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Securitization of Corruption: Corruption as a

Driver of Insurgency Australian Public Sector


Anti-Corruption Conference, Nov 2015, Australia.
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Securitization of Corruption: Corruption as a Driver of


Insurgency

(Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference, November


2015, Brisbane, Australia.)

All states suffer from corruption. All forms of corruption cause


instability. The more pervasive and the more arbitrary the
corruption, the greater the instability. In this talk, I am concerned
only with the kind of instability that leads to insurgency.

Systemic corruption is corruption that completely dominates a state:


a better term for it is kleptocracy. Kleptocracies do not occur in
developed, democratic states; they occur only in autocratic,
developing states. As a result of the end of the Cold War and the
effects of globalisation, weak developing states became even
weaker and therefore vulnerable to exploitation by local predatory
elites. These elites transform the economies of these states to
enrich themselves and also to pay their small coalitions of
supporters. Such states will have little legitimacy amongst their
citizens. While this might cause instability in the form of protests,
strikes and spontaneous rebellion, the loss of legitimacy in the
minds of the citizenry is not very relevant sui generis in the
emergence of an insurgency. Rather, what matters is the loss of
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legitimacy in the minds of members of the elite. Insurgencies arise


in kleptocracies because of competition between elites. Leaders of
insurgencies must find a cause to win over the population.
Corruption is not only more prevalent since the end of the Cold War,
it has unique effects at the individual psychological level it causes
moral outrage. Moral outrage can be exploited by an insurgency
leader through effective information operations aimed at winning
over the population (and also external supporters).

This often happens where, because of pre-existing ethnic divisions,


corruption benefits one ethnic group over another; it can also
happen in its own right in Marxist/revolutionary insurgencies; and
now it can be used in political-religious demodernisation
insurgencies. Given the prevalence of corruption of this kind in the
developing world, corruption is an increasingly important driver of
insurgency.

Definitions of insurgency
What is an insurgency? Galula, writing in 1960 and drawing on his
experience of insurgencies in Greece, Algeria and Vietnam, sought
to distinguish insurgency from conventional warfare. He observed
that an insurgency commences well before any actual fighting
breaks out; often, it is difficult to say when an insurgency started.
He emphasised the asymmetrical nature of the conflict based on
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relative access to resources and relative strength. The insurgent is


not interested in winning territory so much as winning the
population. Therefore, it is a political war:

The insurgent cannot seriously embark on an insurgency unless he


has a well-grounded cause with which to attract supporters among
the population How can the insurgent ever hope to pry the
population away from the counterinsurgent, to control it, and to
mobilize it? By finding supporters among the population, people
whose support will range from active participation in the struggle to
passive approval.

The first basic need for an insurgent who aims at more than simply
making trouble is an attractive cause, particularly in view of the
risks involved and in view of the fact that the early supporters and
the active supporters not necessarily the same persons have to
be recruited by persuasion. With a cause, the insurgent has a
formidable, if intangible, asset that he can progressively transform
into concrete strength.
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Therefore, the best cause for the insurgents purpose is one that can
attract the largest number of supporters and repel the minimum of
opponents. The insurgent must be able to identify himself totally
with the cause and the majority of the population must be able to
identify with it. There must therefore be a pre-existing political
problem:

In other words, where there is no problem, there is no cause, but


there are always problems in any country. What makes one country
more vulnerable than another to insurgency is the depth and the
acuity of its existing problems.
A country fortunate enough to know no problems, he says, is
obviously immune from insurgency. A country with a secure
national consensus is also unlikely to fall into insurgency.

It was appropriate in 1960 to define insurgency in terms of its


differences from conventional war. As a general rule, regardless of
their inchoate beginnings and protracted nature, insurgencies during
that period often took the style of conventional war as they came to
a close. However, contemporary insurgencies, as Kilcullen argues,
have become more fluid and amorphous in their structure and
organisation; also, their aims are sometimes so generalised as to be
almost mystical.
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If it was important to distinguish insurgencies from conventional war


in 1960, then, in the post-classical, post-Cold War era, the important
distinction today appears to be between insurgency and terrorism.
Hence, Kilcullens interest in the effects of globalisation on jihadist
insurgencies and his annotation of Galulas concept that the aim of
an insurgency is the seizure of power over a population; this is his
observation that contemporary insurgencies merely seek the
destruction of a state and not much more. He calls this a
resistance insurgency rather than revolutionary insurgency.

