Monday, November 16, 2009
There has been a lot of talk these days in Washington regarding the intersection of terrorism, drugs, governance, and criminal networks. You can pretty much put "narco-" in front of anything. And there's much ado about how terrorist networks are working with, or modelling themselves after, criminal networks. And there's also the new-ish "natural" or "environmental" security problem space. Okay. So what?
Let's be very clear here, violence used by any actor outside of the legitimate government (sure, that can be debated in some cases) is illegal in any country and the spilling of that violence over international boundaries creates problems towards violations of international law. Period. And while I'm ranting, nations fight each other for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it's because their antagonists don't look like them and sometimes it's because of what happens to water sources when they flow downstream. Does the nature of conflict, outside of genocide, differ significantly because of the impetus of the conflict? And of course terrorist networks look like criminal networks - that's because they are criminal networks, albeit with political rather than monetary goals.
So why do we need to use modifiers for all of these types of problems? Is narco-violence any different than normal violence? To me the only difference is that drugs are involved. So how does that delineation change the government's response to the violence?
I may be way off on this, but it seems to me that we're trying to pigeon-hole all the various types of violations to the rule of law that we can. In some circles, it apparently helps model the violators. But I doubt the validity of that in a global sense. Is the Taliban a political insurgency, a narco-insurgency, or a terrorist organization? They seem to be a little bit of each and can't be compared 1 to 1 to Mao, the FARC, or al Qaeda. So what does the labeling give us?
My point is that I firmly believe that these labels don't help with the analysis and planning for solutions to combat these types of illegalities. I think that some analysts and pundits will use the categorization to simplify the problem, as opposed to looking at each case in depth and building from there. While all criminality is not equal or similar, maybe we should de-scope the generalities and take a good, hard, long look at specific problems. I have no doubts that Neustadt and May would disapprove of the modifiers and rightly so.