the Prophet and his companions as the only way by which Muslims can reach Paradise in the hereafter, given the distortion to the God’s message purity brought about by centuries of syncretic cultural and popular religious interpretations.[1]

In light of this first contextualization, the theoretical prism of the transnational social movements elaborated by Tarrow provides four additional elements capable to enlighten the afore mentioned phenomenon: Al Qa’ida, as a matter of fact, can be analyzed as a transnational organization characterized by a “mobilizing structure” useful for recruitment, communication, coordination; its political action is supported by exploiting those “political opportunities” which arise when other existing power structure and new allies (such as states) provide protection and patronage; in addition, Al Qa’ida, as other social movements are used to do, catalyses grievances and aspirations, by making itself the spokes-body of a collective social discourse; finally, also Al-Qa’ida’s mobilization is affected by “cycles of contention” that can lead to the institutionalization of its own power structures or to fragmentation and demobilization.[2]

By conceiving Al Qa’ida as a discursive, mobilizational and even tactical force structured in world politics[3], whose main objective is about acquiring credibility and popular support for its own fundamentalist religious purposes by persuasion[4], it is possible understanding its rise and fall, and the broader trajectory of global jihad as well, through this pattern. In fact, as Fawaz points out, the current demise of Al Qa’ida, whose scattered bands increasingly rely on an inexperienced unskilled leadership, is explainable by the fact that “the Bin Laden group has lost the struggle for Muslim hearts and minds … [suffering] from a grave crisis of legitimacy and authority”[5] among the Muslims.

The emergence of Al Qa’ida and September 11

The emergence of a transnational jihad is temporally rooted in the aftermath of the Afghan war against the Soviets, which was primarily fought by the local mujahidin and a number of 10.000 and 50.000 volunteers come there from every region of the Muslim world. This foundational event is on the ground of the global character of jihad and Al Qa’ida in the last two decades, because not only modeled the worldview of their members[6], but also provided the opportunity for strengthening two powerful ideological currents: the Egyptian radical Islam movement, headed by Zawahiri, and the Saudi ultra-conservatism represented by bin Laden. As a result, Al Qa’ida “was born out of a marriage of convenience”, as an alliance “of two Islamist tribes”.[7]

However, if the Afghan war supplied the first context for socializing anti-Western mindsets, the evolution of Al Qa’ida into a global social movements occurred in two parallel tiers, with regard to the leadership and the composition of the first Qa’idian militants. As far as the former aspect, the network of the Muslim Brotherhood played a crucial role as a “mobilizing structure” insofar as both bin Laden and Zawahiri were extensively involved into clandestine political activity in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In addition, they also shared a fair knowledge of the Western world, being urban middle-class men, well-educated and well-travelled.[8] On the other hand, militants recruitment entailed a process of deterritorialisation: the network was comprised of three main categories without any national link, such as Middle Eastern students, second-generation Muslims and converts. Thus, with the exception of Pakistanis, none of the above militants fought in his own country and several local jihads, such as in Algeria, Egypt, Chechnya and Bosnia were fought reaching an end by 1996.[9]

From that year on, bin Laden started off to globalize jihad by issuing his Declaration of War against the American Occupiers of the Land of the Two Holy Places and calling for an armed guerrilla war against the US forces in Saudi Arabia.[10] This shift was motivated not just by the American presence on Saudi Arabia, but by the resentment of bin Laden towards Saudi rulers, which previously refused his proposal to mobilize a mujahedeen force against Saddam Hussein, and the lack of political opportunities for national jihad in Muslim world too[11]: “in his eyes, the center of political gravity and power lied in Washington and New York, not in Cairo, Riyadh, Baghdad, Amman, Algiers or elsewhere. Of real changes is to occur, then the far enemy must be forced to retreat in humiliation and defeat from Muslim lands.”[12]

Despite the actual threat posed by Al Qa’ida to the US, till 1996 and after the attempted bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993, FBI and CIA agents hardly were aware of the organization and its ideologue. Between 1996 and 2001, Al Qa’ida matured freely on the ground of its original tripartition comprised of “a hardcore, a network of co-opted groups and an ideology”.[13] Regretfully, was just this tripartition at the core of the 11 September attack, interpreted as the final part of a process started a decade earlier. According to Burke, the hijackers, logistic operators and those who directed the entire operation were “representative of previous trends within Al Qa’ida”, where “the three groups of hijackers correspond[ed] with the structure of the modern Islamic radical movement”.[14] At the same time, the transnational movement led by bin Laden sought for a religious justification for the attacks, in order to develop a thicker aura of credibility before its own supporters and provoke a higher degree of social mobilization within the Islamic world.

