Global Organized Crime and International Security

Article excerpt

Global Organized Crime and International Security

Edited by Emilio C. Viano (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 1999) 240 pp.

Global Organized Crime and International Security puts together many of the important and contested issues from the current research on global organized crime--the causes of this phenomenon, its recent development, its effects on the political, economic and social structures of the countries it affects, and proposed counter-measures.

The book consists of 16 chapters, organized in three parts: the introduction and the chapters in the first part present some of the theoretical issues, which are addressed in more detail with the case studies in the second part and the third part, which presents some initial steps taken towards solving the problems. The 24 authors hail from nine countries and have multiple qualifications (in international relations, law and criminology) and area expertise that illustrate the benefits of discussing organized crime from a political, economic and legal viewpoint. At the same time, however, this diversity contributes to the lack of focus of the book.

The purpose of the book is to offer a framework for assessing the economic and political linkages underlying organized crime and its globalization, while the emphasis is on how the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union in particular have boosted development of global organized crime. This phenomenon is defined as one of the most serious threats to international security at present, and has led to a slew of new literature on the issue, which has focused mainly on the supply and demand and the illicit trafficking of nuclear weapons-usable materiel from the former Soviet Union. Viano's book is an additional sign of the heightened concern of policy makers and academics alike about the problems posed by organized crime, a concern which has led Mr. Pino Arlacchi, UN Under-Secretary General, to make this the lead issue at a special UN meeting to be held in 2000.

The book is consistent with one of the dominant approaches in the existing literature on organized crime--an economic-political one--which views it as an entrepreneurial activity whose main goal is the pursuit of profit Organization of this activity results from the desire to be more efficient and make bigger profits. Organized crime is thus best understood in economic and political, not just legal terms. In this connection, the contributors to this volume discuss important aspects of organized crime and its globalization. Organized crime has become a "worldwide phenomenon that has taken great advantage of enabling technology in banking, communication, and transportation to build what is probably the first true `virtual' corporation in the world" and is now a threat to national and world security That is, it is a:

   system of transnational alliances with the potential to destabilize
   democratic values and institutions; distort regional, if not worldwide,
   economies; and subvert the international order by allying itself with
   terrorist organizations, rogue states, and developing countries in search
   of rapid industrialization and market dominance.

The authors of this project have set up an ambitious agenda: First, to share new research findings on the most recent trends in the globalization of organized crime; Second, to analyze the consequences of global organized crime and the corresponding strategies to fight organized crime that states and international organizations such as the United Nations; Third, to facilitate the understanding of the complexity of this phenomenon. The thread that binds all the chapters is the emphasis on the need for a cooperative and transnational approach to the problem of organized crime.

Viano repeatedly states that there is a need for "redefining security" He states that effective counter-measures against global organized crime necessitate a transnational approach to security and a re-examination of national legal systems, as no country can cope alone with the challenges of global organized crime. …