You probably didn't think, that time you downloaded an MP3 online or bought a bootleg DVD of the latest Hollywood release, that you were tied into one of the most dangerous and potentially destablizing political and economic forces on the planet...
Illicit by Moises Naim, takes a long, hard look at a new phenonoma in the international arena - the role of traffickers and trafficking networks in transforming politics, economics and borders. Naim, the Editor of Foreign Policy Magazine, has penned a darkly intriguing look at the underground economy of trafficking. Illicit looks a the intricate, intertwined worlds of smuggling, illegal migrants, narcotics, organ-legging, the international sex trade, slavery, the arms trade, money laundering, weapons of mass destruction and counterfeit goods.
Naim makes a strong case that the same value-chain enabling technologies that permit the Wal-Marts of the world to exist, have also given birth to illicit and illegal networks and enterprises - from Al Quada to pirated software. He traces the connections between points of international instability, legitimate trade, weak governments and porous borders and the rise of highly flexible, de-centralized networks that transcend state boundaries.
These networks are not Pablo Escobarean-style structures, run by a single boss, but rather a loose and ever-changing adaptable network of illegal and legal enterprises that can recombine, shift and take advantage of the restrictions inherent in states and state bureaucracy. They are, in essence, entrepenuerial power set free. They are networks — connections — the goods being trafficked are secondary to the linkages and capabilities the traffickers demonstrate.
One example Naim cites is the underground nuclear trade network of Abdul Quadeer Khan, Pakistan's father of the Islamic bomb. Khan's commercial network shipped centrifuges to Libya (uncovered in 2003) using, among others, a Malaysian enginnering firm, a Swiss engineer, a Sri Lanken intermediary, and a partially-owned British-owned Dubai corporation. The centrifuge was shipped on a German-registered ship.
The ability of these networks to heighten political instability, particularly in regions with marginal governmental / state controls or in regions where those particular states are weak, corrupt or permeable, is very high. Columbia, Peru and Bolivia for cocaine; Afghanistan for heroin; South Africa and Israel for illegal organs; China for counterfeit goods, software, DVD's, clothing; migrants from Africa and Asia; prostitutes from Hungary; optical disks from Ukraine...the list is endless and it is not just consumer goods but commercial industrial goods and medications.