The Central Question
SINCE THE END OF THE COLD WAR, transnational nonstate forces have been a major source of global instability, and many ominous disruptive flows of people, goods, and services have moved readily across international boundaries. Deflecting attention away from transnational organized crime as a primary facilitator of these critical disruptive flows was first the sense of euphoria associated with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and then later the focus on transnational terrorism triggered by the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Although some analysts go too far in claiming that currently “the dimensions of global organized crime present a greater international security challenge than anything western democracies had to cope with during the Cold War,”1 the transnational criminal threat is nonetheless highly insidious at a lower level. There is now a pivotal hole in our understanding of transnational criminals’ decision making about the means to pursue their illicit ends and the security implications of these decisions.
This investigation begins to remedy this crucial analytical deficiency. Challenging puzzles requiring probing investigation surround the pervasive yet clandestine presence of transnational organized crime in the contemporary world, and focusing on these puzzles provides deeper insight into the nature of its operations and their consequences. So little is known about the modus operandi of transnational criminal organizations, and what little understanding does exist rarely distinguishes among their disruptive tactics or links these tactics to different kinds of security impacts. Consequently, an urgent need exists to explore within the contemporary international relations environment the dark logic behind transnational organized crime, its