• Michael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Part two: Enabling our customers to work in any environment

Last week, I shared with you my past posting on the foundation of what our companies leverage in our business model to support our customers. So now let’s dig deeper to the ground experience for free:

As for ground experience, I refer to working on the ground with our customer in the Middle East, LATAM and North Africa.  In this posting I will talk about Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt.

In these countries, we are dealing with something different than terrorism.  Most of these countries that are being affected by it are corrupt, poorly performing and with incompetent government. And you must be on the ground to see the shifts and balances within these states and regions. Yes, it is easy to come in for a week or so and develop a report and talk to some tribes or other elements. But it is a different approach when, like us, you live and interact in these environments every day.

The countries I outlined above are not traditional in the way that their population earns their living and interact.  These states have gone from largely rural to hyper urbanized with grossly inadequate infrastructure and massive slums, as well as most of the population no longer living their traditional lives (tribal).

It should not be a coincidence that the worst governments of the “regions’ failed states” (as we call them) are the ones that faced massive upheavals in 2011. We see that in these states we work in, they have a massive percentage of unemployed youth as well as the youth are disfranchised, they see no future and face instability. Another driver in these states is failed secularism, which has led to religious and ideological extremism. Ruling by repression, discretion against a major ethnic groups, repression of religion by sect or faith, gross corruption also noted at the top of the governments. Let us add gross inequalities of income and each of these add to inevitable consequences that we see are getting wider and more profound where we operate. This is the foundation that breeds revolution and violence.  These states do not recognize civil violence, they incline into defining it as extremism and stamping it as terrorist attacks. But let’s call a spade a spade. Terrorism is not the real cause here. There are other states who have a workable model that has a good enough government and economies to marginalize terrorism, but still experience a certain level of sporadic individual attacks.

Pull the cover off

Let’s look closer at places like Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt based upon year of operating here. The military threat is not really terrorism at all. It boils down insurgency and violent movements capable of challenging or defeating government military and security forces. What we see in our daily work is an internal division that outside nations and extremist movements can use or exploit and it is not simply a matter of military force but ideological and political conflict that extends far beyond the most extreme or terrorist movement and divides the entire nation on sectarian, ethnic, tribal, regional and economic lines. These are conflicts where no purely military victory is possible, but it is possible in the civil dimension, it is a matter of hearts and minds and a battle for security. 

Ground Truth

No amount of tactical victory over terrorist or extremist movements can guarantee any form of lasting security or stability without political and economic changes that will bring more unity and allow the civil side of ongoing or potential conflict to be resolved. Be sure that every state that faces an internal crisis in the region (countries we listed above) is both a potential new target of terrorism and a potential source of new sectarian, ethnic or other form of conflict growing out of its internal divisions. We can say that terrorism is only part of the threat and often more a symptom than the actual disease. From what we see on the ground, when division become this deep, they raise a question as to whether any outside security efforts can bring lasting stability. But it also raises the question as to what is the real threat, is it violent Islamist extremism or states whose governance is so weak or brutal and societies are so divided that they create conditions that terrorism and extremism can feed upon?  


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