Comparisons with Criminality



When insurgents use organised violence to pursue their political goals and seek to make this a successful enterprise, they are using not only a strategy and a mode of operations but also an operational format. And as the format is readily categorised as bandit-like or gangster-like, this aspect of ‘how they use organised violence’ leads to comparisons with criminality rather than with states’ warfare. The similarities in operational format between insurgents and professional criminals, whether bandits or gangsters, have been recognised since ancient times and is still noted in our present century. For example, in the aftermath of 9/11 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted that ‘destroying al-Qaeda would be like destroying an organised crime syndicate’.1 And a US army officer operating against insurgents in Iraq in 2003–4 discovered that it was ‘a task more akin to breaking up a Mafia crime ring than breaking up a conventional enemy battalion’.2 Both these comparisons were pointing to insurgents’ structural similarities to their gangster equivalents, such as the similar tendency to ‘live apart and work together’ instead of following the traditional bandit and military approach of living together as a social unit and true ‘band of brothers’. But there are similarities in tactical as well structural techniques between insurgents and either gangsters or bandits and there are even similarities in the techniques used to pursue a propaganda strategy.


Organise Crime Hybrid Band Political Goal Drug Trade Insurgent Group 
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© Paul Brooker 2010

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