This makes insurgencies of this kind sound more like terrorism,


particularly when insurgents have tended to be willing to use
terrorist tactics. Terrorism is different from a contemporary
insurgency in these ways: First, there have been some classical
revolutionary insurgencies in the modern, post-Cold War era.
Secondly, there will always be significant differences in scale and
organisation between a terrorist movement and an insurgency.
Thirdly, while the aims of a terrorist organisation might be similar to
a contemporary jihadi insurgency, they are not quite the same.
Unlike insurgents, terrorists are not necessarily concerned with
regime change. Insurgents use a cause to attack governments;
terrorists target governments (and entire countries and even
civilisations) to promote their cause. Finally, it might be argued that
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the kind of vague post-classical insurgency Kilcullen observed in the


mid-2000s has since coalesced into a more or less classical, state-
capture kind of insurgency, a nascent form of Islamic State which is
clearly dedicated to creating a state and capturing territory and
uses covert as well as overt military action to do so.

I adopt Fearon and Laitons argument that Cold War politics and
ethnic differences are not necessarily the most important causes in
themselves of insurgency. The word cause can be used as
structural pre-condition for an event and also as a motivation for it:
poverty could be said to be a cause of insurgency, in the sense of
being one of several conditions from which an insurgency may arise,
but this does not mean that it motivates an insurgency. When Galula
writes that when an insurgent needs a cause then he has to find a
problem, he is referring to cause as a motivator of insurgency.
Therefore, over the period of between 1920 and 1975, the main
problem in the developing world was independence from the West
and so most insurgencies during that period were motivated by anti-
colonial politics. Since the aim was freedom from Western
colonialisation, then, in the either/or politics of the Cold War era,
insurgencies of this period usually took on a revolutionary/Marxist
flavor. Then, following decolonisation, developing state borders were
fixed in often wholly artificial and arbitrary ways, where there was a
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significant overlap between different ethnic populations. Therefore,


most insurgencies after roughly 1970, were increasingly about
liberation from ethnic-based oppression and discrimination: rather
than fighting the West, citizens of developing states fought each
other.

Many contemporary insurgencies revolve around ethnic differences;


many do not. They have one thing in common. They all take place in
certain kinds of developing states. These states are now weaker
than ever; they are vulnerable to exploitation by predatory elites;
their political and economic institutions are unstable; and they all
suffer from corruption.

Corruption causes income inequality, poverty, impedes economic


growth, is wasteful; however, what matters when thinking about
motivations of insurgency is the political effects of corruption. In
political terms, corruption has unique psychological effects which, if
effectively exploited by insurgency leaders, can galvanise a
discontented population into support.

Definitions of corruption
Legal definitions of corruption are unhelpful for the purposes of this
talk: they range across a variety of kinds of corrupt conduct and
they are necessary focused on the domestic criminal liability of
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individuals. They are also sometimes unrealistic, stigmatising


conduct that might be illegal but widely tolerated and accepted as
normal and so unlikely to cause instability. In international security
terms, the broadest sense of the term is to be preferred - the abuse
of a public position for a private benefit.

Corruption is divided into three kinds, depending on the degree of


prevalence and arbitrariness: petty, grand, and systemic corruption.
Petty corruption occurs at a smaller scale and often within
established social frameworks and governing norms: examples
include the exchange of small improper gifts or use of personal
connections to obtain favours. It might be pervasive but it is not
necessarily arbitrary as most people in a particular society might
tolerate and accept it. Grand corruption is corruption occurring at
the higher levels of government involving significant subversion of
the political, legal and economic systems. It is arbitrary but it may
not necessarily be pervasive: it occurs in all states including strong,
developed states where, ideally, it is exposed and condemned.

