Sunday, July 09, 2006

Crime and war...the margins

Last year I started following the Coming Anarchy blog. Don't be misled by the name; these fellows are very sharp. Wednesday's post is deceptively entitled "Empowerment through Technology," suggesting getting a bit more torque from your electric drill or banging out cheaper widgets faster than ever. In fact, the writer points to how the proliferation of "more efficient engines of destruction," to borrow a line form G.B. Shaw, now enables small groups and even individuals to wield lethal force in ways unimaginable a few years ago.

Today, an individual can walk into a school or office with a gun, murder a dozen people and/or hold others hostage. One single person, empowered by a small tool, instantly has the power of life and death over a host of others and can affect the lives of hundreds through one act. Two students at Columbine high school affected the lives of thousands of people in their community as well as even more outside, leading to among other things, copy cat shootings.

Columbine, like Yugoslavia or Somalia, was a foreshadowing of the kinds of conflicts that we would face later. If policy makers and defense experts weren’t paying attention to the trend in warfare, they are equally guilty of ignoring the domestic examples of it at home. The most famous was of course the Oklahoma City Bombing.

The result of this...I hesitate to use the word...progress, is a "trickle down effect of technology on crime and warfare."

Enter the world of hybrid organizations, sustained by brute force or the threat of brute force, climbing the ladder of social acceptability. Growing, diverse populations now allow these groups to do more than exist. They survive, metastasize and flourish because the social matrix in which they grow either endures or venerates how they operate and/or what they advertise as a reason for being.
Hizballah and Hamas are also good examples of hybrids, somewhere between NGO, political party, police force and terrorist group. Travelling in Lebanon, I saw this firsthand as I drove through the south past pictures of martyrs, anti-Israeli propaganda and then past Hizballah boyscouts collecting donations on the side of the road in their own uniforms.

The thoughtful reader is invited to read this post and comments.

My view is that he is on to something. If any example is needed one need only to look at the landscape we leave behind in Iraq. The militias and pockets of violence that we carelessly refer to as "insurgents" or "resistance" represent a wide assortment of political, confessional and social splinter groups...nearly all of which can be described as armed and dangerous, either because they want to have their way with everyone else, or are obliged to defend themselves from those who do, simply to stay alive.

This post was inspired by my thinking about targeted killing referred to yesterday.

1 comment:

chirol said...

Thanks for the kind words. If you enjoyed the post, I highly recommend you starting reading Global Guerillas by John Robb. He's the real expert in this field. I linked in the original post.