Transnational Organized Crime
and International Security:
Business as Usual?
The title of this book begs two main questions: What is transnational crime, and how has this phenomenon come to be linked with international security? This latter linkage is still a very recent event. We need to ask both how this has happened, and whether it is—at the very least, analytically—necessary.
In the past few years perspectives on transnational crime have become increasingly associated with security considerations. Developments such as the explosion of the drug market since the 1980s, the more recent waves of illegal migration, and the rising number of conflicts fueled by large-scale criminal activity have been crucial in recasting the issue of transnational criminal networks within the context of security. Such were the considerations behind the high-profile promotion of “fighting international organized crime” to a national security issue by former president Bill Clinton in 1996. 1 Transnational crime has thus risen to new stardom in the wars of international security rhetoric. While there are indeed sufficient reasons for concern over many criminal spheres in the world today, this “securitization” of transnational crime, as well as the relevance of current policy responses, demands urgent analytical attention.
Yet, at the same time that it has scaled the heights of the security agenda, transnational organized crime has been a subject of heated academic debate. Indeed, the literature on transnational crime and organized crime displays a significant lack of consensus on a number of fundamental issues. The disjunction of mind-sets between the policy pacemakers and the slowcoach experts is striking, and rather ominous. On the one hand, an edict flashes down from on high; on the other hand, a mass of literature swirls with patchy luminosity around concepts and terminology: international organized crime, global crime, international criminal networks, transnation-