How to Apply the IOPs to Counterterrorism Essay

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Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab has been wreaking havoc in the region since 2015. Al-Shabaab seriously undermines stability and security in the region, necessitating an intelligent and coordinated application of the instruments of power (IOPs). Recently, there has been some dissention among al-Shabaab leaders over their strategic alliances with al-Qaeda on the one hand, and their interest in helping Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), on the other (U.S. Department of State, 2015). In spite of factions within al-Shabaab, the group remains relatively strong and has been able to successfully establish safe havens throughout Somalia. Their safe havens have allowed the group to wage successful attacks both within Somalia and further abroad, raising red flags and encouraging intervention. For example, al-Shabaab is responsible for attacks on major public infrastructure targets like the Mogadishu International Airport, government agencies, and key hotels as well as the 2015 attack on a university in Kenya (U.S. Department of State, 2015). In response to the al-Shabaab attack on Garissa University College, the governments of Kenya and neighboring nations have stepped up their counterterrorism efforts through the increased use of multiple IOPs including diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments.

The United States government has historically pursued counterterrorism within an international relations framework of liberalism. Liberalism implies that the focus remains on forming strategic alliances to create an interdependent network to achieve common goals. Indeed, the liberal approach should continue to inform some elements of counterterrorism strategy in East Africa. However, changing the counterterrorism approach to constructivism could prove more effective in the long run. The most immediate goal with regards to al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups in East Africa would be to infiltrate and eliminate safe havens, a goal that has been pursued by the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and the intelligence community (Williams-Bridgers, 2011). However, as Smith (2007) points out, about fifty times as much money is spent on the military IOP versus on diplomacy. The past several decades have seen a shift in American foreign policy and counterterrorism strategy away from diplomacy as an IOP. Neglecting the importance of diplomacy as an instrument of power may be hampering efforts to wipe out terrorist groups in East Africa swiftly and decisively. Diplomacy, the instrument of power used by the Department of State, needs to be wielded more strategically in the region to enable the construction of new alliances, not just with governments but with local leaders.

Diplomacy alone is not enough, though, especially as the Department of State pursues a potentially problematic and aggressive policy of “transformational diplomacy,” (Smith, 2007, p. 8). Transformational diplomacy is based on the assumption that the nation-state is the primary political domain, but in East Africa, the domains of community leadership and religious and/or educational institutions may be more important for diplomatic relations. State-building, in the neo-liberal worldview, needs to be set aside in favor of a constructivist policy that understands the value of another crucial instrument of power: information. When information and diplomacy are fused, the potential for counterterrorism success grows. Diplomacy and information share in common an interest in creating and maintaining structures and institutions, including the transformation of core value systems, ethics, and worldviews. Both diplomacy and information are IOPs focusing on long-range goals and not immediate action as with the military IOP. The means by which to fuse the goals of information and diplomacy in East Africa include forming alliances between and among educational institutions, religious institutions, the private sector, and the public sector. New media and social media also play a critical role, especially in the use of…

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References



Chun, C.K.S. (2009). Economics: A key element of national power. Retrieved online: http://marshallcenterciss.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16378coll5/id/486

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Smith, A.K. (2007). Turning on the dime: Diplomacy’s role in national security. Strategic Studies Institute (SSI). Retrieved online: http://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB801.pdf

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Williams-Bridgers, J.L. (2011). Combatting terrorism. United States Government Accountability Office. Retrieved online: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11713t.pdf

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