10 June 2009

Putting Together the Pieces of Complexity & the Return of Shining Path

How does all this global security & armed conflict stuff fit together?

Let me take a moment to integrate a couple of related snippets previously reported here ("Science of Global Security & Armed Conflict" ) and give a new example of the connections between them.

Just as a quick refresher, we have addressed the following characteristics of the complex terrain that is now our shared global space:

  • Criminal gangs are increasingly linking to armed insurgent movements.
  • Criminal organizations are increasingly connected to terrorist organizations.
  • Terrorist organizations and armed groups are both increasingly engaged in and connected to criminal activity - not just to support political goals.
  • Corrupt and totalitarian governments weaken or disregard the rule of law and create environments that make it easy for criminal and subversive activity to flourish and for gross human rights violations to go unchecked.
  • Authoritarian state leaders have started to control their populations in increasingly sophisticated ways - not just through violence and intimidation, but also by using technology to manipulate the information space - their own version of a "hearts and minds" campaign.
  • Finally, we have seen that drugs generally continue to be the top selling commodity in transnational criminal enterprises. If one is interested in being a major player in the drug trade in a corrupt or lawless region, it helps to have a guy with a gun - or a group of guys with guns - who "got your back." It makes it easier to get the land and facilities you need; to protect those assets from competitors and poachers; to facilitate the trade and safe transport of your product; and to establish your dominance in an environment where everyone is looking for a piece of the action.
Keeping these trends in mind, consider the new Heritage Foundation report: Narco-Terrorism in Peru: The Return of Shining Path by James M. Roberts and Edwar Enrique Escalante. They report that the Shining Path, the Peruvian Maoist/Marxist/Leninist guerrilla group born in the 1960s has made a comeback..with a vengeance. Recent credits include kidnapping, assassination and murder of young Peruvian soldiers.

Surely, you might think, such a group would be feared and despised among its populace. But opting for honey over vinegar, Shining Path has opted to provide some supportive services for "the people" including food, dental care, and even barber services.

Where does a group like Shining Path find the money to support such activities? Right. Cocaine trade and trafficking. They have inserted themselves aggressively into the Capitalist market - albeit an illicit market - that they originally formed to fight against.

And because in a globalized world, borders can be a benefit, rather than an impediment, Shining Path has found tactical allies and kindred spirits among their guerrilla comrades in Columbia's Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC). Roberts and Escalante also report that the leader of Peru's nationalist party has pushed to get the Peruvian military out of the cocaine-heavy areas of the country. That political leader, by the way, is also wink/nudge pal of Venezuelan neighbor, Hugo Ch├ívez.

So - recalling the global security trends we have outlined over the past couple of weeks - we see where this is going, right? Maybe there is time to salvage the relative stability of the Peruvian democracy before it becomes the region's next narco-state.