We’ll All Be Thugs Soon
by William M. Arkin, PhaseZero Everyone sing along! Al Qaeda’s connected to the Colombian FARC, the Colombian FARC’s connected to the Mexican Sinaloa, Sinaloa is connected to the Chinese Triads, the Triads are connected to Hezbollah, Hezbollah’s connected to the Mexican Zetas, which all ends up in the streets of Los Angeles. Second verse! Al Qaeda’s connected to al Shabaab, al Shabaab is connected to Boko Haram, Boko Haram’s connected back to Hezbollah, the Zetas are connected to Calle 18, Calle 18 is connected to the Perrones, which all ends up in… you guessed it! A world without order? Try a world without borders, without borders between countries, between organizations. A world where all criminals, gangs, terrorists, dissidents, the politically active, and the disgruntled are seen as one. It’s not far-fetched. The groundwork is being laid right now as the Merchants of Threats try to figure out their role and the fate of their magnificent machine. Earlier this month, Rear Admiral Kerry Metz, the special operations commander for U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), welcomed a group of military and intelligence practitioners and academics to a closed symposium in Colorado Springs that focused on the role of the military in combating transnational organized crime. All of the American secret agent personalities of the drug war, border control, special operations, and counter-terrorism were there. Brigadier General Mike Rouleau, the commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, delivered the keynote address: “SOF and The New Borderless World.” And Alejandro Poiré Romero, former head of Mexican Intelligence, Minister of Governance, and Secretary to the National Security Council, spoke about the growth of foreign fighters and what to do about them. “The Problem” in a nutshell? Convergence! The threats facing society are converging, and those self-charged with fighting this borderless perpetual war are also facing budget cuts, and war fatigue, and public dissatisfaction, and come to think of it, urban anarchy, bred by weak institutions and inequality and “challenges” that don’t stop at the U.S. border.
“Criminal networks are not only expanding their operations, but they are also diversifying their activities, resulting in a convergence of transnational threats that has evolved to become more complex, volatile, and destabilizing. These networks also threaten U.S. interests by forging alliances with corrupt elements of national governments and using the power and influence of those elements to further their criminal activities. In some cases, national governments exploit these relationships to further their interests to the detriment of the United States.” White House, National Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, July 2011
All of the slides here come from the 8 April symposium, a veritable orgy of everything being connected. They are being publicly aired for the first time by Phase Zero. The April conference is actually a follow-on to a February symposium called “Beyond Convergence: A World Without Order,” which took place at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. That conference’s panels were “Dystopian Futures,” “Emerging Networks and Alignments,” “Entropic Enablers,” and “Counter-Strategies.” You can actually watch the February conference on YouTube here: Part 1 and Part 2. And the military’s Center for Complex Operations (CCO) produced an entire book called Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization that they say describes “the clear and present danger and the magnitude of the challenge of converging and connecting illicit networks; the ways and means used by transnational criminal networks and how illicit networks actually operate and interact; how the proliferation, convergence, and horizontal diversification of illicit networks challenge state sovereignty; and how different national and international organizations are fighting back.” Convergence. When the Baltimore Police Department came to believe that the Crips and Bloods street gangs were uniting to take on cops during the city’s riots, the announcement described it as a “credible threat” discerned by the department’s Criminal Intelligence Unity (members of the gangs later told news outlets that they wanted “nobody to get hurt” in the protests). The streets of Baltimore are just a dotted line away—intellectually and even in the ways of intelligence-led policing, “militarized” police, a military with new domestic authorities, and special operators placed in charge of combating transnational criminal organizations, a borderless army that lives in its own world, drawing connections and making operational words like convergence to turn the United States itself into a battlefield.