A Small Wars Journal and Military Writers Guild Writing Contest Finalist Article
The Roots of Violent Extremism
Troy E. Mitchell
Today’s wars displace more individuals, as geopolitical competition leads to a less controlled, less predictable unstable environment in which violent extremism may spawn. Insurgencies cause the collapse of governments, typically as a result of civil war, which leads to instability that may require an external state to intervene to quell the disruption. Furthermore, the recent waves of mass demonstrations and upheavals in countries that were previously stable are difficult for analysts to anticipate. Foreign investments intertwine in growing economies and create political stability, alliances, and viable markets. In many of these countries, following the initial success of mass opposition movements in overthrowing their problematic regimes, new governments are viewed as harbingers of long-term improvement. However, new political leaders prove capable of effectively managing their governments and economies, especially among growing tensions from violent extremism.
Initially, a definition corresponding to the term of “political instability” is required to define the scope of the research question. David Sanders (1981) defines “political instability” as:
The extent to which a political system characterized by ‘unstable’ at any given point in time varies in direct proportion to the extent to which the occurrence or non-occurrence of changes in and challenges to the government, regime or community deviate from the previous system-specific ‘normal’ pattern of regime/government/community changes or challenges; a pattern which will itself vary over time.
Globalization and the associated interdependence of states mean that the dynamics of state instability have repercussions for neighboring countries and the wider global community, in addition to local communities in weak states. The changing context of the international security architecture and the requirement for an appropriate response were recognized prior to 1992, when the UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali presented the Agenda for Peace, a plan for collective global security. He explained:
Respect for a state’s fundamental sovereignty and integrity are crucial to any common international progress. The time of absolute and exclusive sovereignty, however, has passed; reality never matched its theory. It is the task of leaders of States today to understand this and to find a balance between the needs of good internal governance and the requirements of an ever more interdependent world.
Acting to address the sources and symptoms of conflict and war in a globalized world, Boutros-Ghali formalized the nascent doctrine of intervention in sovereign states by members of the global community. His recommendations provided various forms of intervention appropriate to the post-Cold War environment: preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, peacemaking, and post-conflict peacebuilding. In the Agenda for Peace, Boutros-Ghali specifies the use of international military action as a means of restoring international peace and security.
Globally the power of governments is weakening with the rise of the middle class moving beyond basic needs, and craving transparency and accountability. While the middle class places increasing demands on their government, they become more restless. If fragile states fail to address issues of accountability, it is unlikely that peace agreements sustain. Competition between powerful states increasingly lends a regional or international color to civil wars, rendering their resolution more complex. Thus, the world observes a resurgence of nationalism with governments displaying short-term national agendas, shifting toward populist behavior while appealing to legitimacy.
The international community continues to accept imperfect peace processes that accompany failed transitions. In turn, many intervening governments arrive too late, offer too little, and exit swiftly, as displayed in many African countries. In a failing global society, weak, corrupt states set the stage for internal wars with external enablers displaying a lack of capacity leaving their political will open to question. The resolution of fragile states’ systems takes time. The World Bank Development Report said it takes 17 years on average to navigate from war to a peace agreement that includes sustainable institutions and order. In 20 of the fastest-moving countries it took an average of 17 years to draw the military out of politics, 20 years to achieve functioning bureaucratic quality, and 27 years to bring corruption under reasonable control.
There are several analytical techniques for predicting potential outcomes relative to political instability. Using these techniques, intelligence organizations evaluate the most dangerous or the most violent course of action. Few lenses give insight into potential problems than may give rise to conflicts that are not usual in the determination of a country’s normalcy. Therefore, intelligence analysts should focus on where the greatest sense of deadly violence and impact is by using predictive analysis, under the auspices of the national interest, of violence arising from instability and a state’s fragility. Thus, it is a matter of what a nation needs to do to mitigate risks in these environments, and the cost of doing so?
