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Middle East & North Africa - Recent


Research on the Middle East and North Africa focuses on three central areas. These are (1) US-Middle Eastern strategic cooperation and conflict, (2) the role and importance of political Islam in the region, and (3) insurgency and terrorism both in and emanating from the region as well as ways to address these problems. Dr. Andrew Terrill is our Middle East and North Africa specialist.

New References from the Military Education Research Library Network

Syria: Congressional Hearing on Human Rights

(9/30/11) A Congressional hearing on U.S. human rights policy toward Iran and Syria. (View it at NDU)

Syria: Congressional Hearing on Human Rights

(9/30/11) A Congressional hearing on U.S. human rights policy toward Iran and Syria. (View it at NDU)

Saudi Arabia: NSC Statement on Reforms

(9/30/11) A statement from the National Security Council on women's voting rights in Saudi Arabia. (View it at NDU)

Saudi Arabia: NSC Statement on Reforms

(9/30/11) A statement from the National Security Council on women's voting rights in Saudi Arabia. (View it at NDU)

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    Added June 04, 2015

    The Strategic Importance of the Global Oil Market

    Authored by Dr. Leif Rosenberger.
    View the Executive Summary

    The global oil market in 2015 is not what it used to be. This Letort Paper explains why there are new winners and losers both inside the United States, as well as globally, and how to respond to challenges to the international oil industry.

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    Added June 03, 2015

    Iraq’s Shia Warlords and Their Militias: Political and Security Challenges and Options

    Authored by Dr. Norman Cigar.
    View the Executive Summary

    The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seen a resurgence of the Shia militias in Iraq and unprecedented prominence for the warlords who lead them. Given the presence of U.S. Landpower in Iraq as part of the fight against ISIS and the close links of some of the militias with Iran, understanding the militias’ role and capabilities is key for force protection and operational security, as well as for policy concerns.

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    Added May 12, 2015

    From Frozen Ties to Strategic Engagement: U.S.-Iranian Relationship in 2030

    Authored by Roman Muzalevsky.
    View the Executive Summary

    The possibility of P5+1 and Iran reaching a nuclear deal and benefits of a U.S.-Iranian strategic détente prompt an assessment of a U.S.-Iranian strategic relationship over the next 15 years. This work identifies three possible types of such relationship, providing recommendations for the United States, Iran, and their partners to cultivate and prepare for a strategic shift that such a revised relationship entails.

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    Added May 04, 2015

    The Gulf Moment: Arab Relations Since 2011

    Authored by Dr. Florence Gaub.
    View the Executive Summary

    The Arab Spring has changed the region not only at the domestic level, it has set in motion a profound transition from how these regional states once related to each other to that of a new intra-regional dynamic. In diplomatic terms, it has entered a Gulf Moment, where regional decisions are now taken by the Gulf states themselves.

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    Added April 13, 2015

    Another Brick in the Wall: The Israeli Experience in Missile Defense

    Authored by Dr. Jean-Loup Samaan.
    View the Executive Summary

    The Israeli experience in missile defense reveals crucial lessons on the military adaptation to both new threats and new remedies that have direct implications for the United States and its allies.

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    Added April 02, 2015

    Strengthening Statehood Capabilities for Successful Transitions in the Middle East / North Africa Region

    Authored by Dr. Mohammed El-Katiri.
    View the Executive Summary

    The post-revolution political elites in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia are struggling to strengthen their legitimacy in the eyes of the public, but their attempts to gather support for much-needed new political institutions and reforms have made limited progress. This monograph explains why and suggests what can be done to help.

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    Added February 20, 2015

    Prospects for Iran's New Direction

    Authored by Keir Giles.
    View the Executive Summary

    This monograph, completed ahead of the November 2014 deadline, examines some of the underlying factors which will be constant in dealing with a nuclear capable Iran under President Hassan Rouhani, and which will help determine the success or failure of talks in 2015.

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    Added February 10, 2015

    Assessing Egyptian Public Support for Security Crackdowns in the Sinai

    Authored by Gregory Aftandilian.
    View the Executive Summary

    This monograph explores the terrorist groups emanating from the Sinai Peninsula and assesses the level of Egyptian public support for the government's security crackdown on them. It offers recommendations for U.S. policymakers to help Egypt deal with this terrorist threat, not only militarily but in the social and economic spheres.

