Tag Archives: security

Building Security and Justice After Conflict – Student Position Papers


At the end of the SCID Course, students are asked to reflect upon the whole Course and write a position paper (of about 750 words). The paper should be on an issue related to building security and justice in post-conflict environments that they feel most passionate about which requires attention by, at least an element of, the international community. The postscript to the paper summarises reasons why effective action has not been taken to date. Students are asked to draw on their own experience and knowledge as well as academic material, with the aim of persuading the reader to agree with the position put forward and, if necessary, to act, while displaying academic writing and analytical skills.

Those papers that secured a Merit or Distinction (i.e. above 60%) are reproduced on this Blog (below and on a new page entitled Building Security and Justice after Conflict – Student Position Papers). Congratulations to all students who did so well and to everyone in the March 2015 intake for completing the whole course – and all the very best with your dissertations.

I hope you enjoy reading the following position papers as much as I did. Please share, like, and comment.

Best wishes, Eleanor

Dividing the Threat Multiplier: An Argument for Effective International Prosecution Against Grand Corruption and Kleptocratic Regimes – Maren Moon

The release of the Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has fuelled spectacular revelations regarding the scale of grand corruption and the wider system which enables it (ICIJ, 2016: np).  The scandal is exposing involvement by the very people and institutions who should feel morally and legally compelled to act with the highest integrity but who instead participate in a system all too frequently perpetrating wholesale crime, undue privilege, and the global erosion of security.  (Wolf, 2014: 3). They are doing so with impunity, and they are doing so while the world’s watchdogs cannot help but possess full knowledge that ‘the link between grand corruption and mass human rights violations is undeniable’ (Freedom House, 2014, and also Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np., and Transparency International: 2008, ).

No less than heads of states and global financial institutions linked to London, New York and Switzerland have now been connected to an enormous shadow economy responsible for: hiding assets; exercising bribery; facilitating tax evasion; practicing financial fraud; enabling drug trafficking; and participating in sexploitation. (See ICIJ, 2016 and Huffington Post a, 2016, Huffington Post b, 2016: np, and BBCb, 2016: np ). And no fewer than 11 million documents have laid bare the global elite’s participation in a system purposefully rigged to increase the gap between the absurdly wealthy and the tragically poor.  The international community would do well to note too that this is a system which facilitates crime in desperate and conflict-vulnerable settings while arming the insurgents and terrorists who operate from within such settings (Patrick, 2009 and Napoleoni, 2003). We should also recall the system intentionally erodes democratic principles of transparency, fair taxation, the right to peaceful protest, and the exercise of free speech (Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np and Wolf, 2014: 5-8).  In short, this is a system wherein leaders and criminals alike actively undermines everything to which the international community aspires, and for which it ultimately endeavours; sometimes selflessly and in conditions of great hardship.

It should not go unrecognised that the responses of those who have been unveiled as both witting and unwitting participants in the darker aspects of this economy, all too consistently reiterate a mantra which should give each of us a moment’s pause for reflection – that lawyers and financial experts alike still possess the legal means of perpetrating unfair, corrupt, and increasingly unfair and corrupting practices. Vested interests in lofty positions have suggested big businesses, and their high-flying personnel, need to work in the shadow economy even when it lowers opportunities for smaller businesses and honest entrepreneurs.  They argue further that legislation against bribery ‘puts British companies at a competitive disadvantage’ (Barrington, 2016: 4). And yet still too, others have intoned that society needs to tacitly accommodate unethical practices in the financial sector on the grounds that businesses in their countries are too big to fail, or too important to risk having relocate to another country. But in making these accommodations we will be enabling the capture of entire governments by organisations whose interests do not include the common citizens who eke by and sustain the infrastructure enjoyed by those who have rigged the system against them (Johnson, 2009: np).  Such accommodation could only serve to entrench profit for the few at the cost of the many. We are, in effect, now experiencing parallel attacks on democracy by the licit and illicit economies alike – both of whom are seemingly melding into a deeper, more committed relationship in an increasingly shady capacity and whose political-economy will forever thwart the international community’s efforts in bringing peace and security.

Those who evade tax legally are allowed to escape criminality by conveniently structured legal technicalities. This phenomena is relatively easy to rectify. But the Big King Kleptocrats who knowingly act outside the law, do so understanding that successful prosecution against their acts is nearly unheard of. History and statistics remain firmly on their side. This is occurring regardless of corruption’s increasingly evident role in destabilising entire continents such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America (Carnegie, 2015).  These actors smile comfortably while insinuating that exposure of their misdeeds might expose a larger, darker reality in which too many purportedly clean-skinned actors may also be complicit.

And while they may not be kind, they most certainly are proving wise.

Indeed, these same kleptocrats, and their advisors, will have followed closely the freedom and riches once more enjoyed by Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who has now escaped charges of corruption and murder on a mere technicality (Reuters, 2015: np). Mubarak was a kleptocratic despot whose legacy includes death, blood, fear, and a deeply troubled country. He did not operate in a vacuum, and he was aided by the most powerful regimes in the world. But that does not excuse the outcome – nor does it justify the continuance of such behaviour. Those choosing to play in the dirty sandbox of blood and money in today’s shadow economy will have either dismissed the importance of the Arab Spring’s impact on security and human rights or cynically regarded the situation as yet another opportunity from which to leverage additional millions.  I argue that humanity can no longer afford such cynicism.

I further assert these same actors will have understood President Goodluck Jonathan’s dismissal of his bank governor following the well-intended public servant’s disclosure to the ‘Nigerian Senate that the treasury was missing billions of dollars in expected oil revenue’ (Wolf, 2014: 5). Indeed, Jonathan and his cronies seemed content to turn a blind eye to the networks which channelled money and arms to Boko Haram while leaving security forces ill equipped to quell an uprising which has now left more than 10,000 civilians and security personnel dead at the hands of Islamist savagery (Foreign Policy, 2015: np).

The kleptocrats will have further monitored the toppling of corrupt regimes in Tunisia and the Ukraine and reacted like narcissistic sociopaths unable to emotionally register the gravity of their actions, while concurrently making plans to fly to safety while maintaining access to their ill-gotten gains if the same danger knocks on their door.