The document, released on April 24, 2002, revealed for the first time the religious reasons which underpinned the killing of civilians in a total war against the United States and, concurrently, it was directed to undermining the credibility of non-violent Salafi scholars, blamed for treachery and impurity.[15] In so doing, the attempt by bin Laden and Al Qa’ida to make jihad global by attacking the US for religious reasons, envisaged the possibility of overtaking the Salafi hierarchy between its four means, three of which peaceful, for promoting Islam. By sustaining as necessary and just the use of violent actions even against civilians, a position previously supported by an outcast and radical fringe of the Salafi community, Al Qa’ida brought a striking friction factor into the Islamic political context, which provoked strong disagreements into the Salafi group.[16] Therefore, in the next decade, the role of Islam in international world politics was heavily influenced by the wrong perception of its fundamentalist nature and by the Western mission to eradicate terrorism and Al Qa’ida.

Global jihad after 11/09: patterns of weakening and re-nationalization

The War on Terror, launched in 2001 by the G.W. Bush administration, created windows of opportunity for Al Qa’ida but also a partial retrenchment towards local struggles. The Afghan war in 2001 and its subsequent invasion deprived Al Qa’ida from its protective territory and the US military operation removed the basis for the organizational concept pursued by its militants. As a matter of fact, post-9/11 security measures “restricted their mobility, reduced the number of available meeting-places, and made long-distance communication more difficult”, provoking a weakening in “strong personal relationships” between Al Qa’ida members and in the ideological unity as well.[17] However, the organization did not lose its global projection and the original objective of waging war against the West through its own inherent decentralized and multipolar nature. As Roy points out, two new patterns of Islamic radicalism were developed: the first was an expansion by “franchising” where “local groups, based on local solidarities (neighborhood, family, university) [took] the label” and acted according their own vision of Al Qa’ida’s ideology and strategy; the second was a “quest for allies and support” beyond fundamental Islam, which entailed a certain degree of secularization of Islamic politics through a coalition between Islamic cells and European ultra-left or liberation movements at the expense of the religious identity.[18]

Accordingly, after the Afghan war Al Qa’ida became ‘more global’ by splitting up into five regional clusters (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the so-called AfPak, Southeast Asia and Europe/North Africa) and expanding its transnational connections. In fact, after the fall of the Taliban “many would-be jihadis endeavoured to go to Chechnya, including volunteers from France and Germany”[19].

Furthermore, the war in Iraq strengthened Al Qa’ida’s re-nationalization and the decentralization of its decision-making process: ironically, the War on Terror prolonged Al Qa’ida’s survival and the American occupation of Iraq “enraged millions of Arabs and Muslims, whose negative neutrality was transformed into visceral hostility”. As a result, Al Qa’ida used this new political opportunity to establish itself and its own struggle in Iraq[20] and, concurrently, such an experience changed the jihadists’ notion of the enemy and placed the Arabic Peninsula and Europe more clear in the spotlight.[21]

During 2001 and 2003, Al Qa’ida reached its highest peak in terms of influence and power projection, made it possible through deep organizational developments affecting its ‘mobilizing structure’: these enhancements brought about an expansion of categories of actors that shaped the global jihadist ideology: apart from the strengthened leadership of bin Laden and Zawahiri, which represented the “old Al Qa’ida”, four more participants were actively involved into the new mobilizational pattern: religious scholars, strategic thinkers, active militant organizations and the ‘grassroot radicals’ (namely, the thousands of participants on radical Islamist discussion forums on the Internet, such as Al Ansar, Al Qal’a and Al Islah). Each of them would have had a significant role in the next decade by planning terrorist attacks in Europe and Iraq, but even by recruiting, training and educating new militants:[22] as a matter of fact, these actors were crucial in franchising successfully global jihad given their operational activity autonomy and the creation of their own propaganda. An example of this is provided by Al Qa’ida in Islamic Maghreb that “has a propaganda outlet called al Andalus, the Arabic word for Spain and a symbol of Al Qa’ida’s call for the return of Spain to Muslim rule.”[23]

Despite a period of relative rise, Al Qa’ida began to lose appeal and legitimacy as soon as its process of re-nationalization fully replaced the ideological global effort of fighting the United States and the West, while its historical leadership finally lost the previous and exclusive religious authority becoming geographically more scattered among multiple categories of actors and radical Islamic cells’ networks. After having underlined the lack of any genuine strategic goals since its outset, being Al Qa’ida a discursive, mobilizational and tactical force, the network is currently facing a structural and existential crisis, make it harder by the impossibility to “Islamize” any space of anti-imperialism and contestation like occurred during the War on Terror in the past decade.[24]

