Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2003
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2003 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Bill Steigerwald, Tribune-Review

Terrorism One Of Many Losing Battles

Remember how quickly we won the war against terrorism?

Remember how easy it was for us, the greatest superpower the world has ever 
seen, to wipe out the nasty global network of al-Qaida terrorist cells that 
had so suddenly brought thousands of deaths and a perpetual state of 
insecurity to our happy homeland?

Didn't think so.

We'll be fighting -- and not winning -- the war against terrorism for 
decades. Long after Osama is dead, long after a Saddam-free Iraq becomes 
the Switzerland of the Middle East, we'll still be standing in lines at 
airports and duct-taping our dens.

Why? Because, says the current Foreign Policy magazine, the war against 
global terrorism -- like the wars governments have waged for centuries 
against the illegal trade in drugs, arms, intellectual property, people and 
money -- is almost impossible to win.

In its cover story, "Five Wars We're Losing," Foreign Policy shows how 
impossible it is for modern governments to defeat stateless, decentralized 
networks of well-financed, highly dedicated individuals that move freely, 
quickly and stealthily across national borders.

Whether they're terrorists blowing up bridges for religious or political 
reasons, or creepy cocaine smugglers seeking high profits, the bad guys 
have increasing advantages over governments today, says Foreign Policy 
editor Moises Naim.

Thanks to globalization, illegal markets are bigger and more lucrative than 
ever. And thanks to all the wonders of the modern age, the bad guys are 
better "armed" and more agile than the cumbersome government bureaucracies 
that he says are still fighting with obsolete tools, inadequate laws and 
dumb methods.

The war on drugs is the most infamous war we're losing. The illicit drug 
biz, worth $400 billion a year worldwide, dwarfs illegal arms trafficking, 
but both are more successful than ever.

So is people-smuggling. It's a $7 billion-a-year global industry involving 
millions of humans, including 200,000 children who are enslaved each year 
in Central and West Africa and those who voluntarily pay $35,000 to have 
themselves smuggled into New York City from China.

The biggest illegal industry is money laundering. Because computers, 
electronic money transfers and slippery part-legal/part-illegal financial 
trickery make regulation nearly impossible, it's now worth between $800 
billion and $2 trillion.

Naim says flat out that governments can never win these wars unless they 
start coming up with new, better, smarter ways to fight them. Governments 
have to cooperate more and strengthen multilateral outfits such as 
Interpol, which fights international crime with a paltry force of 112 
police officers.

But more important, he says, governments should begin trying to regulate 
these illicit global businesses rather than trying to repress them with 
even tougher laws and ever more Coast Guard patrols.

Naim, who points out that governments also are losing their worldwide wars 
against illegal trade in human organs, endangered species, stolen art and 
toxic waste, doesn't advocate making heroin sales legal or allowing weapons 
of mass destruction to be sold at Wal-Mart.

But he says if governments -- and everyone else -- want to start winning 
these wars, they should wise up and look for ways to use market-friendly 
regulations instead of restrictive (and often self-defeating) laws that 
only screw up the balance of supply and demand and create high-profit 
opportunities for bad guys.
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