Migration, integration and Jihadism: can low politics determine high politics?

Posted on Posted in Analyses, Intelligence and Security, n, Terrorism, Organized Crime & Security

By Niko Costantino, Analyst KEDISA

Finding a solution to the emergencies derived from migration requires recognising and evaluating the correlation between security and survival threats and social-cultural issues.

A few weeks ago, an Italian judge passed a singular sentence towards an Albanian citizen residing in Bari (Italy). The condemned was found guilty of spreading propaganda for the Islamic State – also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Indeed, the sentence did not provide for measures such as the expulsion of the guilty individual from the country or his imprisonment, but for something more unusual: the compulsory attendance at a course sponsored by the Islamic community of the city of Bari on the true values ​​of Islam.

It is not the purpose of this piece to investigate the true values ​​of Islam, indeed there are various views and positions on the subject, even within Islam itself and within its currents: symptoms of the transition this religion is undergoing. However, the values ​​that the judge wanted the condemned to learn were fraternity and respect for the different visions and values ​– as the judge recognised in the Islamic community of Bari.

This is the first time in Italy that provisions of this sort are put in place to end radical attitudes and movements, including measures of social reintegration in response to terrorism. After considering these issues, some questions arise: what effects may such measures have on the national security of Western countries? What is the relationship between migration, terrorism and Western warfare in the stronghold regions of jihadism? And what results can the soft power of low politics provide to fight this primary, high-politics threat?

The tragic terrorist attacks in France and Belgium are still recent, but they should have already taught governments a lesson about the close correlation between the effectiveness of socially-focused migration policies and the impact of security emergencies. And they should have taught that in most cases those who commit or plan attacks are nationals of the country they attack. What is missing, therefore, is the sense of belonging to their own (native) country. Brubaker (2010), suggests that a failure to properly address the belonging of minorities is most likely to bring different sort of problems. This danger is caused by the delicate relation between legal membership/belonging and (self-)ascribed belonging. The gap between these two dimensions, individual and formal/legal belonging, is what causes an immigrant minority to develop disruptive and eventually destructive attitudes towards their country of residence. What Brubaker calls ‘politics of belonging’ is particularly subject to arising in coincidence with migration. The politics of belonging express in two modalities: the one strictly focused on formal belonging, involving the juridical status, and that focused on substantive belonging, involving the feeling of belonging by a group of migrants, thus, their participation of migrants in public life, national culture and their overall subjective identification with that country. However, policies in popular migrant destinations, such as Europe and the United States, have been predominantly focused on the formal aspect of belonging, the juridical regimen. What has been considered far too little is the other component of belonging, the substantive belonging, that gives the measure of the actual mutual acceptance between local society and migrants.

Social problems such as the marginalisation deriving from the lack of policies to enhance substantive belonging in immigrant minorities, and the lack of civic education can explode and get lost control of, leading to high-politics emergencies.

The response to a similar situation, in which an individual can develop concrete intentions and potential to pose international security threats, should start by addressing the by now old-fashioned way of conceiving high and low politics as extraneous fields, pushing for their conciliation.

The sense of belonging is a crucial factor for the well-functioning of the modern nation-state. Across Europe and the United States, it has been quite properly addressed throughout the decades, or even centuries, during which they have guaranteed political and institutional stability. But the cultural diversification each European western country is experiencing expose the politics of belonging to tougher challenges.

The manifest failure to address the belonging issues migrants experience in a new country highlight the necessity of well-structured social policies. The correlation between failing social policies and their extreme security consequences, urges the development of mixed agendas of low and high politics, and the contamination of soft power in contexts of hard power.

The technological advance is a primary factor that urges the interaction of the spheres traditionally represented by low politics and high politics. Among the determining fields, transportation, computing and communication. The easiness that an ever-increasing number of humans have of moving around the world entails an increasing reduction of the subjective distance that separates once unreachable territories for them. And all this within and incredibly short time.

As such, the overall dynamics of geopolitics change, too. Given that geographical factors including proximity and reachability conditions are essential to geopolitics. Consequentially, national politics become increasingly subject to international developments, however this still hardly corresponds to the establishment of an international vocation in national institutions. Therefore, national policy making needs to take on the international factors as well. Thus, foreign policy making has the potential to condition the life of a nation-state. History is taking national politics to progressively coincide with international politics, to share an increasing amount of issues that affect both internal and foreign policy. policy making comes to be has the potential to address international problems. In other words, history forces low politics, which are mostly employed internally, to be employed in the conflict zones,having the potential to impact international problems that, ultimately, do determine more and more easily the domestic politics. In such a context, addressing migrants with the proper social policies domestically becomes fundamental to extirpating terrorism from Western countries, and from conflict zones, too.

Integrating competencies, strategies and actions of high and low politics is, therefore, needed to start thinking of a quality change in addressing international security threats, such as terrorism, with a more constructive and global vision. Given that terrorism used as an instrument by the Islamic State to condition the foreign policies of countries seeking to end it through firm decisions and drastic measures, the elimination or control of terrorism may lead to a change in ISIS policy and of the countries their enemies. Such a change would be manifested by a lesser importance of terrorism as an instrument of negotiation and a change in the policy of Western countries, which would be reflected in the progressive abandonment of attacks to be redirected by lines based on dialogue, negotiation and consultation.

Governing bodies should, in the first instance, consider new synergies and deepen the scope of their approaches and guide them towards joint internal and external actions to ensure the economic, social and cultural stability of both their countries and the conflict zones.

Further soft power measures should be applied in the areas of terrorism, both internally and externally. Responding two-dimensionally to an emergency is a constant temptation to which politics has accustomed us. This has been the case for Iraq, Libya, and continues to be for ISIS, with sufficient premises to envisage an increase in harsh measures. The obsolescence and inadequate use of social policies in our countries, as well as the marginality or absence of them in the conflict zones, are the factors ending up provoking the appearance of anti-Western propaganda and international terrorism. Simplifying reality to understand it is a human mechanism. However, a complex reality requires complex responses. The complexity and fragility of current policy requires greater efforts by governments to respond to the challenges of the present. In the same way, it also needs a long-term response and at all levels.

One key seems to be the introduction into conflict missions of a governmental conception, which gives military missions the concepts of the rule of law and endows the corresponding departments with roles similar to those of ministries, as well as a democracy. That would guarantee better results, and the prevention of terrorism and new conflict escalations.




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