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7 Hezbollah’s Criminal Networks: Useful Idiots, Henchmen, and Organized Criminal Facilitators October 25, 2016 — Since its inception, Hezbollah has leveraged a worldwide networks of supporters—from formal operatives to informal sympathizers—to provide financial, logistical, and sometimes even operational support. Through these networks, the group is able to raise funds, procure weapons and dual-use items, obtain false documents, and more. Some of these are formal Hezbollah networks, run and supervised by Hezbollah operatives on the ground and back in Lebanon. But most are intentionally structured to be more informal than formal. That is, the links back to formal Hezbollah structures are opaque, providing distance and a measure of deniability for Hezbollah leaders. Generally, the Hezbollah criminal enterprise tends to be organized around loosely connected nodes, and does not depend on hierarchical links up the Hezbollah chain of command. The types of operatives and supporters involved in criminal activities benefiting Hezbollah run the gamut from trained and committed Hezbollah henchmen to what one Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official experienced in Hezbollah investigations describes as “useful idiots who want to be associated with a glorious cause but don’t need or want to know more.”1 Hezbollah also plugs into preexisting criminal networks that provide specialized services to any client who pays. MORE

6 Terrorist and Criminal Dynamics: A Look Beyond the Horizon October 25, 2016 — Criminal and terrorist labels provided a useful baseline for understanding nonstate actors for much of the 20th century. The Italian Mafia, left-wing European terrorist groups, and Colombia- and Mexico-based criminal enterprises, among others, usually fell cleanly into two categories: those motivated by greed and those motivated by grievances. To be sure, a spectrum of political and criminal activity existed within these two categories, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, when some criminals participated in politics, served as local or regional patriarchs, or declared war against the state, using terrorism as a tactic, while others utilized criminal profits to replace revenues lost from state sponsorship or the unexpected absence of donations from abroad. In spite of this heterogeneity, analysts could usually discern a group’s goals and motives and assess their impact on international security. MORE

5 Costs of Hedging Bad: The Global Threat Network and Impact on Financial Market Volatility . October 25, 2016 — The illicit world of crime and terrorism seems far removed from everyday activity and seems especially divorced from legitimate commercial endeavors. Increasingly, tragic attacks or fictitious-sounding jailbreaks perpetrated by criminals and terrorists make headlines, but their day-to-day activities are often thought of as shrouded in darkness and best left to professionals in law enforcement, intelligence, and elite military units. Isolating illicit activities like crime and terrorism from everyday activity fosters the illusion that illicit activities have, at most, a limited impact on governance, commerce, and economics. The barriers between the licit and illicit, as well as the impact of illicit on licit markets, may be more permeable than often acknowledged. MORE

4 The March Is Not Linear: Big Party Politics and the Decline of Democracy Worldwide October 25, 2016 — Alternative models of governance have gained credibility in recent years, as the expectations set by post-Cold War democracy promotion programs initiated following the collapse of the Soviet Union were not met. In particular, China has increasingly become a source of inspiration for a number of developing countries seeking to replicate the country’s remarkable economic growth. As a part of this process of examination and emulation, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly seen as instrumental to China’s national development and the party’s centrality is now considered a long-term feature of their political economy, rather than being a transient phase. This revelation confronts the assumption of modernization theory, that economic growth prompts democratization; instead of fading into the background amid the growth of multiparty democracy, the CCP seems capable of maintaining hegemony within China—in fact, in a number of ways, the growth that was supposed to undermine the party seems to have strengthened its claims to legitimacy. The means by which the CCP has woven itself into a secure position within China’s political economy has not gone unnoticed by other political parties globally. MORE

3 The Islamic State Revolution October 25, 2016 — In response to yet more slaughters perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIL), security services deployed across Europe, Africa, and America.1 U.S. and Russian forces ratcheted up air attacks in Iraq and Syria, while politicians and pundits hammered their publics into existential dread. Perhaps never in history have so few, with such meager means, caused such fear in so many. But it is easy amid the bullets, bombs, and bluster, to lose sight of a central fact in the fight against the violent forces of radical Islam: not only are we not stopping its spread, but our efforts to contain the contagion appear to contribute to its strength, while further constraining our own freedoms. MORE

