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Domestic Challenges & Threats

Vol. 5 No. 1 | Summer 2018
 

Outlook: Chechnya and Terrorism, Putin and

Kadyrov

A Conversation with Julie Wilhelmsen

Interviewed by Maia Brown-Jackson

Fletcher Security Review: In this political environment, people seem particularly aware of issues regarding terrorism and internal conflict but for many people, the conflict between Russia and Chechnya is more a thing of the past. Your work illustrates that these issues are still alive and well. Can you give a brief overview of the social and political history between Russia and Chechnya?

Julie Wilhelmsen: Chechnya was colonized by the Russian Empire at the end of the nineteenth century. There was a lot of resistance from the many different peoples of the northern Caucasus, and the Chechen story emphasizes that they have this urge for independence. These are mostly mountain people who adhere to Islam. When these peoples and territories became part of the Soviet Union, their attempts at resisting were subdued. The next tragic memory in the history of Chechen-Russian relations is the deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush. This was a total cleansing, where the people were transported out in wagons usually used for cattle, and Chechen names were eradicated, even from grave stones. This acted as a sort of mobilizing memory for Chechen resistance ever after. This was during Stalin’s time. The claim was that the Chechens had collaborated with the Nazis and had to be deported. In the official Soviet rhetoric they were branded as terrorists.

During the glasnost period, when people were able to start writing and remembering, Chechens started to recollect everything that had happened to them and their families. Despite returning, there was no official public process to recognize what the Chechens had been through. During the glasnost period in the late 1980s, all these memories, all these stories, could appear in the press. This was a core point of mobilization inside Chechnya. Claims of independence began to rise at the end of the 80s and of course after 1991, when the Soviet Union Republics got their independence. In 1991 there was no real power in Moscow to stop the process of Chechnya breaking loose. So Chechens declared independence. Only in 1993 did Russia get the new constitution and power consolidation in the hands of the presidency such that it could launch a war. It did so in 1994, basically to bring Chechnya back into the Russian Federation again...

 

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Julie Wilhelmsen

Julie Wilhelmsen is a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. She conducts research in the fields of critical security studies, Russian foreign and security policies and the radicalization of Islam in Eurasia. Wilhelmsen has also written about convergence in Russian and Chinese interests in Central Asia and about Russian approaches to the fight against terrorism. She holds a master’s degree in post-Soviet and Russian studies from the London School of Economics and holds a PhD in Political Science at the University of Oslo.

 

Understanding Myanmar: History and Current

Perspectives

A Conversation with Derek Mitchell

Interviewed by Maia Brown-Jackson

Fletcher Security Review: Thank you for speaking with me. One of the many pressing human security issues the world faces today, and one that seems perpetually intractable, is that of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Given your expertise in the area of Asian security, could you put this conflict into some context for us? Where does it fit into Myanmar’s national history? What is the local and regional context in which the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims find themselves?

Derek Mitchell: There are layers upon layers here to consider. The Rakhine people used to have an independent kingdom of its own for some three hundred and fifty years. This independence lasted until the late eighteenth century when they were overrun by the Burmans. British colonialism overtook that just about fifty years later. The Rakhine have a very strong sense of their identity, and a sense of victimization; a sense that they were overrun by outsiders, and that they need to protect their heritage. They are very bitter towards the Burmans.

 

There were always Muslims in the Rakhine State. They would flow naturally back and forth from South Asia and they were brought in over the centuries as well. But the major influx of Muslims came in after the beginning of British colonialism. During that period, there was only one administrative rule between India and Burma. This lasted until 1937 and meant that there was effectively no real border. The British brought in a lot of Muslims, a lot of South Asians, and a lot of Indians to run the country. This influx of people began to impinge, to some degree, on what people in the Rakhine area felt was their homeland. This is all to say that the issue of Muslims in Rakhine State, these people who eventually became known as Rohingya, are viewed as a legacy of British colonialism, which itself is viewed as a degrading and demoralizing moment for the country...

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Derek Mitchell

Derek Mitchell is senior advisor to the Asia Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Ambassador Mitchell was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 29, 2012, as the first U.S. ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in 22 years. He took up his post in July 2012, and departed March 2016. Ambassador Mitchell has authored numerous books, articles, and opinion pieces on Asian security affairs. He received an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a B.A. from the University of Virginia.

 

Contemporary Questions on Eco-Terrorism

A Conversation with Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Interviewed by FSR Staff

Dr. Michael Loadenthal, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Social Justice Studies at Miami University of Oxford, discussed with FSR his extensive work on eco-terrorism. His research looks to provide nuance to the way eco-terrorism has been studied and written about, and how it is understood by government entities. He uses this perspective to assess the threat, or lack of threat, eco-terrorism poses today.

FSR: Your 2014 article, “Eco-Terrorism? Countering Dominant Narratives of Securitisation: A Critical, Qualitative History of the Earth Liberation Front (1996–2009),” aims to craft a more nuanced view of ‘eco-terrorists’ by providing quantitative evidence that they are not terrorists at all. Though their actions can be coded as political militancy, you argue that these actions “fall[s] short of what can reasonably be called ‘terrorism’ since there have been practically no deliberate deadly attacks on civilians that would warrant the use of such a loaded term.” Can you provide a summary of how you specifically drew these conclusions?

ML: Certainly. In short, I carried out a largescale, quantitative analysis of all known incidents of ‘eco-terrorism’ globally, generated a descriptive account of those trends, and then compared these findings to those of other, previous studies. To accomplish this, I first located all known incidents of ‘eco-terrorism’ and then used this ‘master dataset’ to construct smaller (sub)datasets that resembled those used by other studies for comparison.[1] For example, the commonly cited Leader and Probst study focuses only on attacks carried out by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) occurring from 1996–2001.[2] Thus, in order to analyze this study in light of my own, I took the ‘master’ total set of incidents, and excluded all those attributed to groups other than the ELF, and all those occurring outside of the date range 1996–2001. I repeated this process to compare my results against several additional studies...

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[1] See for example: Helios Global, Inc., “Ecoterrorism: Environmental and Animal- Rights Militants in the United States” Helios Global, Inc./U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008.
[2] Stefan H. Leader and Peter Probst, “The Earth Liberation Front And Environmental Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence 15 (4) (2003): 37–58.

Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Dr. Michael Loadenthal is a Visiting Professor of Sociology and Social Justice at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), and the Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. He has taught courses on political violence, terrorism, and sociology at Georgetown University, George Mason University, University of Cincinnati, University of Malta’s Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, and Jessup Correctional Institution, a maximum-security men’s prison. Michael has served as the Dean’s Fellow for George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, a Practitioner-In-Residence for Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice, and a Research Fellow at Hebrew Union College’s Center for the Study of Ethics & Contemporary Moral Problems. Michael earned a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (George Mason University), and a master’s degree in Terrorism Studies at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (University of St. Andrews, Scotland). Michael’s research focuses on social movements and discourse, and has involved ethnographic studies with North American abortion providers, Jamaican Rastafarians, indigenous Mexican revolutionaries, British eco-terrorists, and Palestinian guerrillas. His work has been published in a variety of venues including Critical Studies on Terrorism, Perspectives on Terrorism, Journal of Applied Security Research, Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies, Journal of Critical Animal Studies, Radical Criminology, Journal of Feminist Scholarship, Theory in Action, Glocalism, the Journal of Terrorism Research, and Journal for the Study of Radicalism.