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Why Turkey, PKK Seek Rapprochement

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan called on his followers to lay down their arms in late February in a crucial step toward rapprochement with the Turkish government. Wikistrat asked Dr. Soner Cagaptay what the motivations of both parties are to do a deal.

Soner Cagaptay

Turkey’s Plan A on the Kurdish issue is to placate the PKK, an approach solidified in 2012 when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched official peace talks with the group’s leadership, bringing about a respite from fighting. Maintaining this peace is especially important for Erdoğan’s AKP, which has been running the country since 2002 and faces parliamentary elections in June. If Turkey remains peaceful, the popular AKP will likely soar to another electoral victory. With no other elections until 2019, Erdoğan and the AKP would rule Turkey until the end of the decade.

Peace is a strong incentive for Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s founder and ideological leader, who is effectively conducting the PKK’s side of the talks through his lawyers from his solitary-confinement cell on İmralı island, in the Marmara Sea, where he has been jailed since 1999. As indicated by his role in the talks, Öcalan still wields strong influence over the PKK and he well understands that peace would be his get-out-of-jail card. He is therefore expected to continue using his influence to ensure the current calm.

Dr. Soner Cagaptay is a Wikistrat Expert. He has more than ten years of experience in academia and of professional work dealing with Turkey, the Balkans and other international issues. He is also a Senior Fellow and Director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Turkey Research Program.

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Ask a Senior Analyst — David Isenberg

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, David Isenberg. Questions and Mr. Isenberg’s answers are transcribed below.

David Isenberg

David Isenberg is the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq. He blogs at the Isenberg Institute of Strategic Satire. He wrote the “Dogs of War” weekly column for UPI from 2008 to 2009. During 2009 he ran the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers project at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo. He also worked for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). He is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Matt R. Batten-Carew: What is your opinion on the potential use of private military contractors as peacekeeping forces by the United Nations? Given a comprehensive code of conduct, clear rules of engagement, and adequate oversight, could these private actors play a role in future peacekeeping operations?

Answer: You have a couple of questions here: Can contractors play a role in peacekeeping operations? And can contractors serve as peacekeeping troops?

In regard to the former question, contractors are already playing a significant role in terms of proving logistics for peacekeeping operations. In regard to the latter question, it is very important to keep in mind the distinction between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. The first, while dangerous, is far less demanding than the second. In my opinion, contractors can conceivably play a role as peacekeeping troops, albeit more as combat support or combat service support roles.

At this point contractors are not likely to replace sizeable formations of state forces, especially not in peace enforcement operations. People like Blackwater co-founder Erik Prince claim that contractors could be used to fight ISIS. That is outlandish. What companies like Blackwater did in Iraq was protective security, not combat.

What private military companies can do is supply force multipliers, notably in the area of training or logistics. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Tim Foxley

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Tim Foxley. Questions and Mr. Foxley’s answers are transcribed below.

Tim Foxley

Tim Foxley is an independent political and military analyst. He worked for the British government for over twenty-five years with experience in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Russia and Eastern Europe. He has analyzed various inter- and intra-national conflict themes, including terrorism, arms control, insurgencies, information operations, propaganda and conflict and security building measures. He also worked as a guest researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), studying Afghanistan and related political, social and economic themes.

Harry Sa: Do you see any regional players getting more involved in the rebuilding process and maintaining stability in Afghanistan? What kinds of roles would they play?

Answer: It is a good question that I have been grappling with for some time. I produced a paper in 2010 entitled “Afghanistan’s Neighbours: Great Game, Regional Approach or Limited Liability Opportunism?” on this topic.

In the limited space I have available here, perhaps I could race through a few updated “headlines” for the key neighbours.

A recurring theme has been the unexploited but massive economic potential in and around Afghanistan. “New Silk Road” studies regularly point at trillions of dollars of minerals, gem, natural resources, transport and trade opportunities. Every time this gets publicity, it seems to come to nothing as a result of security and corruption issues.

Pakistan has a confused and conflicted relationship with Afghanistan. The assertion by many analysts is that Pakistan is engaged in a “double game.” Pakistan seeks a passive “client” state that has polices favourable to it. To preserve all options, Pakistan is covertly retaining links with, and providing support to, the Taliban. There has been some small-scale economic and political reach-out, but the border between the two countries is fluid, allowing insurgents of all sorts to come and go and smuggling to bypass regular trade, tax and economic process. Until the two countries sort out their security issues, their relationship will be fraught. Development and stability opportunities will underachieve for the next few years.

