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Old 06-12-2007   #1
Jedburgh
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Default Terrorist Precursor Crimes

CRS, 24 May 07: Terrorist Precursor Crimes
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Terrorist groups, regardless of ideological ilk, geographical location, or organizational structure, have certain basic needs in common: funding, security, operatives/support, propaganda, and means and/or appearance of force. In order to meet these needs, terrorists engage in a series of activities, some of which are legal, many of which are not. Terrorist precursor crimes, offenses committed to facilitate a particular attack or promote a terrorist campaign’s objectives, are thought to be often carried out far away from the primary theater of conflict associated with a terrorist group. Much of the precursor activity, especially with regard to crimes conducted for the purpose of fundraising, takes place in wealthy Western countries, including the United States. Precursor crimes, known and/or alleged, include various fraud schemes, petty crime, identity and immigration crimes, the counterfeit of goods, narcotics trade, and illegal weapons procurement, amongst others. The implications of domestically occurring terrorist precursor crimes on the current threat environment, and specifically the United State’s security posture, are not fully understood....
Along the same lines, here are a couple of good papers (2 years old) from NIJ:

Methods and Motives: Exploring Links Between Transnational Organized Crime & International Terrorism
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The nexus with transnational organized crime is increasingly a focus for security planners in their analyses of terror groups. Their approach is best described by the phrase “methods, not motives.” While the motives of terrorists and organized criminals remain divergent most often, our research indicates this is not always the case. For that reason, this report argues that such a general approach has become too restrictive and can be misleading since the interaction between terrorism and organized crime is growing deeper and more complex all the time. In short, the lines of separation are no longer unequivocal.

The report analyzes the relationship between international organized crime and terrorism in a systematic way in order to highlight the shortcomings of the “methods, not motives” argument. In so doing, the report considers the factors that most closely correspond to crime-terror interaction and identifies those regions of developed and developing states most likely to foster such interactions. Likewise, the paper will suggest an evolutionary spectrum of crime-terror interactions that serves as a common basis for discussion of such often-used terms as “nexus.”

The centerpiece of the report is a groundbreaking methodology for analysts and investigators to overcome this growing complexity, identify crime-terror interactions more quickly and to assess their importance with confidence. The approach is derived from a standard intelligence analytical framework, and has already proven its utility in law enforcement investigations.

The report is the product of a recently concluded and peer-reviewed 18-month NIJ-sponsored research project, and includes empirical evidence drawn from numerous case studies developed in the course of the research program.
Crimes Committed by Terrorist Groups: Theory, Research, and Prevention
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A decline in state-sponsored terrorism has caused many terrorist organizations to resort to criminal activity as an alternative means of support. This study examines terrorists’ involvement in a variety of crimes ranging from motor vehicle violations, immigration fraud, and manufacturing illegal firearms to counterfeiting, armed bank robbery, and smuggling weapons of mass destruction. Special attention is given to transnational organized crime. Crimes are analyzed through the routine activity perspective and social learning theory. These theories draw our attention to the opportunities to commit crime and the criminal skills necessary to turn opportunity into criminality. Through these lenses, the research appraises the "successes” and “failures” of terrorists’ engagement in crime.
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Old 06-12-2007   #2
SteveMetz
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Default Along the Same Lines

I have a bit on the crime/insurgency nexus in my new study Rethinking Insurgency
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Old 06-12-2007   #3
Bill Moore
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Default Thanks Jed and Steve

Jed, I skimmed the documents and both look well worth the time required to read (when time permits).

Steve, I read your paper when you first published it. I have a highlighted copy somewhere in my files. I'm glad to see you're a member of the SWJ.


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Old 11-16-2007   #4
relative autonomy
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Default Terrorist Finance

Terror Inc. by Loretta Napoleoni

Has anybody read this? I think its a pretty great economic analysis of the other side of the War on Terror/

A teaser quote from the preface:

