Author: Centre for Complex Operations, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defence University

October 27th, 2016

The world order built upon the Peace of Westphalia is faltering. State fragility or failure are endemic, with no fewer than one-third of the states in the United Nations earning a “high warning”—or worse—in the Fragile States Index, and an equal number suffering a decline in sustainability over the past decade. State weakness invites a range of illicit actors, including international terrorists, globally networked insurgents, and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). The presence and operations of these entities keep states weak and incapable of effective governance, and limit the possibility of fruitful partnerships with the United States and its allies. Illicit organizations and their networks fuel corruption, eroding state legitimacy among the governed, and sowing doubt that the state is a genuine guardian of the public interest. These networks can penetrate the state, leading to state capture, and even criminal sovereignty. A growing number of weak and corrupt states is creating gaping holes in the global rule-based system of states that we depend on for our security and prosperity. Indeed, the chapters of this book suggest the emergence of a highly adaptive and parasitic alternative ecosystem, based on criminal commerce and extreme violence, with little regard for what we commonly conceive of as the public interest or the public good.

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