The ongoing recruitment of Americans and other foreigners into the Islamic State terrorist group demands a greater effort to understand the reasons individuals may be drawn to the causes of extremists. In the case of six young men from Minneapolis, who allegedly tried to join IS, none of them fit the profile of a terrorist recruit. Similarly, the trial of Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has revealed the portrait of a once good natured, nonviolent young student.
Obviously, defense attorneys use character references to make their clients appear less guilty, yet an emerging trend in violent crimes involving otherwise peaceful individuals suggests there are reasons these individuals turn violent. Looking at nearly 300 women and girls in Nigeria who were finally freed from the terrorist group Boko Haram after nearly a year of captivity, the jihadists brainwashed their victims to belief their cause was just. These women and girls were trained to see their kidnappers as “good men” to the point they even took up arms against their rescuers.
Nigeria is projected by the US Department of Agriculture to be the first African nation with a trillion dollar economy by 2030. Boko Haram’s kidnapping and killing rampage across Nigeria has dominated the news over the last year, so this is welcome news. At the very least, this means Africa’s most populist country will be able to grow with the global economy and avoid greater economic hardship in the future. Unfortunately, Nigeria will continue to struggle with the same massive poverty and sharp economic disparity seen throughout Africa.
Furthermore, developed countries, including the United States, face increasing poverty and economic disparity as well. Where the economic growth and development of the African economies affords the continent the same chance to create a viable middle class, consumer economy that the West capitalized on throughout the Twentieth Century, the same government policies and business trends that are driving increasing disparity in the West will make it nearly impossible for that to happen in Africa.
Recent polling indicates Americans view the Islamic State as a greater threat than the governments of Russia or Iran. Although it is true that the Islamic State does pose a far more apparent and imminent threat, Russian and Iranian leadership represent far more hazardous threats to the West and the rest of the International Community, if their rogue behavior is left unchecked.
Unfortunately, a renewed buildup of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border, once again, threatens to escalate the Ukrainian Crisis. The tendency for humans to prioritize immediate concerns above the far more harmful consequences of distant threats, therefore, needs to be taken into account. The voices of the American People must be heard, but the views of the majority do not necessarily provide an accurate threat assessment, which appears to be true in this case.
Passage of the “Protecting Cyber Networks Act” and attempts to reauthorize the unmodified Patriot Act, which preserves the NSA’s supposedly legal authority to amass domestic telephone records, put privacy rights back into the spotlight. Where software conglomerate Google has chosen to encrypt user data in order to protect it from criminals and governments alike, the US government’s efforts make it easier for businesses to share data, whether for security or profit, that could otherwise be rendered inaccessible to anyone wishing to abuse information technology.
Following the logical end of this legislative trail, the US government will eventually attempt to compel businesses to store and share data with federal agencies instead of securing personal data. The implications of this trend, which neglects privacy concerns in favor of intelligence gathering, is a world economy and community increasingly dependent on a perpetually insecure telecommunications network that empowers countries like Iran to destabilize critical civil infrastructure and abusive governments to violent the rights of individuals.
Turkey has long been regarded as the bridge between the West and Middle East. Not only is Turkey a democracy, it has a moderate Muslim population while much of the government and economy is mirrored after the West. At the onset of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolutions, this writer had hoped Turkey could become a regional leader and role model for fledgling democracies, yet scandal after scandal from then-Prime Minister, current-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan derailed that opportunity.
Becoming more and more authoritarian in nature, the Erdogan government’s apparent failure to combat the Islamic State to suppress Turkey’s Kurdish population was a new low in late 2014. Despite a troubled history between US allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia, however, the two may well soon be teaming up to address the Islamic State and the civil war in Syria. Although President Erdogan must repair a great deal of damage, it seems Turkey may finally be part of the solution, yet the Saudi-Turkey alliance is not the most surprising development.
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