The impunity enjoyed by this cohort, and structured into our globalised economy, has paved the way for much of the harm we see unfolding on the world’s stage. It has also provided resonant and compelling reasons from which the so called Islamic State, Boko Haram, and the Taliban find a seemingly endless supply of recruits (Chayes, 2007: 22, and Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np, and Schirch as cited in Mertus and Helsing, 2009: 68).

Whether knowingly or not, every last player in the shadow economy has contributed to an encroaching threat against humanity and which serves as nothing short of a security threat multiplier. It is of epic and global proportions.

The 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa provides an immediate example of how easily corruption might impact security on a global scale. UN donor contributions topping $5.2bn were dispersed to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  Almost all of it vanished, and only a fraction of the disbursement was ever audited. ‘In all three countries, no individual has been tried, much less convicted, for their role in the mismanagement of money meant to save the lives of the dying’ (Al Jazeera, 2016: np.).  These funds were also intended to contain the outbreak and prevent its spread.  The UN’s Global Ebola Response data refers to the outbreak’s nature as having been of ‘widespread and intense transmission’ (UN, 2014: np). But to date, the myriad pages and resources on their website speak only of a level of need and the current status of the situation.  Their silence of the flagrant misappropriation of funds perpetuates impunity.  And such complicit behaviour could very well facilitate a new pandemic of Ebola or some other virus, which experts warn could be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to halt if not contained early, and with the utmost care; care which could never result in the face of another round of missing but badly needs funds (Oxford Martin School, 2012: np).

Grand Corruption further impacts security by destabilising regions in concussive shock waves. As migrants flee corrupt regimes and insurgencies (again, simultaneously fostered by the shadow economy), we see communities decimated, resentments grow, borders close, and trust diminish. (BBCa 2015: np,). Actions originating thousands of miles away from Europe’s shores are now threatening the cohesiveness of European states and the long architected interdependence of the EU.   The Schengen Agreement is further threatened as once ceded sovereignty is being repossessed by politicians seeking to erect borders and control the influx of desperate people fleeing the regimes which grand corruption has enabled.

Finally, kleptocracy feeds the thickening of the crime-conflict nexus as human traffickers, arms dealers, and smugglers share mutually beneficial relationships with terrorists, insurgents and the ruling elite. The nexus will continue to thicken so long as the chaotic conditions and lack of governance resulting from unabated kleptocracy ensures the conditions favourable to its growth.  (see Patrick, 2009,  and Lacher, 2012, and McMullin, 2009, and Jesperson, 2015 and Sloan and Cockayne, 2011).

And it is for these reasons, and so many more, that we must strive to end impunity for grand corruption – and the shadow economy in which it thrives.   Such a task will require concerted, relentless multilateral efforts and incredible political will.  But it can, and must be done.

We can begin by seizing opportunity from the momentum gathering in the wake of the Panama Papers and the associated Unaoil scandals in current headlines.  We can further reach out across the international community and form inter-organisational working teams to apply pressure on host-countries, the Bretton Woods institutions, and home governments.   We can institute training programs which dispel the activities which remain shrouded in mystery but whose reality can be unpacked in simple terms.  But most of all, we must challenge the sovereignty of those countries who refuse to participate in fair trade and good governance – and we must have an international court with both the will and capacity to challenge the problem.  And that court must somehow operate separately from the arbitrary and political interests of the United Nations Permanent 5.

But it has to start. Impunity has to end. And accountability must follow. And never has there been a more pressing time.


As a post-script to my previous position piece, I would like to gently assert that the International Community has understandably tolerated grand corruption in the theatres of peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. The conditions in many of these theatres have necessitated that our precious resources be used first to protect lives and second to institute the ground-level security needed to maintain sufficient equilibrium from which to begin the long, hard institutionalisation of security sector reform, transitional justice, and micro-development projects.  But this too provides another reason why the solution to grand corruption requires an international effort outside the influence of the P5 (whose own members might be guilty of grand corruption or geopolitics).  We must seek a solution which can pre-empt the looting of banks and act independently of outside political agendas which might situate a vulnerable country between winning and losing scenarios as powerful countries battle for control by proxy. We need a solution which sends a clear signal to corrupt elites across the entire world, and not simply those situated in areas of conflict, that corruption will no longer be tolerated, nor paid for by blood of innocent people.  But we, the donor countries, must see to our own houses first.  We must ensure our hands are clean and that any authority we exercise is comprised of substance and never hollow in its nature. We must lead from the front, and from genuine experience.  But we simply cannot afford to turn away from this issue – at home or abroad.  People are dying by guns and by starvation; and they are dying by torture when taking action to stop the atrocity at hand while having inadequate support behind and beside them.  We must be that support.


Al Jazeera Media (2016) The plunder of west Africa Ebola funds. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/01/plunder-west-africa-ebola-funds-160125140155872.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Migration and citizenship, start the week – BBC radio 4. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06ybg7h (Accessed: 3 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Panama papers: What the documents reveal. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-35956055 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Barrington, R. (2016) ‘Spot the Difference: Corruption Research, Academies and NGOs’, British Academy: British Academy. pp. 1–7.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2014) Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security. Available at: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/corruption_and_security.pdf (Accessed: 14 March 2015).

Chayes, S. (2007) ‘Days of Lies and Roses: Selling Out Afghanistan’, Boston Review, , pp. 21–23.

Foreign Policy (2015) In Nigeria, $2 Billion in Stolen Funds is Just a Drop in the Corruption Bucket. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/18/in-nigeria-2-billion-in-stolen-funds-is-just-a-drop-in-the-corruption-bucket/ (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

Freedom House (2014) ‘Combating Impunity: Transnational Justice and Anti-Corruption’, Washington, DC: Freedom House. pp. 1–10.

Huffington Post (2016) Big Banks Aided Firm at Center of International Bribery Scandal. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-citibank-hsbc_us_56feba02e4b0daf53aefa1da (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Huffington Post (2016) There’s A huge new corporate corruption scandal. Here’s why everyone should care. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-bribery-scandal-corruption_us_56fa2b06e4b014d3fe2408b9 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) Giant leak of offshore financial records exposes global array of crime and corruption. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-panama-papers-global-overview.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) The Panama papers. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Jesperson, S. (2015) ‘Development Engagement with Organized Crime: a Necessary Shift or Further Securitisation?’, Conflict, Security, & Development, 15(1), pp. 23–50.

Johnson, S. (2009) The Quiet Coup. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/307364/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Lacher, W. (2012) Organized Crime and Conflict in the Sahel-Sahara Region.

