Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 7, 2014

Deterrence: Prospect of pain and pleasure

Filed under: Radicalization,Risk Assessment,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on August 7, 2014

We seek to deter:

  • Russian adventurism (or worse) in Ukraine
  • Chinese nationalism in the Western Pacific
  • Cyberattacks
  • Drug cartels
  • Children at our doorstep
  • Domestic terrorism
  • Violent extremism
  • Building and rebuilding in flood plains
  • Driving Under the Influence
  • Boating Under the Influence
  • Tanning
  • Texting while Driving
  • Much more

Effective deterrence involves the suggestion or projection or conjuring or crafting — even the verb is situational —  of a context where others will not do what you do not want them to do without requiring that you fully invest in stopping them.  Deterrence is targeted at motivation and intention as much as behavior.

In May The Economist scanned a very troubled global context and asked, “Under what circumstances will America act to deter troublemakers? What, ultimately, would America fight for?”  As the questions imply, deterrence is usually most effective when another party perceives you are ready and willing to fully invest in stopping them.

Since early in the Cold War we have characterized deterrence mostly in terms of the prospect of American military power applied. (Earlier understandings of deterrence were more expansive.) More recently — currently — we have experimented with the application of economic power as a deterrent.  In each case deterrence is coercive.

The downing of MH17 pushed the European Union to impose much tougher economic sanctions on Russia than were otherwise likely to have emerged.  The actual deterrent effect of these actions — combined with coordinated action by the US and others — is uncertain, especially in the near-term.  But there is increasing evidence that over the long-term economic sanctions can have an influence — if they are consistently and comprehensively enforced.  Big if and long-term can sometimes take too long.

On July 25 President Obama, hosting the Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, said, “I emphasized that the American people and my administration have great compassion for these children…but I also emphasized to my friends that we have to deter a continuing influx of children putting themselves at risk.”

In this context that “we” focused on that target suggests something more than the application of US military force or economic sanctions.

Deterrence is usually characterized in terms of increased risk.  Do X and we will do Y.  You won’t like Y. This is an important part of the story.  It is not — should not be — the whole story.

In the case of children-at-the-border deterrence is most often discussed in terms of quick-capture-and-return. By doing so many suppose the motivation of risking illegal entry would be widely discouraged.

Risk is perceived through cognitive frames.  This has been demonstrated empirically.  Most of us know this as a matter of personal experience. We are especially motivated to avoid losing what we have. Some hypothesize the more we have the more disinclined we are to lose it: the more susceptible we are to deterrence.

Does this predisposition work in reverse: The less one has, the greater readiness to risk it on a big win?  At least one study by Cornell University scholars found that “desperation motivates lottery consumption by the poor”.  The odds of successful illegal entry to the United States are much better than most lottery likelihoods.

Is desperation — financial, political, spiritual, existential — resistant to deterrence?  Yes, in my experience.

Several recent analyses have suggested Vladimir Putin is “cornered” in regard to Ukraine and more. Writing in the New Republic, Julia Iolffe, comments, “This is Putin today: a brash and unpredictable man backed into a corner with little, if any, way out. And it’s not a good Putin to be faced with.”  When, where, and how will he seek to break-out?

Putin is desperate to survive politically.  Survival is less abstract for hundreds of millions. Desperation may be the most common characteristic of a global tribe of young males. (Related academic study) Several demographic trends are discouraging for a significant proportion of this volatile group. Mass migration is only one symptom.

Despair — the absence of hope — is as susceptible to irrational risk-taking as it is resistant to rational deterrence. Humans will risk a great deal to reclaim hope.

To effectively deter almost always involves dampening desperation.

American military or police power can deploy a credible prospect of pain. What are our tools for generating the prospect of pleasure?  To fight is not our only investment option.  If deterrence is the investment goal, both pain and pleasure — carrot and stick — are needed to make real progress… along the Dnieper and the Tigrus and the Rio Grande.

–+–

I posted what’s above early on August 3.  I am told that this week I am unlikely to be able to access the Internet.  Depending on what transpires, this post may seem especially irrelevant or entirely inappropriate.  If so, I apologize.

July 3, 2014

Hope, fear, and prospect theory

CBP and 8 year old

Photograph by Jennifer Whitney  for the New York Times

Chris Bellavita hopes the QHSR  will advance homeland security.  I fear too few will engage the QHSR to produce a sufficient effect. (Chris, btw bases his hope on evidence from the first QHSR while I deploy mostly worry and cynicism.)

Parents in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and elsewhere hope their children will find a better life in the United States. Others in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District, Murietta, California, and elsewhere fear these children will unravel the rule of law.

Some Sunni Salafist fighters hope they are creating the foundations of a just and righteous society across what is now Northern Syria and Iraq, eventually the whole world.  Many Shia faithful and others fear they are numbered among the unrighteous to be converted or killed.

Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and many geeks still unknown, hope to bring the whole world into our hand-helds, opening exciting opportunities for meaningful relationships and untold riches.  Some of us fear our credit-scores — and more substantive identities — are being delivered into the hands of criminals, terrorists, con-artists, corporate voyeurs, NSA spooks and more.

The current Executive hopes to establish and consistently apply a rigorous set of principles and due process by which evil can be prevented and sacred values preserved (while sources and methods are protected).  Senators Paul and Wyden among others fear that any hidden act claimed as lawful is a hot-house of hubris where the very best intentions will be incrementally reversed.

They want to retire to the beauty of the shore or mountainside or river or forest or such.  The prospect of hurricane, flood, earthquake, and fire prompt some second-thoughts.

We are tempted — especially those of us in homeland security — to treat risk as something that might be measured as accurately as an average shoe-size… if only we can gather enough shoes.  Imelda where art thou?

But the risk that matters most may be imagined more than measured.  Big hirsute Hobbit feet may be the common heuristic, no matter how many ballerinas bounce about us.

Over thirty years ago Tversky and Kahneman showed us, “Decision making under risk can be viewed as a choice between prospects or gambles.”  It is how we frame our expectations that decide our perspective on risk and thereby determine what choices seem rational.

