The CSS Blog Network

How Tolerant Should Democracies Be?

Limits to tolerance? photo: code poet/Jim/flickr

Since US President Obama was elected, the far right has embraced radical fringe movements that do little to hide their desire to expound revolution in the US. A recent article, Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason has brought attention to the activities of armed militia groups in the US.

Militias have always been part of the American landscape, well before the American Revolution, where they played a decisive role in the US gaining its independence. Contemporary militia movements like the Oath Keepers regularly draw on this association as a source of legitimacy (as the “true keepers of liberty”) and as a justification for their rejection of the federal government in general and the Obama administration in particular.

What is striking is that these armed militias are confident enough to publicly describe their recruitment, training and mobilization activities and to express their hostile intentions toward the US government. In fact, it is in the realm of public activities that the perception and tolerance of these groups is a change from the past. Oath Keepers receive local support from the Tea Party-movement, which, in turn, enjoys support at the national level from state governors, congressmen and senators, as well as regular coverage by the mainstream media.

This is a telling reflection of the political imbalance in the US. While ordinary citizens protesting the war in Iraq were allegedly investigated and harassed by the police and the CIA, right-wing armed militia groups (made up of former military and policemen) can verbally attack the president, the federal government, and call for rebellion; all with the implicit (and in some cases explicit) support of public figures and political leaders. Analysts who dismiss the contradiction as “just national politics” or as the far right’s “desperate” search for voter support in populist movements may be underestimating the depth of the political divide in America. » More

ISN Quiz: Armed Non-State Actors

Test your knowledge of the ANSA ABC, the focus of our Special Report this week.

[QUIZZIN 7]

ISN Weekly Theme: At Peace With Rebels

Rebel leader announces the singning of a peace agreement in the DRC

Rebel leader announces the singning of a peace agreement in the DRC, photo: UN Photo/flickr

This week the ISN examines the role of armed non-state actors in conflict environments and peacebuilding processes. From rebel groups to militias, armed non-state actors are key to the course and sustainable resolution of today’s conflicts.

In this week’s Special Report:

  • An Analysis by Dr Véronique Dudouet from the Berghof Center for Conflict Research examines the importance of inclusive peacemaking that addresses the roots of the conflict and facilitates the reintegration of armed non-state groups by offering incentives for political participation.
  • A Podcast with Max Glaser explores the dilemmas facing humanitarian organizations as they try to balance the benefits against the dangers of engaging armed non-state actors.
  • Security Watch articles on India’s Maoist insurgency, US efforts to enlist local militias in the stabilization of Afghanistan and many more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a paper analyzing the role of armed non-state actors in peace processes, and a working paper on the importance of foreign military assistance to fragile states facing internal conflict.
  • Primary Resources, including UN Security Council Resolution 1125 on the crisis in the Central African Republic.
  • Links to relevant websites, including an article by the International Committee of the Red Cross detailing instruments and strategies used by non-state actors to respect international humanitarian law during intra-state conflicts in Africa, and a wiki created by Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies that provides intelligence analysis on the impact of armed non-state actors in sub-Saharan Africa between 2007 and 2012.
  • And through our IR Directory access to relevant institutions, including the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS).

This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha

This Is For The Mara Salvatrucha, by Samuel Logan

This Is For The Mara Salvatrucha, by Samuel Logan

ISN Security Watch correspondent Samuel Logan has just released his first book, “This is for the Mara Salvatrucha” (Hyperion Books), a non-fiction narrative about Brenda Paz and her last three years of life.

Paz was a young member of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, who became a federal informant before she was killed after running away from witness protection.

“This is for the Mara Salvatrucha” uncovers little-known truths about the MS-13, one of America’s most violent street gangs, and reveals how the street life can be alluring. It also takes a close look at the the realities of living inside the US as part of a Latino immigrant community, underscoring the challenges with policing these communities and the fluidity of illegal movement across the US-Mexico border.

The book has been optioned by Paramount Vantage Films.

More of Sam’s extensive work about the MS-13 in ISN Security Watch:

Tri-state trouble with Mara Salvatrucha

Mexico’s Parallel Power

Prison Gangs and Organized Crime

Afghanistan Votes

Election fever in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo taken by our correspondent on the ground, Anuj Chopra

Election fever in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo taken by our correspondent on the ground, Anuj Chopra

Media gags, reports of sporadic attacks, Taliban threats to cut off ink-stained fingers – excitement and anxiety abound as voting in Afghanistan draws to a close.

Several commentators have warned that a contested outcome – most likely one where incumbent Hamid Karzai does not win the first round with 51 percent of the vote – might result in a constitutional deadlock and a period of heightened instability. Others, however, have lauded the gains that his main opponent, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, has made as a sign of progress in an open and fair election process. The election will either heal or deepen rifts in the Afghan polity that have been exposed by the failure of reconstruction efforts and the looming Taliban threat.

But what is the situation on the ground? Are voters heeding Karzai’s call to come out and vote? Is democracy, and the hope of a better tomorrow, inspiring Afghans to take the risk and get that ink stain on their finger?

  • The ISN provides insights into the election process through Anuj Chopra, our reporter on the ground in Afghanistan. In a piece on the election, Anuj highlights the fears and anxieties of many voters who have succumb to the Taliban’s intimidation-campaign.
  • Kai Eide, special representative for the UN secretary general writes for RFE/RL that this election, although difficult, could mark a turning point in the reconstruction effort and the fight against the Taliban. Increased confidence in the democratic process will inspire change and solidify a new strategic vision for the country, he argues.
  • Pictures, courtesy of Monsters and Critics show the election process unfolding– ink-stained fingers and all.
  • This Crisis Group report examines the technical, political and security challenges associated with the current elections.
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