2 The Twin Insurgencies: Plutocrats and Criminals Challenge the Westphalian State October 25, 2016 — States within the modern global political economy face twin insurgencies, one from below, and another from above. On the one hand, there is a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies, in which the global disenfranchised resist, co-opt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the failures of governance systems to build global commercial empires that, in turn, provide them the resources to corrupt, co-opt, or challenge incumbent political actors. On the other hand, there exists a plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities. From libertarian activists, to tax haven lawyers, to currency speculators, to mineral extraction magnates, the new global superrich and their hired help are waging a broad-based campaign that aims either to limit the reach and capacity of government tax collectors and regulators, or to manipulate these functions as a tool in their own cutthroat business competition. Unlike classic 20th-century insurgents, who sought control over the state apparatus in order to implement social reforms, criminal and plutocratic insurgents do not seek to take over the state. These modern insurgencies do not wish to destroy the state, since they rely, like parasites, on the state to provide the legacy goods of social welfare: health, education, infrastructure, and so on. Rather, their aim is simpler: to carve out de facto zones of autonomy for themselves by crippling the state’s ability to constrain their freedom of (primarily economic) action. The net result: these transnational insurgencies from above and below are challenging the state’s control over the domestic economy, and destabilizing many of the conventions and assumptions rooted in the Westphalian model of governance. MORE

1. The Global Crisis of Governance October 25, 2016 — The world has entered a period of kaleidoscopic, irregular conflicts in which the reassertion of traditional geopolitical rivalries is inextricably linked with the activities of a bewildering assortment of violent nonstate actors (VNSAs). States in the Middle East, for example, increasingly define national interests in terms of sectarianism; however, the civil war in Islam is being played out not only in the direct, competitive dynamic of Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also through the proxies these two states use, including sectarian factions, tribes, warlords, insurgents, and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). These VNSAs pursue their own agendas, yet interact and ally with states when it is convenient and advantageous to do so. They might, on occasion, act as state proxies; but, they are not pawns. On the contrary, they generate their own conflict dynamics and follow strategic imperatives that sometimes complement the actions of their state allies, but, on other occasions, can equally well confound them. MORE

Acknowledgments October 25, 2016 — In 2013, National Defense University Press published Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization. It was an effort to map the many issues arising from the accelerating interactions among international terrorist, transnational criminal, and networked insurgent organizations. To meet demand, over 10,000 copies were printed. It generated much discussion—including much criticism—and led the editors to conclude that the debate over how to understand the emerging threat environment was only beginning. Therefore, we would like to acknowledge and thank the many readers and critics of Convergence, for taking up the challenge and for laying out a gauntlet. MORE

Russia’s Contradictory Relationship with the West August 3, 2016 — On August 20, 1961, an American armored battle group of the 18th Infantry Regiment stationed in West Germany crossed the heavily militarized border at Helmstedt and rolled its way approximately 100 miles along the autobahn across Soviet-controlled East Germany into West Berlin. Too small to be an offensive threat, but formidable enough to be serious, Operation Long Thrust skirted the fine line between resolute deterrence and go-to-war provocation, and allowed the United States to avoid becoming militarily embroiled with strident adversaries in East Germany and the Soviet Union. MORE

European Union and NATO Global Cybersecurity Challenges: A Way Forward July 28, 2016 — Over the past two decades, European countries have had to meet the same cybersecurity challenges that the United States has faced. However, while the U.S. has benefitted from its sovereign authority (a single foreign policy, a centralized military, and the legal and budgetary power of the federal government), European governments have had to take steps to develop cybersecurity policies at the national level while simultaneously pooling their sovereignty through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) to bolster their defenses. MORE

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