We’ve talked about graft as a cause of war. Now the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has weighed in. It published a landmark study this month called Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security. Every policy-maker should read it, more than once.
An underestimated threat from corruption, the authors say, is the “rage it can ignite in its victims and the likelihood that some will express that rage in violent or destabilizing ways.”
Every country that harbors an extremist insurgency today suffers from kleptocratic governance, including such apparent outliers as the Philippines or Thailand. The motivational literature of those extremist movements is littered with references to corruption.
Acute corruption, according to the report, was behind the mass protests during the 2011 Arab uprisings, “from Tunisia to Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen.”
And the same rage that destabilizes foreign governments can turn itself on Western governments that support corrupt overseas regimes.
“Where the United States or other Western countries are seen as enabling the kleptocratic practices of corrupt governments . . . some of the victims’ rage will inevitably be directed outward, past the hated regime and toward its perceived American or allied backers.”
Was corruption a cause of 9/11? The Carnegie authors think so.
“For Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a prominent member of al-Qaeda killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011, the main rationale for the attacks on September 11, 2001, was the U.S. role in enabling Arab kleptocracies.”
The report continues:
“In 2009, he decried U.S. and Western officials for ‘setting up in our countries treasonous regimes loyal to them, then backing these corrupt regimes and governments against their populations.’ This Western support for Middle Eastern kleptocracies, according to Rahman, was ‘the true cause that motivated the mujahidin to carry out’ the 9/11 attacks.”
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Who’s behind the Carnegie study?
The authors say it grew out of a workshop and follow-on activities in which the following organizations, among others, took part:
American University Washington College of Law
Business Executives for National Security
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egyptian Transparency and Integrity Center
Fund for Peace
Global Financial Integrity
Good Governance Group
Leveraged Outcomes LLC
National Endowment for Democracy
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
Open Society Foundations
Transparency International, Secretariat
Transparency International, country chapters: Bangladesh, Colombia, Peru
Transparency International, Defence and Security
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of the Treasury
World Bank Group
World Justice Project
The full report is here.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.