If grand corruption is pervasive, as is often the case in weak,


developing states, then it is better described as systemic corruption.
That is, it is corruption which arises primarily due to the weaknesses
of an organisation or processes of the entire system politically, an
entire state. When grand corruption reaches that level, it is
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sometimes described as policy corruption, legal corruption, or,


at its most extreme, state capture or kleptocracy, where the entire
state and its economy is exploited by its elite.

Rose-Ackerman defines the ideal kleptocrat as a private monopolist


striving for productive efficiency but restricting output of the
economy to maximise profits. They must run a brutal and efficient
state limited only by the leaders inability to make credible
commitments. However, in reality, kleptocracies are poorly
governed states with inefficient and intrusive bureaucracies,
dedicated to extracting bribes from the population and the business
community to benefit not just the states leadership but members of
the leaderships entourage and network of supporters. Further, no
ruler controls all of the states resources: officials may have the
power to expand the resources under their control and the higher
the officials rank, the greater their power to increase the states
reach and exploit it. Expectations are created among state officials
that they will share in the wealth. Petty and grand corruption will
flourish in a kleptocratic state because its leaders are unable or,
more frequently, unwilling to create the conditions needed for an
honest state. Hence, aside from its wider political consequences,
corruption becomes a daily experience of all the states citizens.
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Kleptocratic states, Lundhal writes, create poorly functioning


systems which do not provide incentives for productive activities.
Rulers who use political power for enrichment make all the decisions
and citizens have no say. He identifies the methods of kleptocratic
rulers as essentially rent-seeking through taxation of foreign trade,
tax farming, sale of public officers, debasing the currency, outright
confiscation, foreign and domestic loans, aid blackmail and
embezzlement, bribery, milking state enterprises and exploiting
government contracts and procurement. What these techniques
have in common is that they use resources to redistribute income
and wealth without creating any goods and services that are
demanded by citizens.

Kleptocratic states fall into three categories. First, there are those
where the corruption is spread across a single network of associated
cliques which control government institutions completely; secondly,
there are those in which the corruption is more diffuse with
fragmented, sometimes competing networks and little coordination.
A third category might be authoritarian regimes with high levels of
corruption, even to the level of kleptocracy, but which manage to
survive for many years, even generations. Rose-Ackerman says that
leaders in such states enrich themselves and their supporters but do
not push rent-generating programmes so far as to undermine
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growth; there may also be fewer static inefficiencies; the leaders


may constrain uncoordinated rent-seeking so that long-term goals
are maximised. Such states can be found in East Asia where there
are institutional mechanisms political and cultural designed to
cut back on uncoordinated rent-seeking. Similarly, even in failing
states of Africa, leaders can expect a degree of longevity if they are
able to recruit more elites into their coalitions.

However, it is a risky strategy because increasing the coalition


reduces the amount of distributable state benefits and allows
possible opponents an effective foothold in government.

Systemic corruption and state development


According to modernisation theory, corruption in developing states
was the result of anachronistic tradition operating in spite of the
development of the modern processes of a state. Huntington saw
corruption in developing states as necessary and beneficial
consequence of modernisation, a way of smoothing out the rougher
edges of political and social instability caused by development. This
might be an accurate way of describing petty corruption in a
developing society but not grand or kleptocratic corruption. In
contrast, dependency theorists saw corruption as a manifestation of
colonisation and development. However, neither theory explains the
prevalence of systemic corruption in contemporary developing
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world; and I argue that, in any case, both theories were overtaken
by the two great shifts in the international order over the last 30
years the end of the Cold War and the rise of globalisation.

It is my argument that the more pervasive forms of corruption


including kleptocracy have arisen in developing states because
developing states are weak and vulnerable to exploitation by their
own predatory elites. They are weak and vulnerable because of
conditions following the end of the Cold War and the effects of
globalisation. With the end of the Cold War, the US and Russia lost
interest in propping up their client states in the developing world so
that those states had to rely upon their own domestic capacity.