McMullin, J. (2009) ‘Organised Criminal Groups and Conflicts: The Nature and Consequences of Interdependence’, Civil Wars, 11(1), pp. 75–102.

Napoleoni, L. (2003) Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks. London: Pluto Press.

Oxfam International (2015) Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016. Available at: https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-own-more-all-rest-2016 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Oxford Martin School (2012) Pandemics – can we eliminate major worldwide epidemics? | videos. Available at: http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/view/208 (Accessed: 4 April 2016).

Patrick, S. (2011) Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reuters (2015) Egypt’s high court overturns last conviction against Mubarak. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-mubarak-idUSKBN0KM0O620150113 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Schirch, L. (2006) Human Rights & Conflict: Exploring the Links between Rights, Law, and Peacebuilding. Edited by Julie A Mertus and Jeffrey W Helsing. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Sloan, B. and Cockayne, J. (2011) ‘Terrorism, Crime, and Conflict: Exploiting the Differences Among Transnational Threats?’, Policy Brief, , pp. 1–11.

Transparency International (2008) ‘Human Rights and Corruption’, Working Paper, 05, pp. 1–6.

United Nations (2014) Global Ebola crisis response | data. Available at: http://www.un.org/ebolaresponse/data.shtml (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Wolf, M.L. (2014) ‘The Case for an International Anti-Corruption Court’, Governance Studies at Brookings, July, pp. 1–15.

Woodrow Wilson Center (2016) Combatting grand corruption internationally. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN6HDEgiSc8 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Cyber Warfare – Olivier Dubois

Surprisingly enough, the SCID program is relatively silent on cyber warfare. It is briefly referred to in relation with the so-called new terrorism: terrorist groups would have the ability to carry out ‘electronic terrorist attack targeting critical infrastructure’ (Department of Criminology, 2013). This is a very narrow part of what constitutes nowadays cyber warfare and by no means does it capture the stakes of the current cyber arm race.

As with many new concepts, there is no universal accepted definition of the term. Most definitions underline the use of computers and digital means in a coordinated manner by a government or a non-state group with a purpose of causing disruption and/or damage (Sakharian, 2013; Andress, 2013). The target of a cyberwar is computers, networks and digitally controlled devices. If the objective may not be destructing physical infrastructure or killing people, the impacts of cyber operations cannot be contained to the digital world. It is not solely about offering a bloodless military superiority or an economic advantage (Kirsch, 2012). To the contrary, the US department of defence’s Laws of War manual (DoD, 2015) is explicit in recognising that certain cyber operation do constitute use of force in the meaning of Art. 2 § 4 of the UN charter. It cites Operations ‘ that: (1) trigger a nuclear plant meltdown; (2) open a dam above a populated area, causing destruction; or (3) disable air traffic control services, resulting in airplane crashes’ (DoD, 2015: 989). It is reported that more than 100 States are developing some forms of cyberwar capacity (Limnell, 2016).

As in our daily lives, the frontier between the digital and physical world is increasingly becoming difficult to identify. Cyber operations are equally challenging legal and policy boundaries. From a legal standpoint, the fact that a major military power like USA explicitly consider that cyber operations are submitted to both Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello (IHL) does not solve everything. Recognising a cyber operation as an act of war is important as it may influence the type of counter measure the victims may consider. It may as well contain policy makers in taking aggressive actions (Lin 2012). However, this restraining frame may be completely ineffective as the imputability or the attribution of a cyber operation to its perpetrator remains extremely difficult (Dortmans 2015, Lin 2012). As a result, waging an cyber attack is extremely low-cost and risk-free compared to the pay off (Limnell, 2016). States have still to learn to operate an adapted range of countermeasures to cyber attack in avoiding to make mistake that could jeopardise their political credit or cause an unwanted escalation in the conflict (Limnell, 2016). The danger of unwanted escalation is real. As a technological arm race is ongoing, states have little time to properly assess the effect of the arsenal and could be nevertheless tempted to unleash it.

The layers are at a loss. Applying IHL rules on the conduct of hostilities to cyber attack is thus extremely difficult and efforts of experts who have proposed to NATO the Tallinn Manual on the International Law applicable to Cyber Warfare is not entirely convincing (Schmitt, 2013). In the absence of precise knowledge on the offensive capacities of cyber weapons, it is very difficult to operationalise and respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions (Droege, 2012). There is an urgent need for a new treaty banning certain cyber weapons and/or creating new regulatory and surveillance authority such as the one existing for chemical weapons or for atomic energy.

Political scientists are at bay, too. Policy framework and guidance have to be adapted to this new reality to ensure that cyberspace is not transformed in a wild battlefield. Regional or collective early warning system for aggressive cyber activity are inexistent. Cybersecurity and cyber warfare are ‘team sport’ where international cooperation is key. Old times alliances created for responding to threats in the physical world need to be shaken up to meet the challenge. International commission of investigation or international fact-finding missions on alleged cyber warfare activities are yet to be created or even suggested in the corridors of New York. Is it so utopian to imagine negotiating cyber cease-fire and mandating cyber observers, to be nicknamed the “Blue Tablets”, as modern peacekeepers for monitoring it? The new wars of the nineties have shaken the whole approach to peacebuilding. Cyber warfare offers a similar shift of paradigm. Let us not wait a ‘Cyber-Srebrenica’. Let us prevent it by thinking and acting out of the box now.


Andress, J. (2013) Cyber Warfare Techniques, Tactics and Tools for Security Practitioners, 2nd ed., Burlington: Elsevier Science.

Department of Criminology (2013), SCID module 6 Unit 3, Resource 1, Leicester: University of Leicester.

Department of Defence (2015) Law of War Manual, Washington DC: Department of Defence, available at http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/DoD_Law_of_War_Manual-June_2015_Updated_May_2016.pdf (last accessed 21 September 2016).

Dortmans, P., Thakur, N. and Ween, A. (2015) ‘Conjectures for framing cyberwarfare’ Defense & Security Analysis 31(3): 172-184.

Droege, C. (2012) ‘Get off my cloud: cyber warfare, international humanitarian law, and the protection of civilians’ International Review Of The Red Cross 94(886): 533-578.

Kirsch, C. (2012) ‘Science fiction no more: cyber warfare and the United States’ Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 40(4): 620-686.