The article is designed to study the following research question: which characteristics of a state predict internal instability leading to violent extremism? This study refers to the following causative factors in determining the capability of states to effectively overcome various internal and external pressure points threatening them:
1. Protracted region conflict—regional conflicts encroaching upon the state, leading to instability
2. Protracted social conflict—political participation through competitive elections, consensual constitution and rule of law, civil and human rights, and civil society institutions, environmental health, food, energy and medical supplies, transportation system, and emergency response capability to disasters
3. Government capacity—political leadership, organizational/bureaucratic, internal security, legitimacy, and judiciary
4. Dwindling economic conditions—economic development and growth, income parity, quality education and high literacy, and low level of human brain flight
5. Opposition conditions—ethnic, religious and sectarian integration, low levels of dissatisfaction and dissent, absence of insurgent activities, and peaceful relations with neighboring states
This research discusses a conceptual framework that focuses on general categories and their subcomponent indicators and constitutes effective governance to provide intelligence analysts with an opportunity to anticipate the preconditions that produce global state instabilities. Performing predictive analysis with weighted properties and scored to evaluate potential weaknesses and gaps requires identifying new countries of concern and what the triggering effects of their crises may be upon neighboring stable countries.
The theoretical framework developed explores the endogenous (structural and societal) and exogenous (regional and global) conditions, which lead to state instability and fragility, thereby establishing the conditions of failure when afflicting the state over prolonged periods. State failure is defined as the state suffers from an overwhelming loss of legitimacy across its geographic area; where it is unable or unwilling to provide public goods and services, justice and security, opportunities for self-actualization and socioeconomic development; where its relationship with civil society is highly asymmetrical; and where society itself is highly fragmented, challenging the cohesiveness of the state through the manifestation of protracted conflict. Figure 1 illustrates the critical components of the theoretical framework postulated for the diagnosis of state failure. The categories provided in Figure 1 supported the analysis based on Appendix C.
Figure 1: The cycle alludes to five causative factors leading to the injection of violent extremism. Any one of the factors may support the injection, yet when combined they predict the onset of political instability.
The general income level of a nation affects its receptivity to democratic norms. If there is enough wealth in the country, it is more palatable to accept the idea of indifference to which side of governance obtains power. On the other hand, if the loss of office leads to the increased loss for major power groups, then the group losing control seeks to retain or secure office by any means available. One hardly expects economic growth in light of political turmoil, riots, and unpredictable changes in a regime. Thus, it is those societies at low to middle levels of economic development, where violence increases across nations, are precisely those with higher rates of population growth and relatively low rates of economic growth.
As shown in Appendix C, the dwindling economy attribute articulates seven indicators supporting a quantifiable analysis. Comparing four countries a ranking is established of 1 to 5. Typically, a ranking of 1 to 4 may be established to identify which country is performing better in a given indicator. In some cases, one country performed extremely well comparatively, hence the alteration in numbers to reflect the superior performance. In most cases a metric of 1 to 4 is established as opposed to 1 to 5. The first indicator compares a country’s ability to provide a high level of economic development and not see educated individuals leaving in pursuit of better lives. This indicator supports a return of individuals supporting their government, which provides employment and relatively low inflation. Other indicators compared poverty, GDP growth, out of pocket health-care expenses, military expenditures for domestic security, and the ability to manage taxes by controlling some corruption.
Protracted Region Conflict (PRC)
One of the critical considerations in societal collapse is a hostile neighbor intervening in domestic issues. When contemplating the medium to transcribe local issues relative to regional associations, it is important to broaden this perspective and consider the role of hostile powers that threaten the stability of weak and fragile states. The relations of weak and fragile states with neighboring states are examined as well, associating contentious relationships with distant conquering states. Patterns of sporadic or chronic hostilities with neighboring states concern the impact on state fragility. Likewise, PRC supports the examination of the impact of Western-led humanitarian and strategic military interventions in perceived failed and fragile states.
