“I’m more willing to come out when I get my message from my commander.” David Koresh
Non state authoritarian movements answer to no one and are unfortunately increasing in number. For those who pursue the American dream it is hard to grasp the idea of following a charismatic figure to the death; yet, some willingly flock to alternative visions. There are reasons for this servile behavior, and the profiles of the docile sheep are consistent. They find rewards to servility, and the motivations vary from person to person. For some it’s the promise of the hereafter, for others it’s the tangible rewards in this life. Some unfortunate souls have little choice because they are born into such groups or sold to them. Competent, successful people join as well to escape from freedom due to the painful reminders of the poor choices they have made in life, now preferring to forgo decision-making altogether. This is the list of folks authoritarian non state movements can draw from and they know “the harvest is ripe.” Leadership at all levels within these movements is active and immersed with the flock. The networks systematically remove democratic principles by promoting a rational exchange between those who dictate and those who yield. In order for this system to work the individual that joins must engage in a personal innate revolt that requires the renunciation of traditional beliefs, mores, and laws that create a patriotic disposition. The mentors are shrewd, organized and evil.
Mentoring matters, and the bad guys understand, better yet, overstand this. Gangs, cartels, insurgents, terrorists, and cults target young malleable individuals, and over time they win the battle for hearts and minds. Law enforcement in Laredo, Texas recently uncovered the fruits of one network, homegrown assassins. Chilling revelations about three American Teenagers surfaced and thrust two of the surviving members, Rosalio Reta and Gabriel Cardona, into the national spotlight. (The third unnamed individual was stabbed to death in a Mexican prison.) This hit cell operated exclusively under the direction of the Mexican criminal network “Los Zetas” and claimed seven victims over a one year killing spree that began in 2005. The “Zetas” provided mentoring, training, housing, money, and faith in the form of Santisma Muerte to the cell. Reta claims he first killed at age thirteen and added, “I thought I was superman.” Such bravado is not uncommon among an ever increasing pool of young males thirsting for violence due to their participation in gangs, violent sects, wars, and criminal insurgencies. The problem is dire, because there is no shortage of mentors willing to train them as skillful practitioners in the art of violence.
Scholars see an unmistakable uptick in youthful violence globally, and this trend is being fueled by leaders capable of exploiting endemic conditions. Statistics demonstrate that when children or adolescents are involved in violent movements they are not likely to leave the lifestyle due to the “blood in, blood out” commitments required upon entry and the sense of attachment, identity, and security they form within these groups. These networks are surrogate families, and bonding intensifies when they are trained for violent activity. In this seminal work Lt. Col. Dave Grossman details the methods the military uses to break down soldiers’ resistance to kill while simultaneously building up their respect for leaders who engage in violence for the purpose of defending the nation. Authoritarian non state groups have learned how to develop this killer instinct in their followers as well, and go further; they train them to relish the kill. Lt. John Sullivan explores children in warfare through this eye opening piece that explores the global surge of child soldiers. Sullivan states, “Contemporary warfare is no longer the sole domain of adults and state forces. Children are increasingly involved in conflicts waged by nonstate actors: guerillas, terrorists, jihadi bands, gangs, criminals, and warlords.” In this new fracturing world, violence is viewed as necessary, and so the youthful participants perceive it as a normal, acceptable part of daily life. Violence creates a culture, and becomes part of a mindset and viral worldview. Leaders discipline their own, and spread authoritative messages through diverse means to rivals, but everyone gets the point; there are grave penalties for those who reject the communication.
Countering authoritarian non state actors is no small order for America. Many criminal networks are sophisticated and globally connected, even operating and recruiting inside prison walls. For too long much of the burden has been placed on law enforcement agencies. Bluntly put, the nationwide budget decreases cannot support the old approach. This nation has the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the world and recidivism remains extremely high among adult inmates who often become mentors for the younger inmates by providing an education that often further radicalizes or criminalizes the psyches of the newbies. The task at hand is that of formulating successful mentoring strategies and programs nationwide for at risk young people. This is the burden of every interested and responsible adult. We need a national dialogue regarding this, and more importantly a commitment.
Hakim Hazim is the founder of Relevant Now, a nationally recognized security consultancy.
Fromm, Erich, Escape From Freedom
Sullivan John, Child Soldiers: Despair, Barbarization and Conflict
Grossman, Dave, On Killing
Photo Credit CNN