CTX Journal Vol. 2, No. 3 - August 2012

From the Editor


Welcome to the fifth issue of the Combating Terrorism Exchange, beginning the second full year of the journal's publication. You will notice changes to the look of the CTX right away, particularly the bold new cover design. Graphic designer Ryan Stuart has used the three months since the last issue to rethink the look of the entire journal, and we hope you like the results as much as we do. We are also excited to see our submissions inbox bringing us a variety of papers from an increasing number of sources. If you have something you'd like us to look at, please read the submissions guidelines (on the final page) and send it in.

This issue brings together a selection of articles that, somewhat unusually for this journal, tend more toward the scholarly than the operational, with a couple of notable exceptions. Andy Kraag leads off with the story of the Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Force (NL MARSOF). Created from two small SOF units to improve efficiency, the force found that cultural differences between them badly undermined overall effectiveness. Kraag was able to use analytical research and his SOF background to give the unit's command the information it needed to make vital changes that improved morale and ensured the group's continued operational effectiveness.

Nate Moir suggests an equally innovative take on the current Civil Affairs Teams that are working in Afghanistan. His proposed Civilian Casualty Management Team would combine the training and experience of the existing units with networked communications and specialized training to better help communities deal with war-related deaths and injuries. Not only is this good in itself, Moir notes, but it could serve to undermine anticoalition propaganda and improve civil-military relations.

World War Two was a very different war, but its antagonists dealt with some problems entirely familiar to those fighting today's anti-insurgent campaigns. Ronny Kristoffersen draws on the stories of two highly effective interrogators in that war—one German, the other American—to discuss the value of humane psychological techniques for gathering reliable wartime intelligence.

Using intelligence in an entirely different way, Geoffrey Kambere shows us that the key to defeating the violent Islamist group al Shabaab in Somalia is to go after its finances. Substantial revenue streams from the busy port of Kismayo, the Somali diaspora, and a cut of pirates' ransom money have enabled the group to keep a deadly stranglehold on large parts of the country. Cutting the money flow, Kambere insists, will starve the beast and finally defeat it.

The key to preventing prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay from rejoining the fight, according to author Erich Wagner, is to revitalize the time-honored practice of parole. Wagner discusses the importance of terminology for shaping our thinking about these released prisoners, and offers some timely ideas about how to make parole, historically rooted in both shari'a and European laws of war, a strong tool for dealing with the problem of former prisoners who return to the fight.

Our final feature contributor, Gregory Mayer, takes us back to the time of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, when Belfast was a war zone, and the Provisional Irish Republican Army used terror both to attack its enemies and to control its neighborhoods. In an interesting parallel with Kristoffersen's World War Two interrogators, Mayer shows us how similar techniques of psychological persuasion can be used to recruit willing spies from the other side.

This issue's Ethics column raises the difficult subject of the "hero" label. George Lober wonders whether society's habit of slapping the epithet on everyone who dons a uniform diminishes not only the meaning of the word, but also the service and sacrifices of real heroes and ordinary personnel alike. As always, he gives us something to think deeply about.

Kalev Sepp recommends a film about war in Afghanistan, but not the war we're familiar with. Company 9, about a doomed Russian platoon in the waning year of the Soviet Union's occupation, tells an unnervingly familiar story of heroism against impossible odds. The fun, Sepp tells us, is that this Russian-made film reflects an authentically Russian sentimentality, complete with Soviet-era military equipment—still operational.

Nate Moir is back with his read on the new book Find, Fix, and Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed Bin Laden and Devastated Al-Qaeda. This is, Nate tells us, "a well-written, fast-paced, and compelling overview of U.S. counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the United States since 9/11." Not exactly light summer reading, but a thriller you might find hard to put down nevertheless.

As always, our colleagues at JSOU have some new publications for you to check out. These are short, informative reads on timely subjects, available as PDFs from the JSOU website.

Finally, I want to welcome Amina Kator-Mubarez to our team of research assistants. Amina joined us in May, and has made herself invaluable since then, making sure no details of the behind-the-scenes production process are overlooked.

Thanks to all our contributors for their hard work getting their submissions ready for publication, and thanks as always for your interest in the CTX. I look forward to hearing your comments, questions, and suggestions for how we can continue to improve the journal. And let me know what you think of the new look!

Elizabeth Skinner
Managing Editor
CTXEditor@GlobalEcco.org