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Welfare as Warfare: How Violent Non-State Groups Use Social Services to Attack the State

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 31 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2008 Pages: 350-370
Alexus G. Grynkewich
Date Published
April 2008
21 pages
This paper examines the threat posed by social welfare organizations developed and operated by violent nonstate groups, as they threaten the legitimacy the state derives from serving citizens' needs under the social contract.
In the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, Islamic charitable organizations, many of which are linked to terrorist groups, are critical in providing services to Palestinian residents. Targeting these groups with counterterrorism tactics that threaten the financial viability of these organizations would increase poverty and despair among residents and risk further radicalizing the population. This creates a policy dilemma. Weakening or abolishing these organizations is not a promising tactic; however, a strategy of "displacement" offers a reasonable alternative. Investing in alternative social welfare organizations to replace those operated by terrorist affiliates will undermine the popular support for terrorist groups gained by their humanitarian services to the populace. A significant investment in medical clinics, early childhood centers, nursing homes, and a liberal education system would provide a competitive alternative to the services offered by violent nonstate terrorist groups. A successful displacement strategy, however, has the potential for a short-term increase in violence, particularly against the personnel and facilities of state-operated competing social services. Reasonable protective efforts should be able to address this challenge. Also, the public may turn against the terrorist groups when they see that they do not support effective services that meet the public's needs. 3 case studies and 139 notes