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    Added December 19, 2014

    Regionalizing East Mediterranean Gas: Energy Security, Stability, and the U.S. Role

    Authored by Dr. Mohammed El-Katiri, Ms. Laura El-Katiri.
    View the Executive Summary

    The tremendous economic and geostrategic significance of the East Mediterranean's newly discovered and potential future hydrocarbon resources also holds the potential for new grounds for conflict. The significance of these discoveries to the geopolitics of the East Mediterranean and Middle East Regions as well as potential U.S. strategic responses to these unfolding challenges is examined.

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    Added November 18, 2014

    Tribal Militias: An Effective Tool to Counter Al-Qaida and Its Affiliates?

    Authored by Dr. Norman Cigar.
    View the Executive Summary

    Since many of the societies in which Al-Qaida, its affiliates, and offshoots operate have a significant tribal component, tribally-based militias may be a critical tool in fighting against Al-Qaida, because such militias can provide a cost-effective mechanism and serve as a force multiplier for U.S. Landpower. However, tribal militias are no panacea, but can be a two-edged sword and, like any weapon, has to be understood and wielded with caution and skill in order to avoid unintended consequences.

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    Added November 18, 2014

    The Role of Leadership in Transitional States: The Cases of Lebanon, Israel-Palestine

    Authored by Dr. Anastasia Filippidou.
    View the Executive Summary

    Asymmetric leadership of radical organizations: necessary for the transition to stability, but also part of the problem.

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    Added October 28, 2014

    Maneuvering the Islamist-Secularist Divide in the Arab World: How the United States Can Preserve its Interests and Values in an Increasingly Polarized Environment

    Authored by Gregory Aftandilian.
    View the Executive Summary

    This monograph explores the growing Islamist-secularist divide in Arab countries, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, which has polarized such societies and often led to zero-sum politics. It offers recommendations for U.S. policymakers to maneuver through this divide while preserving U.S. interests and values.

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    Added October 01, 2014

    United States-Gulf Cooperation Council Security Coopeeration in a Multipolar World

    Authored by Dr. Mohammed El-Katiri.
    View the Executive Summary

    Military and security cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states is of continuing importance for the United States given the region's pivotal location in the Middle East and proximity to Iran. This monograph examines recent developments in the political and economic dynamics in GCC countries and their neighbors, and the potential implications for this cooperation.

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    Added September 11, 2014

    After the Spring: Reforming Arab Armies

    Authored by Dr. Florence Gaub.
    View the Executive Summary

    The Arab Spring has returned Arab military forces and their necessity for reform to the forefront. Outside actors, such as the United States, are now asked to rethink their security assistance in broader terms, shifting toward comprehensive security sector reform. As several countries are facing large-scale security implosion, terrorism, politicization of the military and protracted instability, the time for reform was never more imminent than now.

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    Added July 21, 2014

    Revival of Political Islam in the Aftermath of Arab Uprisings: Implications for the Region and Beyond

    Authored by Dr. Mohammed El-Katiri.
    View the Executive Summary

    The rise to power of Islamist political parties in a number of North African states over the past 3 years has caused widespread concern over the future domestic and foreign policy directions of those states. This monograph explores political change in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, and concludes that despite political crises in each country, worst case scenarios have not been borne out and there is hope for optimism.

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    Added June 13, 2014

    Countering Radicalization and Recruitment to Al-Qaeda: Fighting the War of Deeds

    Authored by Dr. Paul Kamolnick.
    View the Executive Summary

    Fighting the War of Deeds begins by taking deeds seriously—deadly serious—as action, policy, and communication. As communication, deeds furnish the U.S. Government a uniquely potent means for countering al-Qaeda’s terrorist propaganda effectively, and also building longer-term alliances based on mutuality with the Arab and Muslim world.

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    Added May 23, 2014

    Islamism and Security in Bosnia-Herzegovina

    Authored by Leslie S. Lebl.
    View the Executive Summary

    Bosnia-Herzegovina, once thought to be on the way to joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU), is instead falling behind, mired in political bickering, economic stalemate and governmental dysfunction. In this difficult situation, Islamism poses a significant threat to Bosnia’s fragile domestic stability.

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    Added May 16, 2014

    From War to Deterrence? Israel-Hezbollah Conflict Since 2006

    Authored by Dr. Jean-Loup Samaan.
    View the Executive Summary

    Over the last 7 years, the border between Israel and Lebanon has remained quiet. Against all odds, in a Middle East experiencing tremendous challenges, Israel and Hezbollah did not trigger a new conflict. Here is the paradox of stability between these two foes which is at the origin of this monograph.

