Drug Use, After Declining for a Decade is Stabilizing
Despite Worries, Little International Criminal Smuggling of Nuclear Material has been Detected
International Terrorism Comes to US Shores
Environmental Initiatives Are Increasingly on an International Rather Than National Scale
Mass Refugee Flows and Humanitarian Disasters Are Becoming More Common, Straining the Will to Respond
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Illegal drugs are the most lucrative and violent part of the international crime scene. While many estimates of the illegal drug trade exist, a study for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs, indicates that U.S. consumers spent $49 billion on heroin, cocaine, and marijuana in 1991. About half of the 900,000 Americans in state and federal prisons are there for drug-related offenses, and there were 1.1 million arrests for drug-related violations in 1992.
The illegal drug problem can be viewed from three perspectives, each tied to one part of the counter-narcotics effort:
Consumption. After reaching a peak in the late 1970s, the number of U.S. drug consumers fell steadily for more than a decade. The low point was reached 1992, when the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that 11.2 million Americans had used illegal drugs in the month before the survey, less than half the 24.3 million users in 1979, although that may partly be accounted for by the decreasing social acceptability of admitting to drug use. However, the number of those who use cocaine and heroin at least weekly has stayed more or less constant at about 2.1 million and 600,000 respectively, despite treatment programs that accommodate 1.4 million users per year. Since hard-core users account for the vast bulk of the drugs consumed, the total amount of cocaine and heroin used has not significantly changed for at least ten years.
In 1993-1994, drug demand seems to have picked up. The 1994 Household Survey showed an increase in the number of consumers from 1992 (11.7 million compared to 11.2 million). More troubling, the University of Michigan's annual surveys of high school students reported sharp increases in marijuana consumption in 1994, with the steepest increase in the youngest groups. Drug experts have been worried since the early 1990s that heroin consumption may be increasing; emergency room visits for heroin problems rose 44 percent in the first half of 1993 compared to 1992. Factors contributing to this upswing in consumption include economic and social despair among the underclass, a resurgence of favorable images of drugs and drug users in media appealing to the young, and the development of smokeable heroin.
Given current trends, the most likely prospect is for increasing drug consumption in the next few years.
Production. The best estimate of worldwide illegal drug production potential, developed by U.S. intelligence services from satellite photos of crops, maintains that production held approximately steady from 1988 through 1993, aside from a drop in coca leaf output in 1993 due to a fungus outbreak. Production is highly concentrated. In 1993, 88 percent of the world's opium came from two countries (Burma and Afghanistan), as did 88 percent of coca leaf (Peru and Bolivia) and 72 percent of marijuana (Mexico and Colombia).
Crop eradication has been a major element in marijuana control, with 38 percent of the planted area destroyed in 1993, primarily by defoliants sprayed from the air--and that understates the effect, since the vigorous Colombian spraying program has contained that country's planted area to a mere fraction of what it would otherwise be. On the other hand, eradication of opium poppies and coca bushes has been largely unsuccessful and, in the Andean nations, intensely unpopular. The U.S. government's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report estimates that in 1993, 7 percent of the area planted with opium poppies was destroyed, as was 2 percent of the coca leaf area.
The most likely scenario is for little change in world output of illegal drug crops, with some diversification to new areas, such as more opium poppies in the Andes and more coca bushes in areas of Peru where it was not cultivated for sale until recently. Opium cultivation is becoming more common in ex-Soviet Central Asia, but it is unclear how large a problem this will be.
Trafficking. Whereas drug crop cultivation has remained highly concentrated in a few countries, the high-profit business of international drug trafficking--smuggling drugs from where crops are grown to where consumption occurs--is spreading into new regions. Trafficking has mushroomed in countries suffering from sharp economic contraction or crises of governability, especially Nigeria and the states of the former Soviet Union. Trade through Nigeria, which the U.S. government suspects enjoys some protection from Nigerian government officials, accounts for one-third of the heroin entering the U.S., according to some estimates. At the same time, drug trafficking continues unabated in its traditional strongholds. In Latin America, the violent Medellin cartel effectively ceased functioning with Pablo Escobar's death in a December 1993 in a shootout with police, but trafficking continues at comparable levels under other equally dangerous--if somewhat less violent--drug lords, such as those from Calí.
Counter-narcotics efforts aimed at trafficking have several elements. One is drug seizure programs, the success of which is often underestimated. For instance, in 1992, 338 tons of cocaine was seized by law enforcement agencies, out of a global estimated production potential of 1,000 tons, according to the 1994 National Drug Control Strategy. That means more cocaine was seized globally than was consumed in the United States (300 tons). In addition, the intelligence gathered by monitoring drug organizations feeds into an increasingly vigorous program to go after drug money, through money-laundering controls. To date, the principal effect of these controls has been to raise the cost of doing business rather than to seize assets, in part because of civil liberties concerns posed by seizing assets that cannot be directly linked to drug profits.
