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State and Nonstate Associated Gangs: Credible "Midwives of New Social Orders"


State and Nonstate Associated Gangs: Credible 'Midwives of New Social Orders' - Cover

Authored by Dr. Max G. Manwaring.

May 2009

78 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The monograph examines contemporary populism and neopopulism, 21st century socialism, and a nonstate actor (al-Qaeda) seeking regional and global hegemony. They are: first, paramilitary gang permutations in Colombia that are contributing significantly to the erosion of the Colombian state and its democratic institutions, and implementing the anti-system objectives of their elite neo-populist sponsors; second, Hugo Chavez’s use of the New Socialism and popular militias to facilitate his populist Bolivarian dream of creating a mega-state in Latin America; and, third, al-Qaeda’s strategic and hegemonic use of political-criminal gangs to coerce substantive change in Spanish and other Western European foreign and defense policy and governance. Lessons derived from these cases demonstrate how gangs might fit into a holistic effort to force radical political-social-economic change, and illustrate how traditional political-military objectives may be achieved indirectly, rather than directly.

Summary

This monograph introduces a poorly understood aspect of “wars among the people.” It deals with the complex protean character and hegemonic role of gangs operating as state and nonstate surrogates in the murky shallows of the contemporary asymmetric and irregular global security arena. This monograph, however, will not address tattooed teenage brigands. Rather, it will focus on ordinary-looking men and women who are politically and commercially dexterous.

Like insurgencies and other unconventional asymmetric irregular wars, there is no simple or universal model upon which to base a response to the gang phenomenon (gangs and their various possible allies or supporters). Gangs come in different types, with different motives, and with different modes of action. Examples discussed include Venezuela’s institutionalized “popular militias,” Colombia’s devolving paramilitary criminal or warrior bands (bandas criminales), and al-Qaeda’s loosely organized networks of propaganda-agitator gangs operating in Spain and elsewhere in Western Europe. The motives and actions of these diverse groups are further complicated by their evershifting alliances with insurgents, transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), drug cartels, warlords, governments that want to maintain a plausible denial of aggressive action, and any other state or nonstate actor that might require the services of a mercenary gang organization or surrogate.

Lessons derived from these cases demonstrate how gangs might fit into a holistic effort to compel radical political-social change, and illustrate how traditional political-military objectives may be achieved indirectly, rather than directly. These lessons are significant beyond their own domestic political context in that they are harbingers of many of the “wars among the people” that have emerged out of the Cold War, and are taking us kicking and screaming into the 21st century.


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