This article was published by the Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy (ISPSW) in February 2017.
In mid-December, people and families all over Europe and in many parts of the world were gearing up to celebrate Christmas, one of the most important events in the Christian calendar. But on 19 December 2016 at 20:02 local time, a hijacked truck veered into a traditional Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany. Twelve people were killed. Four days later, the suspected perpetrator was shot and killed by police on an Italian plaza in Sesto San Giovanni, a suburb north of central Milan, Italy.
On the same day, ISIS extremists released a video of the perpetrator, filmed recently in Berlin. His name was Anis Amri. Having pledged allegiance to the group, he suggested that the Berlin attack was vengeance for coalition airstrikes in Syria.
This article was published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 16 February 2017.
The five forces that are ‘liquidising’ global security.
As the liberal order frays and geopolitical competition returns it is natural that people turn to Henry Kissinger. No one has a more finely-grained understanding of power politics, and his treatise on World Order sits on the bed side tables of many global leaders (even if few have actually read it).
But Kissinger’s ideas of order represent an impossible aspiration in the world of ISIS and fake news. They are designed for a slower world and powerful states, rather than our age of permanent uncertainty, rapid change and disruption.
Many traditional concepts – even well-tested ones – have been overtaken by events. Deterrence, alliances, even diplomacy seem out of fashion; old certainties are gone. Kissinger’s order was based on two pillars: legitimacy and balance of power. The defining moment of his world view was the Peace of Westphalia. He laments the disappearance of the split between domestic and foreign policy. But, in spite of the return of power politics, the world is not Kissingerian any more.
This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 7 February 2017.
Significant security gains have been made in the fight against Boko Haram, but the war is far from over.
Last year marked the seventh year since Boko Haram re-merged following a heavy-handed crackdown on the group in July 2009. Since then, the outfit has employed violence in Nigeria and the surrounding region at a dizzying pace. In 2014, according to data collected by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), it was the world’s most deadly terrorist entity.
A lot has changed in the struggle against Boko Haram since then, including the advent of operations by the Multi-National Joint Task Force and the eviction of militants from most areas of territorial control.
This past August, the movement split into two factions. Long-time leader Abubakar Shekau favours a more indiscriminate attack profile, while the new Islamic State-backed Abu Musab al-Barnawi faction prefers to engage security forces directly (such as in Bosso, Niger in June). Despite these developments, the high rate of violence perpetrated by the group remains a consistent feature.
This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 6 February 2017.
Does food security increase the frequency of civilian killings in some developing countries? Or can it make such atrocities less likely? The answer to these questions depends on how troops and civilians view the prospects of long-term cooperation, and the strategies they employ.
Current theories on violence during civil war frequently associate it with previous enmities and discriminate violence. Yet, even within countries that are experiencing civil war, violence varies over space and time. Some villages might suffer many civilian killings by armed troops while others do not. These villages might go through years of relative peace followed by years of intense violence. New research shows that, in the developing world, food availability and farmland density can help explain violence against civilians.
This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 3 February 2017.
Within two weeks of taking power, new United States President Donald Trump has signed a number of executive orders that have caused alarm around the world. Perhaps the most controversial of these was an immigration ban that indefinitely suspended the entry and resettlement of Syrian refugees to the US and enacted a 90-day ban on travelers from six Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. While fears about Muslim immigration are widespread in the US and elsewhere, a significant body of research has failed to find justification for such policies. Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that they might make the targeted problem of Islamic extremism much worse.
The Trump administration has justified the move as “preventive” and designed to reduce terror threats facing the US, yet the Cato Institute finds that not a single person (including refugees) from any of the Muslim-majority countries included has been involved in a terrorist attack in the US in the past 40 years. Data provided by the New America Foundation (since 9/11) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005-2014) has, meanwhile, found that on a 10-year average, 11,737 Americans are likely to be killed from gun violence per year, compared with just two by Muslim jihadi immigrants.