Limnéll, J. (2016) ‘The cyber arms race is accelerating- what are the consequences?’ Journal of Cyber Policy, (1)1: 50-60.

Lin, H. (2012) ‘Cyber conflict and international humanitarian law’ International Review of the Red Cross, 94(886): 515-531.

Shakarian, P. (2013) Introduction to Cyber-Warfare A Multidisciplinary Approach, Burlington: Elsevier Science.

Schmitt, M. (2013) Tallinn manual on the international law applicable to cyber warfare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Human Rights based Counter Terrorism Strategy – Mark Dixon

There is a compelling argument to revise the prevailing Counter Terrorism (CT) strategies in order to move away from ones that undermine Human Rights (HR). The Institute for Economics and Peace Global Terrorism Index (GTI) (2016) reports fatalities from terrorist attacks have increased nine fold since 2000, arguably impacting on the pre text of counter terrorism (CT) strategies of many countries. The GTI also highlights 78% of all terrorist attack fatalities occur in five countries namely Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria with only 2.6% occurring in the West. Despite the realities of the terrorist threat in the West we have witnessed increases in CT budget’s and strategies that undermine HR. This has lead to criticisms of both military action in Afghanistan and other locations and domestic legislation in many Western countries. An example of controversial legislation would be the control order provisions of the UK Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), which was later repealed. Walker (2007) suggesting whilst such UK legislation was an attempt to fulfil a duty to protect, significant elements of the UK CT legislative framework was constitutionally deficient, lacking accountability and breaching HR.

President Obama’s Executive Order 13491 (2009) banning the U.S. government’s use of torture was also a rebuke to the Bush administration policies following the 9/11 attacks which authorised the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SCCI) (2014) reporting the CIA’s interrogation program had not produced unique or valuable intelligence, this was immediately countered by ex CIA officials by means of the CIA Saved Lives (2014) web site on which it was stated the interrogation program had disrupted terrorist plots. However, both parties’ arguments focus on the validity of the tactic being dependant on the veracity of the information obtained, completely ignoring the human, legal and social consequences of torture. The reality is increases in budgets, militarised activity, legislative enactments allowing breaches of HR, and other gross breaches of HR in the name of CT has not reduced the threat level. Schulz (2001) suggests any CT policy that does not respect HR is counter productive, advocating not only is a HR orientated CT strategy morally correct but would be more affective than the prevailing approach.

It would be argued Western CT strategies have focused on quick fix operational aims rather than strategic impact. As a result the impact on; the trajectory of the ‘war on terror’, inciting further extremism, the relationship between the US its allies and the wider Islamic global population, the West’s ability to legitimately promote democracy, human rights globally and security in post conflict or fragile states have not been considered. Western governments have failed to understand ideologies that manifest, as terrorism created as a consequence of real or perceived injustices cannot be resolved using traditional military interventions. A HR centred CT approach would be better equipped to challenge the ideologies that fuel terrorism across the globe. It is an understanding of political, social and economic grievances and an acknowledgement that not all terrorists or terrorist motivations are the same that is the key to undermining terrorism.

A starting point when considering a HR approach to CT would be HR are not a luxury we can enjoy during times of peace. Paust (2006) argues CT strategies that impact on civil liberties and limit democracy do more damage to HR than the acts of terrorism they seek to prevent. He cites the use of collective punishment tactics by Israeli authorities against families when one family member is allegedly involved in terrorist acts. He argues not only has this done nothing to reduce Palestinian terrorist attacks but has provided opportunity for those supporting violence to promote and reinforce their ideologies. It would be suggested CT strategies that have a human security focus based on HR principles rather than that of national security, would be better equipped to tackle the causes of terrorism. Whilst it is not being suggested attack planning plots should be ignored CT strategies that focuses exclusively on the violent outcomes of terrorist acts will have little success in reducing the threat as the grievances that drive the ideologies remain. This is a view held by the former head of the British Security Service, Baroness Manningham-Buller, (2011) who suggests states should seek political solutions and reconciliation in the context of terrorism as foreign policy directly affects conciliation efforts. She adds it is her belief that the UK involvement in the invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to the radicalisation of some UK citizens and did little to assist the security of the UK.

HR based CT strategies need to be coordinated transnationally and delivered with international consensus. They need to mobilise and engender national and international support, with particular emphasis in those areas of the globe that are disproportionately affected by terrorism. They should also support the advancement of international law and HR thus in turn promoting peace, security, and the rule of law globally particular within post conflict environments and locations experiencing fragile governance. This would encourage and enhance democracy and provide the supporting conditions needed for a reduction in the grievances that manifest as terrorism and promote effective conflict transformation and state building.

Post Script

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the Bush administration quickly framed the issues within the context of a ‘war on terror’ inferring some form of end game with winners and losers. This view failed to acknowledge terrorism itself is a tactic that can be potentially undermined or reduced but not eradicated. The response from the West was to adopt tactics suited to conventional military activity, leaving little space for any assessment of the grievances or motivations that was being represented through violent terrorist acts. The absence of any meaningful assessment exploring the broader implications of CT strategies that undermine HR resulting in a continuation of the prevailing attitudes.

Those who advocated human rights should not take precedents over the need to prevent terrorist attacks have opposed any debate suggesting the strategy adopted was an overreaction that could create social and political tensions and increase opportunities for radicalisation. This resulted in the absence of any meaningful dialogue and assessment of how a HR based approach to CT would be complementary to the ultimate aim of making people safe.

In the post 9/11 era immediate media reporting and globalisation has fuelled the popular misconception that international terrorism is one of the major threats to the West. However according to the World Economic Forum (2016) terrorism has not featured as a top ten global threat during the last ten years of reporting. Yet governments have chosen the option of immediate action focusing on operational aims rather than strategic outcomes. As a consequence we have seen a lack of international consensus and coordination in joint CT strategies that address the drivers of terrorism with emphasis rather on joint enforcement/military operations. Partnership working at an international level has been further complicated when considering that sovereign states have primary responsibility to protect their own citizens and combat terrorism in their county. However, when countries appear unwilling or unable to deliver against this and the threat posed is transnational in nature, challenges exist to both the international community and individual states in considering thresholds for intervention. The favoured option in these circumstances being military interventions for the purposes of expediency and short term gains.


