Thursday, June 08, 2006

Al-Zarqawi and parallels to Latin America

As we all know by now, al-Zarqawi is dead. Before anyone celebrates too much, however, it is useful to think of the parallel to Che Guevara. He was a foreign guerrilla trying to spread his political vision (though obviously it was quite different than al-Zarqawi’s—the key point is that it was antithetical to the U.S.) and was a major target of the U.S. government. With the help of the CIA, he was killed in Bolivia in 1967. He was not the most important target in Latin America (that was reserved for Fidel) but killing him was seen by the U.S. as a major victory in the “war on communism.” However, the problem was that killing him did not stop the growth of insurgencies—on the contrary, he became a martyr. Killing the individual did not change the reasons why he had become a revolutionary in the first place, so others took his place.

It also occurs to me that there could be a parallel to Pablo Escobar, the famed drug cartel kingpin in Colombia. His death, though widely trumpeted, had no effect on the drug trade at all. Instead, the Medellin cartel broke up into smaller pieces, and cocaine flowed just as freely (or even more freely). Demand for cocaine remained high, so others took his place.

So although I hope this leads to a reduction in violence, there is reason to doubt it.

Update: at least the Bush administration seems to get this - "We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue."


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