Globalisations adverse effects on developing states include:


unprecedented levels of income inequality, secure and secret
international transfers of funds, increases in natural resource rents,
growth of transnational crime and illicit revenues, funding and bail-
outs by international organisations conditional upon privatisation,
and neoliberal internal market reforms, commercialisation of military
capacity. Moore writes that because of the opportunities provided by
late 20th century globalisation, power in weak states now lies in the
hands of elites who often have strong incentives and extensive
opportunities to harvest political revenues and lack motives to
nurture or build institutions that might promote sources of stability
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such as ensuring peace and the rule of law, or encouraging political


participation, accountable government or collecting revenue for
public purpose. A particular consequence of neoliberal market
reforms in developing states is the weakening of the states
regulatory capacity by removing oversight capabilities.

Systemic corruption of the kind found in kleptocratic states is not


only a consequence of the activities of its elite; it is the main way in
which the elites maintain their privileged position. It involves
maximising opportunities for self-enrichment but also the
illegitimate use of state resources to maintain and increase political
power. Bueno de Mesquita talks about the logic of political survival
in any state as a question of the size of the winning coalition. The
primary goal of a leader is to remain in power. To remain in power,
leaders must maintain their winning coalition of supporters: this is
the set of individuals the support of whom is necessary for leaders
to gain and maintain their power. The selectorate are those persons
who choose the leaders; the winning coalition are those whose
support translates into victory.

A leader has the greatest chance of political survival when the


selectorate is large and the winning coalition is small such as in an
autocracy. When the winning coalition is small, as in autocracies, the
leader will use private goods to maintain the coalition. When the
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winning coalition is large, as in democracies, the leader will tend to


use public goods to satisfy the coalition. In an autocracy, those who
are in a winning coalition can be replaced by other members of the
selectorate who are not in the winning coalition. Therefore, the costs
of defection for members of the winning coalition can be potentially
large, the loss of all private goods. Similarly, the chances of a
challenger replacing the leader are similarly smallest in an
autocratic system since those in the winning coalition would be hard
pressed to defect. Leaders maintain support by distributing private
goods amongst members of their coalitions; it consolidates political
advantages and reduces opportunities for opponents.

Kleptocratic corruption and instability


I argue that political instability in a kleptocratic state may well be
based around a wide-spread loss of faith in the state by its citizens
but insurgencies are activated by intra-elite competition for control.
In autocratic regimes, there are no constraints in the elites ability to
exploit private goods from public office to buy political support. Nor
are there institutions available to the general citizenry to control or
discipline the elite. The legitimacy of any regime requires a wide-
spread belief that, in spite of the regimes short-comings and
weaknesses, it is better that any others. To avoid legitimacy crises,
citizens and leaders must see the state as legitimate which is
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conferred to the extent that the state has the capacity to meet
citizens expectations.

Therefore, Webers ideal type of rational-legal legitimacy, where the


state is legitimised through mechanisms it uses to govern, is a
useful explanation of what happens in prosperous, stable developed
states. Crises in the legitimacy of a developed, stable state are not
likely to be fundamental and, where they arise, there will be a range
of state mechanisms available to citizens to enforce change: voting,
the press, the police and courts, oversight and accountability
mechanisms, special commissions, and so on. However, in non-
democratic and also failing states, political elites wield
disproportionate power and often poorly. State institutions are either
too weak or lack independence from the elite: the more extreme the
kleptocracy, the greater its control over government institutions. In
kleptocratic states, it is the lack of belief of the elites, rather than of
citizens, in the legitimacy of the state that causes instability, and
the elites will use whatever means that they have at their disposal
to assume control of the state. Those who have greatest possibility
of gaining from a revolution will be those in positions of power.
Arriola argues that in Africa, political instability erupts because
members of the elite crave larger share of the spoils or because
those outside the leaders coalition of supporters want access to the
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resources to which they have been denied. He quotes Kofi Anans


survey on conflict in Africa:
the nature of political power in many African states, together with
the real and perceived consequences of capturing and maintaining
power, is a key source of conflict across the continent. It is
frequently the case that political victory assumes a winner-takes-
all form with respect to wealth, patronage and prestige and
prerogatives of office.