"...over the last fight years, members of armed organizations have been hunted down like criminals at home by the same political forces that have fostered them abroad; the final aim being to serve the economic interest of the West and its allies, Muslim oligarchies and...the former Soviet Union in the past and Russia at present.This duality provided terror organizations with the motives to strike back and the opportunity to build their own economy. I have defined this phenomenon as the New Economy of Terror, an international network linking the support and logistical systems of armed groups. Today the New Economy of Terror is a fast growing international economic system, with a turnover of about 1.5 trillion, twice the GDP of the United Kingdom, and is challenging Western Hegemony, What we are facing today is the global class between to economic systems on dominant--Western Capitalism--the other insurgent--the New Economy of Terror...
...this scenario is reminiscent of the Crusades, when Western Chirstendom rebelled against the domination of Islam. Behind the religious conflagration, economic forces initiated and sustained the Crusades, enabling the West to repel Islam and begin its march to dominance....the political and economic dominance of the West has hindered the expansion of emerging economic and financial forces in the Muslim world. These forces have forge alliances with Islamist armed groups and hard-line religious leaders in a campaign to rid Muslim countries of Western influence and domestic oligarchic rulers. As in the Crusades, religion is simply the recruitments tool; the real driving force is economics.
The New Economy of Terror has become an integral part of the global illegal economy, generating vast amounts of money. This river of cash flows into traditional economies, primarily the US, where it is recycled. It has devastating effects on Western business ethics, but above all it cements the many links and opens new ones between the New Economy of Terror and legal ones.
September 11 was rude awakening for the world. It has triggered a war against a phenomenal enemy, who will attack whenever possible. What the world has not realized is that this enemy is the product of the polices of dominance adopted by Western governments and their allies--the oligarchic powers of the Middle East and Asia--its monetary lifeline is deeply intertwined with out own economies. The essence of it is being the New Economy of Terror."

Last edited by Jedburgh; 11-11-2008 at 02:47 AM. Reason: Moved thread.
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Old 11-16-2007   #5
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I think the real money numbers are like the real terrorists - it's hard to flush them into full light for all to see. The alternate energy impetus is driven in part by these concerns you have posted, I'm sure of that much at least. Crooks have for a long time washed money with the soap of legitimacy but the collateral markets of clean and dirty gelt seem to take on a life of their own, distinct from their origins and what they create often runs contrary to the intent of their origins. Drugs 'n guns are the two most lucrative venues to be tracked IMHO.
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Old 11-16-2007   #6
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...this scenario is reminiscent of the Crusades, when Western Chirstendom rebelled against the domination of Islam. Behind the religious conflagration, economic forces initiated and sustained the Crusades, enabling the West to repel Islam and begin its march to dominance....the political and economic dominance of the West has hindered the expansion of emerging economic and financial forces in the Muslim world. These forces have forge alliances with Islamist armed groups and hard-line religious leaders in a campaign to rid Muslim countries of Western influence and domestic oligarchic rulers. As in the Crusades, religion is simply the recruitments tool; the real driving force is economics.
I'm analytically allergic to sweeping, monocausal explanations, and frankly I think this one is especially deeply flawed.

This is not to say that there aren't important confluences and interrelationships between formal and informal economies, criminal activity and armed nonstate groups/terrorism--such groups, like all institutions, need to generate resources. However, to lump (as this seems to do) all Islamist political mobilization to an epiphenomenon of economic interest, to ignore political grievances and domestic settings, and even to lump very different groups together seems to me to be more about sound-bites (or word-bites) than it is about analyzing the real world.

More broadly, I think there is an interesting phenomenon whereby a variety of audiences--politicians, policymakers, the press, the public, even new CT professionals--look for an easy, engaging, sweeping diagnosis and answer to current security challenges. In my view, not only is it NOT that easy, but the real pay off is in understanding precisely the complexities and variations at work.
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Old 11-16-2007   #7
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Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
More broadly, I think there is an interesting phenomenon whereby a variety of audiences--politicians, policymakers, the press, the public, even new CT professionals--look for an easy, engaging, sweeping diagnosis and answer to current security challenges. In my view, not only is it NOT that easy, but the real pay off is in understanding precisely the complexities and variations at work.
Never mind the payoff - the complexity and puzzle of it is where the fun is.
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Old 11-18-2007   #8
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I'm analytically allergic to sweeping, monocausal explanations, and frankly I think this one is especially deeply flawed.

This is not to say that there aren't important confluences and interrelationships between formal and informal economies, criminal activity and armed nonstate groups/terrorism--such groups, like all institutions, need to generate resources. However, to lump (as this seems to do) all Islamist political mobilization to an epiphenomenon of economic interest, to ignore political grievances and domestic settings, and even to lump very different groups together seems to me to be more about sound-bites (or word-bites) than it is about analyzing the real world.

