Saturday, January 01, 2011

Corruption and Terrorism

Corruption has been a long-running problem in post-colonial and post-conflict states. Corruption of money and corruption of power. And even in states led by people who waged self-less struggles for independence. We can follow in the headlines of the New York Times and other Western media outlets the process of it's being institutionalized in a "new" post-conflict state in Afghanistan. Just read what is NOT mentioned in the stories, in particular. You read that corruption is a big problem—and, without irony—often the same article will tell you that the same person who is corrupt and a drug lord, "is also on the CIA payroll". The point made being that "we" should not be giving money to a person who is "corrupt". Huh? A foreign intelligence agency paying someone a stipend is not "corruption"? In a country that could afford self-respect, it would be considered worse than monetary corruption; it would be considered treason.

Anyways, it was a conversation on Twitter with @weddady and which started with a mention of terrorism, as so much does nowadays, that finally helped me sort out my thoughts. It started by my noticing a comment by him saying that terrorism is why Western governments support dictators. Here's my response, compiled from multiple tweets to (hopefully) one coherent para:

I don't think terrorism is the the reason the West supports criminals. It starts—or started, back in colonial days, and re-started again in the post-colonial (some would say neo-colonial) age as the struggle for influence, resources, and hegemony took off—with corruptible folks. It is the corruptible that sell out to people looking to buy influence. That leads to the corrupt having the resources necessary to gain power. Terrorism turns up further down the road as constructive avenues for political participation and redress are cut off. [Interesting article on the cycle as it has played out in the Maoist troubles in India here. Which is not to say that all of the actions of the Naxalites are terrorism, but then, terrorism is one tact too often used by insurgencies of all sorts.] Long and short of it; terrorism only helps strengthen that cycle. So, yes, it strengthens the criminal/corrupt but it's not the original sin.
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