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    Added May 06, 2014

    The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq

    Authored by Dr. Azeem Ibrahim.
    View the Executive Summary

    The Syrian civil war has allowed al-Qaeda to recover from its setbacks up to 2010. Syria has also seen a civil war between two al-Qaeda inspired factions (Al Nusrah and the Iraq based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and indicates there are limits to its ability to cooperate with other anti-Assad factions and gain popular appeal.

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    Added March 12, 2014

    Turkey-Kurdish Regional Government Relations After the U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq: Putting the Kurds on the Map?

    Authored by Bill Park.
    View the Executive Summary

    The withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011 left behind a set of unresolved problems in the relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and the Federal Government in Baghdad, compounded by Erbil’s subsequent pursuit of an energy relationship with Turkey. This has deepened both Turkish-Iraqi and regional sectarian tensions and, along with developments in Syria, has raised the specter of wider Kurdish self-determination, a prospect that Washington has been slow to recognize.

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    Added December 30, 2013

    Africa's Booming Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Production: National Security Implications for the United States and China

    Authored by David E. Brown.
    View the Executive Summary

    Two key long-term energy trends are shifting the strategic balance between the United States and China, the world’s superpower rivals in the 21st century: first, a domestic boom in U.S. shale oil and gas dramatically boosting America’s energy security; second, the frenetic and successful search for hydrocarbons in Africa making it an increasingly crucial element in China’s energy diversification strategy.

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    Added August 21, 2013

    2013-14 Key Strategic Issues List

    Edited by Professor John F. Troxell.
    For several years, the Strategic Studies Institute has annually published the Key Strategic Issues List (KSIL). The overall purpose of this document is to make students and other researchers aware of strategic topics that are of special interest to the U.S. Army. Part I of KSIL is entitled "Army Priorities for Strategic Analysis" (APSA) and is a list of high-priority topics submitted by Headquarters, Department of the Army. Part II is entitled "Command Sponsored Topics" and represents the high-priority command-specific topics submitted by MACOMs and ASCCs. This KSIL provides military and civilian researchers worldwide a listing of the Army's most critical national security issues.

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    Added August 08, 2013

    AFRICOM at 5 Years: The Maturation of a New U.S. Combatant Command

    Authored by David E. Brown.
    View the Executive Summary

    Created in 2007, the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has matured greatly over the last 5 years, overcoming much of the initial resistance from African stakeholders and the U.S. interagency about a “militarization” of U.S. foreign policy in Africa. This Letort Paper describes the geostrategic, operational, and intellectual changes that explain why AFRICOM was created, debunks three negative myths about AFRICOM’s current operations, and raises five issues important to AFRICOM’s future, including the need to carry out a “right-sizing” exercise at AFRICOM during a time of severe budget constraints and a real risk for the United States of “strategic insolvency.”

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    Added June 28, 2013

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Libya: Reviewing Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR

    Authored by Dr. Florence Gaub.
    View the Executive Summary

    NATO's Libya Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR is considered a military success. As this monograph shows, multiple strategic lessons can be learned from it.

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    Added June 21, 2013

    The Struggle for Yemen and the Challenge of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

    Authored by Dr. W. Andrew Terrill.
    View the Executive Summary

    How does al-Qaeda's regional and international terrorist acts compare with those of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), particularly in Yemen? Although Yemen's new reform government defeated AQAP and recaptured areas lost to AQAP in 2012, the terrorists remain an extremely dangerous force seeking to reassert themselves at this time of transition in Yemen.

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    Added June 10, 2013

    The Future of the Arab Gulf Monarchies in the Age of Uncertainties

    Authored by Dr. Mohammed El-Katiri.
    View the Executive Summary

    This monograph assesses the challenges facing the Arab Gulf’s rulers, and proposes meaningful political reform as a means of mitigating these challenges.

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    Added May 17, 2013

    The Challenge of Drug Trafficking to Democratic Governance and Human Security in West Africa

    Authored by David E. Brown.
    View the Executive Summary

    International criminal networks—some with links to terrorism—represent an existential threat to democratic governance of already fragile states in West Africa, and are using drugs to buy political power, fray West Africa’s traditional social fabric, and create a public health crisis. Drug trafficking represents the most serious challenge to human security in the region since resource conflicts rocked several West African countries in the early 1990s; international aid to the subregion’s “war on drugs” is only in an initial stage, and progress will be have to be measured in decades, not years.

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    Added May 13, 2013

    War and Insurgency in the Western Sahara

    Authored by Staff Researcher.
    View the Executive Summary

    Home to the largest functional military barrier in the world, the Western Sahara has a long history of colonial conquest and resistance, guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency, and evolving strategic thought. This monograph explores the past, present, and future of the region, including its relationship to developments in Morocco, Algeria, and elsewhere in North Africa.