More broadly, I think there is an interesting phenomenon whereby a variety of audiences--politicians, policymakers, the press, the public, even new CT professionals--look for an easy, engaging, sweeping diagnosis and answer to current security challenges. In my view, not only is it NOT that easy, but the real pay off is in understanding precisely the complexities and variations at work.
The book is an economic analysis. it maybe be limited economic determinism to a degree but i don't think that makes it sweeping and monocausal. Napoleni talks about the emergence of codified irregular warfare doctrines how the US and USSR spread them around the world. Between the Cold War (and especially foreign support for corrupt dictators) and wars for national liberation there are a lot of armed groups. she details how they construct a "state-shell" to create and economy to support their efforts and becuase armed groups, and especially armed revolutionary movements, have to out administer their opponents to perpetuate and institutional their opponents illegitimacy. These state shells are linked in many concrete and readily observable ways. Here is just one example from the book:

"In Lebanon in 1972, George Habash hosted one of the first international summits to form a front against Zionism and Western imperialism. Representatives came from the Japanese Red Army, the Iranian Liberation Front, The IRA, the Bader-Mienhof, and the Turkish Revolutionary People's Liberation Front. The participants agreed to set up an international network which included economic and financial cooperation, the exchange of intelligence, sharing safe houses, joint training programs and arms purchases."

The policies of the Cold War and War on Terror fuel armed groups. Armed groups operate in the same clandestine space as organized crime and intelligence agencies. I don't think it is sweeping or monocausual to detail their economic relationships, how those developed into a real economic force and how that force helps to motivate the War on Terror.

I would really suggest actually reading the book before you write it off. You may not agree with her world-systemic analysis but she gives a lot of insight into how armed groups operate and are funded. Also I bet there is some new information in there that you will be happy to have read and learned.
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Old 11-18-2007   #9
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Originally Posted by relative autonomy
....I would really suggest actually reading the book before you write it off. You may not agree with her world-systemic analysis but she gives a lot of insight into how armed groups operate and are funded. Also I bet there is some new information in there that you will be happy to have read and learned.
Well, given the bit from the preface that you quoted at the top of the thread, I'd say that Rex's statement is dead on. Based solely on what you've given us, I'd hesitate to waste the limited time I have to deal with my overloaded reading list on junk.

But I did take the time to look her up, and read through some of her other commentaries and interviews that are readily available. I'll give her that she's a smart woman, and well-informed on the broader general subject. However, the impression that I ultimately come away with is that she's made some seriously flawed assumptions - both about the threat, and about the manner in which the agencies tasked with monitoring and disrupting terrorist financing are dealing with the threat. In some interviews, she comes off as very patronizing with those assumptions of hers. In sum, I perceive her personal political beliefs coloring her analysis to a degree that it contaminates her conclusions.
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Old 11-18-2007   #10
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I would really suggest actually reading the book before you write it off. You may not agree with her world-systemic analysis but she gives a lot of insight into how armed groups operate and are funded. Also I bet there is some new information in there that you will be happy to have read and learned.
Actually, I read most of what she has on her website before posting--and, as I said, was not impressed. Partly, this is because her sweeping meta-economic analysis gets in the way of her insights into particular operational and financial intersections.

Moreover, some of her insights into insurgent finances are simply wrong--for example, her throw-away statements on Fateh's diversion of funds in the Arafat era are incorrect, and show no knowledge of the vast amount of OS material on the mechanics, destinations, and purposes of revenue diversions (including a very large IMF report and several available forensic audits). In the same piece she quotes Arafat on Hamas (a completely unreliable source), and in so doing contributes to a grand tradition of exaggerated accounts of Israel's role in Hamas' creation. She also dramatically overstates the magnitude and role of Hamas financing and social services in recruiting (again, an area where there is some OS data).

These might seem nitpicks, but they all point to an inclination to shoehorn data to support a grand thesis, and in so doing distorting the former.
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Old 11-19-2007   #11
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These might seem nitpicks, but they all point to an inclination to shoehorn data to support a grand thesis, and in so doing distorting the former.
You're probably right, I am not all that familiar with Hamas to evaluate her or your claims. Her thesis is probably too board to be proven but at the same time i think there is some worth to trying to explain events on the level of world systems. It's nice to have frameworks to locate events within even if the framework flattens some of the complexity.