Conclusion

What does remain of global jihad today? According to Riedel, former CIA analyst, Al Qa’ida has one dream: overthrowing the Pakistani state and replace it with an Islamic emirate.[25] Even if this assertion could be easily called into question, since the creation of an Islamic autonomous entity would deny the existence of any global jihad and the same reason d’être of Al Qa’ida, the author is right when affirms that the most important resource which the network will be never deprived from is the same idea of the global Islamic jihad: a powerful ideology and narrative.[26] Although the instrument of jihad is weak and languid, jihad as an idea is a truly global phenomenon and it could reemerge as soon as new transnational and mobilizational possibilities or empty spaces for contestation will arise.

 

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1 Wiktorowicz, Quintan, “Framing Jihad: Intramovement Framing Contests and al-Qaeda’s Struggle for Sacred Authority”, International Review of Social History, Volume 49, Supplement 1, December 2004, p. 159.

2 Sidel, John. Class Lecture, Al-Qaeda (I): Rational Actor, Social Movement, or Discursive Construct?, LSE, London, 19 January 2012.

3 Burke, Jason, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, London: Penguin Books, 2003, p. 2

4 Wiktorowicz, Quintan, ibidem, pp. 176-177.

5 Fawaz, Gerges, The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 16.

6 Fawaz, Gerges, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 85. As the same authors reports: “Zawahiri said that the Afghan war provided the jihadist movement with an arena that served as an “incubator” for its seeds to grow and where it acquired “practical experiences in combat, politics, and organization””.

7Fawaz, Gerges, The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 34.

8 Sidel, John, ibidem, 19 January 2012.

9 Roy, Oliver, Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, London: Hurst, 2005, pp. 303-305. In addition, as Fawaz writes: “Never before in modern times had so many Muslims from so many lands who spoke different tongues separately journeyed to a Muslim country to fight together against a common enemy. There were Egyptians, Saudis, Yemens, Palestinians, Algerians, Sudanese, Iraqi Kurds, Kuwaitis, Turks, Jordanians, Syrians, Libyans, Tunisians, Moroccans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, Indians, Indonesians, Malaysians, and so forth. Although their actual numbers were minuscule in comparison with the Afghanis … the presence of such a widely representative section of Muslims transformed the Afghan war into a religious struggle between the ummah and godless Communism”, in Fawaz, Gerges, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 82.

10 Sidel, John, ibidem, 19 January 2012.

11 Fawaz, Gerges, The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 49 and Sidel, John, ibidem, 19 January 2012.

12 Fawaz, Gerges, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 144.

13 Burke, Jason, ibidem, p. 8.

14 Burke, Jason, ibidem, pp. 236-237.

15 Wiktorowicz Quintan and John Kaltner, “Killing in the Name of Islam: Al-Qaeda’s Justification for September 11”, Middle East Policy, Volume 10, 2003, pp. 76-92.

16 Wiktorowicz Quintan and John Kaltner, ibidem, p. 78.

17 Hegghammer, Thomas, “Global Jihadism After the Iraq War”, Middle East Journal, Volume 60, Number 1, Winter 2006, p. 14.

18 Roy, Oliver, ibidem, p. 323.

19 Roy, Oliver, ibidem, p. 314.

20 Fawaz, Gerges, The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 106-107.

21 Hegghammer, Thomas, ibidem, p. 31 .

22 Hegghammer, Thomas, ibidem, pp. 16-17.

23 Riedel, Bruce, Deadly Embrace – Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad, Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution Press, 2011, p. 103

24 Roy, Oliver, ibidem, p. 324.

25 Riedel, Bruce, ibidem, p. 100.

26 Riedel, Bruce, ibidem, p. 104.

 

Burke, Jason, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Fawaz, Gerges, The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Fawaz, Gerges, The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Hegghammer, Thomas, “Global Jihadism After the Iraq War”, Middle East Journal, Volume 60, Number 1, Winter 2006.

Riedel, Bruce, Deadly Embrace – Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad, Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution Press, 2011.

Roy, Oliver, Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, London: Hurst, 2005.