Manningham-Buller, E. (2011) BCC Freedom, Securing Freedom: 2011 (episode 5), The Reith Lectures, London: BBC (44 mins) [online] available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b014pxnq (accessed on 19/07/2016).

CIA Saved Lives (2014) [online] available at https://ciasavedlives.com (accessed on 08/09/2016).

Institute for Economics and Peace (2016) Global Terrorism Index 2015 [online] available at http://economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2015.pdf (accessed on 14/08/2016).

Paust J, J. (2006) ‘Human Rights, Terrorism and Efforts to Combat Terrorism’ in: J. Mertus and J. Helsing (eds.). Human Rights and Conflict. Exploring the Links between Rights, Law and Peacebuilding. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SCCI) (2014) Study on CIA Detention and Interrogation Program [online] available at http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/senate-intelligence-committee-study-on-cia-detention-and-interrogation-program (accessed on 08/09/2016).

Schulz, W, F. (2001) In Our Own Interest: How Defending Human Rights Benefits Us All, Boston: Beacon Press.

The National Archives UK Legislation (2005) Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005) [online] available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/2/contents (accessed on 14/08/2016).

The White House President Barack Obama (2009) [online] available at Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/ensuring-lawful-interrogations (accessed on 09/09/2016).

Walker, C. (2007) ‘Keeping control of terrorists without losing control of constitutionalism’, Stanford Law Review, 59(5): 1395.

World Economic Forum (2016) Insight Report Global Risks 2016, 11th Edition, Geneva: World Economic Forum, [online] available at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GRR/WEF_GRR16.pdf (accessed on 30/06/2016).

Afghanistan’s Endemic Corruption – Iain Blackwood

The author has elected out of all the subject matter taught on the Security, Conflict and International Development course to discuss ‘corruption’. Although the subject matter is discussed, the author has first hand experience of corruption, which other individuals who work in conflict zones will undoubtedly have experience of and will have to contend with.  As the author has been working and living in Afghanistan for a number of years and has experienced corruption in his daily business dealings and within his own organisation, which diverted funds allocated in assisting Afghanistans humanitarian needs.  Furthermore, corruption within Afghanistan is not only a problem but is happening on endemic proportions and is not just limited to the capital Kabul, but reaches every element of Afghan society.

To give an indication of how endemic corruption is within Afghanistan, the 2015 Asia foundation report, reported that the local Afghan population sees corruption as inescapable, which they encounter daily, and 89.9 percent of Afghans reporting corruption as thee foremost problem in their day-to-day lives and 91.2 percent, when dealing with varying levels of the Afghan government (Asia Foundation, 2015).  These high levels of corruption in the daily lives of the Afghan peoples can be seen as further exacerbating an already troubled emerging fragile state and the newly formed Afghan government it appears has done little in the way of countering the endemic proportions of corruption within Afghanistan.

Corruption in Afghanistan can be all encompassing and encountered in various forms from the man in the street buying bread, to prices being inflated to include extra charges to fuel prices, or government officials wanting their share of the price of registering an Armoured vehicle. Although some of the added fees may be insignificant in size and terms of profit margins, this is corruption and certainly, the sums being asked by Government officials are large and often blatant corruption.  This occurs to local Afghans and International actors and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), alike.  Higher costs are incurred for International organisations as well as local Afghans but Internationals are perceived as being rich and capable of handing over ‘Baksheesh’ a bribe; to officials in order bypass the myriad rules and regulations, get paper work signed and officiated.

According to Transparency International (2015), Afghanistan is ranked 166 out of 168 and third worst country in the world for corruption. Therefore, corruption may emerge from necessity because of low wages or from the lack of education or just a way of Afghan life.  However, corruption is a way of life in Afghanistan and as previously mentioned encountered daily.  Although there have only been a handful of high profile prosecutions over the past decade these have principally involved money laundering through the  ‘hawala’ transfer system, which is an unofficial money system used to transfer proceeds both monetary and physical goods through normal merchant transactions to laundering the proceeds from Afghanistans pervasive opium industry (Ahmed, 2016).  Money laundering through the informal ‘hawala’ black market money transfer system is a major contributing factor in supporting criminality (Maimbo, 2003). This criminality within Afghanistan can further exacerbate an already fragile emerging failed state such as Afghanistan.  It is also known that criminal networks thrive in fragile and conflict states due to the disorganization of state infrastructures as well as other internal and external state dysfunction.  Still the Afghan government has done little prior to the election of Ashraf Ghani in cracking down and where clear cases of corruption have come to light, few cases have been investigated or prosecutions followed (FinTRACA, 2016). This is caused by a number of factors including complicit officials; weak financial polices, a weak government, which lacks both the expertise and will power to enforce its policies and follow through with its prosecution mechanisms Singh, (2015).

Additionally, according to Ashraf Ghani, criminal networks ‘often use formal government positions to promote criminal networks, as a result of which government offices degenerate into little more than a springboard for organized looting’, (Ghani and Lockhart, 2009: 80). To fight corruption it is necessary to initiate and populate educational elimination and reduction strategies together with new broad reaching law-enforcement measures, which would be considered a positive step, forward in fighting Afghanistan’s ongoing corruption and educating its population as to the harm corruption does. However in order to achieve its aims in crime reduction it also has to consider it conflict reduction programmes as crime and conflict go hand in hand in failed states. Although this is a tall order considering its curent unstable political climate and ongoing current counter insurgency (Banfield, 2014).


Corruption is a human condition based on personal choice, coercion or group dynamics and has been recorded as far back as biblical times. Public officials have abused their offices for personal gain while populations have taken advantage by corrupting those holding power.  Corruption persists in countries that are susceptible to crime through weak and failed systems and ongoing conflicts where procedures and policies are lacking or do not exist.  It is therefore difficult to respond and prosecute offenders; this in part may be due to the fact that individuals lack the motivation to follow though investigations, or due to the Afghan judicial system having a entrenched corruption problem.

To counter corruption, anti-corruption measures must be embedded within institutions and organisations must be held accountable to higher offices. To do this simple crime reduction measures can be emplaced to deter individuals or groups of attempting to commit corruption, through such measures of having monitoring systems in place, greater transparency which may deter corruption, more surveillance and internal checks and greater prosecution and investigative checks.