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    Added April 11, 2013

    Egypt's New Regime and the Future of the U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Relationship

    Authored by Gregory Aftandilian.
    View the Executive Summary

    This monograph, completed in August 2012, analyzes the developments in Egypt from January 2011 to August 2012 and addresses the following questions that are pertinent to U.S. policymakers: How does the United States maintain good relations and preserve its strategic partnership with Egypt under Cairo’s new political leadership and the changing political environment in the country? How does it do so while adhering to American values such as supporting democracy even when those coming to power do not share U.S. strategic goals?

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    Added March 20, 2013

    Governance, Identity, and Counterinsurgency: Evidence from Ramadi and Tal Afar

    Authored by Dr. Michael Fitzsimmons.
    View the Executive Summary

    Western thinking on counterinsurgency seems to be that success in countering insurgencies depends on a perception of legitimacy among local populations. However, it may be more correct to consider the identity of who governs, rather than on how whoever governs governs.

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    Added October 31, 2012

    State-Building Challenges in a Post-Revolution Libya

    Authored by Dr. Mohammed El-Katiri.
    Following the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya’s National Transitional Council inherited a difficult and volatile domestic situation. The new leadership faces serious challenges in all areas of statehood. Libya’s immediate future is of critical importance, consequently, it is especially important for Libya's interim government to build the political institutions for a functioning modern democratic state.

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    Added September 19, 2012

    The Prospects for Security Sector Reform in Tunisia: A Year After the Revolution

    Authored by Dr. Querine Hanlon.
    The Arab Spring began in Tunisia, and in the year since the revolution, Tunisia has undergone a remarkable transition to democratic rule. The legacy of the previous regime looms large, however, as Tunisia’s new government faces major challenges implementing Security Sector Reform.

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    Added September 17, 2012

    Hidden Dragon, Crouching Lion: How China's Advance in Africa is Underestimated and Africa's Potential Underappreciated

    Authored by David E. Brown.
    In 2010, China eclipsed the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner. Beijing has accomplished this by using a tied aid, trade, and development finance strategy to promote its commercial and political interests on the continent, and its status as a rising global power. This monograph examines the origins of China’s rapid economic advance in Africa; whether this advance will help or hurt Africa; and, the implications that this ecomomic advance will have for the United States.

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    Added August 01, 2012

    Against All Odds: Relations between NATO and the MENA Region

    Authored by Dr. Florence Gaub.
    Whereas NATO had no relationships with the Middle East and North Africa at all until 1994, it has expanded now to an extent where the League of Arab States mandated its Libya mission in 2011. This monograph explains this unlikely development.

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    Added August 01, 2012

    2012-13 Key Strategic Issues List

    Edited by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, II.
    The purpose of the Key Strategic Issues List is to provide military and civilian researchers a ready reference for issues of special interest to the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense.

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    Added May 01, 2012

    Lessons of the Iraqi De-Ba'athification Program for Iraq's Future and the Arab Revolutions

    Authored by Dr. W. Andrew Terrill.
    This monograph considers both the future of Iraq and the differences and similarities between events in Iraq and the Arab Spring states. Serious and expanding mistakes by new governments are possible in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolutions, and any lessons that can be gleaned from earlier conflicts will be of considerable value to those nations. Moreover, U.S. Army officers and senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) may often have unique opportunities and unique credibility to offer advice on the lessons of Iraq to their counterparts in some of the Arab Spring nations.

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    Added March 14, 2012

    Delegitimizing Al-Qaeda: A Jihad-Realist Approach

    Authored by Dr. Paul Kamolnick.
    Preventing radicalization and recruitment to al-Qaeda’s terrorism is vital to U.S. national security. This monograph suggests a distinct “jihad-realist” approach for partially accomplishing this elusive strategic objective.

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    Added December 08, 2011

    The Saudi-Iranian Rivalry and the Future of Middle East Security

    Authored by Dr. W. Andrew Terrill.
    Saudi Arabia and Iran have often behaved as serious rivals for influence in the Middle East and especially the Gulf area since at least Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. While both nations define themselves as Islamic, the differences between their foreign policies could hardly be more dramatic. Recently, the rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran has intensified and been reflected in their policies involving a number of regional states including Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and others.

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    Added September 30, 2011

    Presidential Succession Scenarios in Egypt and Their Impact on U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Relations

    Authored by Gregory Aftandilian.
    This monograph explores the critical question of who might succeed President Hosni Mubarak by examining various succession scenarios in Egypt. Given the extensive political, security, and economic ties between the United States and Egypt, the monograph also examines the policy implications of each of these scenarios and makes recommendations for U.S. policymakers.

