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Here is final part of ‘Ungoverned Space: American Foreign Policy’:

Technology and Policing Ungoverned Space

Community policing has more less now become a traditional policing strategy, which has proven its effectiveness in the past and still today, but our modern, globalizing world demands ever more adaptive and innovative policing methods to keep up with criminals/terrorists who continue to utilize ungoverned space and gaps.  In a world with a globalized economy creating ever more state-of-the-art technologies and commodities (cell phones, ipods, Internet, weaponry) there will inevitably be criminal and extremist perpetrators who will try and find gaps in which they can exploit these new-found toys.  As Reid succinctly articulates;

“The unprecedented speed of change and development in the 21stCentury provides us with those unique opportunities.  We’re wealthier.  We’re more mobile.  We’re more knowledgeable than before.  But as citizens benefit from those opportunities, so do the terrorists who exploit them or the criminals who find new paths.”[1]

It is the critical job of law enforcement today in the US, EU, and everywhere, especially in locals experiencing Absolute or Quasi ungoverned space, to fill these gaps created by modern technological advancements, commodities, and globalized networks of trade before criminals or terrorists can abuse them.  The US and British police systems have already done a remarkable job using and adapting their policing methods with modern technologies and techniques, such as the use of Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTC), border and custom patrols have implemented biometric passports and visas, and increased efforts at curtailing the misuse of identification documents.  Partnerships between the public and private sector are vital.  The British government’s partnership and work with Telecom’s Network Providers, which led to the creation of a system to ensure that stolen mobile phones were made unusable by thieves, is just one example of how effective this collaboration can be.  Criminals and extremists will always be looking for a gap, a hole they can slide through to commit their criminal and terrorist acts, and law enforcement need to do whatever it takes to find, analyze, and close that gap as soon as possible.   

Multilateral Groups

To help mitigate the effects and growth of ungoverned space in critical parts of the globe the United States must depend on the efforts, skills, and partnership of many other nations and multilateral groups.  Though the US must lead the charge, it cannot come close to combating this scourge without much international and regional help.

The US government is already a member of several useful organizations and initiatives that if properly led could slow down or contain terrorist and criminal activity stemming from and breeding in ungoverned spaces.  The State Department led Regional Strategic Initiative (RSI) is one such effort that seeks to develop flexible regional networks of interconnected Country Teams to combat and ‘eliminate terrorism safe havens, but also to address the conditions that terrorists exploit for recruitment.’  The State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism works with ambassadors and interagency representatives in key terrorist theaters of operation to assess the threat and devise collaborative strategies, plans, and policy recommendations.  In this regard, RSI strategy groups are already in place for Southeast Asia, Iraq and its neighbors, around the Mediterranean, and the Horn of Africa.  These RSI groupings provide an opportunity for cooperation around shared security concerns, pooled resources, and to strengthen regional and transnational partnerships in areas in need.  We just need to make sure these groupings remain focused on specific Absolute and Quasi ungoverned areas and targets.  The Vienna-based UN Office of Drugs and Crime and its action-arms Global Program on Terrorism and Global Program against Transnational Organized Crime assist member nations in combating both threats and is a program with international backing and legitimacy that the US should support and play a lead role in.  These UN crime and terror programs strengthen the ability of regional and national customs officials, immigration officers, and border guards to counter narcotics, weapons, and human trafficking as well as provide guidance to states in legislating and implementing anti-terrorism measures.  There are many other useful multilateral groupings with institutions that target transnational crime and terror elements which the US is already a member and should deepen relations with, such as the EU, OSCE, and G8.

Concerning international law enforcement agencies which have and been crucial and need our support to stem the tide of transnational crime and terrorism, the Southeastern European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) Center, based in Bucharest, and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), based in Lyon, must be provided greater financial provisions.  SECI takes a strong regional approach in assisting member states trans-border crime fighting efforts and has an Anti-Terrorism Task Force which focuses on helping its members counter the nexus between organized crime and terrorism.  Southeastern Europe has been a transit route for narcotics from Afghanistan and Central Asia and a hotbed of organized crime itself.  The US, Germany, France, and many others are currently observer members and we need to build on this relationship.  INTERPOL’s efforts are well-known, but its Fusion Task Force, which analyzes linkages between crime and terrorism in order to ‘facilitate the disruption and dismantling of criminal entities that play a central role in the funding or support of terrorist activities.’[2]  The Fusion Task Force has six additional regional task forces in Southeast Asia, Central Asia (Afghanistan/Pakistan), South America (Colombia), Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.  The organization’s paltry $33 million annual budget deserves our attention and financial support.[3]  SECI and INTERPOL may have their operations based in rather secure, governed lands, but their presence helps contain, dismantle, and prosecute criminal and terrorist networks that both breed in Quasi and Absolute ungoverned spaces and find gaps in governed lands.  The US should help to bring about, or strengthen already existing, these types of regional crime/terrorism law enforcement agencies in the Middle East, Central Asia, Central America, and South America.


Ungoverned space and the nefarious elements that grow from its loins is not just a US national security problem or even just an international security problem, it is one of the defining challenges of our modernized and globalized civilization.  Earlier centuries witnessed great wars and conflicts between world powers which caused unspeakable horrors and destruction, but that world is largely gone, and our current challenges stem from transnational criminal and terrorist networks that use the shadows and cover of ungoverned spaces to plot their next attack or offense against our society.  To combat this modern scourge the US needs to lead the world in closing these gaps and spaces of poor governance and weak institutions which leave only meager options for many of the world’s citizens.  Accomplishing this will be a long and at times treacherous path, and one in which we will make mistakes in our chosen policies and with the instruments utilized to carry them out, but this does not a mean we can shrink back into our homeland, for the menacing elements that come from ungoverned spaces will find their way back into our lives.

What did you think? How would you define ‘ungoverned space’? What are its major implications? What is the best method for combating its ill effects? What is the most effective long term solution?

[1]  Reid, John, “Crime and Counter-Terrorism Opportunities and Challenges,” Milstein Lectures, June 20, 2007, pg. 14.

[2] The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL),

[3] Sanderson, Thomas M., “Transnational Terror and Organized Crime: Blurring the Lines,” SAIS Review¸Vol. XXIV, No. 1, Winter-Spring, 2004.

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