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by Colonel David Maxwell, Small Wars Journal Op-Ed
It is important at this time in history, especially as a new President takes office, to continue the debate on how the United States thinks about its place in the world and its own security. As the U.S. leadership assesses National Security and the complex and globalized world in which it finds itself, three important potential realities should be contemplated.
First, people who are disadvantaged, disenfranchised, downtrodden, or disassociated are vulnerable to ideological and political manipulation by insurgent, terrorist, criminal, or other organizations (which could include alternatives to sovereign government organizations or nation-states seeking influence over the population of a rival nation-state). Such organizations have always and will continue to seek to exploit people for their own ends. These groups sometimes evolve into violent extremist organizations that use politics, economics, or religion to manipulate or exploit people.
Second, the U.S. is has and will likely be exploited as a target to enhance the legitimacy of an organization or even a nation-state in the eyes of its own constituency. I offer the following examples. The dictators of Cuba, Iran, and north Korea use the fact that they are perceived by the U.S. as a threat. They use this perception to enhance their own legitimacy among their people. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda's single most important measure of effectiveness (from their perspective) is that the AQ network still exists despite having had war "declared" (in the figurative vice Constitutional sense) against them. The U.S. as a world superpower, perceived hegemon, and an enemy is a useful paradigm for opposition elements.
Third, there will always be conditions in the world that will lead to people being disadvantaged and disenfranchised and make them vulnerable to exploitation.