In the 2007 RAND publication Ungoverned Territories: A Unique Front in the War on Terrorism, RAND scholars note, “Since the end of the Cold War, failed or failing states and ungoverned territories within otherwise viable states have become a more common phenomenon. These territories generate all manner of security problems, such as civil conflict and humanitarian crises, arms and drug smuggling, piracy, and refugee flows.”
Using a public health metaphor, one wonders if perhaps symptoms are being conflated with causes of disease.
In his 2006 Fourth World Journal report GWOT and the Joker: Fourth World War in 2006, CWIS associate scholar Marc A. Sills observes,
Of the current identifiable shooting wars, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan, few if any of them have terrorism at their root. Some can be classified as ‘civil wars,’ where popular insurgent elements are attempting to seize state control. But the majority of current violent conflicts around the world are wars of national liberation, and their diverse protagonists can best be characterized as nations of the Fourth World.
Synthesizing these scholarly points of view may at first seem incongruous, but in the 2002 Center for World Indigenous Studies broadcast World War and the Fourth World, Forum for Global Exchange scholars observed that,
America’s war on terrorism is drifting into a generalized war on indigenous nations instead of a war focused on defeating the bigotry and violence of a movement driven by religious zeal, fueled by illicit drugs and precious resources like diamonds, conducted with the tactics of organized crime, and systematically organized like a transnational corporation.
Indeed, defeating organized crime — whether sponsored by states or networks — and eliminating terrorism as a tactic of conflict, requires establishing a new relationship between states and nations—one that lends itself to structures where terrain is denied to hoodlums, state-sanctioned or otherwise. When the indigenous of places like Northern Ireland, Basque Country, South Africa, or Palestine no longer have to defend themselves against state aggression, then the use of terrorism will cease to be an attractive tool to all but the ungovernable.
In his 2003 analysis Terrorists and Terrorism Experts, Public Good Project research director Paul de Armond asks, “What’s behind current U.S. doctrine on terrorism, what makes someone an expert on terrorism, who are some of the terrorism experts, and where is this all leading?” The answers just might surprise you.
(Jay Taber — recipient of the Defender of Democracy award — is an author, columnist, and research analyst at Public Good Project.)