Yet, these measures can also be implemented and adjusted to fit the means and the contextual factors involved. For example, greater monitoring, transparency, and internal checks could lead to those individuals in offices of importance to resist such measures for fear of revealing further malpractices of office or position.  Additionally, only when normal anti-corruption practices are in place and individuals are willing to work within these practices can crime reduction measures and campaigns be successful and ultimately eradicate the problem, however in Afghanistans case that may take some time yet due to the pervasiveness of it.


Ahmed, J. (2016) ‘Dirty Money in Afghanistan: How Kabul is Cleaning up the Illicit Economy’, Foreign Affairs, avaialable at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2016-09-07/dirty-money-afghanistan, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Asia Foundation (2015) ‘Afghanistan in 2015: A Survey of the Afghan People’, San Francisco: Asia Foundation.

FinTRACA (2016) Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan (FinTRACA): Home Page, avaialable at http://www.fintraca.gov.af, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Ghani, A. and Lockhart, C. (2009) Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

High Office for Oversight and Anti-corruption (2016) Anti-Corruption Laws & Strategy, available at http://anti-corruption.gov.af/en/page/8477, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Maimbo, S. M. (2003) ‘The Money Exchange Dealers of Kabul: A Study of the Hawala System in Afghanistan’, World Bank Working Paper Series; No: 13, Washington, DC: World Bank, available at http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/335241467990983523/The-money-exchange-dealers-of-Kabul-a-study-of-the-Hawala-system-in-Afghanistan, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Patrick, S. (2011) Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security, New York: Oxford University Press.

Singh, D. (2015) ‘Explaining varieties of corruption in the Afghan Justice Sector’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 9:(2): 231-255.

Transparency International (2015) Corruption Perception Index 2015, avaialable at http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015#results-table, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Addressing current security threats through intelligence-led peacekeeping – Celine Demeyer

In the context of rapidly changing context and the growing number of actors involved in the security sector, harmonising international responses will be paramount to stabilising countries facing security various and complex security threats. The end of the Cold War brought along a new set of challenges for peacekeeping. In this context, the Brahimi report (UN, 2000) advocated for wider peacekeeping mandates allowing missions to better address a large range of challenges on the ground. The different nature of conflicts now requires an understanding of a range of conflict drivers, including political, security and socio- economic ones. This poses serious challenges for peacekeeping missions in terms of information- gathering and necessitates structural reform.

In order to effectively contribute to stabilisation in the context of civil wars, terrorism and other complex security threats such as transnational organised crime and terrorism, UN peacekeeping operations should adopt an intelligence- led methodology. The need for such a capability is recognised and has been reflected in various structural changes implemented within a larger UN peacekeeping reform, including the establishment of a Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) and a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) to conduct information gathering using military, police and civilian sources (UN, 2016).

While this has been an important step, various challenges remain. The objectives of intelligence activities should for example be more clearly defined. Contrary to purely military operations, intelligence in peacekeeping should aim at a political settlement conflicts, requiring information relating to a broad range of conflict drivers and thus necessitates a human resources capacity combining military and civilian competencies. Secondly, relevant and useful information can only be gathered when done in a structured manner and respecting ethical limitations. Standard operating procedures and organisational structures should therefore be established, allowing military, civilian and police components to contribute to intelligence gathering. Also in this regard, information systems should be implemented that can allow for secure storage and transmission of data as well as to improve their analysis. Once such a capacity is established operating procedures should be established to allow sharing of analysis with the relevant mission components and other decision makers (Abilova and Novosseloff, 2016).

In the framework of upcoming discussions with member states on the development of a policy framework it is recommended that existing initiatives such as the All Source Information Fusion Unit (ASIFU), established within the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), should be analysed in a detailed manner and a lessons learned document presented to the member states for further discussion. Such a discussion should serve a twofold purpose. First, it should contribute to raising awareness among reluctant member states to grant sufficiently strong mandates to peacekeeping missions in order to allow them to deploy an adequate intelligence capacity tailored to a changing security environment and second, it should contribute to capitalising on existing knowledge as well as to mobilise member states to provide human and financial resources as well as technical expertise to further develop such a system.


From the start the term “intelligence” has been controversial as it is essentially opposed to the open and transparent nature of the UN and its work, leading to a quasi- avoidance of the term by the organisation. The problem is thus in essence one of confidentiality, as the UN is supposed to act as a neutral actor in conflict resolution. In addition, the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism and thus the existence of political interests of certain UN member states prevents and will continue to prevent the development of a robust intelligence and information- sharing capability for UN Peacekeeping Operations (Diaz, 2007). On the operational level, the reluctance of states to contribute troops has led to low levels of expertise on the ground. There have however been a few exceptions, such as the case of MINUSMA where European countries in particular are providing expertise to enhance the information collection capacity of the mission. This is however the result of the interest of those countries in stabilising the Sahel region as it poses an indirect security threat to Europe, rather than a willingness to strengthen UN intelligence capacity in general.


Abilova, O. and Novosseloff, A. (2016). Demystifying Intelligence in UN Peace Operations: Toward an Organizational Doctrine. Available at: https://www.ipinst.org/2016/07/demystifying-intelligence-in-un-peace-ops (Accessed on 15 September 2016).

Diaz, G. (2007). Intelligence at the United Nations for peace operations. UNISCI Discussion Papers, 13. Available at: https://www.ucm.es/data/cont/media/www/pag-72528/Gustavo13a.pdf (Accessed on 15 September 2016).

Karlsrud, J. and Smith, A. (2015). Europe’s Return to UN Peacekeeping in Africa? Lessons from Mali. Available at: http://www.ipinst.org/2015/07/europes-return-to-un-peacekeeping-in-africa-lessons-from-mali. (Accessed on 15 September 2016).

UN (2000). Report of the Panel on UN Peace operations (Brahimi report), A/55/305-S/2000/809. New York: United Nations.

UN (2016). Reform of peacekeeping. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/reform.shtml (Accessed on 15 September 2016).