I would like to know if anyone else knows of another work that tries to explain the macro-economics of the war on terror?

As far as her analysis being tainted by her politics, i don't think that makes different than any other person who has ever written anything. Jedburgh, maybe it just seems like more of a problem becuase you don't agree with her politics? Either way, calling a well researched book by written by a former Fulbright scholar and London School of Economics PhD "junk" is a bit misguided. Every work has it flaws and personal biases but if we only read what we agree with were not really interested in solving problems as much as perusing political agendas and I think therein lies the fundamental dilemma of the war on terror but that is another topic.

At the end of the day, though, I think her basic argument is spot on: that corrupt dictatorships, supported by foreign powers, have kept an increasingly dynamic business class down in the middle east. This political situation, coupled with Cold War meddling in wars of national liberation, created very real motivations for armed to groups to form and try to out-administer their state and create a economy that can provide for the population better than the formal one. These economies came to be linked becuase they operate in the same clandestine space and often share the same broad political goals. The fact that Islamist banks filled the power vacuum in the Central Asia and the Caucuses--two places were the War on Terror existed in a very dramatic fashion before 9/11--after the USSR collapsed and Soviet subsides dried up speaks for itself. I think conflating this with the crusades is a bit much but I think an ambitious economic analysis of the War on Terror is needed and, as far as I know, this is the only work that attempts to do so.
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Old 11-19-2007   #12
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As far as her analysis being tainted by her politics, i don't think that makes different than any other person who has ever written anything.
Everyone writes from their own personal perspective. However, when composing anything that purports to be an in-depth analysis of an issue, it is important to make a conscious effort to put those personal biases aside, otherwise the final product leans more towards op-ed than reasoned analysis. I tend to be more dismissive of the former than the latter.

Jedburgh, maybe it just seems like more of a problem becuase you don't agree with her politics?
Now you are the one making assumptions. Anyone attempting to come to grasp the nuances of any issue needs to look at it from many points of view. Dismissing perspectives because you dislike their politics is foolish. Dismissing a product because it is poorly put together is a completely different matter. I think perhaps Rex's specific observations highlighted the latter point about the book better than my general comment.

Either way, calling a well researched book by written by a former Fulbright scholar and London School of Economics PhD "junk" is a bit misguided.
I you believe that Fulbright scholars and PhDs (the institution doesn't matter) are somehow on some sort of intellectual pedestal and incapable of publishing "junk", then you still have much to learn.
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Old 11-19-2007   #13
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jedburgh, i understand your points and i think they're fair enough but do you know of any economic analysis any work similar to this that you think is superior?
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Old 11-19-2007   #14
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...Do you know of any economic analysis any work similar to this that you think is superior?
No. I'll just quote Rex here:

More broadly, I think there is an interesting phenomenon whereby a variety of audiences--politicians, policymakers, the press, the public, even new CT professionals--look for an easy, engaging, sweeping diagnosis and answer to current security challenges. In my view, not only is it NOT that easy, but the real pay off is in understanding precisely the complexities and variations at work.

The operational funding of terrorist networks and autonomous cells is a very complex issue that also encompasses such diverse subject areas as transnational organized crime, diaspora funding of insurgent movements, narco-and-human trafficking, black markets - both local and transnational, etc. To truly understand all of the above in the context of any specific terror organization also requires a baseline of knowledge about that organization's operational structure and the environment in which it operates.

Rather than seeking a single tome with all the answers, I suggest good old fashioned research and study. It would probably help if you initially narrow your focus and try to study in-depth just one aspect. Look over what's available from official sources, such as EuroPol, FinCEN, the GAO, NCJRS, etc. etc. as well as looking over products from the wide spectrum of private entities. The people who show up at Congressional and Senate hearings on the subject often have interesting things to say - and the transcripts are almost always available on-line. As an FYI, Tamara Makarenko is one author who has written a great deal of substance on transnational organized crime as well as its links - existing and potential - with terrorism.

Last edited by Jedburgh; 11-11-2008 at 02:32 AM.
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Old 11-19-2007   #15
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Default on a broader analytical issue

Let me move the discussion away from Napoleoni for a moment, and towards a broader issue that has increasingly troubled me. It may seem like a bit of a tangent to begin with, but you'll see by the end how it connects.

