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Combating Terrorism with Socioeconomics: Leveraging the Private Sector

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Journal article

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It is widely recognized that leaders of terrorist organizations come from the ranks of the educated and are mostly driven by extremist ideologies. The foot soldiers of terrorism, however, are often recruited from the deprived masses at the bottom of the socioeconomic and political pyramid. The leaders exploit impoverished and hopeless environments and circumstances to attract the large numbers of people needed to advance their agenda. Millions of Muslim boys in Asia are coming of age and creating a youth bulge. When governments are not able to deliver a vision of hope, mutual respect, and opportunity, these young men end up desperate, frustrated, and humiliated. These are ripe conditions for religious extremism, which can provide a perversely attractive escape from the grinding hopelessness and despair. Thus, it is crucial for U.S. Pacific Command USPACOM to develop a concept of operations to alleviate these conditions. Since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines in 2002, the island of Basilan, where a reign of terror had ruled since the early 1990s, has achieved a secure environment. However, as we have seen in Iraq, this success will be short-lived if the local, state, and central governments are unable to provide a sustained secured atmosphere and meet the expectation of the populace. Although Basilan has made great strides in achieving better economic conditions in recent years, poverty and lack of opportunity are still pervasive. Therefore, our long-term counterterrorism efforts by, through, and with the government of the Philippines must focus on creating sustainable socioeconomic conditions on Basilan island. To put this concept in terms of a principle of war, this is equivalent to conducting an exploitative offensive operation following a successful attack. Exploitation takes advantage of tactical opportunities gained by the initiative.

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science

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