Be careful, because the world is more dangerous than it used to be…
February 6, 2014 § 9 Comments
It looks like the world is more dangerous for international policy professionals than it used to be. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the world is more dangerous for everybody. Nor should we allow alarming events we see on the news make our fears greater than the actual risks we face.
However, I do think that protection from diplomatic immunities and traditional inhibitions to violence against foreigners is down. Especially in global trouble spots. After all, what is diplomatic immunity supposed to mean in a failed or failing state? Not much.
Diplomats need to work in dangerous places. Countries like Canada have global interests and need a global presence. The civilian work Canada did in Kandahar shows that the Canadian public servants can deliver crucial civilian programs in war zones, especially when it is done in partnership with the Canadian Forces.
But why is there so much rage out there?
I think that there are some powerful psychological drivers of violence at work here. We don’t talk about it much. In a complex international equation, perceived insult leads to humiliation, which generates feelings of rage. This reduces cultural inhibitions to violence.
It gets dangerous when malign leaders exploit grievances against international actors in order to orchestrate violence against foreigners.
I remember April first, 2011 when Florida Pastor Terry Jones burned a Koran. This insult unleashed protests in Afghanistan that were hijacked for violent purposes. There were fatalities and property destruction in Kandahar, and also the tragic killing of seven UN workers in Mazar al Sharif.
Two observations. We know reckless acts like burning a Koran in Florida can have fatal impact on the other side of the world. So let’s keep alive the dialogue about the trade offs between freedom of speech, hate and incitement. We need to do so in a positive spirit of inclusion and responsibility. It would be great to have this conversation outside the crucible of crisis.
Secondly, there is no room for a casual attitude about security. When an officer of an organization is the victim of insecurity, the objective of his whole effort is a victim, too. Lapses in the personal security of individuals can lead to catastrophic policy failures at the level of an organization. International professionals need to take their safety seriously, and organizations need to ensure they have the tools, resources and intelligence to do so.
Is your work getting more dangerous?
Looking forward to your comments.