Assessment of Strategic Implications of Population Dynamics in the Central Region—Integration Report: Radicalization

March 2020 No Comments

Authors | Editors: Polansky, S. (NSI, Inc.); Canna, S. (NSI, Inc.); Popp, G. (NSI, Inc.)

Report Preview

At the request of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), SMA initiated a study to understand the strategic implications of destabilizing population dynamics within the Central Region. The effort examined drivers of instability in the region emerging from radicalization, great power competition, state-level instability, and black swan scenarios. This report integrates the research conducted by the teams listed on the front cover in response to USCENTCOM’s questions about great power competition. This report is intended to be a succinct, easily navigable representation of the exceptional work by the collective SMA team. Please click on the links embedded in the report to go directly to the research studies.

Bottom Lines Up Front

  • This series of USCENTCOM questions is largely oriented around processes of radicalization and deradicalization, which focus on deeply held beliefs. However, several studies suggested that a similar or greater emphasis on behavior (e.g., disengagement) may be a more practical goal in the short term.
  • The questions also assume a reliable base of generalizable findings exists for deradicalization and reintegration programs, from which lessons learned can be derived and applied across a variety of contexts. This in turn presupposes effective assessments are in place using reliable metrics to determine each program’s degree of success. Yet the research base is both narrow and largely based on Western populations, which limits generalizability.
  • Moreover, while there are some common components to programs generally thought to be successful, there is no one size fits all solution for deradicalization, reintegration, and reconciliation program design. Instead, programs should be tailored to the specifics of the context and target populations in question.
  • Additionally, approaches should be both multi-level (e.g., addressing the needs of both individuals and communities) and harness the inputs of multiple organizations (e.g., taking a whole of government approach, working with US partners and local entities).
  • Solutions also require both short and long time horizons. As an example of the latter, overcoming years of trauma and shifting people’s outlook on life in order to effect behavioral and especially attitudinal change are long-term processes and require sustained follow-up, including after-care.
  • The research conducted for this effort suggests that addressing the root causes of trauma and recruitment to violent extremism, rather than taking a reactive approach, is the best long-term solution for breaking the cycle of radicalization. Nonetheless, several effective and impactful measures can be taken in the short term by, for example, drawing on insights from other fields to inform development of relatively low cost interventions that can be scaled to the resource environment (e.g., low or medium).

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