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The main national security worry associated with international crime has been that plutonium or highly-enriched uranium could be stolen from the former Soviet Union and sold internationally. Several seizures in Germany during the summer of 1994 raised concern that such diversions may have begun. However, it is not clear that a black market in fissile material has yet developed. Most of the material offered for sale to undercover agents has turned out to be useless for bombs, if radioactive at all. The quantities of actual bomb-quality material that have been intercepted were very small--perhaps because they were samples, but perhaps because that was all that criminals could smuggle out of Russian facilities. The latter explanation seems supported by the physical characteristics of the material seized in the two 1994 German plutonium-239 cases; this material was of a grade thought to be found only in research, as opposed to weapons, facilities.
Despite concerns about the involvement of Russian organized crime in the smuggling of fissile materials, none of the cases detected by late 1994 had been shown to involve Russian mafia gangs. Nor is there any evidence that material has been smuggled out of Russian military facilities, where the vast bulk of fissile material is kept. Furthermore, no evidence has emerged to suggest that agents of rogue states or terrorist groups have been trying to purchase fissile material--although there have been numerous attempted purchases by journalists, police, and intelligence agents from various Western countries.
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The data on international terrorism show no clear trend up or down from 1988 through 1993, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, which is now known to have provided more aid for terrorists than was hitherto recognized.
From the U.S. perspective, the major change in international terrorism in the 1990s has been that terrorists no longer shy away from acting on U.S. soil. In the 1980s, the U.S. was the scene of few international terrorist actions, and most of these were aimed at foreigners in the U.S.--for example, a plot by Sikhs to assassinate an Indian official. Although U.S. citizens were often victims of terrorism, that was primarily a result of attacks abroad. Perhaps the fear of U.S. retaliation was sufficient to deter the states that sponsored international terrorism.
The protected status of the United States has largely disappeared in the 1990s. The February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, for which four radical Muslims were convicted in March 1994, killed six and injured one thousand. Other examples of the spread of international terrorism in the U.S. include the 1994 conviction of Abu Nidal supporters for a Saint Louis murder and the 1993 arrests for a plot to bomb several New York buildings. The most likely prospect is that international terrorist episodes on U.S. soil will become more common.
In retrospect, it is clear that the international terrorism of the 1970s and 1980s generally had a state sponsor, with the Soviet Union often providing indirect support. This was not necessarily known at the time, however. For instance, shadowy Middle Eastern groups frequently claimed responsibility for various hijackings, kidnappings, and murders that are now known to have been sponsored by the governments of Iran, Syria, and Libya, as well as the PLO. Therefore, caution is needed in evaluating what appears to be a trend towards terrorism independent of state sponsorship. It is possible that hostile governments are secretly backing the seemingly autonomous radical movements that account for much present-day terrorism. For instance, Iran has largely avoided blame for the actions of its Revolutionary Guard soldiers in supporting Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Learning from this practice, Hezbollah is establishing its own chain of semi-plausible deniability, in order to participate in Lebanon's politics of reconciliation while still organizing terrorist attacks--as it appears to have done in Buenos Aires and London in July 1994 with bombings of Jewish and Israeli targets that killed more than ninety persons.
In those cases where state sponsorship can be demonstrated, the U.S. and the international community tend to respond vigorously against the offending government. For example, following a determination that the Iraqi government was responsible for an April 1993 plot to kill former President Bush during his visit to Kuwait, the U.S. launched cruise missiles against the headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence service. In November 1993, in response to Tripoli's refusal to extradite suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772, the U.N. Security Council toughened the sanctions imposed on Libya in March 1992.
Terrorists who lack state sponsorship increasingly use criminal activities to finance their movements. For example, captured documents and defectors suggest that Peru's Shining Path collected tens of millions of dollars from the cocaine traffickers. Some Colombian guerrillas appear to have become bandits, supporting themselves with kidnappings and industrial blackmail, such as threatening to blow up facilities unless paid off. According to the British government, the Irish Republican Army is in the murder-for-hire business, with the Iranian government paying to kill Iranian dissidents living in Britain. The most likely prospect is that political terrorism and ordinary crime will increasingly meld, with terrorism becoming a particularly nasty sort of organized crime.
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Environmental issues are a growing factor in international and security affairs. While part of the reason for this is that less attention needs to be devoted to the threat of conflict among great powers, at least as important is that environmental issues that were previously seen as purely domestic matters are increasingly understood to be international problems. The 1992 Rio Earth Summit was a milestone in forging a consensus that international coordination is needed for such problems as acid raid, loss of forest resources, and excessive population pressures on the natural resource base.
Pollution Control Agreements. Many of the most pressing pollution problems of the 1990s involve the "global commons"--areas like the oceans and the atmosphere that are in some sense owned collectively by all, rather than being the sovereign territory of any single nation. The problems of the global commons have been addressed by several international agreements negotiated in the last decade, notably the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. A challenge in the 1990s will be implementing the pollution-control targets in these agreements. Some governments will no doubt attempt to be "free riders" on the pollution control efforts of other nations. Others will prefer to wait for the global community to induce their cooperation with various types of incentives.