For most our frame-on-reality is decided by a reference point: typically an expectation of the status quo persisting.  If we are more-or-less satisfied (or psychologically risk-averse) we worry more over the prospect of losing than embrace an opportunity to gain.  This can apply even if we have little to lose.  We  tend  to over-weight the downside and under-estimate positive likelihood.

Unless we are risk-seeking. As is typical with criminals, terrorists, and teenage boys. By the early 1990s Tversky and Kahneman had found, “Risk-seeking choices are consistently observed in two classes of decision problems. First, people often prefer a small probability of winning a large prize over the expected value of that prospect. Second, risk seeking is prevalent when people must choose between a sure loss and a substantial probability of a larger loss.”

There are other variations of human rationality that do not square with “expected utility” (rationality according to economists).  But risk-seeking has particular relevance for homeland security.

When my great-grandfather returned to England from another colonial war and had the audacity to marry a Scots seamstress of another (Christian) faith, they faced the disdain of family and very constrained prospects. Perceiving only losses to lose, he and she set out for Philadelphia.  The risk was real, but seemed less to them than remaining in Newcastle.

Nineteenth century Newcastle had a murder-rate considerably less than today’s Tegucigalpa (10 per million versus 1690 per million).  Who says the parent of the eight-year-old in the picture above has not made a reasonable calculation?

Today I will purchase a lottery ticket with a small probability of winning a large prize.  Early this week a new Caliphate was proclaimed.  Was the self-styled Caliph’s reasoning all that different than mine?

There are too many whose reference point is a land-of-loss, especially loss of hope.  The risks they are willing to take — heroic or demonic depending on taste — are worth our notice, a touch of fear, and some courageous creativity.  If reduction of risk-seeking is a goal, our target is their prospective imagination.

June 23, 2014

Legal opinion supporting extrajudicial execution of a citizen

Filed under: Legal Issues,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 23, 2014

In response to a FOIA-related court order a key Justice Department legal opinion has been released. The July 2010 memo was the basis for the government’s extrajudicial killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2011. The Washington Post provides a PDF of the memo here.

June 19, 2014

Warlords, tribes, contending gods, battles and a besieged city

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 19, 2014

mask_of_agamemnon

In the midst of mayem and deep uncertainty, as nations tremble and empires flail, it may be worth revisiting the Iliad.

But if you do, resist (briefly) the poetic allure.  Instead give more attention to the convoluted plot, human psychology, and social anthropology of the Great Tale. (I prefer Robert Fagles translation.)

Is Abu-Bakr al-Bagdadi our new Agamemnon? Is ISIS the Mycenaean wedge at the fore of loosely assembled Sunni tribes? Is Maliki a misunderstood Priam or is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani more analogous? Who is your Hector? Who is the Paris we can all agree to blame.

Instead of playing Baghdad for Troy, you might want to consider Kabul or Bangui or Bamako.  Dare we imagine Islamabad or Abuja?  Damascus or Jerusalem?  Some shining city on a hill. Maybe Troy is Kurdish. Your hometown?

Who are your heroes?  Your villains? In Homer’s telling every god and mortal — Greek and Trojan — is capable of conceit, self-delusion, and brutality… and their opposites.

Are we so different now?  There are many more of us. Our weapons are surely more horrible.  Has our heroic capacity matured with our capability to kill?  Achilles is the best known of Homer’s so-called heroes.  But he spends much of the war sulking. When vengeance pushes him furious into battle he sadistically sullies his win; as we have seen this week in Mosul and many places before.

That this story has in some form persisted these — what, 3000? — years must reflect some realism and recurring relevance of the text.

Especially in its current form the Iliad is a product of the Axial Age. Looking back five (or 30) centuries the supposed casus belli — Helen’s kidnapping — is as absurd as the assassination of an Archduke. Battle is opportunity for personal valor, compelling comradeship, and even stirring pageantry.  But warring is also reduced to the reality of individual encounter and inglorious gore, any alleged greater purpose somehow receding.  Socrates fights valiantly at Delium, but Sparta still wins the war.  Socrates saves the life of Alcibiades at Potidaea and he, who will drink hemlock rather than depart his homeland, becomes teacher, friend, perhaps lover, of that most ambiguous of men. Awareness of — even comfort with — such ambiguity Homer offers as civilizing: probably a Fifth Century theme added to older, less self-critical verse.

The Axial Age, at least as conceived by Karl Jaspers, brings us greater integration and more alignment of belief and behavior.  Quarreling gods, random warlords and associated violence are gradually supplanted by purposeful principles and imperial command: Cyrus, Ashoka, Alexander, Qin Shi Huang, Augustus and their successors.  Certainly we continue to pillage, rape and murder. But we are rather more organized about it. Boundaries —  political, physical, philosophical — are put in place (with significant exceptions, some extending over thousands of miles and centuries).

According to Stephen Pinker, Joshua Goldstein, Norbert Elias and others we can measure — despite all the bloody brutality — real long-term reductions in violence. The Westphalian consensus retrieved and strengthened Axial values. The survivors of the European wars of religion deciding  that violence ought be a State monopoly has been especially hard on warlords.  Until recently.

Maybe it is the result of that Archduke’s assasination, but however it happened we seem to have entered a transaxial, post-Westphalian period.  Era or interlude?

By transaxial I mean the once-upon stand-alone axes which cultures use to mitigate internal strife now intersect and conflict and — so far — no Frank Gehry is emerging to transform multiple axes into beautiful torque (think Bilbao Guggenheim or LAs Disney concert hall).  The contradicting lines are dramatic just now along the Tigris, Indus,  Niger  and Nile rivers.  But something similar can erupt even along the Danube or Ohio or Dnieper or James.

This crossing of axes made more dangerous as violent capabilities are more widely distributed.  In many cases, the State being only one of many deadly players.

All of which is difficult enough.  But what — even in this long-view — has recently caused me particular concern is for transaxial and post-Westphalian to merge with what might be neo-Manichean.

