Just a quick cross-posted notice; this week the worthy and wonderful International Relations and Security Network (ISN) at ETH Zurich is running a five-part curated series by me on War, Crime and the Privatization of Violence (all subjects dear to my dark heart). Each part kicks off with a short essay and then assembles links to a wide range of reports and sources. To quote the introduction:
This week’s dossier explores some of the characteristics of the political-criminal nexus. The following installments consider first the world of the kleptocracy, how so many states thrive through organized plunder of their own resources and exploitation of their populations: in effect, nationalizing theft. Even if they avoid that temptation, they may find themselves conniving at or even instigating crime in the name of some greater good. Next, the focus shifts to warlords and pseudo-states, violent actors who may turn to crime to satisfy their political ambitions but also, in some case, rise as predators and later become politicians. How often do they become the builders of new polities, or are they generally the prime exponents of what one could call the “ crime-conflict nexus” instead?
However, the privatization of violence and the spread of criminalized conflicts is only part of the story, and the fourth section will consider the forces and actors facilitating this problem, from corruption at a local, national and international level to the arms dealers and other service industries of the global underworld. It is, after all, thanks to their entrepreneurial zeal that the gangsters, genocidaires and gunmen can be as effective as they so often are. Their efficiency, furthermore, ensures that they have uses to others, and so as well as the facilitators, it is vital to consider their clients, too. Nonetheless, there is always hope, and the final part of this series will instead look at solutions, from transnational programs to grassroots initiatives.
The first part, Introduction: A World of Thieves and Warriors, explores how “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” and asks “What is the difference between war and crime, between theft and looting, between corruption by an official and extortion by a gangster?”
The second, Nationalizing Villainy: Kleptocracies and State Crime, explores “what can happen if states succumb to kleptocracy and corruption, and especially how these problems induce and perpetuate war.”
Then The Crime-Conflict Nexus: Warlords and Pseudo-States starts with the view that “When a state is unable to maintain its monopoly on violence, power-vacuums inevitably arise” and considers “how organized criminals and warlords fill these vacuums in failed, weak and even pseudo-states.”
Fourth, Clients And Enablers explores the forces and actors facilitating this problem, from corruption to the arms dealers and other service industries of the global underworld,
Finally, in What Is To Be Done?, I look at possible solutions. In particular, I note that “hope is increasingly coming not from grand transnational programs—which are often admirable, but historically often suffer from the problems of seeking consensus and settling for the lowest common denominator—but instead grassroots initiatives rooted in civil society.”