Lords of the Silk Route: Violent Non-State Actors in Central Asia   [open pdf - 840KB]

This paper, while it reports the results of research undertaken across the year prior to the events of September 11 and their aftermath, presents an analysis that is both timely and relevant given those events. The two authors--each of whom is individually the winner of a previous INSS outstanding research award--develop and test a systematic, targeted, and useful methodology for examining the non-state political violence and its practitioner that the United States now faces. Their analysis also is grounded in Central Asia, a new but increasingly important region to United States military interest and presence. The paper stands well on either of those legs--a systematic methodology for violent non-state actors or a detailed and security oriented examination of an emerging critical region. Taken together, the two legs mark it as a singularly significant work, one well worthy of serious study. It is the contention of this paper that the new warlords of the developing world pose a pressing security challenge for which regional governments and western powers, including the United States (US), are not adequately prepared. The post-heroic objectives and asymmetric methods embraced by VNSAs shatter the assumptions of the "Clausewitzian Trinity" on which the modern nation-state roots its conception of conflict. The new VNSAs are already challenging our understanding of how traditional constructs of deterrence, coercion and warfighting apply. Developing viable policies and responses to these threats demands a rigorous examination of the linkages between the spawning of VNSAs and transnational security issues at the sub-national level. We further assert that non-traditional security issues, such as resource scarcity and demographics pressures, are gaining relevance as explanatory factors in the transformation from passive individual deprivation to violent collective action.

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INSS Occasional Paper 43
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