At the heart of the Axial transformation was a rough sense of shared humanity.  Whether it was Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, Deutero-Isaiah, or Socrates/Plato each recognized in others a reality deserving respect.  In the Treaty of Westphalia the signatories pledge to honor their heretical adversaries and solemnly undertake “Universal Peace, and a perpetual, true, and sincere Amity.”  Whatever they felt toward lousy Lutherans or corrupt Catholics, they were encouraged in what came to be known as Humanism.  It could and did fail, but as Pinker might say, “It could have been — had been — much worse.”

Today with Boko Haram, the Anti-Balakas, ISIS, and others — some closer to home — there is a growing conception of being engaged in cosmic conflict between “us” and “them” — Good and Evil — that justifies, even galvanizes mass murder.  This is not just ancient tribalism, but apocalyptic wish-fulfillment.  This is an ideology of annihilation.  It is Achilles mocking Hector’s offer of mutual honor.  It is a shrill chorus of pre-historic savagery.  It must be rejected… especially if noticed in ourselves.

–+–

Overpowered by memory
Each man gives way to grief.
Priam weeping for man-killing Hector
Throbbing crouching before Achilles’ feet
As Achilles himself also weeps
Now for his father
And again for Patroclus
Their sobs rising and falling throughout the house.

(Book XXIV)

May we be able to share, even with our enemies, more than grief.

June 12, 2014

Foxes, hedgehogs and homeland security

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

                                                                                         Archilochous

PART I: COUNTERTERRORISM

On May 21 the Secretary of Homeland Security affirmed that counterterrorism is the primary mission of the Department.  But speaking to a large crowd of mostly state and local officials, Mr. Johnson evidently felt compelled to — or did not have the energy to do more than — review the many activities of the Department and, at least to my ears, focused particular attention on the challenge of illegal immigration (See Part II below).  The DHS website does not provide a transcript.  I wonder if whoever prepared the read-out was actually there.

On May 28 the President told West Point graduates:

For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.  But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy…  So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat — one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.  We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.  And empowering partners is a large part of what we have done and what we are currently doing in Afghanistan. 

The domestic analog of this strategy also needs to empower its partners.  Our homeland security framework should be especially attentive to vulnerabilities and creative regarding strengths. This is certainly important in terms of counterterrorism, but applies across most other hazards as well… if we will take the opportunity to notice.

Neither this White House nor its predecessor has given anything close to the same quality of attention to partnering with the private sector or the states or other crucial domestic players that is given to collaborating with NATO or the G-7 or key individual allies. The diplomatic-military-intelligence triad enjoys an advantage of clout, connections, and intellectual capital that far exceeds what we call homeland security.  Counterterrorism and cybersecurity are just about the only aspects of HS that earn any sustained attention by policy elites.

And this is no longer the elite of yore: foxes ala Isaiah Berlin moving from investment banking to the OSS to the Herald-Tribune to an embassy or two and then decamping for a few years at the Ford Foundation.  More and more our modern masters are process managers, mathematicians, and other rather wonky hedgehogs “who know one big thing”.  And they are inclined to leave other big things — if any might emerge — to someone else.  They notice what they know.

Since mid-May I have had two separate conversations with recently retired senior counterterrorism guys.  One has been out for about a year.  The other just retired last month.  They sounded alot alike.  Most of what they said you already know.  What struck me was what they did not say — seemed unwilling to seriously address — even in an informal setting and with their official duties behind them.  (But then again, look what I am doing with the conversations.)

The potentially meaningful silence I observed related to terrorist motivation. Americans currently fighting in Syria were mentioned by both.  Domestic terrorist trends were discussed. Recent events in the Sahel were reviewed.  In each exchange there were similar references to “behavioral indicators” and “spatial analysis” and “antecedent conduct” and “heuristics” and “covariance” and “probability”.   There was considerable reluctance to engage any questions related to ideology, religion, tribal-identity, grievance, or social, economic, and political “co-indicators”.  When these questions were asked both experts bridged-back to statistics as quickly as possible.

Speaking of statistics, an N of 2 is seldom significant.  But still the similarity was striking.  Rather than discussing fleshy and potentially very bloody human beings, my conversation partners might have been describing Brownian physics: The random motion of particles suspended in flux.

PART II: IMMIGRATION

I considered Secretary Johnson’s May 21 remarks misaligned with his audience.  He had a crowd with rather specific priorities.  He gave a generic speech.  Lost opportunity.

The somewhat greater focus I heard him give immigration may have been more the result of narrative punch than proportion or intention.  The Secretary mentioned that on Mother’s Day his wife joined him to visit a hosting center in Texas for detained unaccompanied minors (UAMs in trade-talk).  I was not taking notes, but his brief description was sufficient to imagine the kind of purgatorial scenes widely reported this week.

Immigration Center

Holding area for unaccompanied minors in Nogales, Arizona (USAToday).  Please note portable toilets in the far ground. Those are cots in the fore ground.

Mr. Johnson shared being profoundly affected and having since taken several steps to mitigate the troubling situation. This was more than three weeks ago.  I have wondered how much the Secretary’s action might be cause of (or only coincident with) this week’s media blitz.  I also wonder if our attention to this issue will be any more long-lasting or effectual than that given the kidnapped Nigerian school girls.  The crucial difference may be that Secretary Johnson is paying attention and has the authority to ensure others notice and act as well.

In the case of both Nigeria and Nogales a “policy problem” has been personalized.  In each case the “others” — even the “its” — who are victims have reclaimed their humanity. Or more accurately many of us have acknowledged what was always the case, but we had neglected to notice.

We are usually as effective depersonalizing victims as we are dehumanizing terrorists.

III. (IN)ATTENTION, INTENTION, AND INFLUENCE

Behavioral indicators and other more objective analytic techniques have emerged, in part, to discourage unthinking, unhelpful, misleading, gross profiling of potential terrorists; such as most Muslims or at least those with beards… or Sikhs who wear beards and turbans (but are not Muslim and at least in the United States have only been the target — not the source — of terrorism).

I am in favor of science, social science and statistics. I very much depend on hedgehogs and have tried to be better at burrowing into a hedge myself.

