Jul 23, 2011

The Border, Globalization and the Wars on Drugs, Immigrants and Terror: Illicit Globalization on the Border: Myths and Fears of Transnational Crime

From the CIP TransBorder Project

Border Lines: Illicit Globalization on the Border: Myths and Fears of Transnational Crime: "Peter Andreas,
author of the excellent book Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide, examines the myths and fears about transnational crime and globalization in “Illicit Globalization: Myths, Misconceptions, and Historical Lessons,” an eye-opening essay in the fall issue of Political Science Quarterly.

Andreas is bothered by the consequences of alarmist threat assessments about transnational crime and porous borders.

"The standard narrative of illicit economic globalization is not only exaggerated and misleading but can lead to counterproductive policy prescriptions. Urgent calls to “do something” about the illicit side of globalization can provide ammunition for politicians and bureaucrats to justify costly high-profile crackdowns that may be politically popular but that ultimately fail. It can also contribute to growing calls to further securitize and militarize policing efforts regardless of the effectiveness of using military resources for law enforcement tasks.""

Globalization has certainly facilitated the flow of illicit goods and services along with legal ones. Yet, there is scant evidence that transnational crime has increased with globalization.

"[I] is important to remember that states define what economic activities are illicit in the first place. States monopolize the power to criminalize: laws precede and define criminality. Through their law-making and law-enforcing authority, states set the rules of the game even if they cannot entirely control the play." ...

DHS now routinely characterizes all illegal border crossings as instances of transnational crime. The DHS-led Alliance to Combat Transnational Crime (ACTT) in Arizona counts the number of illegal immigrant apprehensions as the principal indicator of success, along with drugs seized (mainly marijuana).

The buildup in border security is a prime example of how certain government policies often beget problems that other national policies aim to solve.

The (additional) linking of illegal drugs to terrorism and insurgencies is part of the official threat assessments purveyed by the U.S. government – and by those calling for more border security and more U.S. military intervention.

Announcing the new border counternarcotics strategy, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano didn’t just warn about the crime and violence associated with drug trafficking, she raised the threat assessment by asserting that the administration’s new strategy would also disrupt the traffickers’ “links to terrorism.”

The association of drug trafficking with political threats -- in the form of terrorism and guerrilla insurgencies -- is common to post-Cold War alarmism about the transnational crime threat. Not only does transnational crime, particularly drug trafficking, constitute a threat to economic and social stability, transnational crime also, it is argued, spurs and supports political wars and terrorism.

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