Manifestations of instability in Africa are often a response on the


part of communal groups in national populations to elite instability
which either fails to bring about a reapportionment of ethnic
representation in government or a redistribution of other goods.
Arriola argues that overthrowing the chief executive has been the
central means for achieving what he calls re-calibration of the
relations that exist among elites, regardless of whether a conflict
resulted from a power grab by factions within a regime or by
regional elites seeking greater autonomy from the centre. This is not
to ignore the economic causes of instability. Arriola accepts that the
higher probability of political conflict in Africa takes place against a
wider context of economic deterioration rather than ethnic diversity
or colonial legacies. A government of a failing state is less likely to
have the resources needed to pay troops to stay in their barracks.
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Hence, it is during an economic downturn, when the government is


broke, that a rival can maximise the likelihood of employing force to
renegotiate the re-distribution of the states resources. Schlichte
argues that when neo-patrimonial regimes or any political system
in which clientist networks structure political life, such as in a
kleptocracy, come under serious strain, some members of the
political class will be selectively barred from power. A serious strain
will often be caused by some kind of economic crisis such as an
increase of export profits or the loss of international money credits.
Those who are excluded tend to organise armed violence when they
find propitious conditions. To reinforce this, his analysis of leaders of
insurgency suggests that they tend to come from the same class or
background as the elite they seek to depose: 23% of insurgency
leaders were members of the ruling political class; 73%, were
professional politicians, 62% had an academics education, 37% were
educated abroad and 16% were military professionals.

The mobilisation of moral outrage:


A government that is perceived to be corrupt loses legitimacy
amongst its citizens. In a kleptocratic, authoritarian state, loss of
legitimacy on the part of citizens in their leaders is irrelevant since,
in kleptocracies, elites control the states political and judicial
institutions and mass protests and spontaneous rebellions are
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quickly and often brutally quashed. Insurgency is often the only


effective means available to the population to effect regime change
and, as I argue above, insurgency leaders are most likely the
disaffected members of the elite. If an insurgency is a fight about
control of a population, and the key to this for the insurgency leader,
is, as Galula argues, to find a cause with which the majority of the
population must be able to identify, then the insurgents leaders
must be able to operationalise the populations feelings and ideas
about the lack of the regimes legitimacy. They do this by effective
information operations. Increasingly, I argue, the most relevant
cause will be corruption as it has unique psycho-social effects. It is
useful to summarise these effects and then consider how insurgency
leaders can mobilise these emotions and cognitive processes into
general support.

According to the social intuitionist school of social psychology,


individuals grasp moral truths not by careful thought and reflection
but by a process more like perception. Moral reasoning is therefore
an ex post facto process used to influence the intuitions and
judgments of others. A unique psychological effect of corruption is
moral outrage, described as the central mediator of reactions to
perceived injustice. Anger is said to be the most likely emotional
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reaction to events perceived as unjust, followed by disgust; others


argue that is combination of anger and disgust.

The moral outrage felt by those who see transgressions is a product


of both cognitive interpretations of the event and emotional
reactions to it. It has been described as a prevalent, and powerful
and even prototypical moral emotion.

Emotional reactions of individuals when confronted with unfairness


are strong predictors of whether or not they will commit to assisting
the disadvantaged. Certain forms of distress such as moral outrage
are important motivators of action. Moral outrage, if shared, is a
particular form of anger at unfairness which can create an identity
between a group of individuals. Eidelson argues that outrage over
inequality, for example, can merge the victims of discrimination with
those who find it morally repugnant even if they have never
experienced it; moral outrage, he writes, is an especially potent
emotion because of its orientation towards collective action. For Van
Zomeren, people take collective action through two distinct but
complementary pathways, the emotion route and the collective
efficacy route, when they feel a relevant group based emotion and
they believe that they can achieve change. People are more likely to
participate in collective social protest the more they feel that a
group with which they identify are being unjustly treated. A sense of
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injustice arises from moral outrage: efficacy refers to the conviction


that it is possible to force change through collective action; identity
means a group that is being treated unjustly by some external actor.
Identification involves depersonalisation as part of the process of
acting as a member of the group and the politicisation of the group
identification.

