Hey everyone, now that I’m completely spammed up the blog with my old posts, now it’s time for me to actually get to write one in real-time! Obviously I made it safely back to the States and have had some time to work on finishing up my project, which I just managed to get punched off to my adviser. I am glad I didn’t wait around until the 11th hour to finish up the research aspect of it though–Irene clearly was out to get any of us who decided to procrastinate…
I must say, it does feel nice to have the project done–looking back at all of those old entries as I copy-pasted them onto the blog certainly helped give me some perspective of just how much work I’ve done this summer. I think the paper has turned out tremendously well, and although I wasn’t able to squeeze it all into a 5-page memo a la your most hardcore policy memos, I was able to fight it down to seven pages with footnotes. I must say, trying to impart so much information into so little space it substantially more challenging than trying to meet a word/page minimum–there’s no opposite version of “fluff,” only hack and burn and revise, revise, revise…to try to get all the important information across.
I did finally finish up all of those policy recommendations, so here’s just a quick summary of my results: I ultimately determined that the most likely evolutionary futures between the relationship between organized criminal elements in the Sahel and AQIM involve either a status quo-style arrangement where the two bodies work with each other on an ad hoc basis as is convenient, or in fact (in what I would argue is the best-case scenario), AQIM actually devolves from mimicking and co-opting organized crime in the Sahel to finance acts of terrorism to become an organized criminal element in-and-of-itself, purely for profit. i do think there is some small chance that AQIM might strengthen the current relationship and possibly even absorb the financial sides of the preexisting criminal elements, but I think this possibility is far more remote than popular news headlines might lead you to believe.
With those futures in mind, I ended up evaluating three policy proposals. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I pretty much decided that a Yemen-style covert drone war was probably not a great way to go, as unintentional civilian casualties and accusations of government complicity with the “evil” U.S. would only serve to push fringe radicals over to the side of organized crime/terrorism and heighten civil strife in what is in more cases already very fragile governing situations. I also considered a regional cooperative framework model, where organization from perhaps the EU or UN might help the states affected by this issue help themselves, but I also ended up discarding this model because of underlying tensions and rivalries already extant in these states. Instead, my ultimate policy recommendation was that the U.S. and (to a lesser extent) the international community continue to engage the affected states on an individual basis, promoting economic growth, CT, and good governance. However, insofar as I recommend changes to current policy, I also recommend that the U.S. stop the current ad hoc approach and substitute a more comprehensive strategy for these economic and diplomatic efforts with a more firm CT basis at its core.
I have to say, this was a fun project, especially with all the traveling and interviewing I got to do with U.S. officials in Congo. If I wasn’t already doing an honors thesis on nuclear weapons strategies, I probably would want to continue along with this. It’s probably good to take a break though, so I suppose I’ll set this on a shelf for a while and maybe pick it up again at a later date.
I hope everyone else had as great a summer as I did!