In the cycle of state failure, protracted regional conflict identifies six variables in Appendix C. The six variables are the spillover of violence from neighboring countries, military intervention, foreign aid intervention, international arms transfers, trade dependence, and peaceful relations with neighboring states.
Protracted Social Conflict (PSC)
The protracted social conflict phase of the cycle of state failure had the most indicators at eleven. This phase represents the ability of a state to support its constituents, and, where sufficient, prevents the injection of extremists who may support regime change. The indicators are healthy environment, education, literacy rates, natural resource depletion, child mortality, life expectancy, life satisfaction, freedom, voice and accountability, internal security, and the percentage of the population affected by natural disasters.
The indicators selected for this phase support unique characteristics associated with domestic concerns. As mentioned, the higher the literacy and education rates, the less likely a country is to support the injection of a counter-narrative from VE against the government. Moreover, when a state provides a disease-free environment for the population, the life expectancy increases. Meanwhile, decreases in child mortality rates ensure that individuals have the potential to increase the population by creating economic worth to the state and a better way of life.
Low-status persons without rich and flexible perspectives are likely to lack a developed sense of the past and the future. Their education is unlikely to have left them with any historical overview or with any idea of a continuing tradition. Vast amounts of the population with disconnected information possess little historical knowledge of various ideological processes. With little intellectual or cultural knowledge and with little training in testing opposing views against reason and existing judgments, decisions are made according to promptings of the received ideas of the group, which come to mind first. Similarly, because there is little real sense of the future; the temptation of an alternative utopia arises.
There are eight indicators in the declining governance cycle of state failure. They are political participation, stability, ability to manage a modern state, human development, Internet users, criminal justice system, adherence to civil rights, and the type of electoral system. The declining governance phase’s unique indicators are the rule of law, competitive electoral systems, and Internet users.
The final observed phase in the cycle of state failure was opposition, which displays seven indicators. The indicators range from ethnic/sectarian violence, riots, refugees, coups, conflict intensity, human rights abuses, and terrorist group activities. All of these indicators support the spread of VE throughout the state when supported by any of the previously mentioned phases in the cycle of state failure.
Antagonistic group histories, exclusionist myths, demonizing propaganda and dehumanizing ideologies serve to justify discriminatory policies and legitimize atrocities. In these circumstances, actions are mutually interpreted in the most threatening light, “the worst motivations tend to be attributed to the other side,” the space for compromise and accommodation shrinks and “proposals for political solutions become rare, and tend to be perceived on all sides as mechanisms for gaining relative power and control”. All of these attributes intensify as political crisis spiral into war, where new vested interests emerge dependent on the political economy of the war itself, the most violent and unruly elements in society appear in leadership roles and criminality becomes a political norm. At the limit, disintegration follows. With sustained attrition, political structures buckle and collapse. It is a social implosion, which creates a power vacuum.
A frequent observation by analysis of comparative violence derives insurrections and rebellions hinge in part to the presence of primordial cleavages. Hibb cites:
The possibility of an insurrectionary movement arising and then employing organized violence depends upon the existence of sharp divisions within society created by regional, ethnic, linguistic, class, religious, and other communal differences that may provide the necessary social and demographic basis for supporting the movement.
Injection of VE
With the growing use of the tactic of terrorism to support extremist groups in achieving their aims of creating political instability, the status of extremist religion is a product of the same social forces that sustain authoritarian political attitudes. In the affected regions, the revolts of the poor, tinged with religion, carry millennial ideas that spawn and spread to small sects that support extremism. These projections are a “defense mechanism of the disinherited; despairing of obtaining substantial blessings through social processes, they turn on the world which withholds benefits and seeks its destruction in a cosmic cataclysm which exalts them and cast down the rich and powerful”. When the five attributes described above come together as a psychological appeal to imagination and simplicity of feeling with a non-reflective habit of mind, a primitive energy, and an urgent sense of need forms.
