Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Emerging Challenges For the New President
Whoever wins the presidency next week will face a series of international challenges from non-state actors that are being little discussed on the campaign trail and largely ignored by the media in the run up to the presidential vote. It is too bad, as the next president will likely have to spend as much time on these issues as he does the economy.

The most neglected of the stories, it seems to me, given the enormous impact it has on not just a continent (Africa) but on global trade, is Somalia. The Islamists have scored a number of significant victories there, and only belatedly has the international community responded to the growing pirate threat that provides the Islamists and others a vital economic lifeline.

Another is the traceable spread of Hezbollah, both in sub-Saharan Africa and in Latin America. This quasi-state actor has made significant inroads in Venezuela, Panama and the Tri-Border Area, and is clearly not establishing themselves in these locations to go on vacation. One has to ask oneself what the purpose of such large investments in infrastructure and personnel is?

This, taken with the growing presence of Iran, Hezbollah's principal state sponsor, has only one goal, given the absence of historic or cultural ties or of a significant diaspora that would merit interest. And that is to position a veteran Islamist fighting force to attack the United States and its allies in the region should such an action be deemed necessary by Hezbollah, Iran, or other interlocutors.

The Hezbollah presence is close, both politically (through Hugo Chavez in Venezuela) and geographically, to the FARC in Colombia. The FARC, suffering a series of defeats militarily, will likely devolve into a well-armed drug trafficking organization (or several) that will have the resources to continue to attack the Uribe governmnet.

Another, though not directly tied to transnational terrorism, is the chaos in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where rebels under the command of Laurent Nkunda are sweeping in from the east with the backing of Rwanda. This war that is part ethnic, part geopolitical, and part resource driven will destabilize a great deal of the African continent, create another massive humanitarian crisis and suck resources away from the economic advancement of many countries.

The chaos will attract not only organized criminal groups who hope to make some money on the conflict, but terrorists and their recruiters will also be there, as surely as night follows day.

Afghanistan and the Taliban are receiving lots of thought and coverage, and breaking the link between the Islamist radicals and the drug traffickers will be one of the most pressing challenges the new administration faces.

Then there are the myriad Mexican and Central American gangs and cartels, a threat because they regularly cross our border to bring in drugs and illegal immigrants from around the world, and take out money, weapons, and stolen cars.

In another type of electoral season, these issues would have been raised and solutions debated. The next administration, would do well to look across the transnational, non-state threat horizon early and often, because it will be a challenge that will confront us early and often.

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