Since 9/11, there has been--for obvious reasons--a dramatic expansion in the number in the number of (government) analysts addressing CT and Middle Eastern issues. Many of these have been newly-minted graduate (or even undergraduate) students with some topic or area expertise. Some of this group are already very good, some may be good one day, and some are far from impressive. A key issue here will be mentoring, and whether organizations have the seasoned, skilled, mid-level analysts who can nurture a new generation. A second key issue will be human resource management, and whether the system recognizes and appropriately deals with the gifted, the promising, and the flawed among the new recruits.

In addition, there are a number of organizations with traditionally little CT or ME analytical responsibility, where they've felt the need to develop it, whether by new hires or by reassigning mid-level professionals with very different previous responsibilities. I've found that, at times, this group seeks an overarching framework of analysis, a theme or motif as it were, to make sense of the complex new world and responsibilities into which they've been thrust. As a result, they buy into catchy (sometimes rather politicized) explanations that reduce issues to near sound-bites, and hence make the complex world around them more intellectually manageable.

A case in point: I was at a conference of security and intelligence professionals and scholars a few weeks ago in which a great number of the participants fell into this later category. One of the speakers was Melanie Philips, British author of the book Londonistan.

Now, I recognize that immigration, refugee policy, diasporas, and multiculturalism all have security implications. However, Philips presentation (and the book) was a thinly-veiled rant against all of these things in the name of preserving a narrow, even racist, vision of British identity. As her website notes:

Quote:
Melanie Phillips pieces together the story of how Londonistan developed as a result of the collapse of British self-confidence and national identity and its resulting paralysis by multiculturalism and appeasement. The result is an ugly climate in Britain of irrationality and defeatism, which now threatens to undermine the alliance with America and imperil the defence of the free world.
The actual presentation was far more strident.

As I listened to her, I was certain that everyone in the room would see her simplistic, narrow-minded, highly ideological "analysis" for what it was. Much to my surprise, however, a great many people found it attractive: the problem of terrorism could be simply understood by recognizing that we had departed from our classic 1950s values, that we had contaminated Western culture with foreign imports, that we had become defeatists inappropriately ashamed of the grand colonial past, that the vast majority of Muslims were jihadist sympathizers, and that consequently immigration and refugee policies were little more than fifth columns. Typically those that found the call most seductive were middle-aged professionals recently thrust within their departments into some sort of security and intelligence role, and much less so younger analysts (and almost no one with any extensive analytical background in the issues). Clearly there was a real danger that this simple (and simplistic), nicely-packaged drivel
could drive out much more nuanced, messy, and less easily digested diagnosis. As someone who spends his analytical time with well-informed, experienced area and issue professionals, it was frankly quite a shock.

My reaction to Napoleoni is, in some ways, fueled by the concern that although she offers a very different analysis (and clearly knows her issues infinitely better than Philips, who is a political columnist and not a scholar), it offers the same kind of seductive appeal and suffers from some of the same shoehorning of data to fit a preconceived analytical frame.

I've also become intrinsically suspicious of scholars and analysts with flashy self-promoting websites that use their own name as the domain URL

Jedburgh (and anyone else): I would be interested if you've observed any of the same issues arising from the expansion of CT and analytical capabilities within organizations, especially those with less prior experience in these areas. Or did I just have an unlucky experience?...

Last edited by Rex Brynen; 11-19-2007 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 11-19-2007   #16
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Default yep, what Jedburgh said

The problem with writing SWC posts from your office is that you get distracted by phone and visitors, take half an hour to finish your comment, and one of the regulars posts on an overlapping issue before you can get your two cents in
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Old 11-19-2007   #17
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Default Economics of Terror

While I have yet to read the book, and am loathe to comment based merely upon a review, or a summary which may over simplify an otherwise elegant explanation, I think that the title may be of value.