Iran remains concerned about instability in Afghanistan leading to more refugees coming to Iran. Its engagement with Afghanistan has been a mix of constructive — certainly investment and reconstruction, including a railway, in western Afghanistan — and unhelpful. NATO has complained quite bluntly about weapons and IED technology coming in from Iran and ending up in the hands of insurgents, although this might slacken now NATO has more or less gone.

China has managed to stay out of the conflict (although it is worried about the risk that insurgencies might spill across), but snaps up investment opportunities where it can, desiring the trade and natural resources that Afghanistan (and Central Asia) offer. China has invested heavily: the Afghan government received around $3 billion for the Aynak copper mine. This month, China seemed to be trying to broker talks between the Taliban, Pakistan and Afghanistan, suggesting new interest in the security side.

Crudely summarising the others: the Central Asian States will have limited impact. India will continue to invest heavily and provoke Pakistan as it does so. Read More →

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Ask Wikistrat Staff — Dr. Shay Hershkovitz

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with the Director of Wikistrat’s Analytic Community, Dr. Shay Hershkovitz. Questions and Dr. Hershkovitz’s answers are transcribed below.

Shay Hershkovitz

As Director of the Analytic Community, Dr. Shay Hershkovitz oversees and guides the activity of Wikistrat’s ever-expanding network of experts and he is involved in the development of Wikistrat’s methodology and product offerings.

A former senior intelligence officer, Dr. Hershkovitz has accumulated experience in analysis of complex security and political environments. He also has a specialization in political analysis — particularly that which pertains to the Middle East. He earned a PhD in Political Science and lectured at several colleges and universities, specializing in consumer culture, globalization and political theory.

Before joining Wikistrat, Dr. Hershkovitz operated a boutique consultancy specializing in competitive intelligence analysis and developed unique methodologies for business war-games.

Matt R. Batten-Carew: I’m in the process of completing my second Master’s and during my studies I have met many people who have been interested in becoming involved with Wikistrat. Does Wikistrat currently run any regular recruitment partnerships with universities? If not, is this something that might be possible in the future?

Answer: Wikistrat has and will continue to work with universities from around the world to complement a wide variety of initiatives. Specifically in regard to recruitment, we are looking for potential analysts with significant academic and professional experience. To that end, directly targeting individuals in the upper levels of study or in teaching has been more beneficial for our goals than casting a wide net. That said, we are always looking for new opportunities to improve our work and remain open to developing connections with universities, honor societies and alumni networks to ensure that qualified candidates are aware of what we offer.

Christoph Unrast: How could Wikistrat utilize that its analysts are participating from different time zones?

Answer: Wikistrat already utilizes the fact that its analysts are participating in activities from different time zones. It enables round-the-clock coverage and significantly cuts down production time, something that is especially important in client projects. In addition, different time zones minimize periods of low activity in the community network, thus increasing the interactivity of Wikistrat’s various features.

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Ana Belén Soage

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Ana Belén Soage. Questions and Ms. Soage’s answers are transcribed below.

Ana Belén Soage

Ana Belén Soage holds degrees in Politics and Translation & Interpreting and a European Doctorate in Middle Eastern Studies. She has traveled widely in the Middle East and North Africa and speaks fluent Arabic. She has published a variety of academic articles dealing with issues related to political Islam in the Middle East and Europe.

Sergio Castaño Riaño: I would like to know your opinion about the role the Muslim Brotherhood could play in Egypt in the next few years? Do you think the organization could change its moderate strategy and return to violence to achieve their goals? Are there real links between the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist groups in Egypt? Or are they bidding their time, waiting for new opportunities to emerge again as political alternative?

Answer: After the coup that deposed Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood rejected any responsibility for the turn of events and demanded the “return to legitimacy”, i.e., the restoration of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, ignoring the huge demonstrations that had demanded his resignation. Together with other Islamist groups, it set up the National Alliance in Support of Legitimacy and Against the Coup and urged its supporters to stage mobilizations. In addition, there is evidence that it has played a role in the terrorist violence that has plagued the country for the last year and a half.

At the same time, the Brotherhood has sought alliances with other forces opposed to the return of military power, both Islamist and secular, ostensibly with an aim to restoring the principles of the 2011 revolution. Last May, it signed the Brussels Declaration, based on a proposal by Liberal politician Ayman Nour, which was ratified by other — mainly Islamist — forces in Egypt as the Cairo Declaration. In August, it co-founded the Istanbul-based Egyptian Revolutionary Council, which includes Islamists but also members of wider civil society and is headed by an unveiled woman, Dr. Maha Azzam of Chatham House. Both initiatives have failed to have any real impact on the situation in Egypt, and the second was quickly dismissed as “Erdogan’s Council”.

