Via Thomas Ricks, Retired Army Col. Bob Killebrew of the Center for a New American Security has a piece in Small Wars Journal on the growing nexus between international organized crime and terrorist/insurgent groups. It’s well worth a read, though his perspective is somewhat limited by the fact that he seems to only consider what America can do to manage the problem. The problem he identifies, however, is a quintessentially global problem requiring a global solution.
For example, Killebrew writes:
The merger of crime and terrorism means that insurgents will have access to virtually unlimited cash and that widespread attacks on the fabric of civil life – bribes, extortion, kidnapping, murder – have already become common fare in insurgencies. As the proper answer to this kind of challenge is effective civil institutions, including uncorrupted and efficient police, the U.S. must be capable of effectively and discretely helping our allies when asked, without opening our friends up to charges of “selling out” their countries’ interests to the Americans.
This is where the comparative advantage of the United Nations comes in. In 2006, the General Assembly adopted a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which was the first time that all member states agreed to a common strategic approach to combat terrorism. This included a recognition that less developed countries might need some techincal assistance to prop up institutions like police and border controls. To that end, the UN has a number of programs intended to help member states, with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime taking the lead in providing on-the-ground technical assistance. The problem was–and remains–that these efforts are fairly limited considering the scope of the problem.
Also, he writes:
The U.S., must more effectively bridge the gap between foreign and domestic security policies; criminals and extremists aren’t deterred by national borders, and our own law enforcement agencies in the U.S. –especially local cops on the beat – should have at least the same capability to communicate across boundaries and within organizations as the crooks do.
This is very true. It is also a place where international institutions are trying to make a difference. Interpol has a secure database of criminal information that it shares with member states and also some local police jurisdictions. The NYPD, for example, has its own Interpol liaison with access to Interpol’s database.
Again, the problem is not that the architecture for international cooperation is not there, but that too few countries (chiefly, the United States) seem to be taking advantage of it.