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Global Organized Crime and International Security.

Global Organized Crime and International Security

Edited by Emilio C. Viano (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 1999) 240 pp.

Global Organized Crime and International Security puts together many of the important and contested issues from the current research on global organized crime--the causes of this phenomenon, its recent development, its effects on the political, economic and social structures of the countries it affects, and proposed counter-measures.

The book consists of 16 chapters, organized in three parts: the introduction and the chapters in the first part present some of the theoretical issues, which are addressed in more detail with the case studies in the second part and the third part, which presents some initial steps taken towards solving the problems. The 24 authors hail from nine countries and have multiple qualifications (in international relations, law and criminology) and area expertise that illustrate the benefits of discussing organized crime from a political, economic and legal viewpoint. At the same time, however, this diversity contributes to the lack of focus of the book.

The purpose of the book is to offer a framework for assessing the economic and political linkages underlying organized crime and its globalization, while the emphasis is on how the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union in particular have boosted development of global organized crime. This phenomenon is defined as one of the most serious threats to international security at present, and has led to a slew of new literature on the issue, which has focused mainly on the supply and demand and the illicit trafficking of nuclear weapons-usable materiel from the former Soviet Union. Viano's book is an additional sign of the heightened concern of policy makers and academics alike about the problems posed by organized crime, a concern which has led Mr. Pino Arlacchi, UN Under-Secretary General, to make this the lead issue at a special UN meeting to be held in 2000.

The book is consistent with one of the dominant approaches in the existing literature on organized crime--an economic-political one--which views it as an entrepreneurial activity whose main goal is the pursuit of profit Organization of this activity results from the desire to be more efficient and make bigger profits. Organized crime is thus best understood in economic and political, not just legal terms. In this connection, the contributors to this volume discuss important aspects of organized crime and its globalization. Organized crime has become a "worldwide phenomenon that has taken great advantage of enabling technology in banking, communication, and transportation to build what is probably the first true `virtual' corporation in the world" and is now a threat to national and world security That is, it is a:
 system of transnational alliances with the potential to destabilize
 democratic values and institutions; distort regional, if not worldwide,
 economies; and subvert the international order by allying itself with
 terrorist organizations, rogue states, and developing countries in search
 of rapid industrialization and market dominance.

The authors of this project have set up an ambitious agenda: First, to share new research findings on the most recent trends in the globalization of organized crime; Second, to analyze the consequences of global organized crime and the corresponding strategies to fight organized crime that states and international organizations such as the United Nations; Third, to facilitate the understanding of the complexity of this phenomenon. The thread that binds all the chapters is the emphasis on the need for a cooperative and transnational approach to the problem of organized crime.

Viano repeatedly states that there is a need for "redefining security" He states that effective counter-measures against global organized crime necessitate a transnational approach to security and a re-examination of national legal systems, as no country can cope alone with the challenges of global organized crime. One of the tasks of the book is to offer this new perspective on organized crime, which is in contrast with the classic criminological perspective that views organized crime as one of many types of criminal activities and as a phenomenon occurring at the national level. The contributors to this volume, by contrast, emphasize the transnational aspects of organized crime and see it as a threat to international security.

The countries and regions discussed in the second part of the book are good illustrations of the internationalization of organized crime and show how countries at different levels of economic development and with various forms of government may be equally plagued by organized crime, without adequate tools deal with it on their own. They also point to some of the main difficulties in interstate cooperation associated with combating global organized crime. The cases of Italy, Spain, Russia, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Baltics clearly illustrate the dysfunction of the existing international security arrangements as well as the tensions in the relationship between national sovereignty and transnational crime. The chapters on Russia and the Baltics adequately show the vulnerability of the post-Communist countries to organized crime due to various economic and political difficulties these countries have encountered in their transitions to democracy.

The authors should have done more, however, to show how the crime explosion in Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War threatens the stability of Europe as a whole and to discuss which European law enforcement agencies--if any--are equipped to deal with this problem. The authors also could have shown in what ways governments and law enforcement agencies in Europe and beyond need to rethink traditional notions of sovereignty in order to cooperate in combating international organized crime.

The case studies show that organized crime could be equally dangerous for all types of states regardless of their form of government or stage of economic development. The chapter on Puerto Rico is a much-needed examination of female criminality, which is traditionally understudied and undertheorized (probably because of the statistical fact that men commit crime at a much higher rate than do women). The main argument of this chapter is that female criminality deserves further study because there is a fundamental difference in the motivation of women's and men's crimes.

In his own chapter on the United States, "The Criminal Justice System Facing the Challenges of Organized Crime," Viano rightly notes that in sharp contrast to the United States, there are countries which do not have any "meaningful legislation that defines or addresses the problem of organized crime." Although the absence of laws is a serious problem, the book should have done more to suggest how to cope with international cooperation to counter global organized crime among countries that do have the necessary laws and may even have the political will to cooperate. Moreover, the problems of dealing with state sovereignty, conflicting political interests and markedly different legal systems need to be addressed if the book is to fulfill its objective of providing a transnational perspective on organized crime.

While this book contributes to the existing literature on organized crime by emphasizing the trends toward its globalization and by trying to set up a new theoretical framework for analyzing this phenomenon, it does a better job of presenting the questions and problems than of offering new solutions. Nevertheless, it is a very good start in the right direction. Just as the book may appeal to academics, practitioners and students of international relations and criminology, it could also, serve policymakers and lawyers who wish to understand the problems international enforcement poses to sovereign states.

Dessie Zagorcheva is a Ph.D. Candidate in political science at Columbia University.
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Author:Zagorcheva, Dessie
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Date:Mar 22, 2000
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