To summarize, the lower class individual is likely to have been exposed to punishment, lack of love, and a general atmosphere of tension and aggression from early childhood and tends to feel deep-rooted hostilities expressed in ethnic prejudice, political authoritarianism, and chiliastic religion. The extremist’s educational attainment is less than others with a higher socioeconomic status, and their association as a child with others of similar background fails to stimulate intellectual interests, yet creates an atmosphere preventing educational experiences from increasing their general social sophistication and understanding of differing groups and ideas. Leaving school puts the individuals in an environment where they are surrounded on the job by others with a similarly restricted cultural, educational, and family background. Little external influence impinges on their limited environment. From early childhood, these individuals seek immediate gratification, rather than engaging in pastimes with long-term rewards.
Utilizing formulas to predict instability, intelligence analysts predict future concerns to support preventive policymaking. Focusing on these countries, Appendix A identifies states for continued analysis relative to predicting instability. Establishing initial assessment from various organizations, these indices derive a historical perspective developing a foundational concern within the arc of instability.
The countries are compiled in Appendix B for baseline analysis to support a cursory understanding of the countries of interest prior to injecting them into the previously mentioned formulas associated with the five causative factors to monitor the progress of each state. Appendix B provides a periodical review of observable events or trends, which allow the analyst to observe events, targets, emerging trends and warn of unanticipated change. This model’s objective provides analysts and policymakers with an empirically based tool for examining the political, military, socioeconomic, environmental, and opposition activity threads that are the geopolitical makeup of the countries of interest to assess their performance and effectiveness in managing multi-dimensional issues and pressures. Comparing cumulative scores over time reveals a targeted country’s relative performance during periods of concern, with indicators alluding to strengths or problem areas to develop actionable early warning policy response measures to preempt a state’s inability to govern.
The continual theme for predicting flash points of violent extremism is: which characteristics of a state predict internal instability leading to violent extremism? Political violence is defined as, “an episodic interaction between social identity groups engaged in an ongoing, iterative relationship in which instrumental force is used and results in death and/or injury to humans”.
To begin to formulate a response to the question, a multi-method approach was used. Initially, a summary and review of the compiled state fragility indices literature is summarized in Appendix A relating to the most fragile states over the past ten years. By compiling the six references, a commonality was identified that resulted in six potential topics to focus the theme.
Next, the Central Intelligence Agency’s structured analytical technique for identifying indicators or signposts for change reflected a periodical review of observable events or trends to monitor and warn of otherwise unanticipated change. Although the structured analytical technique served as the baseline stability categories and indicators, additional indicators were added to serve as an exhaustive research method. Two of the worst countries from Appendix A were researched for Appendix B in addition to a country identified as a contender for a fragile state over the past decade. For each of the respective regions of the world, case studies are expounded on to mix quantitative data sourced from various references with qualitative input. Using Africa as an example, four states consistently form the most fragile states on the continent. Somalia serves as a failed state with the injection of violent extremism, whereas South Sudan and Sudan display ethnic violence and government corruption. The Central African Republic displays religious violence. The inclusion of Nigeria serves as a viable test as a counter-narrative because the country is an economically successful state, yet is experiencing an injection of violent extremism from Boko Haram. Therefore, the four African case studies reference the following distinct characteristics:
Somalia—unstable country with the injection of violent extremism
South Sudan—unstable country with protracted social and regional conflicts
Central African Republic—unstable country with protracted social conflict
Nigeria—stable country with the injection of violent extremism, and protracted social and regional conflicts
The metrics for validating potential Western intervention in fragile countries were the National Security Strategy questions, which supported narrowing the list of potential fragile countries of interest to four case studies. Reverting back to the example of Africa, these four variables beg the question as to why does Somalia possess the injection of violent extremism, whereas the remaining countries do not? Meanwhile, if Nigeria possesses many of the attributes conducive to violent extremism, why has the country not succumbed along a similar path as Somalia? Unfortunately, many of the states listed in Appendix B possess systems that remain largely ignorant of their role and largely impotent in their responsibilities as players are left to respond as they see fit, and the specifics of their involvement correlate to myopic rational choice terms.
