A story in the April 26 Washington Times,
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,
"Brazilian drug traffickers have teamed up with Colombian rebels to
smuggle narcotics through Paraguay, creating a lucrative new channel for distribution
to the United States and Europe. …
"Using a precisely orchestrated system of flights from the Colombian
jungle, Marxist rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC,
are shipping 40 to 60 tons of cocaine annually to farms in Paraguay owned by
Brazilian drug lords, who then put the cocaine in cars and small trucks and
drive them across the nearly unmonitored border into rural western Brazil …
in return for arms, dollars, and euros from Brazilian traffickers [for the FARC]."
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 guerilla forces like the FARC work together
more easily than states do. The state system is old, creaky, formalistic, and
slow. Drug-dealing and guerilla 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 the 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
Not surprisingly, the FARC and others find they can use the drug trade for
political ends. The Times piece noted,
"But the [State Department] report did not mention FARC's recent cultivation
of ties with leftist rebels in Paraguay. …Colombian Marxists infiltrating
Paraguay beyond the drug trade made headlines in February when former presidential
daughter Cecilia Cubas was found dead after being held captive for more than
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 multifaceted 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.