Friday, November 27, 2009

Abstract Border Reigons

Lew Irwin, in the Autumn, 2009, edition of Paramaters article, Filling Irregular Warfare’s Interagency Gaps, provides an interesting counterpoint to Border zones and insecurity in the Americas by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus.

According to Sullivan and Elkus, the border regions between various nationstates are growing increasingly unstable. Meanwhile, according to Irwin, various United States government agencies, confronted with challenges that demand both their skills, experience difficulties coordinating their joint responses.

The relationship is that not only geographic but also intellectual border regions exist. The United States government, or any bureaucratic organization, has been set up to respond to different subsets of problems with different agencies. Military response to military problems, diplomatic response to diplomatic, treasury response to economic problems, and so forth.

However, in the so-called War on Terror, which is prima facie a military task, requires on to address money laundering, which would be more Treasury's department. and money laundering can involve art fraud, which would be more the National Endowment of the Arts or the Smithsonian's department.

So we are discussing realistic scenarios which could very well involve the Marine Corps coordinating its operations with the National Endowment for the Arts. The left hand would be unlikely to know what the right hand is doing.

These gaps between various fields of established expertise are precisely those which terrorists can exploit. Experts in various potentially responsible agencies know only part of what they would need to respond effectively. Customs agents may be able to determine that widgets, which sell for ten cents each, are over invoiced at ten dollars each. But how about antique widgets, highly desired by collectors everywhere? And are these "antique widgets" genuine or are they fake?

These gaps are intellectual border regions analogous to the geographic border regions. Governmental control is particularly ineffective at them; and they are points of weakness which can most easily be penetrated.


  1. an insightful, useful point. one area where this has come up lately is the border region between researcher on terrorist mentalities vs. research on religious extremists, as discussed in recent posts at zenpundit and swj blog re. nidal malik hasan. see esp. comments left by charles carmeron and jean rosenfeld here:

  2. btw, i've appreciated your blog for some time now. many thanks for your efforts.