Spring 2010 – “Crime + Corruption”

 World Policy Journal's 2010 spring issue, "Crime + Corruption" examines the risks and challenges that these twin scourges pose across the globe.


From Asia, across the Middle East and Africa to the United States-Mexico border, violent crime and corruption are paralyzing societies, strangling development and spreading fear, while serving as a breeding ground for terrorism. World Policy Journal has invited writers and specialists from Central Asia to Latin America who have experienced first-hand the consequences of this chaos to examine what it means to their countries and people. The result is a unique roadmap of this contagion and its likely legacy. 

In the spring issue of World Policy Journal, Laurence Cockcroft, a co-founder of Transparency International, the world's foremost monitor of corrupt practices and societies, looks at the prospects for improvement, while Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone take us inside Mexico's drug wars.

In a conversation with the editors, Ronald K. Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, discloses that some 500 million travelers each year are able to slip through immigration procedures without their passports ever screened against an international database. Whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld reflects from inside a federal prison in Pennsylvania on the illegal industry of Swiss money laundering, and Russian novelist Ludmilla Petrushevskaya describes her first-person encounter with the brutality of Moscow's crooked police.  

On other subjects, writers in the spring issue offer an inside look at Iraq on the eve of American troop withdrawal, the myth of a kinder, gentler counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, power of shariah micro-finance in the Palestinian West Bank, and the curious relationship between U.S. President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Finally, in his regular column, "Coda," World Policy Journal editor David A. Andelman visits the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan-and contemplates what the world's newest democracy can teach the rest of us about nationhood and survival.


In World Policy Journal's new introductory section, Bradley Birkenfeld, an American investment banker-turned-whistleblower at the Swiss banking giant UBS, makes an impassioned plea from inside a federal penitentiary for lawmakers to encourage rather than arrest others like himself. Russian novelist Ludmilla Petrushevskaya offers a meditation on the crimes of law-enforcement officers as she watches Russian police nearly beat a man to death outside a Moscow subway station. We dissect the anatomy of a scandal–France's explosive Angolagate debacle, which is still being appealed in French courts. Finally, a panel of experts debates how nations might break the cycle of crime and corruption.

Despite extensive global efforts, the "cancer of corruption" continues to flourish all but unchecked throughout much of our world. Laurence Cockcroft, co-founder of the international corruption watchdog, Transparency International, observes that this blight is "so deeply entrenched in nations the world over, that regardless of initiatives for improvement," victims and perpetrators alike are often desperately interconnected in a web that threatens to undermine progress towards and resolution of the dominant global humanitarian needs of our time. In the end, though, Cockcroft offers hope-that increasingly, nations and leaders are gradually beginning to peel away these layers of institutionalized crime.

Is it possible to have corruption without crime? Certainly in Central Asia's drug-fueled autocracies, suggests David Lewis, who observed the phenomenon first-hand during his tenure as director of the International Crisis Group's Central Asia Project, based in Kazakhstan. Lewis describes the inner workings of the cluster of narco-states between Russia and Afghanistan, all once part of the Soviet Union, whose governments today are almost completely funded by drug trafficking. While corruption runs rampant in these governments, large-scale crime is virtually non-existent–because the criminals are running the asylum.

In 2009, some 500 million travelers failed to undergo the kind of routine scrutiny that could easily identify criminals, terrorists, and others traveling on stolen, lost, or counterfeit passports. Interpol's database contains more than 20 million such documents, yet few countries actually screen incoming passengers for fraudulent documents. Ronald K. Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, the world's largest international police organization, argues in an exclusive interview that human security in the twenty-first century will depend on the willingness of countries to share more intelligence across national borders–something that the vast bulk of the world's states still hesitate to do. In a wide-ranging conversation with World Policy Journal editors, Noble discusses the growth of cybercrime and why countries rarely go after these perpetrators; how greater coordination of passport screening could stop future terrorists from crossing national borders; and why it's so difficult to keep pace with sophisticated new criminal enterprises.

