Thursday, September 06, 2007

Very seldom do I ever lift something from the archives, but I came across a guest-post I did a number of years ago for blogfriend Josh Manchester at his now defunct The Adventures of Chester blog. The basic content of the post has held up fairly well, though some of the original links that supported the data have since vanished ( reminding me that links are really, really, transient but a footnote is forever); most of the economic data came from NIC/CIA.gov PDFs that have been moved or removed from the web, so take that for what it is worth (the dollar figures are more than stale now, regardless):


When Saddam Hussein emptied his prisons prior to the Iraq War it seemed at the time a sign of his regime’s impending doom. Either Saddam’s amnesty was an act of desperation to shore up support among the Iraqi people or his grip on power had so weakened that he had lost control even over elements of his own security apparatus. In actuality, the dictator had made a preemptive asymmetrical strike against American forces by releasing Iraq’s professional criminals whose well-organized networks badly undermined the CPA and today are connecting an otherwise heterogeneous insurgency. Although this move ultimately did Saddam Hussein little good it demonstrated the potential power that
Black Globalizationhas to effect the outcome of military interventions, even those of the United States.

It’s rather strange that given our history, American intelligence did not forsee this outcome in Iraq. It was the United States government that used the Mafia of Charles “ Lucky” Luciano to gather naval intelligence, suppress sabotage on the dockyards and enlist the Sicilian Mafia to undermine Mussolini’s rule to soften the island for Allied invasion. WWII however was the age when nation-state control and the exercise of sovereignty and economic autarky were at their zenith and non-state actors like criminal syndicates were peripheral to events.

Today, the strategic situation is vastly different. The relative primacy of nation-state sovereigns has been eroded by globalization that opened their economies and borders to greater flows of “connectivity” and challenges to their political legitimacy mounted by international, transnational and subnational actors. Some of these, the WTO or the internet for example, at least have brought tremendous benefits. Not so the metastasis
of transnational criminal networks that constitute black globalization and have an economic reach that in the aggregate, rivals the greatest of regional powers and are centered on a few geographic nexus points. A sampling of annual estimates:

Governmental Corruption $ 500 billion

Global Narcotics trafficking $ 400-500 billion (matching or exceeding U.S. Defense budget)

Conflict Diamond trafficking $ 24 billion/ 10 % world market

Human Trafficking $ 7 billion

Stolen Automobile Smuggling $ 9 billion

Piracy ( maritime) $ 16 billion ( high end estimate)

Even leaving aside minor or hard to estimate contraband markets or legal “ gray “ markets like international arms dealing, these revenues are enough to field armies or acquire the most expensive technology to evade capture or launch asymmetrical attacks on state forces.

Clearly, the days
when even a weak state ruler like Ngo Dinh Diem could scattter a criminal organization with a whiff of grapeshot are over. Expeditions into failed Gap states like Somalia or major military invasions of countries like Iraq must take Black Globalization networks into account during strategic planning as they would subnational or even full-fledged state actors. In terms of on the ground, policy, options for U.S. policy makers and commanders for engaging these networks would include:

Alliance ( Luciano Model)

Benign Neutrality ( Transactional Model)

Armed Neutrality ( Deterrence Model)

Active Containment ( Limited military action)

Belligerence (Counterinsurgency model)

Ideally, the U.S. would seek to prevent the Black Globalization network from actively aligning itself with the enemy and avoid direct engagement to suppress the network until the primary mission was accomplished. Imagine the state of Iraq today if the criminal networks were working hand in glove with American and Iraqi troops to root out the insurgency instead to aid the insurgents against coalition forces. Circumstances, however may not always prove to be so simple, corrupt and violent networks being what they are, any negotiated result is at best transient.

A second indirect form of pressure could be exerted on the money laundering aspect of Black Globalization which must at some point attempt to “ clean” their cash flow through or by acquiring legitimate banks and financial markets in Western countries. Strategic financial attack was evidently taken against the major backers of Slobodon Milosevic during the Kosovo War with positive results. Exploiting this avenue might require that the Marines have more than just a few good accountants, a genuine financial intelligence service would be required to maximize effectiveness.

The complexity of small wars is almost enough to make diplomats and generals long for the good, old days of the Warsaw Pact. Almost. "

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The effect of black globalization strikes like emptying the jails ahead of invasion is transitory. Criminals either reform so they're not a problem, or they restart their criminal careers in which case you put them back in jail. In either case, it's not something that will bring down a regime by itself.

So long as these disruptive strikes have a ceiling well short of what it would take to win the ultimate victory of reversing US regime change, they are ultimately meaningless except as part of the drip, drip, drip of propaganda convincing the US to leave.

Hold a symposium of state and local law enforcement officials and have them game out how bad things would get in the US were our own jails to empty out. Once the horror sinks in of how bad it would be here, bad news from 'over there' loses a lot of its punch.

Similar countermeasures can be enacted for just about every propaganda oriented black globalization strike that I can think of. If the enemy is striking at our heart and minds, there's no reason not to fight back on the same battlefield except that peacetime law keeps our own psychological warfare troops from being active on the home front. Maybe *that's* the real problem, that we've purposefully disarmed ourselves to these attacks.
Really interesting post. Fact or collection of urban legends?

1. Going to the ur-story at the start, the extent of Lucky Luciano�s aid is a matter of conjecture. Not much hard data. I�ve not seen research on this, but the story seems to have grown over the years. Perhaps our children will read how we develop the atomic bomb with his help.

2. Accounts of the awesome power of gangs are a fine example of ignoring history. Gangs are not exactly new, although like everything they have changed with the times (e.g., tech, globalization). Are they a larger factor of the global economy than before? Nothing here tells us (I have not read the source article).

Much of the modern literature on what I�ll call 4GW (goes by many names) propagates thru fun high-concept names. Black globalization! But a bit light on supporting documentation.
Hi TM,

Good to hear from you - I see that you are at Chicago Boyz as well.

I agree that Black Globalization is not a strategic problem - I think it complicates at the operational level and it's a "force-multiplier" for the other bad guys - terrorists, insurgents - who want contraband, thugs for hire etc. It adds to the chaos.


I found the word file yesterday while looking for something else and lacked the time ( or frankly, the interest) to track down the new URLs.

If I was trying to publish this somewhere, I'd bother but I was just trying to entertain the readership with some old work.

If you think I'm just blowing smoke, I'll happily send you the file and you can see the original cites for yourself in the hypertext links. Or you can message Josh Manchester through the SWC/SWJ Blog and ask him if I was on the level as he solicited the piece from me.
Whoa, nothing personal! Certainly I did not say that you're "blowing smoke" or misrepresenting the original (which I'd like to see). In fact, "blowing smoke" evokes an image of you as Humphrey Bogart, telling Lauren about 4gw over drinks.

I've seen many articles like this. Global Crime {a serious magazine, in which experts like van Creveld and John Robb have published) seems to run several of these in every issue. Sometimes I get the impression that the Triads are a gang formed last week in LA -- but growing fast!

Shouldn't claims that gangs are a greater threat today than in the past -- implicit to most of these articles -- support this with some historical data?

Just asking.
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