Two topics ought to rate persistent headlines in 2010: governmental corruption and cyber security.
We know corruption is pervasive, a pan-human affliction, but in the developing world endemic corruption truly robs the present, steals the future and keeps oppressed populations mired in poverty. As it saps fragile economies and sows cynicism, corruption seeds conflict. Corruption in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq has frustrated American and allied war-fighters (and the frustrated allies include Afghanis, Pakistanis and Iraqis). The Mexican government's Cartel War is both a war on narcotics traffickers and internal political corruption.
As for cyber security? Cyber crime obviously overlaps with certain types of criminal corruption, but the world's increasing dependence on vulnerable digital networks makes deterring computer crime and computer snooping key domestic and international goals.
A recent report from Kenya provides a hideous example of corruption robbing the present and future. The Voice of America reported on Dec. 22 that $1.3 million "disappeared" from a national fund which supports primary school education for Kenyan children. The fund had received almost $100 million "to help pay for textbooks, curriculum development and teacher training until 2010."? The theft was discovered in June (likely with a nudge from Britain). Two-dozen officials are "under investigation," but there have been no arrests.
This is more than a sad story about cheating children. Disgust with governmental corruption combined with ethnic distrust added emotional fuel to political violence ignited by Kenya's disputed December 2007 national election. One thousand two hundred people died in the post-election turmoil. Many Kenyans understand the threat. One Kenyan group described the scandal as "so egregious, there could be mass unrest unless the government acts quickly to identify and punish those responsible for the theft."
Al-Qaida's survival strategy relies on corruption. Payoffs to warlords buys protection in Somalia and Pakistan. So do its war plans. A terrorist with financial wherewithal (say, money provided by wealthy Persian Gulf "donors") can buy tips from a corrupt police official or military officer. Who says? The Iraqi government does.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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