Deep within the jungles and mountains of northeastern Burma, humanitarian guerilla forces of tribal freedom fighters, western medics, and development experts make regular voyages into the fraught insurgent areas where the Karen and other minority groups are subject to the brutalities of the nation's military leadership. Bangkok-based photographer, Thierry Falise, went along with this motley crew, called the Free Burmese Rangers, and in this remarkable photo portfolio, transports us to a landscape of fear and displacement. Falise chronicles the lives of more than 600,000 people who have been forced from their homes and villages in a campaign of ethnic cleansing that relies on the arbitrary violence and compulsion of merciless army commanders. He illustrates the exemplary courage and determination of these displaced people through vivid images of families forced from their homes, young farmers scavenging for survival, and the brave outsiders who risk their lives to help those in need.

In the wake of Iraq's latest steps toward free elections and a functioning democracy, and as the clock ticks on American troop withdrawal, journalist Missy Ryan examines the various conflicting communities that are struggling to live together in an uneasy harmony. Despite the all-but-impossible prospects for reconstruction in its most recent past, Iraq has stumbled toward the goal of a sustainable peace and democracy, Ryan observes. But has it come far enough? Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis all have their own vastly disparate agendas, but it is becoming increasingly clear to all that they must find a way of working together to avoid a descent into renewed bloodshed and ethnic chaos.

Counter-insurgency has become the next big thing in Washington–the "graduate-level" way of fighting and winning wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it's in vogue for all the wrong reasons, according to Michael A. Cohen, a senior fellow at the American Security Project and a regular contributor to democracyarsenal.org. What's missing from the popular and scholarly discussion today is an honest assessment of the history of violence and coercion that has characterized counter-insurgency warfare in the past, from Malaya to Algeria, Kenya to Vietnam. Indeed, Cohen argues, violence and coercion are necessary and unavoidable elements of all counter-insurgency operations, both past and future. To prove his point, Cohen takes us through a whirlwind tour of twentieth-century military history to show where counter-insurgency's advocates get it wrong–and how high the stakes are today in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama took office with a firm embrace of the United Nations and the promise of multilateralism. But while Obama has said all the right things and made all the right overtures, there are whisperings that the relationship with his counterpart at the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, isn't quite as close as it should be. Ban's frequent political stumbles and lack of direction haven't helped. Stephen Schlesinger, author of Act of Creation, which traces the founding of the United Nations, sees the weak relationship between Ban and Obama as troubling, and warns that we might see a shakeup soon in Turtle Bay.

Little by little, a new economic stability is being created in the rural communities of the West Bank. Could this be a path to a workable two-state solution? Investment banker and legal advisor Kenneth E. Barden reports on shariah-based micro-finance, which "blends micro-loans with respect for Islamic law." Indeed, the prohibitions of Islam against usury have long been a barrier to the development of modern personal finance in the region, and fewer than 10 percent of West Bank residents have a checking account. Into this vacuum have stepped pioneering new, micro-finance organizations that are emphasizing a personal partnership between the lender and borrower in compliance with the cultural sensitivities of the parties involved. And, as Barden suggests, this new lending model could finally be the answer to meaningful economic growth and stability.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is an object-lesson in survival–a small nation sandwiched between the superpowers of India and China. Yet, against all odds, this tiny nation has maintained its independence and its own quiet, unique way of life. Bhutan is a complex amalgam of religion, language, culture, and history, writes World Policy Journal editor David A. Andelman, who explores just how they all work together, the perils avoided in the past, and the dangerous shoals this nation must navigate going forward. From Chechnya and Abkhazia to Baluchistan and across much of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, real and prospective nations and their people could learn much from studying the case of Bhutan, where the goals of citizens of this two-year-old democracy and their government go far beyond simple survival: the pursuit of national happiness.

Inside Mexico's Drug War
Colombia's military and judicial successes in its war on the drug cartels could prove to be a real precedent for a solution to the nightmare of crime and corruption that has paralyzed Mexico. From the horrific killings of police officers on Black Thursday in Aguascalientes to the brutal and seemingly random murders of high school students at a party in Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican government has waged a desperate, and thus far unsuccessful, war against these waves of drug-related violence. Two senior directors of Kroll Associates, Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone, offer a riveting account of Mexico's rapid descent into chaos, the powerlessness of the police, and the indiscriminate violence that has transformed the lives of innocent individuals and families. With death tolls in some cities higher than Baghdad at the peak of its secular violence, the authors vividly outline the bloody and corrosive nexus of drugs, crime, and corruption.

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