The most important emerging security challenge of the 21st century is the merger of crime, terrorism, and insurgency. From Mexico to Bosnia, national security establishments are increasingly focused inward, struggling to contain gangs and criminal syndicates that are metastasizing into national-security threats. “Criminal states” already exist today, and crime may become an overt and powerful form of political organization in the new century—far more powerful than the historic Mafia, for example, which largely operated in the shadows.
The scale of criminal capability—the growth of criminal activity in the world at large and in specific regions especially—is producing a new kind of warfare, one that reflects the postmodern interconnected world in which money, arms, and people flow freely across international boundaries and usurp control of territories from traditional states. While U.S. defense thinking, driven by events in Iraq and Afghanistan, has grappled with changes in warfare over the past decades (for example, in retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Frank Hoffman’s “hybrid war” theory), this is very different.