The Perils of Security Policy Making in the 21st Century


If I were to chose an epigraph for a book on the topic of challenges faced by security sector today, this quote from the recent book of Wilhelm Agrell and Gregory Treverton would say it all: ‘We are living in a social environment transcended by growing security and intelligence challenges, while at the same time the traditional narrow intelligence concept is becoming increasingly insufficient for coping with diffuse, complex, and transforming threats.’ [1]

Below is my take on the issue, on the example of UK’s anti-terrorism and anti-extremism strategies. This post aims at sharing opinion on certain themes and generating a cross-disciplinary discussion (ideally with the involvement of both practitioners and scholars), without pretending to present any comprehensive, all-encompassing analysis of the intelligence. [2] It serves as an introduction to a series of episode studies/essays I am writing on security policy (employing, to extent possible, the knowledge from various social sciences), namely on the UK Government’s strategies to counter the threats posed by militant Islamists. [3]

Rethinking Security, Realistically

A few month ago, a group of British charitable organisations and think-tanks, The Ammerdown Group, has published a discussion paper on the UK’s security doctrine and strategy. Written by academics and practitioners having first-hand experience working with communities affected by conflict all over the world, Rethinking Security offers valuable insights into the present state of affairs in the field of preventing crises, responding to threats, and building peace. The paper points to a number of factors impeding a change from ‘heavily militarised’ approach towards civilian instruments of peace building, such as influence of powerful social elites and business interests on the policy-making, institutional inertia and politicisation, and preference for values associated with dominance.

In conclusion, it recommends a new strategic approach where instead of interventions based on military power the UK ‘would develop non-military response capabilities, such as early resort to state and civil capacities for violence prevention, conflict transformation, diplomacy and peacemaking, as well as cooperatively devised, civilian-based violence reduction interventions’.

Welcoming the publication of this well-thought-out and timely discussion paper and agreeing with the analysis findings and general direction of recommendations therein, I still have certain reservations with regards to abandoning intelligence and military altogether in favour of soft measures, such as passionately building community cohesion through shared responsibility and common action. I am convinced that the change is necessary, even imperative, but with security sector in the equation (and not only in the US and UK, but in many other countries across the globe which need more effective and more democratically controlled security forces) – a new security sector, adapted to realities of the day and capable of effectively fighting security risks that have resulted from globalisation, such as global terrorism, cyber threats, cross-border human trafficking, and organised transnational crime.

Four features, three themes

Security sector in the twenty-first century faces a number of unprecedented challenges, both by their scope and complexity. One set of contributing factors relates to globalisation. The nature and pace of technological advancements, and especially the revolution called Web 2.0, have exerted enormous influence on all aspects of life. Security environment being by definition dominated by uncertainty, nowadays becomes increasingly volatile—it is multifaceted, nuanced, filled with potentially large-impact surprises, and is very dynamic and rapidly changing. This makes planning, collecting and processing intelligence, and making decisions immensely difficult.

On the top of it, militant Islam has evolved over the last three-and-half decades into a kind of security threat that the world has not encountered before; it keeps evolving through the mutually reinforcing relations between its political and religious causes and economic, political and social contexts as within certain countries, so regionally and globally. By the way things are developing it is clear that at present neither states nor societies are prepared to deal effectively with such a threat.

Western liberal democracies, in particular, are ill-prepared to counter modern extremism, due to certain limitations inherent to them as a governance system; moreover, they are showing reluctance to reform the established practices and procedures and to introduce more flexibility into security policy making. Societies, in turn, are undergoing a painful generational process which is characterised by declining trust towards governments but also deepening divisions between various social, cultural and religious communities.

[*I am particularly interested in exploring social and cultural adaptation of migrants (and possibly newly arriving refugees) from the conflict-torn countries: (unmet) expectations, stereotypes on both sides (hosts and incomers), group identities – all this creates a fertile ground for misunderstanding, isolation, animosity, radicalisation, hate and violence.]

There have been various explanations offered in the literature, to democratic governments’ weakness in handling security sector issues. Four features of the present day decision making, which relate to the national security policy, deserve a close look. First is the sensitivity of issues dealt with by intelligence. Second feature is the urgency of the action required by citizens, from the state. These correlate and I will consider them in tandem, under the ‘pressing circumstances’ below. The third feature is an inherently political nature of the policy making, which in the case of security policy turns to be quite problematic (briefly addressed under the ‘political constraints’). And the fourth is the policy’s reactive rather than proactive positioning against the extremists, especially with regards to their very aggressive propaganda campaign (under ‘communication: a reactive stance’).

Under pressing circumstances

It is well known that in a daily life some people are ready to pay more for a quick gain instead of waiting a bit for getting it at a nominal cost. However, things change when we as individuals, communities, society feel endangered.  If there is a perceived threat to our lives and well-being or that of our beloved ones, we react sharply and our immediate gratification mood spirals with an enormous magnitude. At this moment of collective anxiety we are ready to overpay significantly (actually, no one even thinks about costs) and tend to put a massive pressure on the decision makers to act promptly and effectively.

The state’s reaction to public pressure in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015 can serve as a textbook case: Initial shock gave place to the public outrage, then intensive media reporting took off and this followed by a panic that we were the next target of militant Islamists—all in all, for the officials finding themselves under huge pressure to make last minute amendments to the Strategic Defence and Intelligence Review, pledging significant additional human, technological and financial resources committed to the security strategy (additional investment of £2.5 billion and employment of 1,900 more staff) and then to hastily pass a decision on joining the airstrikes of the ISIL’s targets in Syria.

In this case, the Government’s actions did not seem rational but rather emotionally charged, under the intensity of public outrage. Such decisions tend to result in immediate gains at the expense of long-term priorities. They are also costly. A few days after the publication of the Defence Review and the reports on first airstrikes by RAF planes in Syria, there was no panic anymore. No one thought about the cost of the response.  Obviously, those funds will be taken from some other budgetary items, if not borrowed, and the society will bear the cost of it in the years to come.

Political constraints

Key features of intelligence, such as fragmented knowledge and lack of timely and complete information, as well as difficulty gauging the progress make decision making in security sector notoriously complicated. The uncertainty of the environment where security policy operates partly explains one known weakness of democratic governments—that is, their indecisiveness in taking difficult decisions, also known as the ‘lack of political will’ to act on complex and sensitive problems. At the same time, there are situations when governments tend to act on security issues swiftly and with minimal hesitation. At least two political factors can be distinguished as contributing to this phenomenon.

Decision making in democracies is in many ways defined by electoral cycle, what limits politicians to implementing only those policies that can produce visible results in short time. Taking bold decisions is always difficult, as the cost of risk taking might be prohibitive, and hence, the time must be ripe. For example, the decision to launch the military campaign against al-Qaeda and their hosts, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, was only possible because of conducive environment created by September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and the declaration of the ‘war on terror’.