But this need not — ought not — exclude the knowledgeable, mindful, insightful application of the humanities (e.g. languages, literature. art, philosophy, religion, history).  We should especially avoid excluding our humanity.

In dealing with homeland security problems we need to recognize cause and effect.  This can often be done with a decidedly disinterested stance.  But there are other contexts when subjective human insight can play an important role. There is a place for empathy even in counterterrorism.

At West Point the President also said, “We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.”  We might begin by recognizing that many of our most precious values are disruptive to more traditional societies… as well as some neighbors down the street.  Being disruptive is often — even accurately — perceived as threatening.  Living our values with integrity while defusing the unintended threat to others is a task requiring both fox and hedgehog, as many as we can get with eyes and ears wide open to the unexpected.

In Philadelphia Secretary Johnson saw a thousand state and local leaders and he didn’t seem to fully recognize their potential.  In the particular moment he was unable to differentiate this crowd from other crowds. He only saw what he was prepared to see. But fortunately when Secretary Johnson saw a thousand illegal immigrants crowded into a detention center in McAllen, Texas he recognized: these are children.  Not just UAMs. His observations and  actions were informed by being a father as well as a cabinet secretary.  Solutions will remain elusive, but much more likely when the problem is engaged as a whole.

April 30, 2014

Renewed use of chemical weapons in Syria challenges inaction

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 30, 2014

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:  Today the U.S. Department of State submitted its annual Country Reports on Terrorism to Congress.  The Strategic Assessment includes:

Some of the thousands of fighters from around the world who are traveling to Syria to do battle against the Asad regime – particularly from the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, and Eastern and Western Europe – are joining violent extremist groups, including al-Nusrah Front and ISIL. A number of key partner governments are becoming increasingly concerned that individuals with violent extremist ties and battlefield experience will return to their home countries or elsewhere to commit terrorist acts. The scale of this problem has raised a concern about the creation of a new generation of globally-committed terrorists, similar to what resulted from the influx of violent extremists to Afghanistan in the 1980s.

– +–

ORIGINAL POST:

Late Tuesday evening Greenwich Mean Time, The Telegraph, a leading British newspaper, published an exclusive story claiming to prove Syria has continued to use chemical weapons.

According to The Telegraph’s report,”…soil samples from the scene of three recent attacks in the country were collected by trained individuals known to this news organisation and analysed by a chemical warfare expert. Our results show sizeable and unambiguous traces of chlorine and ammonia present at the site of all three attacks.”

Just last week President Obama said, “Eighty-seven percent of Syria’s chemical weapons have already been removed.”  The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been working under an international agreement to relocate and destroy the Syrian stockpile.

The chlorine and ammonia assets allegedly used in recent weeks were not part of the chemical weapons inventory which the OPCW has been working to remove.  There is informed speculation that industrial chemicals have been crudely repurposed to replace the more sophisticated chemicals (including sarin and mustard) that have been removed.

Late last summer and into the autumn, the United States was dissuaded from military operations against Syrian chemical stockpiles when Russia brokered a “last-minute” deal to remove the weapons from Syria.  The decision by the US to not undertake military action disappointed the Saudis, surprised the French (who were prepared to join in the action), and precipitated a months-long reversal of progress achieved by the Syrian opposition.

As evidence accumulates of recent use of chemical weapons, there will be renewed pressure for US military intervention against the Assad regime.  For example, The Telegraph’s Defense Editor comments the new findings, “must serve as a wake up call to the West that it can no longer ignore a brutal conflict that has so far cost an estimated 150,000 lives.”

The Syrian Civil War is also a violent flash-point in Sunni-Shia antipathy, a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a training ground for a new generation of international terrorists.

Whatever we do — or decide not to do — will have homeland security consequences.

April 17, 2014

One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s…

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 17, 2014

On the anniversary of one great rebellion the commanders met secretly to advance their own rebellion.

For several years they had operated mostly in the far north, but now gathered in the capital city.

Just days before, their leader had taken direct — and highly symbolic — action against the regime. His shift from argument and example to economic boycott and violent protest surprised many.

Passwords were exchanged, introductions offered, preparations undertaken. The insurrectionists were fully aware it was risky to meet together. Most did not expect, however, that their inner circle had been compromised.

They gathered over dinner. The ancient rebellion was recalled and celebrated. As subversives will, they also quarreled. Around the table several motivations were represented: nationalists, religious extremists, idealists, some simply attracted by the charisma of their leader and a common cause. They disagreed more than they agreed.

The leader was skilled in forging an alloy of their differences. He served them. He warned them: They would betray him and each other. They would suffer. What they valued most would be destroyed. He had an uncanny ability to upend typical understandings of good and bad.

They would be separated from each other, attacked, oppressed, tortured and killed. Despite all, together they were creating a more just reality. The new reality’s lack of specific definition allowed each to project his particular preferences.

Sharing drink, food, and conversation reaffirmed the relationships around the table: tenuous surely, but tenacious as well. They found in each other a confidence that was much more elusive when alone.

There were many similarly subversive groups. Until quite recently this particular movement had not seemed much of a threat, more reformist than revolutionary. Some senior officials shared most of the reformist critique. Others had a grudging respect for the movement’s ability to generate popular support.

In retrospect even benign neglect would probably have produced a less dynamic outcome. But challenging a core economic engine surely required a deterrent response, just as a matter of due diligence. Then the good fortune of “turning” one of the movement’s inner circle was too good to pass up.

They might have rounded up the whole command-network. It was an elegant bit of restraint to choose instead a single decapitation. The remainder of the inner circle quickly dispersed, a demonstration that demoralized many long-time followers and disgusted recent converts.

The most sophisticated advocated for a long languishing imprisonment, the proven technique for facilitating a divided movement’s self-disintegration. The cowardly behavior of those insurrectionists left at-large argued the efficacy of such a plan.

But the most sophisticated had not anticipated the intensely personal antagonism that erupted when some of their superiors encountered the arrested leader face to face… or rather word for word. He was infuriating: self-righteous, obscure, and entirely unrepentant.

(We often feel the most innate conflict with those who remind us of our own most troublesome tendencies.)

