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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Acts of War? Weaponizing Mass Migration

In these modern times, the definition of what constitutes an "act of war" is evolving to meet new threats. For example, when does a "cyber intrusion" into the governmental and private networks of a nation reach the level where it a virtual act of war, akin to an invasion albeit with electrons and not bodies? This is a hot topic.

Currently less discussed but of rising interest involves a foreign government actively encouraging and abetting segments of its own population and those of other countries to migrate to another sovereign state. When does this "soft invasion" reach the level that the target state would be justified in declaring war on the encouraging state?

In her book Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion and Foreign Policy, Kelly M. Greenhill quotes Samar Sen, India Ambassador to the UN
If aggression against another foreign country means that it strains its social structure, that it ruins its finances, that it has to give up territory for sheltering refugees . . . what is the difference between that type of aggression and the other type, the more classical type, when someone declares war, or something of that sort?
Ms. Greenhill describes her book focus,
. . . on a very particular non-military method of applying coercive pressure -the use of migration and refugee crises as instruments of persuasion.
While "non-military" this sort of coercion is, according to Ms. Greenhill's research, widely used. She cites 56 instances since 1951. This list of 56 does not include the mass influx of refugees spawned by the Syrian civil war, Venezuela's collapse, nor things like the large flow of immigrants from nations into the U.S. from nations of Mexico, Central and South America.

Why include Mexico?

Because the president-elect of Mexico has raised the issue as set out in here The then Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) stated
“And soon, very soon, to the victory of our movement — we will defend all the migrants in the American continent and all the migrants in the world, who by necessity, must leave their towns and find a life in the United States, it is a human right we will defend.” (Google translation) (see Spanish language article from which the Google translation came)
I fully support legal immigration. The U.S. is a better country for the millions of immigrants who have arrived legally in this country and contributed to our society. However, the intentional effort to offload a country's poor or problems onto another country is something more. Some of you may remember Castro's cynical Mariel Boatlift:
On April 20, 1980, the Castro regime announces that all Cubans wishing to emigrate to the U.S. are free to board boats at the port of Mariel west of Havana, launching the Mariel Boatlift. The first of 125,000 Cuban refugees from Mariel reached Florida the next day.
In all, 125,000 Cubans fled to U.S. shores in about 1,700 boats, creating large waves of people that overwhelmed the U.S. Coast guard. Cuban guards had packed boat after boat, without considering safety, making some of the overcrowded boats barely seaworthy. Twenty-seven migrants died, including 14 on an overloaded boat that capsized on May 17.

The boatlift also began to have negative political implications for U.S.President Jimmy Carter.When it was discovered that a number of the exiles had been released from Cuban jails and mental health facilities, many were placed in refugee camps while others were held in federal prisons to undergo deportation hearings. Of the 125,000 “Marielitos,” as the refugees came to be known, who landed in Florida, more than 1,700 were jailed and another 587 were detained until they could find sponsors.

But let's go back to Ambassador Sen's quote for a second and ask, "When does a foreign government's complicity in encouraging its own people and/or those of other nations to violate the borders of another state become "aggressive" enough to be the "act of war?"

Let's see what Liam says in Warfare Today has to say in Weaponized Migration is the New Battlespace:
We have already heard much talk about weaponized narrative and seen the results of cyber warfare from the Ukraine to the US Elections, allegedly. We can now add to the hybrid warfare arsenal a new strategy concept, the weaponization of mass migration, or, to coin a phrase, sociological warfare. Simply shifting a large mass of people into the enemy’s territory produces chaos, conflict and economic erosion without the aggressor having to fire a single shot, or even appearing to have done anything.
Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and commander of US European Command, suggested to the US Senate Armed Services Committee in 2016 that “Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration from Syria in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve.” Russia denied this, but the New York Times reported that, "The one group that needs no convincing about Russia’s manipulation of the migrant issue is the migrants themselves."
Back to the Greenhill book, in which she offers several definitions of the migrations she is interested in, including,
... coercive engineered migrations (or migration-driven coercion) as those cross-border population movements that are deliberately created or manipulated in order to induce political, military and/or economic concesssions from a target state or states.
After intentionally generating crises, weak actors can offer to make them disappear in exchange for financial or politcal payoffs.
The effect on the engineered migration target state is accentuated by the domestic political divisions of that target. More Greenhill:
Like immigration and refugee policy more generally, real and threatened migration crises tend to split societies into (at least) two mutually antagonistic and often highly mobilized groups: the pro-refugee/migrant camp and the anti-refugee/migrant camp.
The domestic political environment is important because,
...coercive engineered migration can be usefully conceived as a two-level, generally asymmetric, coercion by punishment strategy, in which challengers on the international level seek to influence the behavior of their targets by exploiting the existence of of competing domestic interests within the target state(s) and by manipulating the costs or risks imposed on their civilian population(s).
... a key (norms-based mechanism that can enhance the coercive power ... is the imposition of ... hypocrisy costs - defined as those symbolic political costs that can be imposed when there exists a real or perceived disparity between a professed commitment to liberal values and norms and demonstrated actions that contravene such a commitment.
Hypocrisy costs are not necessary for coercion to succeed; however, they can serve as effective force multipliers for weak challengers, allowing them to punch above their weight and to influence the behavior of actors normally outside their ambit.
That being stated, let's look at the most recent immigration crisis facing the U.S. - the process in which children may be separated from their families - a situation that, it must be understood by now, that did not suddenly arrive in 2018, but which is now being exploited by both domestic and foreign nations to coerce the current administration to change a long-standing policy and as a political lever by the party not in power to keep protests going against the current administration in hopes of influencing voters in upcoming elections.

One of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals pushed exploitation of something akin the Ms. Greenhill's "hypocrisy costs" -
"Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules"
If the administration is "pro-family" - attack the enforcement of this policy as being "anti-family" and therefore hypocritical, regardless of history or facts. We see the opponents of this policy employing another Alinsky rule when they go after administration members personally. That rule
"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)" (source
Bottom line - when watching the news reports of immigration issues, be mindful that behind the protests, behinds the sad pictures (whether or not they were taken during this administration) there is a political agenda being played out - partially domestic, but most certainly also driven by foreign governments to attempt to coerce the U.S. by the asymmetric weapon of both the threat and reality of mass migration, which may "engineered" to force concessions by our government.

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