While doing research for my final essay, one thing stood out to me: how issues of border security are so interconnected. My topic is North Africa borders and security, and I chose to write about the narcotics trade in North Africa. After doing some initial research, it quickly became apparent that many other regions were involved in this issue. This seems obvious, drugs need to be made somewhere and transported somewhere with stops in between, but I never knew the full extent of the networks. I found myself reading about the US, Spain, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Senegal, and others when my topic was about North Africa. It really put into perspective how expansive these drug trafficking networks are and how interconnected the world is today.
This map shows how interconnected the drug trade is, and it leaves out a huge part of the world. I never expected to be reading about South American countries or of Spanish-American cooperation to tackle drug smugglers in a class about the Middle East and North Africa. It was all very interesting, and I’m glad I chose the topic I did. It helped me gain a larger perspective on how different things on different sides of the world can affect so much.
One of the most interesting topics in this course in my opinion was Iraq’s history, mostly their past 40 years. Iraq is a country that every American knows about and it tends to be a very controversial subject. While reading about Iraq, it occurred to me almost immediately that I knew basically nothing about the country or its recent history. I had learned about the 2003 Iraq war as well as the Persian Gulf war in 1991-1992, but from an International Studies/American perspective. I knew nothing of the Iraq-Iran war and only some vague notions about nuclear inspections and sanctions in Iraq in the 1990s. I was surprised to learn of the extent of the Iraq-Iran war and how devastating it was and its many long term effects on the region. It was also interesting to learn about the hardships Iraq suffered as the consequences of the Iran-Iraq war and the Persian Gulf war.
Reading about the lead-up to the Persian Gulf war really put into perspective the causes of Iraq’s initial invasion of Kuwait. I had never really stopped to consider why exactly Iraq initially invaded Kuwait beyond the usual answers of “oil” or “because Saddam Hussein is bad”. But to learn of the devastation that Iraq suffered from such a long war with a peer adversary, especially to their economy through the destruction of oil fields and the huge amount of money being borrowed and spent on weapons. The other huge effect of that war was its effect on the Iraqi psyche. Iraq and its regime had taken a huge hit, as they had just fought a long and costly war and gained nothing. The economic and morale reasons make it easier to understand why Iraq invaded Kuwait. Another reason to consider that is similar is regime security. It was fascinating to read about Saddam Hussein’s paranoia, especially in the post-Persian Gulf war period.
The strange handling of the sanctions and nuclear inspections of the period between the Persian Gulf war and the 2003 Iraq war was also fascinating to read about. Saddam Hussein’s paranoia surrounding the fall of eastern European dictators and the feel that the world is against Iraq leading to his strange actions of trying to make the West think he possessed WMD even though he didn’t was something that I had never read about or considered before. But overall, reading about Iraq’s past 40 years made me feel bad for the people living there. They had to live through multiple wars, economic hardships, and under an authoritarian dictator. Hopefully the situation there improves in the coming years, and their democracy endures.
While researching our North Africa presentation for last Friday, I read a lot about the issue of smuggling in North Africa. My paper is on the narcotics trade in North Africa, but I didn’t know the full extent of smuggling in North Africa until I started to research Libya. I read this article in my research from the Carnegie Peace Endowment: https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/08/21/tunisian-libyan-border-security-aspirations-and-socioeconomic-realities-pub-77087
While thinking of illegal border activities and smuggling, I first thought of obvious narcotics or people smuggling operations. I never even considered that more normal goods were being smuggled. It never occurred that things like cigarettes, fuel, or other “consumer goods” would be smuggled so much across borders. Learning that around half of Libyan money is made from “informal” methods was a surprise to me, although maybe it shouldn’t have been. You always here about the situation in Libya on the news, but it is usually focused on things like terrorism. When doing further research and thinking about it more, it makes sense that a lot of business in Libya is conducted illegally. It is a failed state, where the west backed central government holds little territory and the rest of the country is being fought over by many different factions. The Libyan borders were already a hot spot for illegal smuggling before the civil war just because the borders are long stretches of desert with little people living there, making them hard to police. With the civil war, smuggling has become more encouraged. Different groups control different sections of the border and often make a profit from the illegal smuggling there because it makes more money than legal economic activities.
Here is a map of who controls what in Libya as of July 19, 2018. It really puts into perspective the instability of the country, and how control of the borders would help one group in power gain over another. You can see the long sections of the yellow or mixed/unclear control to see that much of the border is contested for obvious reasons. Those reasons being that the border is so important and constantly being fought over, or also because little people live there so it is unclear who controls the area.