Small Conflict Economies

Small states engaged in armed conflict or failing due to poor and corrupt governance, illicit economies, ethnic tension, or resource scarcity frequently have larger regional and even global impact. As these states descend into failure and chaos, there is a temptation among both elites and non-elites to compete for those illicit resources that provide local power by tying into a global network of illicit markets.  Conflict economies become dependent on available resources. Examples of these dependencies include conflict metals, gems and oil, slavery, sale of cultural relics, narcotics, and weapons. These small states prop themselves up with illicit markets and individuals who are capable of taking power from those who cannot stop them become dependent on illicit economies to stay in power and expand their power base. This cycle of failing and conflict states becoming dependent on globalized illicit economies confront myriad problems, not the least of which is pulling neighboring states and regions into similar conflict, failure, and economic dependencies. The goal of this project is to find ways to describe, understand, explain, and anticipate small conflict economies and to identify ways to intervene, disrupt or change those illicit economies. A number of avenues of inquiry exist within this project, including:

  • Ways to describe, understand, explain conflict economies. How do they emerge? How do they evolve? Are current methods of research and related data capture effective?
  • Ways to anticipate the emergence or spread of conflict economies. What are the triggers  or tipping points that would alert one to the changing nature of small state economies?  What, if any, are indicators of shifts from single small state to regional or global impact?
  • Ways to intervene, disrupt, or change conflict economies. How do you determine and make changes? What are the choke points, vulnerabilities, dependencies, relationships, networks that are critical to the survival and growth of the conflict state/region? Is there a point at which a state is lost?

In addition to interdisciplinary domain expertise, analytic development, tradecraft, warning, and technological expertise, this project seeks to create new ways to view, manipulate, and present information that would be useful to other analysts, intelligence consumers, and policy makers.

Some of the key topics of investigation for this project include:

  • Ways to exploit big data to profile and model these failing states to: test theories, track events, identify vulnerabilities to anticipate their impact
  • Determining the critical elements that facilitate existing means and methods of illicit financial transactions that support conflict states
  • Identifying critical paths that these networks use (e.g., traditional money laundering, dark web, hawala, crypto-currency, blended approach) and how they are created.
  • Ways to best visualize models of conflict states that convey its state of evolution, its vulnerabilities, and the likelihood of its success or failure

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LAS aims to bring together a multi-disciplinary group of academic, industry, and government researchers, analysts and managers together to re-engineer the intelligence analysis process to promote predictive analysis. LAS will do this by conducting both classified and unclassified research in a variety of areas of research. The research done in this area will serve as the foundation for mission effects and integrated back into the enterprise.

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