43:2 - Summer 2019

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The Fletcher Forum is pleased to share a sampling of articles from our latest print edition of the journal, focused on local movements and their impact on global change. To read more, we invite you to subscribe to The Forum and thank you for your readership and support.  

Editor’s Note


Leadership in a Time of Rapidly Changing National Security Challenges: A Conversation with Mike Mullen, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

How To Survive In Russian Opposition Politics: A Conversation with Leonid Volkov, Chief of Staff for Alexei Navalny


Dynamics of Local Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Challenges Ahead for President Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo by Alex Ntung

Early in January 2019, Félix Tshisekedi took over from Joseph Kabila as President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Beyond the ongoing contentious discussion about the legitimacy of Tshisekedi’s presidency after the irregularities surrounding his election, and the recent agreement to hold talks on potential joint leadership with Kabila, this paper aims to react on the less debated and highly complex issues facing the country—the local conflict dynamics and their impact on national, regional, and international a airs. Local disputes have a direct relationship with and a demonstrable impact upon national politics. In most cases, these disputes tend to spill over national borders, and groups perpetuating violence have become instrumental actors in regional security clashes. However, the dynamics of local conflict have long been either trivialized or misinterpreted. Attempts to understand the complexity of this context, a prerequisite to securing a sustainable peace arrangement, have been rare. e analysis in this paper focuses on eastern Congo, where national and non-state actors have historically manipulated ethnicity, land rights, and local governance according to damaging and divergent political and economic agendas that do not benefit the local population. Without peace in the DRC, security in the Great Lakes region will remain fragile. is peace depends significantly on stability in eastern Congo. In this context, this paper highlights some of the greatest national and regional security challenges to Tshisekedi’s leadership over the next five years.

Fighting for Influence in Open Societies: the Role of Resilience and Transparency by Andrea J. Dew

This article uses the framework of message, messenger, and media from a forthcoming book, From Quills to Tweets: How America Communicates War and Revolutions, to examine how influencers manipulate identity, reality, and perceptions to create such an outsize effect. By analyzing the challenges holistically through this lens, we can weave deep networks of resilience that include initiatives for radical transparency on sources and funding, build networks of resilience to manipulation through public-private initiatives, purge social media sites of inauthentic accounts and media that incites hatred and violence, and promote responsible communication of incidents to avoid amplifying the manifesto of attackers. However, one of the most difficult challenges to overcome will be the false comfort of algorithms that feed us what we want to read—ideas that confirm our own biases—and keep from us viewpoints that challenge our empathetic and cognitive bubbles.

Grassroots Participation in Defense of Dictatorship: Venezuela’s Communal Councils and the Future of Participatory Democracy in Latin America by Jared Abbott and Michael McCarthy

With Venezuela’s Chavista political movement battling to keep its grassroots participatory experiments alive amid a cataclysmic economic depression, we have a new crucial case for assessing the evolution and continuation of participatory institutions under left-wing populist governments. Based on original recent survey data, we marshal evidence to show that the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) use of grassroots participation to defend the Maduro regime has weakened the quality of community-level participation, just as it may have lengthened the life-span of Chavismo’s most important and expansive participatory institution, the Communal Councils—the main phenomenon we document here. The continuation of the Councils, despite a massive economic contraction, defies expectations that the groups would disappear when conditions became considerably less favorable than during the economic boom that existed during their 2006-2008 launch. It also raises crucial questions about the power politics dimensions of grassroots-level mobilization, an aspect of participatory democracy that scholars have too often neglected.

43:1 - Winter 2019

43:1 - Winter 2019