For a group to mobilise to political action it first needs a common


identity.
Social embeddedness theory holds that individual moral outrage can
be are transformed into group-based grievances and feelings
through social networks. Social capital, according to this theory, is
defined as the resources embedded in a social structure from which
are accessed and mobilized into purposive actions. It has three
components: structural, relational and cognitive. The structural
component is the extent of network of ties between actors; it
encourages cooperative behavior. The relational component
concerns the kinds of personal relationships people have developed
through interaction, such as respect, friendship and trust. The
cognitive component are those resources that deal with meaning
and representations (raising consciousness), which takes place
within social networks: It is within these networks that individual
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processes such as grievance formation, strengthening of efficacy,


identification and group-based emotions all synthesize into a
motivational constellation preparing people for action. The
propensity to participate in politics depends on the amount of
political discussion that occurs in social networks and the
information that people are able to gather about politics as a result.
Lin writes:
This is where people talk politics and this where the factuality of the
sociopolitical world is constructed and people are mobilized for
protest. Being integrated into a network increases the chances that
one will be targeted with a mobilising message that people are kept
to their promises to participate.
In terrorist studies, it has been observed that shared perceptions of
injustice by a group reinforce identification and allegiance.

These perceptions are often based on the belief that group members
receive substandard outcomes, not due to their own inadequacies,
but because a more powerful group has created a biased or rigged
system. It is linked to an historical view that emphasises
mistreatment and exploitation at the hands of others. Leaders play a
role in promoting a groups adoption of the injustice world view.
They can persuade the group that their current situation is unjust
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and intolerable and that violent change is necessary by defining a


problem and identifying the enemy who is the cause of it. The
attribution of liability may also be accompanied by feelings of
vulnerability, threats aimed at the entire group sometimes involving
threats of catastrophe if action is not taken. The group is taught to
distrust outsiders and that they are vulnerable and helpless without
action.

The staircase to terrorism is a metaphor used by Moghaddam to


explain how an individual becomes involved in terrorism. On the
ground floor, perceptions of fairness and relative deprivation
dominate. Some individuals will climb to the first floor to look for
solutions. If there are none there, they will move to the next floor
where they will perceive injustice and experience anger and
frustration and be influenced by leaders who encourage them to
displace their anger onto an enemy. If they proceed to the third
floor, they become involved with the morality of terrorist
organisations and begin to see terrorism as a justified strategy.
Recruitment takes place on the next floor where the world is
categorised into us versus them and the terrorist organisation is
seen as legitimate. On the last floor, they are selected and
habituated and trained in terrorist operations.
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Using the same staircase metaphor, it might be argued that there is


a staircase to insurgency. Moral outrage at corruption drives
individuals to look for solutions. In the second stage, they meet
other similarly-minded individuals and become united around a
common cause, developing structural and relational social capital.
However, in an autocratic state, their efforts to effect change will be
thwarted or met with a violent response, compounding their moral
outrage and enhancing their unity. Hence, they will move to the next
stage where they will encounter insurgency leaders who will frame
their understanding in terms of injustice, vulnerability, and
exploitation using distrust of outgroups and the need for violent
change. Having united them they can then make the transition to
the next level, participation, recruitment and support. Having
achieved consensus, they will be prepared to take action. Leaders of
insurgencies will do this by using effective information operations.

Mobilisation information operations:


Galula writes that about the use of propaganda in these terms:
The asymmetrical situation has important effects on propaganda.
The insurgent, having no responsibility, is free to use every trick; if
necessary, he can lie, cheat, exaggerate. He is not obliged to prove;
he is judged by what he promises, not by what he does.
Consequently, propaganda is a powerful weapon for him. With no
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positive policy but with good propaganda, the insurgent may still
win.
It means more than just propaganda. Insurgents frame the way
potential members understand their situation. Ingram argues that
an insurgency, especially in its early stages, involves implementing
a system of control over a population and also control over meaning.

He refers to this as competitive systems of meaning, which seek


to leverage the contested populations identify and perception of
crisis in order to shape assessments of the conflict. He talks of
modern insurgents targeting the identity landscape of a
population, attaching perceptions of crisis to out-group identities
and solutions to themselves as members of an in-group identity. This
shapes and reinforces the same identity paradigms through which
perceptions of crisis are farmed and understood.