Similarly, the UK Government’s decision to join airstrikes in Syria was long on the agenda of the Prime Minister, but got the real chance to pass through the Parliament (without damaging his and the Conservative party’s image by the humiliation of possible defeat) in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, when the emotional tension was high and thus, conditions were favourable to overcome the opposition.

By its nature the policy making inevitably brings about change which affects the interests of various stakeholders. In foreign, defence and security policy domain, along with domestic interest groups (such as government ministries and agencies, and state and private contractors and providers of products and services) there are international (governmental, inter-governmental, international public and private) actors who have vested interests in the government taking this or another course of action under external obligations.

Government ministries/agencies elsewhere are constantly competing for funding, in a bid driven by the consideration of the scope and quality of work and, partly, by their political ambition to grow strong and exert more influence. For example, the Government’s reaction to Paris attacks, along with airstrikes, resulted in significant additional public funds pledged by the Prime Minister. This being a precedent, right after the terrorist attacks in Jakarta in January 2016, Scotland Yard went ahead announcing quite considerable increase in the number of trained marksmen (by more than 27 percent) in a move that cost £2.5 million of taxpayers’ money.

On the other hand, international allies put additional pressure on decision makers, either supporting or discouraging them, and not necessarily in the best interest of the nation but rather for the sake of the common good (NATO and European Union related policies stand as an example). Today, Syria and Iraq are not merely a battlefield where the war with ISIL, al-Qaeda, and other militants is fought. It is also the place where local actors (national governments vs. diverse opposition groups in Syria and Sunni tribes and former Ba’athists in Iraq), backed on either side by key regional players (Saudi Arabia vs. Iran) and global powers (US and allies vs. Russia)—all collide in their contest over exerting larger influence in the Middle East theatre, in a dramatic, complicated geopolitical stand-off.

Therefore, statements by some British pundits and politicians in justifying the airstrikes, that ‘we must show our solidarity with France’ or ‘we must go out there and prevent this threat from coming and hitting us next’ sound at the very least as naive (or misleading). Britain must join the fight because, first, that is what her allies demand of her; and two, that is the place to be, if you want to be regarded as an influential global player.

In their turn, the policy makers attempt at putting political pressure, or unduly intervening, in the intelligence process (which is there to provide an impartial specialist advice in support of the policy making).  This politicisation of intelligence may take various forms, from ‘soft’ framing to ‘hard’ manipulation of evidence and/or simply imposition of pre-formulated constructs, disregarding the intelligence advice. To these I would add another type, when policy makers simply reject the intelligence offered to them and rely on other information or their own reasoning. Given the degree of secrecy in decision making on the national security issues, we never actually know for sure how certain decisions were made and which type of politicisation was applied (if any at all).

Strategic communications: A reactive stance

The Government counter-terrorism strategy’s protective function is implemented by specialised forces quite effectively: the fact that there has been no successful attack by militant Islamists on the British soil in more than ten years stands as a proof. However, the responsive stance taken by the state enables militants dictate the pace, location and even the format of engagement. It is obvious when it comes to the terrorist propaganda: the state, the society, and the media are not doing well in countering it as could have been expected. This gives the Islamist extremists a possibility to manipulate individual perceptions and public opinion, media coverage, and eventually the decision making.

Aggressive propaganda undertaken by militants, first of all, targets the young Muslims and serves to justify violence. Traditional themes exploited are jihad (interpreted strictly as ‘just war’) and the protection of the Muslim lands from ‘infidel’ invaders. Their interpretation allows for preemptive attacks and killing civilians—to silence the critics among the Muslim community, of the methods they use. The propaganda also aims at glorification of the images of Islamist fighters (take, for example, Mohammed Emwazi aka ‘Jihadi John’), to promote the case of martyrdom and afterlife heaven. As for non-Muslims, through various video footages, particularly those with execution of hostages, militants intend at inflicting mayhem, so that to put additional pressure and diminish the resistance of targeted states/societies.

One of communication techniques used by militant Islamists is about imposing certain messages and symbols to influence the target audiences’ associations and perceptions. For example, the organisation which has its formal name as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, instead of being called by its acronym ISIL is frequently referred to in public discourse and in the official documents as Islamic State. No one seems to pay attention to this fact, but that is exactly what they want—to be seen as the state. And the attributes of the state, as known from classical definition, include an ‘exclusive authority to use violence for establishing law and order within its borders.’

Consider this (for conclusion)

You have already noticed that I used the case of the British Government’s hastily taking decision on amending the strategy and joining the airstrikes over Syria, under different thematic parts of this post. In one part, the decisions are explained by the desire to calm down the public anxiety (‘availability cascade’), in another it suggests that the decisions might be the result of political maneuvering of the Prime Minister, or the successful lobbying of political elites and military and intelligence agencies. It is also implied that this might have been the result of pressures from the allies, in the geopolitical struggle over the Middle East.

All these explanations seem equally plausible, and I believe that more than one (if not all, to various degree though) have contributed to the decision in question. Think about it. And think about other similar instances (in any country) and their consequences. I will try to elaborate in the future posts, too. Especially from the point of what could be done to minimize the politicisation of intelligence and to increase the transparency and accountability in the defence and security policy domain.


[1] Wilhelm Argell and Gregory F. Treverton, National Intelligence and Science:Beyond the Great Divide in Analysis and Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 196

[2] I owe my understanding of the sector’s present-day developments and challenges to a number of excellent works produced recently by the leading authors in this field, such as: Loch K. Johnson (ed.), Handbook of Intelligence Studies (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007); Loch K. Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Mark M. Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2006); Peter Gill and Mark Phythian, Intelligence in an Insecure World, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012); and Wilhelm Argell and Gregory F. Treverton,National Intelligence and Science: Beyond the Great Divide in Analysis and Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)

[3] There is no globally agreed terminology, but depending on the context (whether related to terrorism or to extremism) the most recent UK Government strategies and policy documents employ the ‘Islamist terrorism’ and ‘Islamist extremism’ phrases. I will use the ‘militant Islam’ alongside these two, as an overarching phrase. See: David Anderson Q.C., The Terrorism Acts 2014, Report of the Independent Reviewer on the Operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006, September 2015; and Counter-Extremism Strategy, October 2015, Cm9148