Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency

Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency

Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency

Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency

Excerpt

This monograph explains the linkage of contemporary criminal street gangs (that is, the gang phenomenon or third generation gangs) to insurgency in terms of the instability it wreaks upon governments and the concomitant challenge to state sovereignty. Although differences between gangs and insurgents regarding motives and modes of operations exist, this linkage infers that gang phenomena are mutated forms of urban insurgency. In these terms, these “new” nonstate actors must eventually seize political power to guarantee the freedom of action and the commercial environment they want. The common denominator that can link the gang phenomenon to insurgency is that some third generation gangs' and insurgents' ultimate objective is to depose or control the governments of targeted countries.

The author identifies those issues that must be taken together and understood as a whole before any effective countermeasures can be taken to deal with the half-criminal and half-political nature of the gang phenomenon. This is a universal compound-complex problem that must be understood on three distinct levels of analysis: first, the gangs phenomena are generating serious domestic and regional instability and insecurity that ranges from personal violence to insurgent to state failure: second, because if their criminal activities and security challenges, the gangs phenomena are exacerbating civil-military and police-military relations problems and reducing effective and civil-military ability to control the national territory; and, third, gangs are helping transitional criminal organizations, insurgents, warlords, and drug barons erode the legitimacy and effective sovereignty of nation-states. The analytical commonality linking these three issues is the inevitable contribution to either (a) failing and failed state status of targeted countries, or (b) deposing or controlling the governments of targeted countries. In these terms, we must remember that crime and instability are only symptoms of the threat. The ultimate threat is either state failure or the violent imposition of a radical socio-economic- political restructuring of the state and its governance.

In describing the gang phenomenon as a simple mutation of a violent act we label as insurgency, we mischaracterize the activities of nonstate organizations that are attempting to take control of the state. We traditionally think of insurgency as primarily a military activity, and we think of gangs as a simple law-enforcement problem. Yet, insurgents and third generation gangs are engaged in a highly complex political act—political war. Under these conditions, police and military forces would provide personal and collective security and stability, while they and other governmental institutions combat the root causes of instability and political war—injustice, repression, inequity, and corruption. The intent would be to generate the political-economic-social development that will define the processes of national reform, regeneration, and well- being. The challenge, then, is to come to terms with the fact that contemporary security and stability, at whatever level, is at base a HOLISTIC political-diplomatic, socio-economic, psychological-moral, and military police effort.

This monograph concludes with implications and strategic- level recommendations derived from the instability, civil- military jurisdiction, and sovereignty issues noted above that will help leaders achieve strategic clarity and operate more effectively in the complex politically dominated, contemporary global security arena.

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