The Muslim Brotherhood may be undergoing its worst crisis since it was founded, possibly even worse than its “mihna” (ordeal) under Nasser, because it has never lost so much so quickly. After holding the highest office in the country, it has been declared a terrorist organization, thousands of its members and supporters have been imprisoned and hundreds — including its General Guide — have been condemned to death. Eighteen months of confrontation and repression have radicalized certain sectors within the organization, especially the young. Furthermore, its actions have antagonized most Egyptians, who decided to throw their lot with a new strongman from the army out of fear that their country might become a failed state like Libya.

The failure of the mobilizations has reinforced the hand of those within the organization who believe that compromises will have to be made if it is to regain legality and even return to parliament — possibly through other Islamist parties, such as Hizb al-Wasat or Strong Egypt. Not everybody is willing to concede defeat, though, and more radical members could join the Jihadist groups which many already suspect them of collaborating with. In this scenario, there might be a split within the Muslim Brotherhood. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana. Questions and Dr. Kadayifci-Orellana’s answers are transcribed below.

Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana

Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana is the Interim Associate Director and Visiting Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s MA program in Conflict Resolution. Before going to Georgetown University, she served as a consultant for the Religion and Peacebuilding Program at the United States Institute of Peace and as an Assistant Professor in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution at the School of International Service at American University, Washington DC. She is also a founding member of the Salam Institute for Peace and Justice, where she served as the Associate Director. She is the author of Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in the Palestinian Territories and co-authored and edited the volume Anthology on Islam and Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice.

Ariel Reichard: How would you characterize Turkish policy toward the Syrian civil war? While in the beginning Turkey tended to support Assad, it now vehemently opposes his regime. While it views ISIS as the enemy, it refuses to support Kurdish fighters against it and denies them free access to the Syrian front. Do you see a way for Turkey out of its deadlock and indecisiveness? Do you envision any constructive role for Turkey in what is currently happening in Syria?

Answer: Turkish policy toward Syria cannot be comprehended without understanding the challenges the civil war there created for Turkey. After 2000, Turkish-Syrian relations blossomed and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Bashar al-Assad developed a personal friendship. But relationship soured after the 2011 uprising in Syria. Turkey’s attitude gradually moved from being that of a “big brother” advising Assad to implement democratic reforms to one of an ‘archenemy’ cutting diplomatic ties and championing political and armed intervention to remove Assad from power.

Turkey’s initial reaction to Syria was partly the result of overestimating Turkey’s influence over Assad. Erdoğan assumed his relationship with Assad would be sufficient to convince the Syrian leader to implement the recommended reforms. However, Syria perceived Turkey’s attitude as as a form of “Ottoman colonialism.” Turkey, in turn, saw Syria’s refusal to follow its advice as a sign of disrespect — and as undermining Turkey’s regional credibility and legitimacy. Soon after, in line with Western governments, Turkey started to support the Syrian opposition to overthrow Assad and facilitated initiatives, meetings, trainings and military support to the Syrian opposition.

Turkey received more than one million Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers. The influx of so many refugees has caused enormous problems for Turkey and at times created conflict between local populations and refugees, something that has influenced Turkish public opinion of the country’s Syria policy.

Another factor that influenced Turkey’s policy is the nature of the Syrian opposition. Exactly who the rebel groups are, what their objectives are, their positions and their relations with each other is still unclear. Turkey nevertheless supported the opposition was particularly sympathetic toward Islamic groups. ISIS benefited from this confusion. It is now widely accepted that many of the ISIS leaders have been treated in Turkey and many militants went to Syria from Turkey, but it is unclear if they were aware of the extremist agenda of ISIS or the extent of the threat.

There are now many sympathizers of ISIS in Turkey. Recent protests in support of ISIS not only shocked many Turks, but also reminded the government of the vulnerability of the domestic security situation. Many in Turkey, including government officials, fear the repercussions were it to join the anti-ISIS coalition.