Sidel, John. Class Lecture, Al-Qaeda (I): Rational Actor, Social Movement, or Discursive Construct?, LSE, London, 19 January 2012.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan and John Kaltner, “Killing in the Name of Islam: Al-Qaeda’s Justification for September 11”, Middle East Policy, Volume 10, 2003, pp. 76-99.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan, “Framing Jihad: Intramovement Framing Contests and al-Qaeda’s Struggle for Sacred Authority”, International Review of Social History, Volume 49, Supplement 1, December 2004.
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AFRICOM, Kony & African Peace

The position of AFRICOM within the Security-Development Discourse: the likelihood that AFRICOM could help establish peace in Africa.
{Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh}

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 2008, the establishment of AFRICOM, by the United States (U.S.), as part of their National Security Agenda, was designed to coordinate US military command on the African continent and bring a new element of security to Africa (Ploch, 2011:2). Analysing its position in the security-development framework will allow us to assess the likelihood that it could help establish peace in Africa. This task is made difficult as most government agencies involved in development are ‘not fully clear how development and security policies should be integrated to address entrenched socio-economic problems for conflict prevention as well as post-conflict peace-building (Tschirgi (2009:1). AFRICOMs mission statement confirms that homeland security is foremost, followed by African state security, resource security and humanitarian security, all of which are crucial to the security-development debate. This essay first defines the security-development nexus, reviews two theoretical approaches (that of Kaldor, whose human security paradigm is an increasingly essential proponent of the security-development nexus and of Keenan who represents a large sector of academia that believe AFRICOM is imperialising Africa). These are then applied to an analysis of the status of AFRICOM and a detailed analysis of its first practical involvement in Africa, in Uganda.

Security-Development Nexus

‘Development is ultimately impossible without stability and, at the same time, security is not sustainable without development’ Duffield (2001:16).

To analyse the role of AFRICOM in the security-development discourse, the discourse itself must be introduced. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, increased academic attention has been directed towards security: ‘security is increasingly broadening its purview to include development issues’ (Denney, 2011:277). Regarding terrorism, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (2004) acknowledged that the ‘chaos can no longer be contained by frontiers’. Threats are no longer insulated, due to globalisation and interdependence through travel and trade. Global insecurity can be addressed by ‘securing the development’ in areas of underdevelopment, which not only improves the safety of people in the developing world, but in the developed world (Denney, 2011:278). Duffield (2001:16) confirms this mutually binding and reinforcing relationship between security and development. The two concepts are becoming converged which means that it is difficult to separate new security regimes from development and humanitarian activities and vice versa (ibid). This has profound political and structural implications on the formation of AFRICOM and it’s role in providing security and development.

Theoretical Approaches

One of the ways in which we can analyse these implications is from the Human Security (HS) paradigm, which focuses on the ‘softer’ developmental aspects of security (Kaldor 2007). The HS places emphasis on five principles: primacy of human rights, legitimate political authority, multilateralism, a bottom up approach with a regional focus (ibid:185-190). The paradigm emphasis’s that individuals and communities should be protected as opposed to states and borders. So, the United States (US) post-9/11 ‘Global War On Terror’ (GWOT) would provide a legitimate reason to collaborate with African states in order to implement human rights thereby contributing to global human security. In the case of AFRICOM, this would mean a shared desire for a secure environment in order to create the conditions best for developing a civil society.

It is appropriate to employ Kaldor’s theory, as it is particularly relevant with regard to the operation of terrorism, which moves beyond state boundaries. Volman et al (2009:1) support this and suggest that AFRICOMs framework should be inclusive of HS. The HS model has to be globally inclusive and therefore implemented through multi-lateral action. This is closely related to legitimacy and this is what distinguishes the HS approach from neo-colonialism (Kaldor, 2007:188). For AFRICOM, this would mean working with the UN framework and the African Union (AU) and a ‘commitment to creating common rules’ (ibid). If this represented AFRICOM practice, it would mirror its successful application in the European Union (EU) development initiatives.

Due to the nature of ‘new wars’, military containment has to be viewed as ‘tactical’ power in support of protection forces (Duffield, 2001:8). This needs to be conceived of as international law enforcement, not actual military engagement. The U.S. can no longer deal with conflict according to old unilateralist ‘Spectacle Wars’ as carried out by Bush (Kaldor, 2007:84). The new complex realities of conflict should be dealt with by employing a more ‘cosmopolitan’ vision (ibid). What Duffield refers to as ‘liberal peace’ complements Kaldor’s HS. A new political humanitarianism emphasizing conflict prevention with reconstructed social networks, a strengthening of civil society and a promotion of the rule of law (Duffield, 2006:10).