The decision was made to put him to death. Behind closed doors the most sophisticated argued this was a mistake. Alive but imprisoned he would impede the emergence of a successor. Death opened an opportunity for someone more radical to arise. A public execution could transform one of many malcontents into a useful martyr for a wide range of discontent.

But at times events emerge and can take on a life of their own. The most sophisticated did not win the argument.

April 16, 2014

Disengaging in order to more fully engage?

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 16, 2014

Two separate events, disconnected in any substantive way (as far as I know) but an interesting coincidence in terms of timing:

Monday the Muslim Public Affairs Council held a press conference alongside notable Muslim community leaders at the National Press Club to announce a new campaign to actively prevent violent extremism. Called the Safe Spaces Initiative, the campaign is the first major national grassroots effort to equip American Muslim community and campus leaders with practical tools for developing healthy communities as well as intervention strategies for troubled individuals. You can download the paper from the Safe Spaces website.

Tuesday the New York Police Department said it would disband a special unit charged with detecting possible terrorist threats by carrying out secret surveillance of Muslim groups. The squad that conducted the surveillance, known as the Demographics Unit, was formed in 2003. It brought the NYPD under fire from community groups and activists who accused the force of abusing civil rights and profiling.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”

March 20, 2014

Syria’s suffering as precursor

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 20, 2014

Since 2011 at least 100,000 Syrians have been killed, probably closer to 150,000.  At least one-third have been non-combatants.

More than 2.5 million Syrians have sought refuge outside Syria.  The number of internal displacements is estimated at over 6 million.

The conflict between Sunni and non-Sunni has been amplified and often personalized, each side demonizing the other.

An already volatile region has been further destabilized.  Turkey — a NATO ally — Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq have been especially impacted.

Approximately 12 million Syrians who emigrated over the last century, and their first and second generation descendants, view the continuing slaughter with increasing frustration and despair.

The barbarity of the battle — barrel-bombing civilian neighborhoods, mass execution of men, women, and children, starvation used as a military tactic — has inured many participants to brutality.

Just this week a Sydney man killed in January fighting in Syria’s civil war was identified as a former Australian soldier who went absent without leave from the army in 2010.

On Monday a California National Guard enlistee was arrested at the Canadian border. Prosecutors claim he was on his way to fight in Syria. He has also been accused of planning to attack the Los Angeles mass transit system.

British security officials say at least 200 veterans of the civil war in Syria have returned to the United Kingdom.

Osama bin-Laden and many of his peers were, in part, radicalized by the mass murder of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya, horrified by how the world seemed ready to look-on and do nothing.

And again?

October 3, 2013

Us versus them

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on October 3, 2013

Sunnis continue to target Shia in Iraq.   The reverse is also alleged.  (Deadly suicide bombings.)

In Syria Sunni dominate the insurgency as the regime works to wrap itself in the support of most others. Some even see the US as allied with Assad in anti-Sunni animus.  (Same fight against radical Islam.)

In Kenya Shabaab did what it could to underline the difference between Muslim, Christian, and Hindu.  (Though many insist they failed.)

Buddhists are killing Muslims in Burma (Myanmar). (Sectarian Violence.)

India and Pakistan were founded in sectarian strife.  These differences continue to complicate the relations of two nuclear-armed neighbors. (Hindu-Muslim Clashes)

A Christian and/or animist South confronts a Muslim North in Nigeria and across much of the Sahel. (Extremist killings, tight security.)

Threats against Jews are so common as to be widely neglected. (Global Antisemitism)

In the Philippines the division is between a Christian North and a Muslim South. (New clash raises fears.)  In Thailand a Muslim South contends with a Buddhist North. (Savage escalation threatened.)

Modern notions of self-martyrdom were forged as Buddhist Sinhalas confronted Hindu Tamils.  The tension persists. (Tamil abuses denied.)

The list could easily continue tediously long.  In many cases the religious differences amplified by ethnic, tribal, and class distinctions.  Demography as destiny?

Paul Tillich a German-American-Christian-Protestant-Existentialist scholar wrote:

God is being-itself.  After this has been said nothing else can be said about God as God which is not symbolic… Therefore if anything beyond this bare assertion is said about God it is no longer a direct and proper statement, no longer a concept. It is indirect pointing to something beyond itself: symbolic. (Systematic Theology)

Confusing the symbolic as being-itself is common.

Most of our antagonisms do not arise from any profound discovery of substantive ontological distinction.  Rather we fuss and fight over superficial symbols that, as much as anything else, distract us from the much more taxing task of engaging with being-itself.  This is the case well beyond the religious or spiritual and is especially true of the political.

There are broadly two strategic options: Persist with symbolic arguments (religion vs. religion, faith vs. science, conviction vs. conviction, etc. vs. etc.) or resist symbolism and insist on dealing with being itself.  The first strategy involves arguing between answers.  The second involves asking questions.  Neither is easy.

It may just be my conviction, but I perceive the second option — dealing with being-itself — is more likely to have lasting outcomes.

July 18, 2013

Repeating history and writing the future

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on July 18, 2013

In the early 1990s genocidal attacks against the Muslim population of the former Yugoslavia proceeded with little Western interference while the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan resulted in Western action to arm a wide range of insurgents, including a nascent Al Qaeda.

Some of the tactics and techniques developed in Afghanistan were deployed in the former Yugoslavia, Chechnya, eventually in Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, and lower Manhattan.  An echo of these days reverberated as recently as April 15.

Western hypocrisy and geopolitical competition fueled the emergence of a worldview, adversaries, and a preternatural expectation of cultures-in-conflict.

Today tens of thousands are killed in Syria and any mitigation — much less resolution — is stymied by Big Power geopolitical competition.  Across the Sahel Salafist fighters bomb and kill (Christian) teachers and school children.  In Somalia Ethiopian and Kenyan Christians are active in containing (Islamic) al Shabbab.  In Egypt a Western-funded military facilitates the overthrow of a popularly elected (conservative Islamic) President.

These are gross simplifications of very complex realities.  But this narrative sufficiently parallels reality that more complicated counter-arguments are seldom self-evidently compelling.