Another complication for Turkey was the siege of the Kurdish town of Kobani by ISIS and the looming massacre of many innocent Kurdish citizens there. Kobani posed a unique challenge for Turkey because it was a stronghold of the PKK, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party of Turkey, and the PYD, the Democratic Union Party of Syria. Both are considered terrorist organizations by Turkey and many Western governments. Although Turkey has initiated a peace process to end the conflict with the Kurds domestically, it maintained that the PKK was a terrorist group. Turkish officials have even stated that the PKK is as evil as ISIS and that there should be no distinction between them.

Any Turkish effort to relieve the Kobani siege would have put Turkey on the side of the PKK and the PYD against ISIS. The AKP government needed to avoid that impression at any cost, especially with elections coming up in June 2015. If Erdogan is to expand his new presidential powers, he cannot afford to alienate nationalists who are fiercly anti-PKK. For that reason, he let Kurdish militias from northern Iraq enter Syria from Turkey. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — R. Jordan Prescott

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, R. Jordan Prescott. Questions and Mr. Prescott’s answers are transcribed below.

Robert Jordan Prescott

Robert Jordan Prescott is a private contractor working in defense and national security. He blogs about American politics and security at House of Marathon.

Bilyana Lilly: Would you envision the U.S. reducing its military commitments in Europe given pressures for fiscal discipline on one hand and an increasingly aggressive Russian foreign policy posture on the other?

Answer: In my estimation over the near term (2014-2017), the United States posture in Europe will neither increase nor decrease. Specifically, the U.S. will not add to existing levels of manpower and equipment, but will shift extant posture eastward to reassure allies and deter Russia.

First, the impetus for fiscal discipline now becomes subject to the agenda of the newly-elected Republican Senate majority. Historically, Republicans have more supportive of a muscular foreign policy and higher defense spending; whether these traditions still hold and will translate again into formal policy and legislative provisions is unknown. The Republican Party is currently involved in a debate between its conservative establishment wing, which endorses intervention abroad and expanding military capabilities, and a libertarian insurgent wing, which is more selective in regard to intervention and more prepared to scrutinize Department of Defense organizational performance. The former will have concurrent allies in the form of bureaucratic constituencies and the industrial base; the latter will not, but is able to mobilize voters. Accordingly, a potential compromise would entail a Republican Congress producing a fairly static defense budget (or minor increases), with substantial shifts within the underlying accounts.

Second, the aforementioned debate between the two wings will play out more sharply in the 2016 Republican presidential primarily election. The final presidential ticket may be balanced, but a single individual will still be the clear representative of one wing or the other.

The last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, named Russia as America’s principal geopolitical threat. In light of interim events, a number of Republican candidates might expand upon that theme.

The Democratic presidential race is less competitive, but the presumed frontrunners are veterans of the incumbent administration and have signaled their readiness to adjust policy. Accordingly, the two major party nominees will likely be proponents of a more confrontational stance and may be prepared to “out-bid” each other. As such, policy after 2017 is very difficult to predict.

To conclude, the military posture in Europe is still undergoing adjustment downward from the end of the Cold War. Russia’s foreign policy, while provocative, will not reverse these plans, but postpone them. Proponents of a “greater commitment” will likely succeed in approving more funding for training, exercises and deployments to Eastern Europe (and maybe accelerated deployment of missile defense systems). Proponents of a “fiscally-responsible” Department of Defense will likely expect continued downsizing and engagement with Russia. Lastly, this baseline will influence the 2016 presidential race and may lead to Democratic and Republican nominees competing on anti-Russia foreign policy positions. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Valentina Colombo

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Valentina Colombo. Questions and Ms. Colombo’s answers are transcribed below.

Valentina Colombo

Valentina Colombo’s research focuses on democratization in the Middle East and North Africa and on radical Islam in the Middle East and Europe. She teaches geopolitics of the Islamic world at the European University in Rome and is a Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. She is also a member of the Committee for Italian Islam at the Ministry of Interior, Rome. Her publications (in Italian) include Christianity in the Arab World (2013), Forbidden in the Name of Allah (2010) and Islam: Instructions for Use (2009).

Mabel Gonzalez Bustelo: Do you see the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir and similar organizations as potential allies in the struggle against terrorism and violence including first Al Qaeda and now ISIS? What could be the impact of political events in Egypt, notably their criminalization and declaration as a terrorist organization, in their political evolution and influence in the Muslim world?

Answer: When ISIS’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the “return of caliphate,” a heated debate was ignited among the most relevant actors of radical Islam, in the Middle East and in the West, about the Islamic legitimacy of the establishment of a new caliphate. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire it was the first time that someone declared the return of the caliphate ruling on a specific territory, but at the same time with universal aspiration for all Muslims. A closer look at the different reactions shows that in the Islamic world, there are at least two main ways to understand the caliphate: the jihadi one, which is unambiguous and clear, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s, which is more subtle and pragmatic.

The Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda all reacted in a negative and critical way. All organizations criticized the way al-Baghdadi imposed a caliphate from above without the consensus of the Islamic community. The International Union of Muslim Scholars, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and headed by Yusuf Qaradawi, said although it shared the “dream” of reestablishing the caliphate, “Islam has taught us and the school of life has taught us that large projects require great reflection, deep preparation, a convergence of forces.” A caliph needed to be “representative of the umma,” it added, and it was only for this reason “the announcement of the caliphate is not sufficient to establish the caliphate.”

This is why I do not believe the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Islamist organization could be a partner in the fight against ISIS. It has also to be noted that after the beginning of the military coalition attacks on ISIS, the Brotherhood has been very critical of intervention.

As far as the criminalization of the Brotherhood in Egypt is concerned, it will certainly shift their main Middle Eastern headquarters from Egypt to some other safe haven such as Qatar or Turkey. As a matter of fact, the Turkish government, ideologically linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, has recently acted in an ambiguous way in the fight against ISIS, showing that the ideology of the Brotherhood and ISIS can sometimes converge.

Curious Wisdom“: Is a “moderate” jihadist simply an oxymoron? If so, why do we continue to hear this label as if it is valid?

Answer: In 2009, Fareed Zakaria wrote in Newsweek magazine that it should be “worth stepping back and trying to understand the phenomenon of Islamic radicalism” because “not all these Islamists advocate global , host terrorists or launch operations against the outside world — in fact, most do not.”

Then he gave a shocking example:

Consider the most difficult example, the Taliban. The Taliban have done all kinds of terrible things in Afghanistan. But so far, no Afghan Taliban has participated at any significant level in a global terrorist attack… Most Taliban want Islamic rule locally, not violent jihad globally.

I believe that describing as “moderate” a jihadi only because he is fighting in Afghanistan in Pakistan or in a faraway country is simply a naive oxymoron, but it does not change the content of the term jihadi nor does it change the aims and strategy of jihadis.

A similar oxymoron has been used after the so-called Arab spring to define the Muslim Brotherhood as “moderate” extremists. However, as Mohammed Charfi, former Tunisian minister of education, observed in his essay, “Islam et liberté,”

Today the observers call a “moderate” Islamist the person who, with Westerners, uses reasonable language and who does not choose an openly violent action. However, even though his style is calm and the rejection of violence seems sincere, since the movement is always linked to sharia and the sacralization of history, his moderation remains provisional and indicates a strategy of waiting, because the ingredients of radicalization have not disappeared.

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Carl Wege

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Carl Wege. Questions and Prof. Wege’s answers are transcribed below.

Carl Wege

Carl Wege is a Professor of Political Science at the College of Coastal Georgia. He has traveled in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Israel and published a variety of articles discussing terrorism and security relationships involving Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

Etah Ewane: Historically, relations between Iran and Arab countries have been hostile and Syria has always been used as a tool through which Teheran has supplied weapons to various Islamist groups. To what extent would the collapse of the Assad regime in Syria affect Iran’s geostrategic influence in the region?

Answer: The collapse of the Assad regime would be devastating to everything Iran has accrued in regional influence since the 1979 revolution. The Syrian state has been shattered and Bashar Assad is now little more than the local face of an Iranian occupation that has shed rivers of Sunni blood in his attempt to maintain power. Therefore any successor Sunni government would be hostile to Iran.

Since the Islamic State has now spit Iraq in two, Iran’s Resistance Axis (Jabhat al-Muqawama) has been shattered from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. The collapse of the Assad government has effectively left a Russian-supported and Iranian-dependent canton of internally-displaced minorities including most Alawite, Christians and some clans of neutralist Druze encompassing the space in western Syria. Essentially Iran, primarily through the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard, is managing a constellation of militias ranging from Alawite Jaysh al-Sha’bi and Ba’ath Battalions to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib al-Haq militias.

In the end, though, it is likely that the militias defending this western Syrian rump state will essentially control a series of cantons united primarily by allegiance to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard through the figure head of Bashar Assad. “Saving Syria” therefore is second only to the acquisition of nuclear weapons in Tehran’s hierarchy of needs. Read More →

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Christine MacNulty

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Christine MacNulty. Questions and Ms. MacNulty’s answers are transcribed below.