An example of an insurgency motivated by corruption is that which


took place in El Salvador. Wood describes how it was not for material
benefits that insurgent campesinos in El Salvador supported or
actively participated in guerrilla groups; in doing so, they faced
extraordinarily high risks without any foreseeable material gains.
Rather, they were drawn into networks whose values, beliefs, social
norms, and political identities outweighed the risk of
disappearance, torture, and death motivated by deep-seated
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resentment at exploitation by landowners. An important factor


determining insurgent support for many campesinos was the
political worldview activated by liberation theology and the
grassroots organising of lay catechists:
The guerrilla organizations shaped campesinos understandings of
liberationist teachings through their ideological work, interpreting
state violence as making armed insurgency necessary if liberationist
aspirations were to be realized.While the FMLN relied on
propaganda in radio and newspapers, they favoured direct
communication with the people wherever possible.

Similarly, direct contact is a preferred information operation in India


for the leaders of the Naxalite insurgency, a largely
political/revolutionary insurgency seeking the establishment of a
Marxist state. India does not have a particularly strong state and, in
many areas, especially rural areas in the east, corruption is wide-
spread.

The central state in any case is portrayed as representing a


privileged elite with only hostile intentions towards the dalits and
tribal people. Naxalite leaders often come from professional and
even privileged backgrounds. Mobilisation of dalit and tribal people
in those areas is a central plank of Marxist/Naxalites strategy. It
involves literature and other more traditional propaganda but also
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political rallies and organised protests, symbolic violence such as


the bombing of the rest houses of forest officers, the establishment
of mobile health clinics and other features of a de facto state. The
most important information operation technique is a deliberate
policy of personal contact at the village level between villages and
insurgents. In Nigeria, a state where corruption is described as
ingrained and profound, Boko Haram, popular with the most
marginal members of northern Nigeria, espouses a policy of deep
hostility to the west and to the corrupt Nigerian state, the cure being
the Islamification of Nigeria or large parts of it, and relies on
personal contact and also the establishment of schools, formal
training camps and religious complexes for the purposes of
indoctrination and publicity.

The Houthi insurgency, on the other hand, started as an insurgency


based around ethnic/religious differences but has settled into one
based around corruption. Yemen under Saleh was widely condemned
as a government of and by thieves. The Houthis called for greater
political inclusion and a more equitable distribution of resources.
Since 2004, through a mix of military success and skillful tribal
outreach, the Houthis had solidified their position as a mainstream
political actor. Saleh stepped down in 2012 and his vice-president,
Hadi, took his place.
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However, he allowed Muslim Brotherhood members to control offices


of state, aggravating pre-existing ethnic tensions. The Houthis
captured the capital in early 2015 and began a widely-publicised
anti-corruption campaign. They deliberately exploited popular
grievances against economic failures and portrayed themselves as
vanguard against corruption.

In Afghanistan, there are a variety of ethnicities but they are


historically united against foreign occupation. Corruption in the
coalition-supported government undermined support for the
government and increased support for the insurgents. It was a major
reason for support of Taliban: The governments record on
corruption was so extraordinarily unjust that people preferred even
bad Taliban when the alternative was the government. Taliban
information operations had two basic messages: eliminate the
corrupt Karzai government and expel the crusader forces. They used
a wide range of techniques: websites, newspapers in sanctuaries in
Pakistan, to traditional media such as chants and night letters.
Taliban information operations were said to outperform the coalition
in the contest to dominate public perceptions of the war. The
general perception was that the Taliban had captured the justice
market and were perceived to be reasonably efficient and fair at
least compared to formal system which was neither.
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Islamic State fits the pattern observed by Kilcullen as regards the


use of sophisticated multilevel information operations; but it is more
than just a resistance insurgency. A major cause of the rise of
Islamic State was the corruption of the Malaki government which
disadvantaged the Sunni population.

