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February 22, 2011


Joseph Fouche

Is a distinction between organized crime and political insurgency useful?

My (limited) knowledge of organized crime groups is that they seek to create geographical space where they exercise more control than the purported state. Ditto for insurgents. They may use a mix of positive influence, like legitimization measures, or negative influence like leaving bodies in the street. Ditto for insurgents. They may use violence. Ditto for insurgents. They may support themselves through grey or black market activities. Ditto for insurgents. They may or may not aspire to control the entire state. Ditto for insurgents.

Seeing as there is only one fundamental strategy at play, the strategy of population control or pacification, the fine semantic distinctions COINtras, COINdinistas, and other exotic vertebrates seem to be turf wars over the particular mix of tactics employed. The pacification measures in Iraq drew on police techniques like neighborhood policing and domestic pacification measures within the U.S. draw on military techniques. The strategic danger seems to be locked into rigid distinctions of your fnorb is better than my gloob or my glorb is better than your snorf when sometimes you need fnorbs, gloobs, glorbs, and snorfs.


To some degree, the difference between what's going on in Mexico, and, say, Iraq, is the motivation: Calderon clamped down, so these guys are directly targeting the state to wear down his resolve. Still, the term is imperfect but useful for the moment. I suspect that in time historians or political scientists will invent a better one.

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