We have, perhaps, ten years to adjust the narrative. The analogy that comes to my mind is trying to write lyric poetry as Asiana Flight 214 hits the seawall at SFO. There is forward movement, there is a bit of time, you will probably survive to die another day, but the noise, destruction, fear, and pain do not lend themselves to much writing of any kind.

Yet if we cannot — in collaboration across religious, national, and tribal divides — craft a more mutually satisfactory narrative, we will suffer again and again explosions of self-righteous anger and revenge.

This week there was a modest effort, easily ignored and as easily dismissed, to at least conceive a different narrative.  Here’s a news release and here’s a 25-page report with recommendations.  Might be worth a glance between our show-trials, political melodramas, furloughs, and vacations.

We need better.  But we should start with what we’ve got.

July 17, 2013

Dear Malala in brotherly concern

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on July 17, 2013

Last Friday, on her 16th birthday, Malala Yousafzai addressed the United Nations Youth Assembly.  She has largely recovered from the October 2012 Taliban assassination attempt.  You can see/hear her address at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rNhZu3ttIU

While I admire Ms. Yousafzai’s courage and her arguments, I will admit to being even more interested in the response (below) authored by Taliban leader Adnan Rasheed.  His letter is — no matter how misguided, distasteful, or manipulative — an interesting window into a worldview that motivates violent extremism.

I found Mr. Rasheed’s original Open Letter at the UK’s Channel 4 News website.  I have added punctuation and corrected spelling to assist your reading but otherwise provide largely as written and in full.

–+–

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH THE MOST MERCIFUL AND BENEFICENT

From Adnan Rasheed to Malala Yousafzai

Peace to those who follow the guidance

Miss Malala Yousafzai

I am writing to you in my personal capacity, this may not be the opinion or policy of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan or other jihadi faction or group.

I heard about you through BBC Urdu service for the first time, when I was in Bannu prison. At that time I wanted to write to you, to advise you to refrain from anti-Taliban activities you were involved in. But I could not find your address and I was thinking how to approach you with real or pseudo name, my all emotions were brotherly for you because we belong to same Yousafzai tribe.

Meanwhile the prison break happened and I was supposed to be in hiding. When you were attacked it was shocking for me. I wished it would never happened and I had advised you before Taliban attacked you. Was it Islamically correct or wrong, did you deserve to be killed or not, I will not go in this argument now, let’s we leave it to Allah All mighty, He is the best judge. Here I want to advise you as I am already late, I wish I would have advised you in my prison time and this accident would never happened.

First of all please mind that Taliban never attacked you because of going to school or you were education lover, also please mind that Taliban or Mujahideen are not against the education of any men or women or girl. Taliban believe that you were intentionally writing against them and running a smear campaign to malign their efforts to establish Islamic system in Swat and your
writings were provocative.

You have said in your speech yesterday that the pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school. There were thousands of girls who were going to school and college before and after the Taliban insurgency in Swat, would you explain why were only you on their hit list???

Now to explain you the second point, why Taliban are blowing up schools? The answer to this question is that not only Taliban in KPK or FATA are blowing up the schools but Pakistan Army and Frontier Constabulary is equally involved in this issue. The reason for this action is common between them, that is turning of schools into hide outs and transit camps once it comesunder control of either party Pakistan Army or Taliban.

In 2004 I was in Swat, I was researching on the causes of failure of the first revolution attempt by Sufi Muhammad. I came to know that FC (Frontier Corps) was stationed in the schools of Swat in Tehsil Matta and FC was using schools as their transit camps and hide outs. Now tell me who to blame???  Dozens of schools and colleges are being used by Pakistan Army and FC as their barracks in FATA, you can find out easily if you like. So when something sacred is turned lethal it needs to be eliminated. This is the policy of Taliban.

Blowing up schools when they are not being used strategically is not the Taliban’s job. Some black sheep of local administration may be involved to extract more and more funds in the name of schools to fill their bank accounts.

Now I come to the main point that is EDUCATION, it is amazing that you are Shouting for education, you and the UNO (United Nations) is pretending that as you were shot due to education, although this is not the reason.  Be honest, not the education but your propaganda was the issue and what you are doing now, you are using your tongue on the behest of the others and you must know that if  the pen is mightier than the sword then the tongue is sharper and the injury of sword can be hailed but the injury of the tongue never hails and in the wars tongue is more destructive than any  weapon.

I would like to share with you that Indian sub-continent was highly educated and almost every citizen was able to read or write before the British invasion. Locals used to teach British officers Arabic, Hindi, Urdu and Persian. Almost every mosque was acting as school too and Muslim emperors used to spend a huge sum of money on education. Muslim India was rich in farming, silk, and jute and from textile industry to ship building. No poverty, no crises and no clashes of civilization or religion. Because the education system was based on noble thoughts and noble
curriculum.

I want to draw your attention to an extract from the minute written by Sir T.B. Macaulay to British parliament dated 2nd February 1835 about what type of education system is required in Indian sub-continent to replace the Muslim education system. He stated “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, –a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”

This was and this is the plan and mission of this so called education system for which you are ready to die, for which UNO takes you to their office to produce more and more Asians in blood but English in taste, to produce more and more Africans in color but English in opinion, to produce more and more non English people but English in morale. This so called education made Obama, the mass murderer, your ideal. isn’t it?

Why they want to make all human beings English? Because Englishmen are the staunch supporters and slaves of Jews. Do you know Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder and symbol of English education in India was a Freemason?

You say a teacher, a pen and a book can change the world. Yes I agree. But which teacher which pen and which book? It is to be specified, Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon him said Iam sent as a teacher, and the book He sent to teach is Quran. So a noble and pious teacher with prophetic curriculum can change the world; not with a satanic or secular curriculum.

You have given the example that once a journalist asked a student why the Taliban was afraid of this education. He replied a Talib didn’t know what was in this book. The same I say to you and through you to whole world. That is why they are afraid of the book of Allah because they don’t know what is in it.  Taliban want to implement what is in the book of ALLAH and UNO want to implement what they have in man-made books. We want to connect the world to their creator through the book of  Allah and UNO want to enslave the world to a few evil creatures.