There were said to be unbelievable levels of corruption:


Malakis method of control was to allocate contracts to supporters
wavering friends or opponents he wants to win over Beneficiaries
of this largesse have been threatened with investigation and
exposure if they step out of lineUnder Malakis Shia-dominated
government, patronage based on party, family or community
determines who gets a job, contributing further to the political and
economic marginalisation of Iraqs Sunni population
According to Cockburn, many Sunni Arabs concluded that their only
realistic option was a violent conflict increasingly framed in
confrontational terms. Corruption had already weakened the Iraqi
state and its army at a time when Islamic State groups and their
allies began hijacking the Syria rebellion. Syria itself was also a
kleptocracy, although, unlike Iraq, its government institutions were
stronger and more secure. The Islamic State now straddles Iraq and
Syria. Many leaders of Islamic State are former members of the Iraqi
government during the Hussein era. Ingram writes that Islamic State
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leverages potent psychological dynamics in its audiences by


attaching perceptions of crisis to out-group identities and solutions
to in-group identities such as Islamic State-aligned Sunni Muslims.
The use of the internet and new digital technologies gives it a
worldwide audience and instantaneous publicity. It targets local,
regional and global audiences using a broad range of platforms
online publications videos, informal communiqus, and social media
forums. It is quick to issue statements about military and non-
military successes. Its videos and films are well made and tailored
for specific audiences. Speed is essential; for example, the
mujatweets containing short videos extolling life in Islamic State
territory.

However, it is not just about the corrupt states of Iraq and Syria; for
Islamic State and its supportors, all modern states are corrupt.
Islamic State information operations tap into a long-standing
element of radical Islamic hostility to modernisation. As early as
1980, Dekmejian observed what he described as a regeneration of
the Islamic ethos born out of a crisis of legitimacy in Middle East
states, the result of corruption and their failure to make good on
promises of development. He wrote that embedded in the Islamic
conscience are notions of social justice such that gross disparities of
wealth and privilege are seen to fly in the face of classical Islamic
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traditions. Islam, he optimistically predicted, could be used as a


potent protest ideology to oppose the establishment, comprised of
political elites who are seen as perpetrators of socio-economic
injustice. It could become, he said, a fall-back ideology, capturing
the alienated and discontented, accommodating the political activist
as well as providing an escape from politics in the ascetic milieu of
the mosque. By 2006, Loza identified a set of beliefs held by Middle-
East terrorists based around perceptions of inherent corruption of
the entire political system, that political corruption and moral decay
were prevalent in the Muslim world, even in 1980, similar to pre-
Islamic Arabia. They spoke of a desire to return to the early years of
Islam where everyone, they believed, was honest and happy. Islamic
State may have emerged out of ethnic divisions and corruption but
it is part of a deeper trend based on contempt for modernisation
under which all modern states are corrupt and only their form of
theocratic Islam is pure and incorruptible alternative. The Islamic
State in its captured territories has its supporters. However, unlike
other more focused insurgencies, it is not interested in capturing a
state; rather, it wants to replace these states with a new proto-state,
the caliphate, across the entire region, and beyond. It is therefore
necessarily international.
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This requires sophisticated information operations based on a


variety of media and digital platforms, not just to win over the Sunni
populations of Iraq and Syria but the alienated minority of the Sunni
world-wide attracted to its extreme form of apocalyptic
millenarianism.

Conclusion: a model
Most developing and transitional states suffer from grand corruption.
There may even be widespread moral outrage. Yet not all of them
are likely to fall into insurgency. It is more likely to take place in
kleptocratic states. In such states, disaffected members of elites will
commence insurgencies by finding a cause likely to win support
from most of the population. Historically, that was anti-colonisation;
later, they might have found a cause based around ethnic
oppression. Increasingly, they will use corruption. Anti-corruption
discourses are a feature of all contemporary insurgencies
revolutionary, ethnic and religious political insurgencies. Corruption,
aside from its many adverse economic and political effects, causes
moral outrage which can be easily operationalised by effective
information operations by insurgency leaders. This has some
relevance to counter-insurgency strategies and stabilisation.
Insurgencies which exploit moral outrage and are able to frame the
insurgency based around a discourse of corruption are likely to win
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the information battle. This is because they are based on a


fundamental truth: contemporary insurgencies, for the reasons I
have set out above, occur in deeply corrupt states. An effective
counter-insurgency strategy requires more than trying to win hearts
and minds; it must be seen to be attempting to eliminate the
sources of corruption that motivated the insurgency in the first
place.

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