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October 12th, 2011


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09:39 am - Los Zetas
There's a story in the news at the moment about a plot by Iranians to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US. I have no idea about how good the evidence is, so I won't venture there. I am interested to see that the Iranians were (allegedly) working with Los Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel. I have been kind of interested in the Mexican drug cartels for a couple of years, partly because of Breaking Bad, and from talking and reading (I am not suggesting I am an expert, just that I've taken an interest).

Los Zetas are interesting. They were originally an anti-drugs SAS-type unit in the Mexican army (GAFE - Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales). They were subverted to act as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, and then eventually launched a turf war on that cartel and took over some of their business and territory. The big distinction between Los Zetas and most of the cartels is that they have military discipline and training. They run their own training camps. However, as the original members who were Mexican army special forces have died or 'retired' I had understood that they had become less distinctive, more like just another cartel. I was talking about this to someone early in September, which is why the name leaped out at me from the news reports.

Anyway, if they are venturing into the world of freelance political assassination in the US, perhaps elsewhere, I think this is quite a significant development. I think this illustrates as well that war is not about nation states necessarily. I think war will become more distributed and pervasive.

It is happening, and people are still looking at the world with the goggles of old types of war, preparing for the last war as the saying goes. I think every war for the past fifty years has shown that the non-army army, the army that is not well distinguished from the occupied population, is a decisive factor. I think it's very hard to fight such a non-army with our current methods. Los Zetas and similar organisations might become a - bad in my opinion - freelance force within this overall military context.

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Comments:


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From:zornhau
Date:October 12th, 2011 09:26 am (UTC)
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All this gives me the queasy feeling that the civilised rules of war, as per Geneva Convention, are headed for the dustbin of history. Will there come a point where we'll return to collective punishment and scorched earth?
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From:communicator
Date:October 12th, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
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I do share your pessimism because these kind of cartels are the most bloodthirsty groups on earth. trying to be optimistic it is possible that ultimately a force, perhaps trans-national, which is known to fight honourably will prevail. People will be more likely to treat with them, and surrender to them, and ally with them. This could give some fighting force an edge over others.
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From:zornhau
Date:October 12th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
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Or we could bomb communities known to support them. Wonder which strategy will win out.
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From:hano
Date:October 12th, 2011 11:24 am (UTC)
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For some cutting edge thinking about the way the nature of warfare is evolving, you really need to read Rupert Smith's The Utility of Force. It's a set text on my MA and with good reason. He talks a great deal about 'war amongst the people' arguing that this is becoming the dominant paradigm of modern warfare and that the large scale industrialised forces maintained by the West are ill suited to fighting such conflicts. Indeed, such forces lack utility and the West needs to radically rethink not just the ways by which it uses force but needs to reconceptualise the whole relationship between the use of force and it's political determinants.
Not that this is going to happen anytime soon, certainly not in the UK. While there are those within Whitehall and the military doing some pretty radical thinking around this, the vested interests are currently so entrenched* as to prevent much in the way of change.


*I use the word deliberately
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From:communicator
Date:October 12th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
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Brilliant recommendation, thanks. From your summary that is precisely my thinking too. My consolation, against the gloomy feelings which zornhau rightly raises, is that a force which truly values and promotes the contribution of all people will overcome.

PS - meant to say, what is your MA - military history?

Edited at 2011-10-12 03:09 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:hano
Date:October 12th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
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I'm doing an MA in War Studies at Kings College London - details here if you're interested. I was supposed to be finished by now, but I had to defer my dissertation after my mother died, so I won't be finished till next June. C'est la vie.
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From:tehomet
Date:October 23rd, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
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To me the news about Los Zetas (although grim) doesn't seem that unusual, because there's been a war going on here for years that is part-run by drug cartels, or at least militias who draw most of their funding from drugs... six of one, half a dozen of the other.
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From:communicator
Date:October 24th, 2011 05:27 am (UTC)
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I've been talking to someone since who told me that another of the cartels - La Famiglia - evolved from a church-led anti-drugs program. It's terribly sad, because I am sure it was set up with the best of intentions, to give young people an alternative, but it was somehow taken over by the very forces they were fighting.

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