A while back I had to write a term paper for one of my history classes. I really wanted to do a cross-historical comparison between the Trans-Saharan trade routes of the past and the modern smuggling routes used by drug traffickers and terrorists. One of the limitations of academia (or strength depending on your perspective) is that there is this strange gap where political science, history, and journalism do not quite merry up with each other.

Journalism doesn’t care about history very much. Political Science often ignores historical precedents and anecdotal evidence on the ground, and history is by its nature going to be 20 years or more behind the power curve because someone has to write white papers and PhD dissertations before the information can be cited as a source.

I’m hoping I can fill this gap to some extent with this series on the Trans-Saharan challenge, a series that will take an in depth look at the subject of trade, smuggling, conflict, and terrorism.

I hope readers don’t mind that I am going to blatantly recycle large amounts of the historical research I did for my history paper. From there I will move on to write the paper I wanted to all along, something that addresses what is actually happening right now and the challenges of Trans-Saharan terrorism and drug smuggling. For those who don’t think history is important, feel free to skip this. For those who know better, consider this a crash course of an area study for future operations.