09 December 2011

Warthinker’s Digest- December 9, 2011

Warthinker’s Digest- December 9, 2011

Warthinker’s Digest is a feature of the Science of Global Security & Armed Conflict blog that scans the scholarly literature from academia, government agencies, and major think tanks, highlighting new reports and documents bearing on the complexity of conflict and future trends in warfare.  A must-read feature for defense and security strategists from all sectors interested in developing their “actionable intellect.”

Authors: Louis Klarevas,  Foreign Policy, December 1, 2011

Klarevas examines the case of Jose Pimentel in New York.  Pimentel was nabbed by NYPD while cobbling together a homemade pipe bomb. Some politicians were quick to offer Pimentel’s arrest as further alarming evidence of a growing and evolving “homegrown terrorism” threat from al Qa’ida.     Klarevas questions that assumption, and presents the view that Pimentel is just the latest addition to a “list of boneheaded jihadist wannabes.”    Why such a harsh accusation?

·         Jose Pimentel launched a website that explicitly advocated violence against American citizens, along with bomb making instructions.  Guess what?  Authorities noticed.

·         Pimentel, like others on Klarevas’ list, were seduced by the lure of bomb building but found the best they could do was to expend a lot of effort to create a clunky and not-so-awe-inspiring device that may or may not function as intended.

·         Although Pimentel posted “how-to” instructions on his to share his “expertise,” the truth is he had trouble putting one together himself.  He needed help.   Fortunately, he found a knowledgeable associate to assist with the devices…. But his trusty assistant was actually and NYPD informant.  Imagine that.

Examining the case of Jose Pimentel, one leaves with the impression that if he had used the time he spent chest-thumping on the interwebs to go outside and find a large stick, he probably could have done more damage with that than with his aspirational doomsday device.

Klarevas does not suggest that we ignore the threat of terrorism, but he does make an important point about not overstating the homegrown threat.  Some of the bumblers on Klarevas’ wannabe list have tried.  Few have succeeded.  He wraps up with one of my new favorite quotes:   “Just to put this in perspective, more Americans have been killed here at home by contaminated cantaloupe in the past few months than have been killed by violent Islamic extremists in the past decade!”

You can read the full article HERE.

Author: Center on International Cooperation // New York University

The primary audience for this research paper is the strategic planner in fragile and conflict-affected states [FCAS], understood broadly as any actor involved in either the formulation of national priorities to mitigate or recover from conflict, or the design of international strategies to support such priorities. The paper explores the tensions and tradeoffs incurred throughout the planning process on a range of engagement principles, including national ownership, prioritization, and sequencing. It aims to serve two purposes:

i.                     provide a broad concept of key elements of planning and
ii.                   identify key recommendations for engagement as well as policy and capacity gaps in the international community’s support of strategic planning processes.

The first section of the paper offers general considerations related to i. the tradeoffs and tensions inherent to strategic planning processes in FCAS, and ii. the challenges and opportunities that planners face, as a means to set the context and rationale for the guidance and recommendations presented throughout the paper. The second and third sections discuss the prerequisites for and the actual steps of the strategic planning process, with a focus on current practice and its range of tradeoffs and tensions, including challenges in formulating results for greater accountability and issues related, inter alia, to ownership, prioritization, and funding. The conclusion presents a summary of findings, along with key policy recommendations drawn from the analysis and the case studies, as well as suggested areas where further research could strengthen the international community’s capacities to support strategic planning processes. SOURCE: Center on International Cooperation // New York University // Hosted by Research for Development

You can read the full report HERE

Author: Chronic Poverty Research Centre

Most so-called civil wars take place in poor countries. Non-war violence is also prevalent in countries with high levels of poverty. Non-war violence includes sexual violence, communal riots and pogroms, high urban homicide rates and gang violence, rural land and labour conflicts, and so on. Such violence is pervasive not just in the ‘least developed countries’ but also in large middle-income developing countries with high concentrations of extreme poverty: countries like Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. This much is clear even with a fairly narrow, straightforwardly physical definition of violence. This paper aims to set out the significance of understanding and addressing the links between violence and extreme poverty. Section 2 discusses the impact of violent conflict on the poor, and on the very poorest, while Section 3 examines the contribution of extreme poverty to the causation of violent conflict. Section 4 draws out conclusions. SOURCE: Chronic Poverty Research Centre

You can read the full report HERE


Ten Years of Fragile States: What Have We Learned?
Author:  Laurence Chandy, Brookings Institution, Global Economy and Development

Ten years ago this month, the World Bank established a taskforce to examine how the development community, and the bank in particular, should approach fragile states. This project took on special significance in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, as Western governments awoke to the threats posed by weak and unstable countries, and expressed a new willingness to engage with them.

Looking back at the taskforce’s report, there is much that remains salient and even prescient. For instance, the report frames the development agenda for fragile states around a narrow prioritization of reforms, starting with security, stability and the rule of law; emphasizes the attainment of feasible, quick wins; and advocates looking beyond government channels for service delivery. Engagement strategies stress the need for sociopolitical analysis and much deeper forms of donor coordination. Many of these same ideas will, ironically, be presented as new innovations at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea later this month. SOURCE: Brookings Institution
You can read the full report HERE.

Clan and Conflict in Somalia: Al-Shabaab and the Myth of “Transcending Clan Politics”
Author:  Ahren Schaefer, Andrew Black
The Jamestown Foundation // Terrorism Monitor

Clan identity and Islam are central pillars of Somali society, with clan dynamics and inter-clan rivalries magnified by decades of state collapse. Al-Shabaab - the dominant Islamist militia controlling much of southern and central Somalia - claims to “transcend clan politics,” yet reality on the ground belies this claim, revealing that al-Shabaab seeks to manipulate local clan alliances and remains deeply influenced by clan politics. This analysis shows that despite al-Shabaab’s hard-line Islamist identity and pro-al-Qaeda rhetoric, many aspects of the group’s past and current behavior remain deeply rooted in Somalia’s local dynamics. Moreover, clan rules apply even to Somalia’s most feared Islamists. SOURCE: The Jamestown Foundation // Terrorism Monitor

You can read the full article HERE