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Canadian Military Journal

The Grand Strategic and Strategic Roles of Armed Non-state Actors (ANSAs)

James W. Moore
James W. Moore, Ph.D., LL.M, is a Defence Scientist in the Socio-Cognitive Systems Section at DRDC, Toronto Research Centre. Previously, he worked for 20 years as a Strategic Analyst responsible for research and reporting on the Middle East with the Directorate of Strategic Analysis/CORA at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Abstract :

In an article previously published in the Canadian Military Journal,2 I introduced the concept of the Armed Non-state Actor (ANSA), defined as an autonomously operating planned group that has the capacity to use violence to achieve political ends. In the article that follows, I will explore the strategic roles of ANSAs in the context of violent intergroup conflict, beginning with a statement of the central problem. Simply put, we, in the Canadian national security community, have an overly narrow view of the strategic roles of ANSAs. The picture we typically paint of these non-state adversaries—as found in Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) doctrine on irregular warfare and counterinsurgency (COIN)3—looks something like what now follows.4 The lodestone for an ANSA is political power. At a minimum, an ANSA is committed to seizing political power from the established authorities; in the extreme, it seeks to transform society’s fundamental political, economic, and social institutions and relationships in line with its (often Utopian) vision of the world. The ANSA sees ‘the people’ as the centre of gravity in its drive for power, and sees itself as the leading element in their struggle for survival. It tries to win, over the course of a protracted politico-military campaign, the acquiescence if not the allegiance of the local populace. The path to power, as far as the ANSA is concerned, does not lie in peaceful engagement with its opponents. Rather, it stands in implacable, violent opposition to the peaceful resolution of social conflict; its reliance upon violence, subversion, and intimidation only confirms its true, destructive intentions. Granted, at some point in its drive for power, the ANSA may agree to participate in a formal peace process. However, this is, at best, a tactical manoeuvre. The ANSA publicly proclaims its fidelity to the peaceful settlement of armed conflict, all the while working behind the scenes—often using carefully calibrated and deniable violent activity—to undermine the peace process and weaken its enemies. The picture of an ANSA that emerges from CAF doctrine, then, is that of a violent, irreconcilable foe against whom the CAF must seize every opportunity “to pre-empt, dislocate and disrupt.

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The Grand Strategic and Strategic Roles of Armed Non-state Actors (ANSAs)

Date Deposited : 08 Apr 2015 11:36

Last Modified : 08 Apr 2015 11:36

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Volume 15, Number 1, - 2015

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