Thursday, August 6, 2009

Unstable Countries: Will We Ever Get Ahead of the Curve?

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Jamie Morgan. The views expressed are her own.

There has been much talk on the media waves about whether the Islamist sect Boko Harem is Nigeria’s version of the Taliban. “Will the next attack come from Nigeria??” In my opinion, the answer to that question is a moot point. The real question is, what is the United States doing to ensure that the Nigerian government begins to address the source of these problems – the lack of infrastructure and services for its people? And how long will the Obama administration’s attention span last?

Washington seems to have what I call the Terrorism Test. Violence erupts in a new country. Is the group connected with a known terrorist group? If Yes, we care. If No, we don’t. Secretary Clinton met this morning with the President of Somalia’s floundering Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and pledged additional military support – in the form of 40 tons of weapons – to the government forces. The support to the TFG’s security forces is the right course of action. Thus far the security situation on the ground in the areas held by Al-Shabaab has been so bad that many of the aid workers implementing the touted $150 million in U.S. assistance have been forced to relocate to the north – where the aid is much less needed.

Yet the attention to Somalia comes, again, once the crisis has already erupted. This type of reactionary policy-making will never get us ahead of the curve on the threats to U.S. national security – terrorism or otherwise. One never knows what the next big threat will be, or from where the next terrorist group will emerge. The nuanced factors that turn a population frustrated with its government into one that channels its outrage towards Western world are many, and we have yet to fully understand them. Thus, let’s start giving focused attention and proper resources to unstable regions from the start, not waiting until they turn into full-scale crises.

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