Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crime: A World of Thieves and Warriors - How Globalization Affects Transnational Crime

Source: ISN

A World of Thieves and Warriors

Organized crime has always been part of human society, but it has never been so extensive, dynamic or pervasive. Today we begin to examine the ‘political-criminal market’ – a global market that has seen extraordinary growth in the post-Cold War period.

By Mark Galeotti for the ISN
War and crime have forever been partners. In the modern world of often-fragile states, growing resource pressure and burgeoning transnational criminal economies, the relationship is stronger than ever.

What is the difference between war and crime, between theft and looting, between corruption by an official and extortion by a gangster? If one of the crucial attributes of statehood is a monopoly over the use of violence, how are we to interpret the extent to which violence—and just as significant, the credible threat of violence—remains a diffuse resource, in the hands not just of states but also private corporations, unofficial and sanctioned warlords, local and transnational crime groups and political movements? Is the state dwindling, eaten away by the forces of marketization and globalization, simply becoming one more actor in an ever-growing troupe? Or is it rather that the state has never been as central as we liked to believe, and we are simply mourning a mythic past which seemed so much simpler and more predictable?

As ever, the truth lies somewhere between these extremes. Even the most stable and legitimate states have had not just criminal underworlds, but also autonomous wielders of violence both within and without the law, from the USA’s Ku Klux Klan and the Pinkertons to Britain’s Protestant Irish Black and Tans and East India Company, with its own armies and fleets. The state has always been willing to outsource violence in the name of economy or deniability.

Furthermore, the borderlines between warfighting, policing, predation and profit were ever hazy. Rome’s legions were generally the closest thing to a police force in the provinces they conquered. The Opium Wars of 1939-42 and 1856-60 were fought explicitly to maintain the drug trade. Indeed, in general nineteenth-century European generals fought colonial wars with half an eye to the profits from looting and imperial conflicts were often waged against warlords and bandit chieftains instead of states and tribes. Nonetheless, something has changed. The rise of the modern state and the post-Westphalian order seemed for a while to promise an era of clarity. Police policed, soldiers fought; states taxed and criminals stole. There were exceptions, many of them, but they were considered anachronisms, aberrations and, ultimately, failures of the state.

Since then, the increasingly—almost overwhelmingly—complex challenges facing the state and the retreat of collectivist ideals has nurtured a growing willingness to place what once seemed to be central public functions in the hands of private agencies. Meanwhile, globalization has led to the rise of a growing transnational market in a range of services and commodities, including violence, coercion, crime and corruption. Organized crime has been around as long as organized society, but it has never been so extensive, dynamic or pervasive. Furthermore, the ways that crime and war are intertwined have never been so obvious, from the ways insurgents buy their arsenals and pay their fighters with funds raised through drug trafficking and protection racketeering, to the extent to which populations rendered destitute through conflict are easy prey for criminals—or else are forced into criminal activities themselves.

The outcome is not coherence, but the opposite. Roy Godson has described the rise of a “political-criminal nexus… the concentration and fusion of political and criminal power.” In practice, though, what is emerging is less of a nexus and more of a global market, able to reflect very specific local political, social and economic conditions but also able to draw on increasingly mobile and fluid sources of criminal and coercive capacity.
Recommended Reading:
Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment
The UN Office on Drugs & Crime’s 2010 report, the first of its kind, set out to “connect the dots between regions,” highlight illicit markets and major trafficking routes and demonstrate “the ways and means international mafias have grown into an international problem.” In the process, it provided a comprehensive guide to the scale of the challenge.
Organized Crime: The World’s Largest Social Network
With tongue only partly in cheek, Wired magazine describe transnational criminal activity as a social network, and in this interactive graphic highlight the main connections and business opportunities that keep these gangs “friending” each other.
Global Crime Wave
Michael Klare’s 2009 article in The Nation suggested that the global economic slowdown was “destined to be accompanied by rising levels of crime, violence and—increasingly—state repression” bringing “an epidemic of global crime and boom times for criminal syndicates and cartels everywhere.” He may have overstated the threat, but at a time of growing economic uncertainty, compounded by equally unpredictable climatic and political changes, crime and disorder will rise.
Crime and War
According to Robert Killebrew, in this piece in the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings (2011), “As criminal organizations metamorphose into criminal states, the domains of law enforcement and the military increasingly overlap.” This is likely to “ultimately transform warfare into a new kind of violent conflict that will challenge our familiar ‘conventional’ and ‘unconventional’ frameworks.”
Five Wars of Globalization
In this 2003 classic from Foreign Affairs, Moisés Naím, argues that the struggle against such threats as the drug trade “pits governments against agile, stateless, and resourceful networks empowered by globalization. Governments will continue to lose these wars until they adopt new strategies to deal with a larger, unprecedented struggle that now shapes the world as much as confrontations between nation-states once did.”
Terrorism, Crime, and Conflict: Exploiting the Differences Among Transnational Threats?
This useful and imaginative 2011 policy brief from the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, by Britt Sloan and James Cockayne goes beyond simply bewailing the interactions between these threats and offers eight targeted policy recommendations based on exploiting their divergences.
The Role of Private Military and Security Companies in Modern Warfare
In this 2012 paper, José L. Gómez del Prado, former Chair of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, notes that “The availability of experienced security and military personnel for hire has enabled governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations to circumvent political constraints on the use of force.”
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers
Iraq remains the foremost example of the outsourcing of war but also the extent to which that can also lead to the criminalization of warfighting. This preview of Robert Greenwald’s passionate and outspoken full-length documentary Iraq for Sale summarizes the key issues and players.
The Corporate Takeover of US Intelligence
There are other kinds of mercenaries. Tim Shorrock’s 2007 article in Salon, for example, exposes how “spying has become one of the fastest-growing private industries in the United States” with 70% of the classified intelligence budget spent on private contracts.
Contract Killing is “A Continuation of Business By Other Means”
Often, though, the challenge is that the state is not the only consumer of ‘privatized violence.” Russia, for example, is no failed state, but it remains a country in which violence, intimidation and even murder have–like bribery–become all-too-widely accepted as “an ordinary practice” of politics, business and crime. The result is a diffusion of violence throughout society.

Mark Galeotti is Professor of Global Affairs at New York University’s SCPS Center for Global Affairs and author of the In Moscow’s Shadows blog.