Conflict Research - Section 3
Through my study of civil wars in the Middle East and Africa, I have moved from looking at pure political relationships, to comparing different wars, and now focus much more on the details and specific facets of violence in individual cases. One recent example of this is an analytical paper written as a fake intelligence brief on the prospects of Nigeria’s insurgent group Boko Haram expanding its field of operations outside of Nigeria’s borders. When thinking of current threats to U.S. homeland security or even key strategic allies and interests, Boko Haram is probably not one of the top five threats that is commonly identified. Although ISIS, Iran, North Korea, and others are perhaps more immediately relevant to U.S. national security interests, the importance of Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy and as a newly democratic sub-Saharan African state are significant enough that the growing threat that Boko Haram represents to Nigeria and the region as a whole cannot be overlooked. Particularly for a paper focused so closely on micro-level changes in military tactics and strategy, visual aids in mapping changes in the conflict and the specific geography of the region in question is absolutely essential, which the Map Collection has been very helpful with in assisting me in creating this specialized custom map.
This custom map shows the contested areas where Boko Haram is active. Since 2009 Boko Haram has been domestically focused, but since mid-2014, has pursued attacks and conquest in the areas on this map. Key features of the fight against Boko Haram include tree cover and water, especially as once large lakes have become much smaller and shallower due to global warming, meaning border lakes are no longer the impediments to movement that they used to be. Both sides have been trying to take advantage of this fact, but the network of transnational roads, forests, and lakes has been more advantageous to Boko Haram than the government forces, so far.
This description of Sherman Kent’s life and his work was the first thing I read about the man that created the process of analysis for the American intelligence community. Not only was this paper formative in creating my writing style for this paper, but also for my other writing. He emphasized how important it is to not only know which questions to ask, but also to know which questions cannot yet be answered, and why. Sherman Kent’s ideas, are constantly something I remind myself of, as a way to challenge myself to always ask the right questions, but also know what I cannot yet answer.