Before AFRICOM was established, Kaldor (2007:74) asserted more generally that there is a mismatch between American domestic concerns, how the world is perceived inside America, and the reality in the rest of the world. She (ibid) indicates that American political culture and institutions are shaped by World War Two and Cold War experiences (ibid). The ideology of that period exerts a powerful influence on American perceptions and foreign policy today, which is not suited to the reality of a changed world in which we inhibit. For this reason, American policy-makers may be rational in terms of American domestic concerns, in attempting to dominate the American political landscape, however, America’s power to do ‘compellance’ can only be restored through the means addressed above (ibid). This needs to then be examined through AFRICOM.

The Keenan (2008:18) approach considers the ‘development’ aspect of the security-development nexus as a ‘guise’ for what is essentially a narrow militaristic agenda. The ‘development’ aspect then, conceals U.S. domestic strategic concerns that go beyond just focussing on servicing the GWOT. He thereby scrutinises the concept that AFRICOM will deliver security (to the African country it engages with) and thereby be able to deliver it. Drawing on the U.S. involvement pre-2008, Keenan assesses that this organisation has a tripartite agenda: to exploit Africa’s resources; to limit Chinese engagement in Africa, and to secure African countries as a counter balance in the GWOT (ibid:16). Keenan’s ideas are based on his research in the Sahel and the Maghreb regions of Africa, where after the GWOT was announced, an intelligence deception was created that spread the idea of terrorism. This was designed to create, he claims, the ideological conditions for U.S. ‘invasion’ of Africa to secure U.S. strategic, natural resources (ibid). This particular project came under the Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI), which has been taken over by the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), which now comes under the umbrella of AFRICOM.

Keenan agrees with Abrahamson that the USA, like the UK in Blair’s ‘Commission for Africa’ (2005), are aiming at ‘securitizing’ Africa. This changes the security-development nexus, with the discourse shifting from one of ‘development/humanitarian’ to that of ‘risk/fear/security’ with Africa increasingly being mentioned in relation to the GWOT and the potential danger that it poses internationally (Keenan, 2008:18). By interpreting underdeveloped areas as dangerous, the role of aid and development has changed to containing the ‘threat’ thereby merging the security and development agendas so that they become indistinguishable (ibid). Keenan goes so far as to claim that the ‘overly militaristic’ role of EUCOM, which AFRICOM overtook responsibility from, has just been framed in a more seductive rhetoric of ‘development-humanitarian’ aims, especially since Obama’s inauguration (ibid:16).

AFRICOM

This section aims to establish where AFRICOM is in the security-development nexus. To do this, we need to examine how the framework negotiates and prioritises both security and development in its operation. Only then can we assess the likelihood that AFRICOM will contribute effectively to peace in Africa.

AFRICOMs creation will first be contextualised, followed by the theory of its functioning role emanating from Washington compared to African opinion, and then its practice in the conflict with a rebel group in Uganda, ‘The Lords Resistance Army’.

AFRICOM is one of nine Unified Combatant Commands of the U.S. Armed Forces, responsible for U.S. military operations and military relations in 53 African nations. Prior to AFRICOM, three Unified Commands had divided responsibility for U.S. military operations in Africa. The first indication of establishing AFRICOM was between members within the Department of State in 2000 and since then Africa’s strategic importance to the U.S. has become more important (Keenan, 2008:16). This is in large part due to the post 9/11 GWOT, the increased need to secure energy resources, which became a national security issue and concern of China’s growing economic investment in Africa (ibid:16). Keenan (ibid:17) points to the Cheney Report in 2001, which identifies African oil as a ‘strategic national interest’ and therefore a resource that the US may choose to control through military force (ibid; Volman 2003, Omaar 2010).

From 2004, U.S. activities in Africa were overtly security orientated, aiming at, ‘waging the war on terrorism and enhancing regional peace and security’ in the Sahel and Maghreb area’ (Keenan, 2005). This was exemplified in the $500m US funding approved by Congress to support counter-terrorism in the trans-Sahara area, along the lines of the PSI and TSCTP in 2004 and 2006. Claims to have these initiatives emanated from the Bush administrations acknowledgement of Africa as a ‘strategic priority in fighting terrorism’. The US increasingly had encouraged collaboration, institutional cooperation and coordination between security forces across the Saharan region and this continued with the series of military exercises called Exercise Flintlock in 2005, which have been repeated annually since. An important issue to address here is how related the claims of ‘terrorism’, which initiated and created justification for the growing initiatives in Africa were actually related to 9/11 GWOT. Keenan (2008:17) claims that most of the African continent had not suffered the atrocities of terrorism and those that had were a result of local conflicts blown out of proportion. This then would mean that the U.S. military were not necessarily attempting to address the security needs of Africans but to provide an excuse for their own presence in Africa, for their own strategic needs. By playing the ‘aid’ card they created an opportunity to address their own security needs.