There are several defined causative factors in determining the capability of synthetic states to effectively overcome various internal and external pressure points threatening them.
The fragile countries are analyzed based on the following methodology of instability indicators:
The formula depicted in Figure 2 defines attributes articulated in politically unstable environments of a country (InstabilityX). When a country changes the government (ΔG), and experiences economic (ΔE), regional (PRC), and social conflicts (PSC), an opportunity arises for the injection of VE into the now fragile country. When there is a history (H) of VE in the country over time, there is an increased likelihood of the continual injection of extremism as the social and political landscape alters. The creation of the predictive formula supports multiple factors articulated in the three Appendices with the qualitative analysis that provides a multi-faceted approach to conflict resolution. There is not one primary factor among the multiple facets, which supports a sole justification for countering the formula’s applicability. By incorporating all five values, a holistic approach to identifying core issues within a fragile state is addressed. Meanwhile, the outcome of the formula supports a metric for concern.
Instabilityx(Country) = ((ΔG + ΔE+ PSC + PRC) / (VE (internal or external affiliates) + H)) x 2
G = Change in governance indicators from Appendix B (government capacity and legitimacy)
E = Change in economic situation from Appendix B
PSC = Protracted social conflict change from Appendix B
PRC = Protracted regional conflict
VE = Injection of violent extremism
H = History of violent extremism
Figure 2: Instability country formula - Identifying the independent variables in the unstable country formula supports varying indications relative to predictive modeling supporting conditions conducive to the injection of violent extremism.
When continuing to monitor the various indicators within each phase of the cycle of state failure, differences in metric value support predictive modeling relative to the injection of VE leading to state failure and the potential for foreign intervention. Initially, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Central African Republic are below the 50 percent criteria supporting indications of potential foreign intervention based on Appendix B’s estimate of national interest requirements. If intelligence analysts are depicting this indication on a heat chart, the color shifts from yellow to amber. As the percentage broaches 33 percent, countries should fall into the continual monitoring category shifting from a yellow green color to a yellow color. These are the heat signatures of change.
The formula was designed based on outcomes of Appendix C, which draws on Appendices A and B. In a simplistic approach to supporting the formula, these variables are tallied in Appendix C as an example of continuing to monitor for predictive analysis. Each independent variable scored a rating from 0 (meaning non-applicable) through 5 (indicating citing harsh conditions of instability) inhibiting a collection metric or drastic changes in the total number between the four countries. If a country received a not rated (N/R) scoring from Appendix B, the country obtained a score of five. Finally, the quantity of indicators per variable can continue to lengthen based on refinements relative to the intelligence analysts’ requirements and the focal point of their supporting organization.
This type of research tradition supports terrorism and counter-terrorism research as a future analysis of the category of political instability fostering an environment of ideological terrorism. Through research, the researcher identifies steps or indicators alluding to this action occurring. Potentially, the theory revolves around the potential for emerging extremist factions and provides a social outreach within the failing state as a means to fill the void in the community.
The key findings using the instability formula identify three primary areas of the impact of governance, the incursion of state fragility, and the injection of VE.
1. The impact of governance. In an attempt to deconstruct the failed states paradigm, the dissertation explored key theoretical and discursive influences shaping the fragility debate. In today’s operating environment, and within the arc of instability, turmoil increases. On a global level, increasing geopolitical competition leads to a less controlled and predictable world. Meanwhile, as power is more diffuse, antagonism between regional powers matters more. Competition between powerful states increasingly lends a local or international color to civil wars, rendering their resolution more complex.
