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Recent research round-up

March 30, 2010

Heads up on a couple of good reads published recently — research ranging from the growth of the Zetas in Mexico, to the relationship between counterinsurgency and counter-narcotics strategies in Central Asia, to a comparative analysis of corruption across three Latin American countries. Abstracts included after the jump.

An Afghan boy flies a kite in a cemetery. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images, via Foreign Policy.

1) Max Manwaring, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College
A “New” Dynamic in the Western Hemisphere Security Environment: The Mexican Zetas and Other Private Armies

This monograph is intended to help political, military, policy, opinion, and academic leaders think strategically about explanations, consequences, and responses that might apply to the volatile and dangerous new dynamic that has inserted itself into the already crowded Mexican and hemispheric security arena, that is, the privatized Zeta military organization. In Mexico, this new dynamic involves the migration of traditional hard-power national security and sovereignty threats from traditional state and nonstate adversaries to hard and soft power threats from professional private nonstate military organizations. This dynamic also involves a more powerful and ambiguous mix of terrorism, crime, and conventional war tactics, operations, and strategies than experienced in the past. Moreover, this violence and its perpetrators tend to create and consolidate semi-autonomous enclaves (criminal free-states) that develop in to quasi-states—and what the Mexican government calls “Zones of Impunity.” All together, these dynamics not only challenge Mexican security, stability, and sovereignty, but, if left improperly understood and improperly countered, also challenge the security and stability of the United States and Mexico’s other neighbors.

2) Oeindrila Dube and Suresh Naidu, Center for Global Development
Bases, Bullets, and Ballots: The Effect of U.S. Military Aid on Political Conflict in Colombia

States facing internal conflict often receive military assistance from the United States, but the relationship between such assistance and state capacity is not well known. In this working paper, post-doctoral fellow Oeindrila Dube and co-author Suresh Naidu offer new research on the links between military assistance and political violence. They find that increased U.S. military aid to Colombia, a haven for narcotics trafficking long-plagued by guerrilla warfare, increases paramilitary violence but has no effect on guerilla violence. With significant implications for U.S. policy in weak and conflict-ridden states, the evidence indicates that the effectiveness of military aid, which is intended to bolster the weak state against violent groups, is undercut by collusion between the military and illegal armed groups. Further, the authors expose that this collusion means that foreign assistance directly enables illegal groups to perpetuate political violence and undermine democratic institutions, such as electoral participation.

(Hat tip to Slate for reporting on this study.)

3) Kimani Paul-Emile, Fordham University School of Law
Making Sense of Drug Regulation: A Theory of Law for Drug Control Policy

This article posits a conceptual model for making sense of this dissonance and applies this model to the regulation of four common drugs: cocaine, marijuana, tobacco and anabolic steroids.  Although much has been written on the topic of licit and illicit drug regulation, none of the scholarship in this literature has attempted to explain through an examination of pharmaceutical, illicit, and over-the-counter drugs how the apparent inconsistencies and incoherence of the U.S. system of drug control have been achieved and sustained.  This work fills the gap in this literature by proposing an innovative and comprehensive theoretical model for understanding how drugs can become “medicalized,” “criminalized” or deemed appropriate for recreational use, based upon little or no empirical evidence regarding the pharmacodynamics of the drug.

(Thanks to Sentencing Law and Policy for the recommendation.)

4) Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution
Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs

Many policymakers see counterinsurgency and counternarcotics policy as two sides of the same coin. Stop the flow of drug money, the logic goes, and the insurgency will wither away. But the conventional wisdom is dangerously wrongheaded, as Vanda Felbab-Brown shows in this compelling and timely book… Aggressive efforts to suppress the drug trade typically backfire by allowing insurgents to pose as the population’s protectors and win further legitimacy. In contrast, a laissez-faire policy toward illicit crop cultivation can reduce support for the belligerents and, critically, increase cooperation with government intelligence-gathering. When combined with interdiction targeted at major traffickers, this strategy gives policymakers a better chance of winning both the war against the insurgents and the war on drugs.

Also from Felbab-Brown, for the National Bureau of Asian Research:
Narco-Jihad: Drug Trafficking and Security in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

5) Luis-Jorge Garay, Isaac de León-Beltrán and Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran, Método
Captura y Reconfiguración Cooptada del Estado en Guatemala, México y Colombia

La evidencia muestra que el narcotráfico es importante en el fortalecimiento de la corrupción de Guatemala, México y Colombia; por lo tanto, es problemático analizar de modo separado ambos fenómenos. Los hechos muestran también que las organizaciones narcotraficantes de los tres países han aprendido a regular la coerción del Estado. Este aprendizaje ha representado un salto que va desde la corrupción hasta el control de mecanismos democráticos como las elecciones; de ahí la conveniencia del concepto de Captura y Reconfiguración Cooptada del Estado (CyRCdE)… La evidencia apunta a que hay una experiencia de aprendizaje criminal en los tres países mencionados, orientada a cooptar el Estado por medio del control de los procesos electorales.

6) Rand Drug Policy Center
ISSDP Conference 2010, PDFs of Oral Presentations

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