AFRICOM became an independent, fully autonomous and operational military command on 1 October, 2008 (Busch, 2011). It was created without informing the UN or the AU (both of which share development and security as their raison d’être) which indicates that it does not want to operate multi-laterally and this makes its presence less legitimate suggesting a possible neo-colonial role (Kaldor, 2007:188). By not collaborating with international institutions, it goes against purported requirements of good governance, which then shows a rejection of the HS paradigm as the possibility of AFRICOM in helping to create a peaceful environment required multi-lateralism. Combating terrorism continued to be the ‘number one theatre-wide goal’ coming from Washington, however, the role of AFRICOM was further complicated by the different messages coming from key internal members. The first commander, General Kip Ward, a military general (which in itself indicates AFRICOMs direction) made no reference to development, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping or conflict resolution (Africa Action, 2008). In February 2008 AFRICOM conference, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller asserted that ‘the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market’ was one of Africa’s “guiding principles” and specifically cited “oil disruption,” “terrorism,” and the “growing influence” of China as major “challenges” to U.S. interests in Africa (ibid).

Immediately the organisation was criticised for having a ‘narrow military agenda’ (Volman et al, 2009:1). African states have been reticent to embrace AFRICOM, due mainly to distrust arising from ambivalent communications from Washington, intentional or not. Though AFRICOMs remit is to intervene only if invited by African states, Africans insist they did not ask for an organization like AFRICOM for fear of the bases it may seek to establish on African soil. In fact, most African civilians, governments, and many regional bodies have voiced a vehement “No!” to the presence of an American military force in their backyard. Only Ethiopia openly voiced support. Okumu (2007:8) claims that the mere presence of foreign troops disrespect Africa’s historical ‘Non-Aggression Pact’, its common position on African security and defence. This runs counter to the African view of military security, which they see as separate from development and sovereignty.

Under Obama’s administration, which inherited AFRICOMs militaristic framework, an attempt to include a more ‘developmental’ approach was aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Africans by emphasizing the three D’s: Diplomacy, Development and Defense (Omaar, 2010). However, this may also essentially be a component of a ‘security’ driven agenda. One difference from Bush is that it also prioritizes joint action with both African and global partners. This suggests a slightly different orientation, though to date, the only humanitarian function of AFRICOM has been to supplement USAID activities (Yates, 2009, 155).

Obama has attempted to remove AFRICOMs top-down militaristic image through a form of rebranding: a strategy of merging ‘soft power’ (foreign aid and PEPFAR) with military capacity. The inter-agency component has resulted in civilians from the State Department working with other agencies within the AFRICOM framework (Ploch:2011:8). The result is that some say it is hard to tell who is really leading AFRICOM operations: the diplomat; the soldier; the State Department or the Pentagon as these roles are becoming increasingly ‘blurred’ (Falconer, 2008). This need not be ‘softening’ however and U.S. foreign policy could be militarized (ibid).

Case Study: Uganda and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA)

In 1987, a rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and led by Joseph Kony, emerged in the Acholi region of Northern Uganda as opposition to President Museveni’s Ugandan Resistance Movement (URM) (Allen et al, 2010). The LRA attacks which caused the death of civilians and displaced thousands in Uganda and neighbouring countries Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo (the borders of these neighbouring countries can be referred to as Sugango) led the group to be labelled as ‘terrorists’ by the U.S. post 9/11. The U.S. has ignored what has become an international problem for so long and questions are being asked as to why it is only now through AFRICOM, that the U.S. are becoming involved (Omaar, 2010). This case study provides an opportunity to analyse the practical involvement of AFRICOM in order to see how the framework addresses security and development.

The issue with the LRA immediately then became ‘securitised’, with there removal deemed as the solution to increased homeland security as well as the security of North Ugandans. Despite the suffering that had been so long ignored by the U.S. and mainstream media, AFRICOM became involved in its first military intervention: Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT) in 2008. The question of legitimising involvement was key, given the lack of involvement in the country despite earlier activities of the LRA. Keenan (2008:16) traced changes in rhetoric prior to this engagement included changing the terminology used to describe Kony and the LRA. Instead of insurgents, they were now ‘terrorists’ echoing the phraseology of the GWOT.

