On War #114
More on Gangs & Guerrillas vs. the State
By William S. Lind
A story in the April 26 Washington Times, “Drug smugglers, rebels join hands,” by Carmen Gentile, offered an interesting illustration of the argument I made in my last column, that Fourth Generation entities may do everything they want to do within the framework of hollowed-out states. The article reports that
Of course, the states in question – Colombia, Paraguay and Brazil – would like to put a halt to this arrangement. But what can they do? If the United States cannot control its border along the Rio Grande, how can Brazil possibly keep drug traffickers from crossing its vastly longer land border, much of it through difficult country? Colombia is a hollow state, with the FARC, drug gangs and other non-state elements in effective control of much of its territory.
Paraguay illustrates another effective technique non-state forces use against armed forces of the state: taking them from within. The Washington Times article quotes the U.S. State Department’s 2005 International Narcotics Strategy Report concerning “corruption and inefficiency” within the Paraguayan National Police, “who have been accused of protecting Brazilian narcotics traffickers.” What a surprise! Given the profits involved in drug smuggling, how hard would it be to buy off some Paraguayan cops? Or all Paraguayan cops?
Meanwhile, drug smugglers and guerrilla forces like the FARC work together more easily than states do. The state system is old, creaky, formalistic and slow. Drug dealing and guerrilla warfare represent a free market, where deals happen fast. Several years ago, a Marine friend went down to Bolivia as part of the U.S. counter-drug effort. He observed that the drug traffickers went through Boyd Cycle or OODA Loop six times in the time it took us to go through it once. When I relayed that to Colonel Boyd, he said, “Then we’re not even in the game.”
Not surprisingly, the FARC and others find they can use the drug trade for political ends. The Washington Times piece noted,
How long will it be before al Qaeda and other Islamic non-state forces make their own alliances with the drug gangs and people smugglers who are experts in getting across America’s southern border? Or use the excellent distribution systems the drug gangs have throughout the United States to smuggle something with a bigger bang than the best cocaine?
Just as we see states coming together around the world against the non-state forces of the Fourth Generation, so those non-state forces will also come together in multi-faceted alliances. The difference is likely to be that they will do it faster and better. And, they will use states’ preoccupation with the state system like a matador’s cape, to dazzle and distract while they proceed with the real business of war.
William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation
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The Free Congress Foundation is a 26-year-old Washington, DC-based conservative think tank, that teaches people how to be effective in the political process, advocates judicial reform, promotes cultural conservatism, and works against the government encroachment of individual liberties.