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Narcotics and Armed Conflict: Interaction and Implications

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2007 Pages: 207-227
Svante E. Cornell
Date Published
March 2007
21 pages
This paper examines the specific dynamics of the linkage between narcotics and conflict by incorporating recent theory from the field of transnational organized crime into the existing literature on civil war.
The findings indicate that the interaction between narcotics production and armed conflict is considerably more complex than visible at first glance. The type and level of involvement of an insurgent group in criminal activity is an increasingly important element in understanding the dynamics of armed conflict and in devising strategies to address, manage, and resolve these conflicts. The relationship between economic incentives and armed conflict has been accorded considerable attention in recent literature. However the issue of and relationship between illicit drugs and conflict has received little research leaving it poorly understood. This examination shows that conditions of armed conflict boost, exacerbate, transform, and occasionally shift preexisting patterns of narcotics production. Where narcotics are present, armed conflict is likely to fundamentally alter the dynamics of their production, and to be fundamentally altered by it. Narcotic production almost invariably comes to involve and bolster insurgent groups in protracted conflicts, helping to extend their capabilities and compounding the challenge they pose to states. Additionally, the link between narcotics and conflict also has the potential to affect the motivational structures of insurgent groups, creating an economic function of war for actors on both sides of the conflict. Figures, table, notes