Stressing that this was a Ugandan mission[1] with U.S. support, AFRICOM supplied telecommunications support and over $1m US of fuel (Omaar, 2010). They also offered military training to the Ugandan army. The launch of OLT received negative reviews outside of AFRICOM but those within asserted that it was a successful intervention (Tuckey, 2009). General Ward, commander of AFRICOM reported the mission as ‘positive’ in that it disrupted the LRA activities and addressed ‘training and recruiting practices’ (ibid). However, The LRA were not defeated, nor was Kony captured. Instead, the LRA carried out violent retaliatory attacks against Congolese civilians, displacing nearly 20,000 civilians and abducting more child soldiers. AFRICOMs military ‘solution’ increased insecurity and undermined democratic expressions of civil society thereby reducing the opportunity for peace (Keenan, 2009:20).

Emotive issues such as child soldiers prompted an ongoing second attempt to remove the LRA in 2010. This was in response to US domestic solidarity movements who successfully lobbied for the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Act, 2010’ receiving bi-partisan Congressional support. This time, it was American citizens that pushed for military involvement and this questions the priorities of security and development, as there are many Africans in the Sugango region who are against this (Gakumba, 2011).

Significant parallels can be drawn between American solidarity movements, such as ‘Resolve’, lobbying for the removal of the LRA with those lobbying to ‘Save Darfur’ in Sudan. Mamdani (2009:6) claimed that the ‘Save Darfur’ movement provided the ‘self-indulgent motto of the human rights interventionist recruited into the ranks of terror warriors… It is a shared mindset that has turned the movement… into the humanitarian face of the War on Terror.’ This assessment concurs with Keenan’s claim of humanitarianism being replaced by fear to justify intervention. Indeed, the demand for military intervention to ‘finish off’ the LRA are not signs of peace, but rather the ‘finely honed skills of advertising media’ using this problem as a call to war (ibid). Such actions by advocacy groups are based on deeply erroneous assumptions and are increasingly a contributing obstacle to peace in North Uganda and other areas affected by the LRA.

Buur et al (2008:11) highlight how security and development can be ‘media-produced ideas and perceptions of life, risk and power’, furthering that, ‘security is about real questions of safety and violence, but it is also a way of representing problems in a manner that makes them exceptional and a question of survival.’ When the ‘propaganda of war’ then includes high profile people it can be advertised to more people, but the reality of the situation is not further addressed. A case in point regarding the LRA: Major General James Kazini, a close military associate to President Musaveni of Uganda, reported to a major development agency (Allen et al, 2010:80) that the region from where Kony originates has a cultural background whereby, ‘people here are violent… it’s genetic’. Matthew Green, a Reuters journalist covering the LRA story was ordered to ‘get the bit about the ten commandments up high’ to create a fantasised perception, using words that romanticise and evoke the LRA and Kony as embodying evil (Allen et al, 2011). There are few empirical facts available on Kony and the LRA to counteract this media portrayal. In a rare interview, Kony stated that, ‘you hear all things from Musaveni side I do not have proper propaganda machineries. You do not hear from Kony perspective’ (Allen et al, 2010:87). Hence, myths are not addressed; reality on the ground missed. Propaganda is being used as a weapon, hardly the activities of an organisation seeking security, the right conditions for development and, ultimately, peace.

There has been no survey of the real facts: the actual numbers in the LRA are not even known, for example, UN sources have confirmed that many armed groups and militias in the DRC are actually mimicking LRA attacks to confer blame. LRA Crisis Tracker, a lobby movement only identifies ‘suspected sightings’ and abductions. It is hard to quantify much of ‘LRA activity’ in the region.

It would be wiser for Congress and its lobbyists to fund research to try to clarify the, ‘tangled ethnic, tribal, historical, regional and environmental history to the region’ (Mamdani, 2009). A deeper analysis on the LRA indicates that one of the major reasons for their behaviour was the Government of Uganda’s (GoA) exclusion of the Acholi people in governmental operations (Allen et al 2010:49)[2]. This legitimate issue has still not been addressed and one which lobbyists in the USA would surely support, were they informed. Given that Congress sanctioned AFRICOM, it would not be unreasonable for them to put such groups straight regarding the problem, therefore, failure to do so suggests that they have another agenda in their involvement in Uganda. The activities of the LRA, both in the potential oil fields of Uganda and through their cross border activities in neighbouring countries, including Sudan (where oil had also been recently discovered), threatens U.S. national strategic interests (Allen et al 2011). Perhaps it is not a coincidence then that the U.S. have shown a keen an interest in maintaining peace in this region only after the end of the Sudanese civil war in 2005.

Further, US authorities are aware that the LRA has actually become less of a problem in the last two years. They appear to be moving out of North Uganda and the internally displaced people are now returning home. Ironically, AFRICOMs engagement in the region is increasing (Allen et al 2010:279).