You have talked about justice and equality from the stage of an unjust institution, the place where you were standing uttering for justice and equality, all the nations are not equal there, only five wicked states have the veto power and rest of them are powerless. Dozens of time when all the world united against Israel only one veto was enough to press the throat of justice. The place you were speaking to the world is heading towards new world order. I want to know what is wrong the old world order? They want to establish global education, global economy, global army, global trade, global government and finally global religion. I want to know is there any space for the prophetic guidance in all above global plans? Is there any space for Islamic sharia or Islamic law to which UN call inhumane and barbaric?

You have talked about attacks on polio teams, would you explain why the then American foreign secretary of state Henry Kissinger, a Jew, said in 1973 to reduce the third world population by 80%. Why the sterilization and eugenics programs are running in different countries in one way  or another under the umbrella of UNO. More than 1 million Muslim women have been sterilized in Uzbekistan forcibly without their consent.

Bertrand Russell writes in his book the impact of science on society, “diet, injections and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable and any serious criticism of power that be will become psychologically impossible”. This is why we have reservations on the so called polio vaccination program.

You say Malala today is not your day, it is the day of every person who has raised voice for their rights. I ask you why such a day in not assigned to Rachel Corrie, only because the bulldozer was Israeli? Why such a day is not assigned to Affia Siddique because the buyers are Americans? Why such day is not assigned to Faizan and Faheem because the killer was Raymond Davis? Why such a day is not assigned to those 16 innocent afghan women and children who were shot dead by an American Robert Belas because he was not a Talib.

I ask you and be honest in reply, if you were shot by Americans in a drone attack, would the world have ever heard updates on your medical status? Would you be called ‘daughter of the nation?  Would the media make a fuss about you? Would General Kiyani have come to visit you and would the world media be constantly reporting on you? Would you were called to UN? Would a  Malala day be announced?

More than 300 innocent women and children have been killed in drones attacks but who cares because attackers are highly educated, non-violent, peaceful Americans.

I wish, the compassion you learnt from Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him should be learnt by Pakistan Army so they could stop shedding of Muslim blood in FATA and Baluchistan. I wish, the compassion you learnt from Prophet Jesus should be learnt by USA and NATO so they should stop shedding blood of innocent Muslims across the world and I wish the same for followers of Buddha to stop killing of innocent unarmed Muslims in Burma, and Sri Lanka and wish the same for Indian army to follow Gandhi jee and stop genocide in Kashmir.  And yes, the followers of Bacha Khan, the ANP has an example of non-violence in their five years regime inKPK province, for example Swat, where a single shot was not fired and we witnessed the followers of Bacha Khan implement the philosophy of nonviolence in its true soul, with support of jets, tanks and gunships.

At the end I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture, join any female Islamic madrassa near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah and reveal the conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world order.

All praises to Allah the creator of the Universe.

15 July 2013

April 20, 2013

Why and/or how?

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 20, 2013

On Friday night the President articulated what many are thinking, “…why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?  How did they plan and carry out these attacks, and did they receive any help?  The families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers.  The wounded, some of whom now have to learn how to stand and walk and live again, deserve answers.”

In the case of the Tsarnaev brothers we have already put together some answers that will be difficult to amend, such as:  Big bad brother recruits sweet little brother to join him in murderous outburst.

We are not quite sure — yet — what precisely motivated big brother.  An uncle says he is an angry loser, a boxing buddy claims he is an alienated outsider, there are vague suggestions of a long-time pattern of simmering violence, growing religious intolerance, a very thin skin. Each of us has our own spectral adversary which we tend to project.

My hypothesis tends toward mobility, modernity, and absent meaning.

The boys divorced parents are currently in Russia.  There’s an ashamed uncle in Maryland, a shocked aunt in Canada.  ”Close” friends discuss having most recently exchanged a text or some other digital communication in February.  On a social media site the younger brother identified his personal priorities as “career and making money.”  His twitter feed consists mostly of banal references to pop lyrics.

I glance at these initial reports and a complicated theory of how good and evil reside in each of us is reinforced.  I hear or read second-hand reports from which I cherry-pick bits and pieces that conform with my expectations and — by the way — reconfirm my wisdom.

A friend dismisses “why” questions even as he is tenacious in asking and answering “how” questions.  For him asking why implies purpose and presumes purpose is deterministic.  He has decided purpose is mostly after-the-fact human justification, rationalization, and telling ourselves stories.

I hope there are plenty who agree with my friend involved with deciphering the Tsarnaevs’ history. But I will continue to ask why, even as I try to resist self-justifying answers.

How helps.  How can often be answered precisely.  Many, maybe even most, whys lack precise answers. But if my “why” is honest and open it compels me to listen to you much more carefully. If you ask me why and also stop to listen for my response we have moved into a shared relationship around the question.

For someone concerned about mobility, modernity, and absent meaning this shared relationship is itself a big part of the answer.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrested

Filed under: Investigation & Enforcement,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 20, 2013

According to the Boston Globe between 7PM and 8:30PM on Friday night the following transpired:

Police found Dzhokhar ­Tsarnaev hiding on a boat stored in a backyard on ­Franklin Street. Police ­exchanged gunfire with him before capturing him alive. Spontaneous celebrations erupted across the region, from the ­Boston Common to the Back Bay streets near the bombing.

The boat’s owners, a couple, spent Friday hunkered down under the stay-at-home order. When it was lifted early in the evening, they ventured outside for some fresh air and the man noticed the tarp on his boat blowing in the wind, according to their his son, Robert Duffy.

The cords securing it had been cut and there was blood near the straps. Duffy’s father called police, who swarmed the yard and had the couple evacuated, Duffy said.

Residents, who had barricaded themselves in their homes for nearly 20 hours, were still deeply shaken. “I’m so happy they got these guys,” said Tom Sheridan, 35, an interior painter from Watertown, as he cheered police cruisers and ambulances as they drove by on Mount ­Auburn Street. “But I’m worried there are more people out there like that. It won’t be the same.”

