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Nonstate Actors in Colombia: Threat and Response

Authored by Dr. Max G. Manwaring.

May 01, 2002

37 Pages

Brief Synopsis

Colombia's deeply rooted and ambiguous warfare has reached crisis proportions in that Colombia's "Hobbesian Trinity" of illegal drug traffickers, insurgents, and paramilitary organizations are creating a situation in which life is indeed "nasty, brutish, and short." The first step in developing a macro-level vision, policy, and strategy to deal with the Colombian crisis in a global context is to be clear on what the Colombian crisis is, and what the fundamental threats implicit (and explicit) in it are. Political and military leaders can start thinking about the gravity of the terrorist strategy employed by Colombia's stateless adversaries from this point. It is also the point from which leaders can begin developing responses designed to secure Colombian, Hemispheric, and global stability. The author seeks to explain the Colombian crisis in terms of nonstate threats to the state and to the region--and appropriate strategic-level responses.


Global political violence is clashing with global economic integration. More often than not, the causes and consequences of the resultant instabilities tend to be exploited by such destabilizers as rogue states, substate and transnational political actors, insurgents, illegal drug traffickers, organized criminals, warlords, ethnic cleansers, militant fundamentalists, and 1,000 other "snakes with a cause"—and the will to conduct terrorist and other asymmetric warfare. The intent is to impose selfdetermined desires for "change" on a society, nation-state, and/or other perceived symbols of power in the global community—and, perhaps, revert to the questionable glories of the 12th century.

In these conditions—exacerbated by the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and by the devastating U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan subsequently—the United States has little choice but to reexamine and rethink national and global stability and security—and a peaceful and more prosperous tomorrow.

To help civilian and military leaders analyze the implications of the contemporary global security environment, the author attempts several things. First, he outlines the violent characteristics of the new security arena. Second, he briefly examines the relationship of the central strategic problems in the contemporary environment—terrorism and governance. Third, he describes the complex threat situation. Fourth, he presents a basic outline for a reasoned multidimensional political-economic stability capability- building response to these problems. Finally, he enumerates some civil-military implications for playing effectively in the global security arena. His recommendations focus on implications for the military in general and the U.S. Army in particular.

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