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    Added May 19, 2011

    Rebuilding Armed Forces: Learning from Iraq and Lebanon

    Authored by Dr. Florence Gaub.
    Learning from the armed forces of Iraq and Lebanon might not seem the first instinct when it comes to improving post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Yet, the two cases offer useful insight into these processes, what to avoid and what to emphasize.

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    Added March 09, 2011

    India in Africa: Implications of an Emerging Power for AFRICOM and U.S. Strategy

    Authored by Dr. J. Peter Pham.
    Little attention has been given to the fact that India is fast becoming one of Africa’s most important partners, not just in the economic realm but also in the political and security sectors. The author argues that, in the context of the broader U.S.-India strategic partnership as well as America’s specific interests in Africa, the United States should welcome India’s contributions to and engage with India on the African continent.

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    Added January 27, 2011

    The Conflicts in Yemen and U.S. National Security

    Authored by Dr. W. Andrew Terrill.
    Yemen is not currently a failed state, but it is experiencing huge political and economic problems that can have a direct impact on U.S. interests in the region. More recently, Yemen has also emerged as one of the most important theaters for the struggle against al-Qaeda. Under these circumstances, advancing U.S. interests by helping the Yemenis is a major foreign policy challenge that must be addressed by U.S. strategic leaders.

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    Added November 02, 2010

    America's Most Committed Muslim Ally

    Authored by Dr. W. Andrew Terrill.
    Each month a member of the SSI faculty writes an editorial for our monthly newsletter. This is the Op-Ed for the November 2010 newsletter.

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    Added September 23, 2010

    Preparing for One War and Getting Another?

    Authored by Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, II.
    The idea that war or strategy is driven by a paradoxical logic is attractive, but a number of questions remain unanswered. If war has its own logic, rather than its own grammar, where does the logic of policy fit in? If the logic of strategy is paradoxical, how can it be taught? What are paradoxes, and can they be useful in guiding our strategic choices?

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    Added September 09, 2010

    Somalia: Line in the Sand--Identification of MYM Vulnerabilities

    Authored by LTC Eloy E. Cuevas, Madeleine Wells.
    Continuing instability in Somalia has increased concern that terrorists who seek to establish a foothold in Africa may use such insecure places as a safe haven and launching pad for future attacks. Several attempts have been made to establish lawful governments in Somalia; however, warlord and clan interests have managed to take center stage among the population. The Somali-based al-Shabaab (also known as the Mujahidin Youth Movement [MYM]) is a militant organization born out of both successive regional turmoil and international salafi-jihadi ideology, which continues to actively undermine the United Nations (UN)-supported African Union (AU) peacekeeping force, the fledging Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and all UN efforts to support Somalis in creating a stable state.

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    Added May 17, 2010

    Sufism in Northern Nigeria: A Force for Counter-Radicalization?

    Authored by Dr. Jonathan N. C. Hill.
    This monograph examines the roles played by the Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya Sufi Brotherhoods in countering Islamic radicalism in northern Nigeria.

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    Added May 06, 2010

    Decisionmaking In Operation IRAQI FREEDOM: The Strategic Shift of 2007

    Authored by Dr. Steven Metz.
    Was the 2007 decision to surge forces into Iraq effective in turning the war from a potential disaster to a possible success?

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    Added April 23, 2010

    Shades of CORDS in the Kush: The False Hope of "Unity of Effort" in American Counterinsurgency

    Authored by Mr. Henry Nuzum.
    Counterinsurgency (COIN) requires an integrated military, political, and economic program best developed by teams that field both civilians and soldiers. This Paper describes the benefits that unity of command at every level would bring to the American war in Afghanistan.

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    Added April 16, 2010

    The Construction of Liberal Democracy: The Role of Civil-Military Institutions in State and Nation-Building in West Germany and South Africa

    Authored by Dr. Jack J. Porter.
    West Germany’s and South Africa’s experiences remind U.S. policymakers of the tremendous obstacles and challenges that confront states as they attempt to install liberal, democratic political institutions.

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    Added April 14, 2010

    The State-Owned Enterprise as a Vehicle for Stability

    Authored by Dr. Neil Efird.
    State-owned enterprises affect stability in conflict-prone environments, and decisive control of them creates positive or negative conditions. However, it is a challenge to know how and when to use these enterprises, and a good set of metrics is necessary to measure their effectiveness.

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