Non-state actors need financial income to sustain operations. If they lack a state sponsor, they must develop their own economy. So they turn to criminals. Insurgents provide legal sanctuary for criminals in return for taxes.

This is a growing pattern since the end of the Cold War. The loss of Soviet and Chinese sponsorship forced militants to turn to gangsters. There are a few exceptions, like Iran’s sponsorship of Hezbollah.

This means criminals have gone to war to hollow out the nation-state. This has an unexpected effect. Criminals don’t want the insurgents to win either. As time goes on, pragmatic criminals take over militant organizations and push aside the ideologues. They just want lawless areas.

Insurgents need for money as a means transforms into an end. They get more and more pragmatic about their business transactions. They start behaving more like mafias than revoutionaries.

In Afghanistan, opium smugglers finance Taliban recruitment. The Taliban attacks disrupt the government and local policing allowing the criminals to operate in a relative vacuum. The drug gangs don’t give the Taliban enough money to actually win. A Taliban run Afghanistan isn’t in the criminals’ best interests.

In Colombia, the communists tax the drug smugglers. These days, FARC and ELN are not true ideologues. Members are increasingly drawn from the gangs. FARC no longer tries to overthrow the Colombian state and instead are defending the drug trade.

In Yugoslavia, the so-called “ethnic-war” was really a massive gang war with an ethnic twist.

Perhaps this is not recognized as significant. But it is the most massive factor in 4th generation warfare if true. The Criminals control the purse strings in warfare. They are guided by business interests, not ideologies, ethnicity, or religion. Perhaps this explains the universal pattern of war through out the world.

Strategy Page describes the Fairy Tales of Iraq. The reality of Iraq is all about crime.

The war in Iraq is notable not because it is against guerillas or terrorists, but because of the large number of armed opposition groups that are, for all intents and purposes, criminal gangs. Such organizations have been around here for thousands of years, but Saddam made them more powerful by incorporating the loyal ones into his security organization. Maybe it was something he learned from the Russians (the KGB loved to work with gangsters), but it left post Saddam Iraq awash in criminal gangs….Many quickly discovered that there was money to be made by giving yourself a nationalistic or Islamic name and declaring loyalty to the cause of Sunni Arab supremacy. Al Qaeda and Saddam’s old allies had cash and cachet that made the gangs more powerful. All they had to do was support the bombing program and attacks on cops and soldiers (local and foreign). Since many of these attacks were paid for, the gangs treated it like another bit of business.

It’s a lucrative business. Car Bombs cost around 100,000 dollars to produce (excluding the suicide drive). Kidnapping and Ransoming earns $20-25k per victim. Criminals and insurgents work together to raise the money, hire different groups to build bombs, and wage their war. The Sunni Insurgency is not cheap. It must cost at least half a million dollars a year.

Many of the criminals appear to be freelancers. They compete for contracts and show no ideological loyalties. They work for money. This is a basic description of the economic flows in an insurgency. A real study is needed to identify the inflows and outflows of the whole system (which I’m sure US intel has done by now).

some U.S. troops began importing gang fighting techniques from back home. Mainly, this consisted of intelligence gathering techniques, and specialized software used by some police organizations. The newly formed Iraqi police got into this as well, but they were not as effective…

The American databases of Iraq’s Most Wanted grew year by year. The databases were eventually merged, and the picture of who was who in the Gangs of Iraq became clearer.

The COIN Strategy specifically targets the criminals in order to secure neighborhoods and deny funding for the insurgents.

The deal was simple. We will run the local bad guys out, killing or arresting those we catch. In return, the local tribe and clan leaders will support recruiting for the local police force, and the tribe will recognize the Shia dominated government….Of the hundreds of gangs in Sunni Arab areas, about half are now banged up and in flight, or essentially destroyed.

At some point, once the Coalition raises a sufficient number of policemen, they need to slowly withdraw. Day-to-day crime fighting can only be done by local police.

The British transfer of power in Basra will be the test case:

“Basra is a totally different environment from what the Americans are facing,” said a British official in Basra. “The problem here is gangsterism, not violent sectarianism. And a foreign military is not the right tool for closing down a mafia.”

“A Baghdad-style surge would be 100 percent counterproductive,” he added.

The trick is to eliminate the militants and militias and knock the gangs to a level where the local police can handle them.

The British may not have sufficiently disarmed the Shia militias such as JAM and Badrs. They will feed off the criminal activity and threaten the local police.

“The British are very patient — they didn’t know how to deal with the militias,” said a 50-year-old Assyrian Christian who would identify herself only as Mrs. Mansour. “Some people think it would be better if the Americans came instead of the British. They would be harder on the militias.”

The report by the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent or resolve deadly conflicts, concedes that a recent British-led crackdown was a “qualified success” in reducing criminality, political assassinations and sectarian killings, yet nevertheless concludes that Basra “is an example of what to avoid.”

The British “softly softly” approach was better at reducing British casualties than securing Basra.

A British withdrawal is still a good idea. The British will remain nearby to swat down military threats. In the meantime, the criminals, militias, and police will form a balance of power. Without a common enemy, the militias will lose political influence and the criminals will start gang-wars over their criminal turf.

The criminal connection is perhaps the most significant feature of current non-state wars. It’s all about the money. Money drives the nature of the conflict more than the structure of cells, the ideology, or the methods of attack. If the criminals control the money, we’re going to see criminal insurgencies. Criminals lack coherent political objectives. They just carve out lawless zones.

This is one of the reasons why I’m growing sour on the “4th Generation War” theory, at least as used by the DNI fellows. 4th Generation Warfare is indeed powerful, but criminals are placing an upper limit on its potential. No one really wants the crazies to actually destroy the nation-state economies.? Criminals need globalization as much as us. They’re parasites. Parasites do kill their hosts every so often, but they at least try not to.