Wars and instability are becoming more geographically concentrated, compounded by a concerning tendency toward violence in countries attempting to transition to democracy. Some of the world’s most troubling countries are those attempting to transition away from authoritarian rules, such as Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Transitioning governments pose dilemmas for domestic and foreign powers. On one hand, the behavior of many authoritarian rulers creates problems later as they hollow out institutions, repress their opponents, neglect many of their constituents, and often leave succession mechanisms vague. Conversely, regime change creates significant complications because no system is in place to manage change. Throughout 2015, VE remains a persistent and growing threat by destabilizing governments, killing civilians, and radicalizing local populations.
Non-state armed groups often fill the void where states are unable or unwilling to assert their dominance. Weber defines the state as an entity that has a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in a territory. However, conflict areas are characterized by states losing the support of their constituents. Thus, what is legitimate becomes unmoored from its Weberian foundation. In this context, alternative forms of power, control, and coercion develop to fill the void. Nowhere is this void more visible than at the margins of the state where warlords and non-state armed groups principally operate. They derive power from their position at the frontiers where states have difficulty extending power. Frontier examples include rebel groups such as the LRA, militias throughout the CAR, and the smattering of rebel groups in South Sudan. Although they may attack the heart of the state, their source of power remains at the periphery.
2. The incursion of state fragility. Western theoretical frameworks examining state failure do not explore the state’s relationship with society and the capacity of civil society to effect systemic change dynamics that are critical for determining a state’s resilience to cope with instability. The disadvantage of an exclusive focus on the dynamics of state instability provides a skewed analysis of the issue, sometimes magnifying the level of threat to domestic, regional and global stability, and potentially rationalizing reactive external responses.
Additionally, the ideas of enduring rivalries and protracted social conflicts intertwined with regional conflicts address ways of viewing wars and acts of warfare in their context. Protracted social conflicts are debilitating to the social groups consumed by them. These hostile interactions involve sporadic episodes of war displaying no apparent beginning or end. When they periodically erupt into war, it is fought without rules or standards of conduct. On the other hand, rivalries rarely involve actual warfare, as the stakes are too high.
In light of these concerns addressed throughout the article, the twenty-first-century security environment is characterized by the following dimensions:
• A proliferation in the number of weak and failing states as well as of powerful armed groups able, through violent and nonviolent means, to affect stability and security at the local, regional, and, in some instances, even global levels.
• The proliferation of actors creates new interactions and interrelationships between and among local, regional, and global players.
• These first two developments, in turn, foster the emergence of coalitions of states, armed groups, and other non-state actors. These formal and informal groupings achieve their aims by employing irregular warfare tools and techniques.
• Faced with security challenges of these hostile coalitions of actors, democratic states foster coalitions of state and non-state allies to oppose them.
Even when the constituent behaviors of instability are identified and schematized, a second subsidiary problem persists. This problem, broadly of cultural relativity, concerns the question as to whether equivalent or identical frequency of predictable outcomes on any given instability dimension constitutes comparable levels of instability. In other words, are ten demonstrations in country A within the arc of instability during a given period relative to the same quantity of instability as ten demonstrations in country B within the same period, even though country A has a long history of frequent and intense demonstrations while country B has yet to experience such violent political outbursts over the previous ten years or more? The concluding response is ‘no.’ Thus, the conclusion supports the destabilizing impact of any given political event is considered within the context of the system and period in which it occurs; thereby considered in terms of the extent to which it constitutes a deviation from the previous system pattern. With this in mind, it is argued that:
The extent to which a political system may be characterized as unstable at any given point in time varies in direct proportion to the extent to which the occurrence or non-occurrence of changes in and challenges to the government, …(or)…regime…deviate from the previous system-specific ‘normal’ pattern of regime/government changes or challenges; a pattern which will itself vary over time.