Tsarnaev was wounded and taken to a hospital. In an interview late last night, Patrick said he is “hoping very deeply he survives those wounds, because I’ve got a lot of questions and I know investigators have a lot of questions for him.”

April 18, 2013

Expecting Evil

Filed under: Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on April 18, 2013

On Monday two “pressure cooker bombs” exploded in Boston killing three and injuring more than 180. Eighteen years ago Friday a 5000 pound bomb exploded in Oklahoma City killing 168 people and injuring 450.

On the same day as the Boston attack at least 50 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in a series of early-morning car bomb explosions in cities across Iraq.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights yesterday (April 17) at least 44 non-combatants and over 200 combatants were killed in that civil war. Among yesterday’s dead were four children, bringing the total number of children killed since March 2011 to over 5000.

We have been taught to view such attacks as self-conscious tactical choices endemic to certain kinds of violent political (or religious) conflict. The legal definition of terrorism usually involves the application of indiscriminate violence with the intention to influence political decisions. In this conceptualization we demonstrate some of the same preoccupation with self that characterizes the “terrorist”. It must be about us. Not always or even often.

April 15 is also the anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth claimed political purposes. It was too late in the war to have any realistic hope of reversing confederate fortunes. But it was a ripe moment for a megalomaniacal if mediocre actor to make a very real claim on immortality as a latter day self-proclaimed Brutus.

On April 16, 2007 Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech, shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks. This year’s Boston Marathon was dedicated to the memory of those killed by Adam Lanza in Newtown, Connecticut. Saturday is the anniversary of Columbine.

Such attacks are not about the victims or those of us who survive or our political choices. Whoever constructed, delivered, and detonated the Boston bomb had no specific intention to kill Martin Richard, age 8, or injure Martin’s seven-year-old sister and mother. If a political manifesto is ever found or offered, give particular attention to how — if — the attack is explained as a change-agent. Is it even minimally persuasive? Usually not.

The justifications typically range between self-aggrandizing and deeply delusional. Timothy McVeigh characterized his bombing of the Murrah Building as, “borrowing a page from U.S. foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile.”

These sort of attacks are an effort by the attacker to express power: to most-of-all convince himself (almost always a him) that he has power. Similar attacks by so-called “terrorist” groups also seek to reinforce and extend self-assertions of power. Victims are much more tools — totems of inadequacy overcome — than targets, in any traditional understanding of target.

Too often we inadvertently feed these delusions in how we magnify the risk and in this way inflate the ego of the attacker and those similarly predisposed. Most of these pathetic men (and a few women) are thrilled to be seen as a somehow existential threat to the most powerful nation on the planet.

On Tuesday President Obama spoke of how Boston is responding to the attack, he said, “if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.”

Thirty-or-so years ago President Reagan unexpectedly involved me in a quick but intense discussion of the Holocaust. I had a difficult time keeping up with where the President was going and what he was trying to work out. But I very clearly remember one line: “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”

We should do a great deal to prevent attacks. We are making an extraordinary effort to identify and hold accountable whoever is behind the Boston attack. But in this important work we will sometimes fail. Where we can be more certain of success is in engaging with courage and compassion those who have been abused as tools of another’s self-assertion.

Evil is persistent. Evil will recur. Fear feeds evil. Courage starves evil. Love confuses, confounds, and contains evil.

February 28, 2013

Connecting dots in Africa

Filed under: International HLS,Radicalization,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on February 28, 2013

Last Friday the President informed Congress that:

Forty additional U.S. military personnel entered Niger with the consent of the Government of Niger. This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region. The total number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger is approximately 100. The recently deployed forces have deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.

The deployment is widely reported as supporting expanded operations from a US drone base near Niamey, Niger’s capital city.

Earlier this week the Strauss Center at the University of Texas published a research brief that concludes:

The analysis shows that the levels of violent Islamist activity in Africa have risen sharply in recent years, both in absolute and proportional terms. While much of this increase has been driven by the intensification of conflict in a small number of key countries,there is also evidence for the geographic spread of violent Islamist activity both south- and eastward on the continent. Differences within and across violent Islamist groups reveal differential objectives, strategies, and modalities of violence across Africa. With ongoing conflicts in Somalia, Nigeria, and Mali among the most violent in Africa – and evidence of the spread of violent Islamist activity across Africa – violent Islamist groups, their activities, and objectives are likely to remain extremely influential both nationally and internationally.

The research was finished prior to recent clashes with French and other forces in Mali.

On February 20, the same day that US Africa Command opened a major exercise with Cameroon’s military, Salafist fighters from neighboring Nigeria crossed the border and abducted a family of French tourists, now being held in an effort to influence the French intervention in Mali.  There are now 15 French hostages being held in North Africa.

The Hollande government has insisted it will not negotiate with the hostage takers.   In January a French hostage in Somalia was killed during an attempted rescue.

Yesterday the French Foreign Minister welcomed the new US Secretary of State by saying,

And it can be said that when France and the United States commit together, they can change things. It is the case in the Sahel, which we discussed, in Mali, where France committed and is determined to restore Mali’s integrity and stop the push of the terrorists. We benefitted from the full support of our American friends both politically and on the field. And I would like to thank the United States of America as well as John Kerry for the support granted to the intervention by France as well as the American forces against the terrorists.

Yesterday Nigeria completed its deployment of 1200 troops to Mali.    Tuesday the Wall Street Journal reported,

In vast West Africa, a new front-line region in the battle against al Qaeda, Nigeria is America’s strategic linchpin, its military one the U.S. counts on to help contain the spread of Islamic militancy. Yet Nigeria has rebuffed American attempts to train that military, whose history of shooting freely has U.S. officials concerned that soldiers here fuel the very militancy they are supposed to counter.

In the immediate aftermath of the hostage taking at the Algerian gas facility, Prime Minister David Cameron emphasized:

This is a stark reminder, once again, of the threat we face from terrorism the world over. We have had successes in recent years in reducing the threat from some parts of the world, but the threat has grown particularly in north Africa. This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months.

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