Mats Berdal and Mónica Serrano
I n a survey of the diverse approaches, topics, and themes that were subsumed under the study of international security in the 1990s, Lawrence Freedman cautioned against the uncritical adoption of excessively broad and all-encompassing conceptions of “security. ” One of the dangers, he argued, is that “once anything that generates anxiety or threatens the quality of life in some respects becomes labelled a 'security problem,' the field risks losing all focus” (Freedman 1998a, p. 53).
Current pressures may make such a statement either more questionable or more valuable, as we shall see. However, it does seem proper to start a book on transnational organized crime and international security by posing the a priori question: Should the subject of transnational organized crime be properly considered a challenge to international security? Certainly, the international dimension of organized crime has long been recognized. Indeed, as Peter Andreas reminds us in Chapter 3, transnational crime in the form of smuggling has been around since the imposition of controls over economic exchange between countries. Likewise, cross-border cooperation and strategic alliances between criminal organizations, a subject explored by Phil Williams in Chapter 5, are far from being an entirely new phenomenon.
Is there, then, something fundamentally new about the manner in which transnational criminal groups and syndicates operate in the early twenty-first century? If so, what has changed and what is the precise nature of the challenge posed to international order? Do transnational criminal groups and networks now represent an altogether different and more menacing threat to the integrity of states and the international system in which they operate?
This book explores these questions. Although it does not reach defini-