3. The injection of violent extremism. The initiation of violence by the state against its citizens contradicts its primary function, as it then becomes the transgressor or violator of societal norms and conversations rather than the adjudicator. In such case, the state abnegates its legitimate authority, which is its primary instrument of conflict management through justice. Without the cloak of legitimacy, the state acts as another social identity group competing for preeminence or predominance in the social milieu. To examine the problem of violence meaningfully, the entire system must be considered because the full process of social conflict and the possibility of violent dysfunction are complex and inextricably intertwined with the normal social process. Once it becomes noticeable as violence and as a problem, it is already high enough to defy rational control.
All forms of political violence and warfare are social processes and symptomatic of advanced systemic breakdown and societal disintegration based on the injection of a multitude of factors which have the capability to alter the status quo. In this sense, ethnic violence is the most insidious form of intra-state political violence in that it presupposes a breakdown in authority structures that are required to impose measures of control against violence, retains minimal organization and coordination to invoke high levels of mechanized warfare, and characterizes the nature of the conflict in evocative, symbolic terms that are intrinsically non-negotiable. Ethnic conflict is especially volatile when ethnic identities coincide with religious identities.
Stateless groups present a greater threat than nation states because extremists wield weapons and mount assaults that many nations would not dare to attempt. Meanwhile, trends in technology shape the rise of stateless power. Computers, the Internet, cellular and satellite telephones, and satellite television provide extremists unprecedented access to one another. This connectedness enables extremists throughout the globe to organize themselves more efficiently than ever before. Extremist groups assemble command and control structures that previously would have been organized only by wealthy nation states.
One particularly potent trigger is a confrontation with the consequences of violence. A fascination with violence is characteristic of extremist narratives and propaganda across different forms of extremism. Their violence and resulting human suffering is displayed and emphasized in the communication, frequently with heartbreaking footage of dead, wounded, or suffering civilians. Our violence is glorified and celebrated as the only possible response to the injustices occurring. The consequences of extremists’ violence are glossed over, or the victims portrayed as faceless and anonymous non-humans. Truly, things are not like that, and when confronted with the human costs of violence, some begin to doubt.
Another trigger of ideological doubt is the entrance of a significant other into the world of the extremist—a person who in a credible and convincing way represents a different perspective from the extremists. The significant other may be a romantic partner, yet one who serves as a fellow human being displaying concern, interest, and willingness to collaborate. In some cases, the person belongs to the extremist’s out-group, yet acts kindly, selflessly, and justly.
It appears in the different forms of extremism that the strongly dualistic worldview with its sharp division of the world into us and them, right and wrong, black and white turns into a liability to the extremist group in the sense that it precludes a flexible coping with internal conflicts. Conflict resolution is reduced to two options: either the dissenter is forced entirely to conform, or the dissenter is excluded. Since the ideology is presumed to represent the world, as it is the truth, dissent is ascribed to character weakness, personal flaws, or deviousness.
In the absence of UN Security Council reform to promote greater institutional accountability and responsiveness, much more can be done to bolster the relationship between the UN Security Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. This includes greater integration between the African Union and United Nation’s peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions, including assessed contributions for African Union peacekeeping missions; consultations prior to decisions about division of labor and sharing of responsibilities; the practical use of the comparative advantages of the African Union and its regional mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution; the full operationalization of the African Standby Force; and greater financial support by African member states to African peace efforts.
Efforts should be made to build informal local-level institutions for resilience and conflict prevention, which bridge formal state institutions and authority with traditional and informal institutions. The focus of conflict prevention is shifting to critical areas of land and other natural resource disputes in rural areas, and urban conflict along identity lines in informal settlements and underserved and marginalized areas, which is often experienced as the result of unmanaged urbanization.
In summary, the totality of the security challenges facing the nations and the evolving character of various threats demand earlier action to prevent these challenges from scaling beyond our level of strategic depth and capacity to respond. Stabilizing a disordered world requires a proactive stance to successfully compete with state, non-state actors, and others for relative superiority over the physical, cognitive, and moral security of critical populations to prevent political instability throughout the arc of instability. Just as the sunrise is predictable, so is predicting elements to counter VE in a new normal environment by anticipating and responding to the new dawn.
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