Perhaps it is just me, but the title seems to be reminiscent of the Murder Inc. of depression era Organized Crime. In that case, organized criminality became an industry, almost unto itself. Of course there were supporting funds, such as the ubiquitous prostitution, extortion and 'rum running'. Nevertheless, it is possible that there is an undercurrent of political economy. This may be worth exploring in a separate thread. Are we dealing with an entire economic movement, and if so is it more like the advent of the automobile industry, and part of the existing structure, or is it more like communism and antithetical to existing economics? Should this be discussed elsewhere, or has it already been?
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Old 11-19-2007   #18
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This may be worth exploring in a separate thread.... Should this be discussed elsewhere, or has it already been?
Probably worth exploring and we may as well keep it in this thread for now...

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Are we dealing with an entire economic movement, and if so is it more like the advent of the automobile industry, and part of the existing structure, or is it more like communism and antithetical to existing economics?
Is it an economic movement? Sure, but it has also been around for quite a while - at least 100 years and, I'm certain, probably a lot longer. I don't have the exact references at hand, but I believe that the extent was estimated at about 4-5 billion Euros in the EU in 2004, and that was only the part dealing with fraudulent claims for government assistance that was being funneled into the network.

It is definitely part of existing structures of capital flow, but those are, currently, closer to a form of capitalist feudalism that either free market or central planning (BTW, the same was true of Henry Ford's operation).
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Old 11-19-2007   #19
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....Perhaps it is just me, but the title seems to be reminiscent of the Murder Inc. of depression era Organized Crime. In that case, organized criminality became an industry, almost unto itself. Of course there were supporting funds, such as the ubiquitous prostitution, extortion and 'rum running'. Nevertheless, it is possible that there is an undercurrent of political economy. This may be worth exploring in a separate thread. Are we dealing with an entire economic movement, and if so is it more like the advent of the automobile industry, and part of the existing structure, or is it more like communism and antithetical to existing economics? Should this be discussed elsewhere, or has it already been?
The point that has been made thus far in the thread is that there is no all-encompassing, world-wide "economic movement" financially supporting terrorism. Each terrorist organization has to be examined in its own unique context, i.e. like the case study RAND completed a few years back looking at the LTTE and diaspora support.

There have also been a few outstanding studies of how former violent leftist organizations shifted funding after the fall of the Soviet Union - many just fell apart, some dropped the ideology and shifted to become plain ol' criminal enterprises, a small number managed to blend various aspects of illicit funding with continued operations, often with a bit of a different focus.

There is certainly value in exploring financial support to various specific terror organizations. Perhaps it may be better to discuss the issue in the specific regionally-focused forum where the group in question operates (i.e. Jemaah Islamiyyah in Asia-Pacific, Hezballah in the Middle East, or the FARC in the Americas.)

Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-15-2013 at 07:05 PM. Reason: Edit after separate thread merged to here.
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Old 11-19-2007   #20
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Hi Ted,

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The point that has been made thus far in the thread is that there is no all-encompassing, world-wide "economic movement" financially supporting terrorism. Each terrorist organization has to be examined in its own unique context, i.e. like the case study RAND completed a few years back looking at the LTTE and diaspora support.
Quite true. What we appear to have is a rise in micro-economic networks, some of which are being used by terrorist organizations, some of which have no bearing on them, and some of which may be partially used by them.

Personally, I think it is important to differentiate between systems, system components, actors within those systems and the motivations (tactics) of those actors, and this distinction may prove useful. I've been working with a mature student for a couple of years now (she works for our federal government) looking at the manipulation of social programs by "terrorist" organizations (sorry, but you know I have a problem with that label ).

So, let me give you a case in point....

Some years back (about 1993-4) Canada let in a large number of Somali refugees (~6,000), concentrated in Ottawa and Toronto on humanitarian grounds. I'm not sure how much all of you know about the refugee system in Canada, but it is much closer to that of Europe than that of the US: subsidized (or free) housing, welfare checks, medical and dental care, etc. Pretty soon, it was discovered that a fair amount of the money being paid out in social welfare payments was being sent back to family members in Somalia through informal banking systems, usually with a 10-15% carrying charge. Some of this money ended up being used to buy weapons, which is not surprising if you know anything at all about Somalia .

All of this is technically "legal", but some of the money ended up in the hands of groups and individuals who are considered to be "terrorists". Was this a "plot to defraud the Crown"? Nope, it was an extension of the clan system which requires that all clan members aid others in the clan - a very ancient system. There have been systematic attempts to defraud the Crown (and other Western governments), but there is certainly no overarching mastermind behind them .
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