What is clear now is that the LRA issue is no a longer Ugandan: it has been, in effect, exported (Wegner, 2011; Allen et al 2010). In the sphere of security and development, there are fewer reasons to get involved. The LRA are no longer a threat to U.S. civilian security, it seems more likely a threat to U.S. strategy in terms of energy resources in the region. Keenan (2008) suggests that AFRICOMs presence could be linked to the upcoming US presidential election: the Uganda issue is being resolved by AFRICOM, it could be told, in contrast to the Republic administrations failures in Iraq. Perhaps, like for Darfur, the US does ‘need’ but ‘chooses’ to take responsibility for the LRA (Mamdani, 2009:60).

AFRICOMs intention has been to ‘capture or kill’ Kony and four other LRA activists. The International Criminal Court (ICC)[3] issued arrest warrants in 2005 but it has no way to police this. It seems that there is little chance that AFRICOM would hand him over to the ICC given that they refuse to accept ICC legislation. This suggests that the U.S. have their own agenda supporting Keenan’s argument and it is illegitimate in relation to the HS paradigm, ‘political legitimacy can only be reconstructed on the basis of cosmopolitan consent and within a framework of international law’ (Kaldor, 2007:9). In order to promote peace AFRICOM will need to have a more facilitative role in respecting both local notions of justice[4] and those of the ICC.

Conclusion

AFRICOM’s activities in Africa, as assessed through its involvement in Uganda, suggest that it is following its own notion of security and development rather than that of African locals with which they are dealing. Its’ agenda primarily meets U.S. security needs. It incorporates economic (resource) security but there is almost no evidence that Kaldor’s HS paradigm has been addressed.

There is a lack of transparency concerning its mission, especially initially, but funding has been forthcoming for all military requirements. African states are suspicious of its intent and openly hostile to any military bases being constructed on African soil under the AFRICOM label. Cooperation with international and multi-national institutions, from the UN to the ICC, is inconsistent and cooperation with African states devoid of consideration of good governance. It operates bilateral military relationships and the actions in Uganda support short-term security rather than long-term development agendas.

The timing of AFRICOMs instigation appears linked to the US’s Global War on Terror, post 9/11. The rhetoric combines security with development, yet evidence from its earliest engagement in Africa, in Uganda, demonstrated that its function has been markedly security-related.

AFRICOM seeks to access oil resources and this has compromised its opportunities to support security. If the more important local security issues such as land reform were addressed, a longer-term platform for development provision could have been achieved. The apparent confusion over AFRICOMs role at the start and uncertainty as to how it will engage in some level of development, suggests that it was hastily formed, as a reaction to the US’s war on terror. The issue of securing oil supplies and claiming rights to exploit them appears to be directly linked to the way AFRICOM was constructed. To counter this, it is necessary that, ‘the proper framework of a whole-of-government approach has yet to be developed and adequately resourced’ (Yates, 2009: 155)

One aspect of the way forward could be for AFRICOM to engage with other local, state and international organizations to help evaluate those risk factors which lead to instability within ‘fragile’ states (Tschirgi, 2009:23) and act or advice preemptory measures to enable state and inter-state cooperation to ensure security.

Yates (2009:156) claimed that AFRICOM was not intended to address shortfalls in the DOD, but that its ‘unique organizational structure and designated focus areas were designed with the needs of Africans in mind, such that this new command not only continue previous efforts, but also add value to them’. Surely this value must be related to peace keeping and security. To date, it would be hard to argue that any added value has been produced.

 

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

[1] Kaldor (2007:187) asserts that, ‘the aim of any intervention is to stabilize the situation so that a space can be created for a peaceful political process rather than to win through military means alone’. Training and building the capacity of the Ugandan army specifically to increase stabilisation suggests this, but given constitutional changes instigated by Musaveni the U.S. are actually supporting an autocratic regime whilst vilifying those seeking democracy. This does not serve the long-term interests of Ugandan people. It may provide security, though this may prove short-term, even with the removal of the LRA.

[2] However, the LRA military and political strategy was transformed after gaining support from Khartoum. This meant that their strategy was no longer attached to the local geography of North Uganda (ibid).

[3] Why the ICC vilified Kony over Musaveni is strange, as it ignores the role that the Ugandan government has played in perpetuating the gross human rights abuses in Uganda (Busch, 2011).

[4] The local Acholi religious leaders continue to reject military intervention requesting a non-violent agreement in order to promote trust and reconciliation through Amnesty law (Gakumba, 2011)

 

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