CTX Journal Vol. 3, No. 1 - February 2013
From the Editor
Happy new year to everyone, wherever you may be. This past year has brought a lot of changes to the Combating Terrorism Exchange in terms of design and distribution, as we continue to refine and improve it. We hope you're enjoying the journal's new look. Besides changes to the graphics and layout, the biggest change, of course, is having current and past issues of the journal available for reading or download on our website, www.GlobalECCO.org.
This issue brings you an eclectic collection of essays and columns from authors around the world, on a variety of CT-related topics. If there is a theme to the group, you might call it "soul searching." Twelve years after the United States began what was then termed the "War on Terror," troop levels in Afghanistan are gradually declining ahead of the proposed 2014 deadline for withdrawal. Several of the authors look back and think about what we have, and have not, learned from these difficult years of fighting.
MAJ Sándor Fábián of the Hungarian SOF starts with a hard look at the way the allies are preparing Afghan Defense Forces to stand up on their own against the Taliban. Why, he wonders, are we trying to duplicate a Western-style conventional force in a rural, tribally based country, with troops whose entire military culture has evolved around highly effective irregular warfare? In answer, he proposes a force structure for the Afghans that capitalizes on their historic strengths and borrows from the enemy's strike-and-run tactics. Doug Borer and Jason Morrissette then shine a light on events in Mali, once one of Africa's most stable democracies and now torn by violent Islamist insurgencies dominating the desert north, and a feckless military junta trying to keep its grip in the more prosperous south. The authors describe how short-sighted and often corrupt government policies are turning wide swathes of ancestral farmland over to multinational corporations for export crops, and transforming countless villages of peaceful farmers into angry, rebellious mobs primed for radicalization.
Our rhetoric about war has changed over the past decade as well, and Gaute Solheim draws on Norway's experience in World War II to explain why this has not been for the better. What generals and politicians like to call COIN, he reminds us with dry wit, is what previous generations called occupation, and we should be aligning our strategies accordingly. Bob Miske follows with a synopsis of a master's thesis he wrote with partner Srinivas Ganapathiraju, in which, similar to Sándor Fábián, they question the wisdom of trying to fit a centralized, Western-style government structure to a highly factionalized post-conflict society like Afghanistan's or Iraq's. The successful decentralized democracy of fractious India, they suggest, could serve as a useful model for pulling divided countries together.
The Counter-Terrorism Archive Project, a key part of the Global ECCO group that includes this journal, collects interviews with CT operators, who recount their experiences in the field for the benefit of their peers. Katherine Ellena and Rebecca Lorentz of CTAP draw on the lessons learned by an American and a Norwegian officer in Afghanistan to discuss the roles that cultural and language training play in CT and peace-building operations. An open mind, they deduce, can be more useful to cross-cultural understanding than intensive study. Next, Amina Kator-Mubarez shows us the damage that harsh Islamist-backed blasphemy laws are doing to Pakistan's fragile multi-ethnic society, where an open mind often invites death threats. She warns that Pakistan's ascendant extremists continue to both influence and support Afghanistan's Taliban, while at the same time further alienate Pakistan's dwindling roster of allies.
Bringing to a close this thoughtful group of articles, Victor Asal and Steve Sin offer a short primer on why people rebel. As Borer and Morrissette observed, grievance is the underlying condition, but is that enough to bring ordinary people to risk their lives against their (typically) better armed tormentors? Asal and Sin offer evidence that to catalyze rebellion, grievance must have opportunity, and rebels must have resources.1
We welcome several new contributors to our regular columns. First, Andrew Ely, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Coast Guard and assistant professor at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, uses the Ethics and Insights column to raise the subject of obligation as it relates to our personal lives, and more importantly, to the lives of those in uniform. When enlisted or commissioned personnel swear to uphold the duties and obligations of the service, is there an expiration date to that oath? If the security of the country might be put at risk through word or deed, LCDR Ely concludes, the answer has to be no.
Next, we are fortunate to have not one, but two Moving Image columns. So butter the popcorn and get ready for a couple of rainy weekends' CT-style entertainment! First, John Arquilla reminds us that the U.S.-British TV mini-series The Grid, which ran in 2004, not only preceded Zero Dark Thirty, but at four and a half hours of running time, easily outstrips the new film in terms of edge-of-your-chair realism and depth. As recent history and this series make all too clear, anyone can exploit a network. Nils French then draws us back in time to the height of the Nazi occupation of Europe with a couple of recent films, one French and one Danish. While collaborators in both countries willingly turned their governments over to the enemy for a chance to wallow in power, these two films tell about the men and women who risked their lives to resist in any way they could. The French Resistance is famous, but much less is known about the Danes' struggle to undermine the Nazi puppet regime. (Here's your chance to learn how the word "quisling" came to signify a traitor.)
Srinivas Ganapathiraju supplies our book review, with a discussion of The Politics of Counterterrorism in India by Prem Mahadevan. Despite its remarkable plethora of indigenous ethnic groups, languages, and religions, India has managed to remain an impressively stable, relatively functional democracy since independence in 1948. At the same time, many Indian states have been chronically plagued by insurgencies and terrorism. Ganapathiraju, a group captain in the Indian Air Force, not only describes Mahadevan's analysis of Indian CT policies, but gives us the operator-eye view of New Delhi's dilemmas.
We close once again with the occasional column State of the Art, our forum for creative and/or off-the-wall discussions of this "interesting" world we find ourselves in. Contributor Rachel Davis returns with a sharp-eyed look at the 9/11 Memorial website, ostensibly a forum for educating young teenagers about the tragedy that took place a little over a decade ago. She minutely dissects the website's pop-culture sensibility, and delves deeply into the layers of innuendo that perhaps inevitably leave the reader with far more questions than the website's authors ever thought to answer.
As always, we've got several publications announcements for you to check out, including two studies from JSOU and a new book by Dr. Shanthie D'Souza. Thanks for reading the CTX, and please, send us your stuff! May the coming year bring you prosperity, and, at long last, peace.
1. These findings are echoed in Rob Schroeder, Sean Everton, and Russell Shepherd, "Mining Twitter Data from the Arab Spring," CTX vol. 2, no. 4 (November 2012). The authors describe their original research showing that Egyptian activists were able to frame grievances and thus organize a movement using the Twitter social network.