Christine MacNulty

Christine MacNulty, CEO of Applied Futures, Inc., has forty years’ experience as a consultant in long-term strategic planning for concepts as well as organizations. She has also specialized in understanding cultural change. For the last twenty years, most of her consultancy has been conducted for the Department of Defense and NATO. She has also worked with many Fortune Global 500 companies.

She is the co-author of Strategy with Passion: A Leader’s Guide to Exploiting the Future, to be released in November 2014.

Christine MacNulty: Since both questions relate to Values, some background is required:

Values are emotional constructs that underpin attitudes and behavior. They are closely related to beliefs, which are convictions that are held to be true by individuals or groups and they are also related to psychological needs. They are longer term and they change only slowly. Beliefs are long-held perceptions that have generally been inculcated from birth by family, teachers and leaders of the society, although they can and do change slowly over time. In some cases they may change quickly, generally through some extreme (good or bad) event. Motivations are the factors that compel a person or group to act and they are functions of values, beliefs and needs. Understanding motivations helps us understand why people do as they do. Behavior tells us the what people are doing. If we understand the why, we have a greater chance to anticipate what people are likely to do next.

The values models we use are based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and augmented by the work of Shalom Schwartz, Geert Hofstede, Ron Inglehart and others.

Monica J. Jerbi: A number of peer-reviewed studies analyzing the cultural theories of Hofstede (1984), Triandis (1995) and Schwartz (1994) show how macro-social and macro-economic variables impact and actually change culture over time, particularly in regards to individualism/collectivism, power distance and autonomy/conservation. These values also shape a country’s ability to transition to a functioning pluralistic democracy, rate of economic development, the likelihood of extreme corruption derailing democracy, etc.

Considering war disrupts macro-social and macro-economic variables, how does this make framing behavioral/strategic communications messages to alter behaviors and attitudes (particularly aimed at potential insurgents and terrorists) harder and what can be done to overcome these additional obstacles?

Answer: First, from my own perspective, I think that assigning a direction of causality to such factors as macro-economic variables is difficult, especially with respect to values. Factors such as access to education and communication may increase the numbers of people with certain values more rapidly than they would otherwise, but it’s a change in values in the first place that creates and increases the demand for the education and communication. And the question itself states that values shape such elements as democracy, economic development, etc. And I agree with that.

However, moving on to the second part of the question: At a very broad-brush level, war generally occurs because one leader/group with one set of values wants to vanquish another for reasons of land, resources, historical argument, religion or ideology. The instigators of the conflict are unlikely to be dissuaded by any communication short of believable threat of annihilation. The people who may be dissuaded are the followers or those who support the fighters in some way.

Understanding values offers one of the greatest benefits to effective influence and communication campaigns. Because they operate at a deep emotional level, messages that appeal to values are far more influential (for good or ill) than messages that address attitudes or behavior — they resonate more deeply and they are more memorable. If we want to influence behavior, of nations, groups or even the behavior in the marketplace, then the closer we can come to appealing to values, the more likely we are to be effective in our efforts.

However, there is an important element here: people are very reluctant (absent force) to act in opposition to their values — especially when they are tied to ideology, religion or honor. The West has sometimes failed to take cognizance of this, and thus campaigns have failed. Understanding values thoroughly enables the crafting of more effective campaigns.

Many strategic communications campaigns, information operations and psychological operations have addressed behavior. Clearly, we would like to prevent people from joining ISIS, for instance, just as we would like to stop people from planting IEDs, but unless we can understand people’s motivations for those actions, that is not likely to happen. And then, once we know their motivations for such behavior in the first place, we need to understand how we, in the West, can motivate them to do differently. And we may not be able to. It may take access to better education, jobs, changes of governments and other action within their own countries.

Having read interviews with former foreign fighters, especially second-generation Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants from the United Kingdom and the United States, it seems that some have felt like second class citizens within those countries, unable to make their way in society, the educational system and employment. Shame and guilt, values inculcated in their parents’ countries, are powerful motivators. They seem to need the validation of honor earned in battle to gain a measure of self-worth. Do we know enough to know how to overcome motivations of this sort?

Finally, what can we do to improve strategic communications? The first thing is to think strategically. Think about Nth order effects. If we have a vision and strategy with respect to a particular country or terrorist group, for instance, then responses to events can be crafted in the context of that trajectory, and can be aligned with the overall strategy. If we have no strategy, then no amount of reactionary crisis communications can make up for that lack of strategy. Read More →

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