Each week our scan collects weak – and less weak – signals…
World – The deadly attack on the Bardo museum in Tunisia, on 18 March, reminded the world that the Salafi-Jihadi threat is far from being overcome, despite some lassitude displayed by crowds and media over such attacks. One of the interesting signals to notice here, is the small number of crowdsourced articles referring to the attack. Only three articles found their way in The Weekly, when the casualties are far more important than those of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris or of the shooting in Denmark, to say nothing of the impacts to Tunisia’s economy and more broadly polity, and in terms of spread of Jihadi attacks, threat to the stability of the region, etc.
The rising disinterest could be checked through another tool, Google Trends, as shown on the picture below. Actually, whatever the “search term” tried (in English and French), the Tunis attack does not make it to Google Trend. Interestingly, this seems to be part of a larger trend that also shows a growing lack of concern for the Islamic State’s executions video, since the burning alive of the Jordanian Pilot, all of them also dwarfed by the Charlie Hebdo attacks (see pictures below).
Three main dangers – and one opportunity – can be identified here. First, if governments and states’ administrations have become too concerned with public and media interest – for example in the context of upcoming elections – thus, considering dwindling public resources, they could fail to properly consider and counter the existing Salafi-Jihadi threat. As a result, the threat may grow also because it is not properly analysed and answered, until it becomes even more severe.
The recent ASEAN decision to focus on the Islamic State as a major threat as their “Defense Ministers Sign Security Declaration” (read the related article by Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat), would tend to show that this first danger may be existing unequally according to regions. The existence of Islamist radical movements in Indonesia, where “Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) who is an imprisoned terrorist convict, has pledged his allegiance to ISIS” in July 2014 (Global Indonesian Voices, 31 July 2014), of Islamist insurgency in the Philippines (see two related articles in the Weekly), of Islamic insurgency in Thailand, of a sensitive balance of identity in Singapore, and of a 60% Muslim (but not Salafi) population in Malaysia, are most probably very operative in creating a strong interest for and sensitivity to the Islamic State’s threat in Southeast Asia. The simple fact that the ASEAN is so concerned about the threat, should be, in itself, a signal that, whatever the public interest, the Salafi-Jihadi threat should definitely not be neglected.
An opportunity could, however, also emerge out of media and general public disinterest. If it is almost certain that already mobilised and converted Salafis and would-be Jihadis will not be impacted by the disaffection, the general rising indifference may seriously hinder the Islamic State’s and other Jihadis groups’ propaganda and recruitment efforts among populations, as well as their capacity to carry attacks.
The second danger lies in the risk of too heavy a reliance on the so-called “wisdom of the crowds” and on crowd-sourcing tools for strategic foresight and warning, risk assessment and anticipatory intelligence. As exemplified here, if those tools are not also used within the framework of an analysis, then wrong conclusions can be drawn.
A final danger may be the interpretation that could be given to the general disinterest, if it were to be declined along “civilizational” lines, e.g. only attacks on the West count. If this were the case, then general indifference, which may have its roots in many causes, from human tendency to parochialism to selfishness, capacity for adaptation, media fatigue, etc., could become a tool and theme for Salafi-Jihadi psyops. Care should be taken to properly counter this risk.
Strategy and Futures (New) – A short article selected by the excellent Red Team Journal recalls what is red-teaming, here mainly from a cyber security perspective. Also, noteworthy, the American Intelligence quadriennal foresight work for the next Global Trends has started, and is accompanied by a blog. Unsurprisingly, considering the American “fascination” with capabilities and new technologies, unfortunately sometimes leading to forget or minimize the assessment of intentions, their latest post focuses on “the future of technology”.
Tech and weapons – The featured article for this section relates to the Chinese successful mobile launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile, DF-31B. According to Russian reports, “The US would not be able to detect the missile with all 21 reconnaissance satellites”.
Environment and Energy – Dr Daum notably points out “two studies from the University of Texas: one tells us that increasing CO2 concentration may lead to more intense droughts in the tropics while another tells of two sea floor troughs that may be a pathway for warmer ocean water to more rapidly melt antarctic ice.” He then underlines the importance of food waste, as “it is an important issue worldwide. For example, reducing food waste could be one way to better feed the growing world population. It would also be safer in terms of high environmental impact as shown by the potential cost of turning Africa’s vast wet savannas into crop production, identified by a study from Princeton University. A relatively simple solution to reduce food wastes, in developed countries, where people are often overly focused on the appearance of the food, could be to follow the example of a grocer in Canada who lowers prices on “ugly” food in order to reduce food waste.”
The Weekly is the scan of The Red (Team) Analysis Society and it focuses on national and international security issues.
The information collected is crowdsourced. It does not mean endorsement but points to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems and issues.
If you wish to consult the scan after the end of the week period, use the “archives” directly on The Weekly.
Featured image: “C-band Radar-dish Antenna”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.