Disputes Over Transborder Resources. While the general trend is towards international cooperation on global pollution problems, there has been less progress towards peaceful resolution of disputes over transborder resources. The principal problems involve conflicting claims to offshore oil fields in disputed waters (such as the South China Sea) and, most emotionally, water resources. Of the latter, the most acute disputes are in the Middle East, over the waters of the Euphrates, Jordan, and Nile rivers. A water dispute was a major factor in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and the Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey would not have become such a major threat had it not been for Syrian aid in retaliation for Turkish dam construction on the Euphrates.
The outlook for agreements to share water is not particularly good. The institutions for controlling water use are products of an era when water was not considered scarce. Cultural and religious considerations often cause water to be viewed as too important to allow its use to be determined by markets or diplomatic haggling. International law supports both the doctrine of unlimited territorial sovereignty, which states that a country has exclusive rights to the use of waters within its territory, and the contrasting doctrine of unlimited territorial integrity, which states that one country cannot alter the quantity and quality of water available to another. In practice, the strongest, most clever, and best-positioned countries often use water resources with little concern for the impact on others.
Population Pressures. Population control programs have won widespread acceptance around the globe. (The controversies at the September 1994 Cairo U.N. International Conference on Population and Development primarily concerned abortion and sexual freedom issues, not contraception.) Owing to increases in the availability of birth control and the education of women, the global birth rate has been falling. By the late 1980s, fertility in most of the developing countries, regardless of levels of development or cultural background, was in sustained decline. On average, birth rates in the developing world have declined by one third since the mid-1960s: women formerly had six children on average, but only four by the beginning of the 1990s.
Despite the decline in fertility, annual world population growth has not slowed perceptibly, owing to the demographic momentum of the youthful populations of the developing world. A major population control challenge for the 1990s is to slow this momentum through persuading women to delay childbearing.
Population pressures in the 1990s may come less from swelling total numbers and more from changes in the composition of populations. In some countries, the main problem will be changes in the relative proportions of ethnic groups, which may heighten tensions among groups. Other states will be more concerned with the breakdown of social order in megacities where services cannot keep up with the inflow of migrants from the countryside. Perhaps the most severe problem facing most of Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America is the prospect of mass unemployment among young people, as large numbers of youth enter the labor force in the next decade. If this challenge is handled well--as in China, which faced the labor force boom earlier than most nations--the result can be rapid economic growth. If handled poorly, as in Algeria, the result can be high youth unemployment that feeds social unrest.
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While the U.S. military will continue to be involved in responding to natural disasters abroad, humanitarian interventions increasingly will be in response to civil wars, ethnic conflicts, and other forms of violence in the troubled states. Relatedly, there has been an alarming increase in refugees, from 2.5 million in 1970, to 8.2 million in 1980, to over 19 million in 1994, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Some governments incite a flow of refugees. Assaults on food supplies have been a key military strategy in some African conflicts, and are used to deprive rebel movements of recruits and to force the exodus of civilians from conflict zones. Famine also brings international relief, the diversion of which became a source of funds for financing wars in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and Mozambique. Some rebel groups have also encouraged the flight of refugees, because refugee camps provide fertile grounds for propaganda and recruitment. It is therefore inappropriate to assume that local political elites will always cooperate with international efforts to prevent refugee crises or to alleviate refugees' suffering.
The U.S. military is most likely to become involved when refugees leave a country in a mass exodus, particularly when the country is near U.S. shores. Such sudden waves are likely to occur with increasing frequency in the coming years. Not only is the ethnic and civil violence that creates such exoduses on the rise, but increased access to modern communications allows large groups to learn quickly of impending political troubles, and therefore to flee en masse, often overwhelming controls in the destination countries--as in the cases of Rwandan Hutus fleeing to Zaire and Iraqi Kurds fleeing to Turkey. Candidates for producing new large-scale refugee waves in the approaching years include Cuba, Haiti, Algeria, a number of African nations with simmering ethnic tensions, and the Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iraq.
Washington's response to refugee flows, as well as other humanitarian disasters, often appears to be driven by public opinion, which is at least partly aroused by television coverage that emphasizes horrific images. Yet public opinion toward military intervention in such situations is notoriously ambivalent. Public sensitivity to images of widespread suffering may lead to pressure to intervene, but public sensitivity to the loss of U.S. lives and money in non-essential operations frequently results in pressure to disengage. The evolution of the Somalia operation from late 1992 to the fall of 1993 illustrates this cycle well.
While the U.S. does not have a narrowly-defined security interest in responding
to every humanitarian disaster, Washington is finding it increasingly difficult
to resist the public and international pressure to intervene that such suffering
elicits. For example, the U.S. government's initial lack of response in April
and May 1994 to the slaughter in Rwanda led some to argue that Washington was
insufficiently sensitive to the suffering of Africans, Somalia being in this
view the exception that proved the rule. In the end, the U.S., France, and other
market democracies found themselves compelled to intervene, using a larger force
than might have been necessary had action been taken earlier. Based in part
on this experience, the international community is moving towards a consensus
favoring the provision of relief in humanitarian disasters, including refugee
mass exoduses and even civil wars, whenever this is feasible.