Small Wars Journal

To the Horizon: Seven Conflicts of Concern for the U.S. Military Part III

Fri, 06/28/2013 - 3:30am

Part One of this series examined conflicts in Asia for the U.S. military to consider as it focuses on preparing for the future. Part Two explored Middle East conflicts. Part Three focuses on conflicts closer to home in the Western Hemisphere.

V.I.R.U.S.  Venezuela/ Iran/ RUSsia     Country: U.S./ Israel

Involved parties:

  • Venezuela
  • Iran
  • Russia
  • Cuba
  • United States

In 2009, Hugo Chavez stated, “Today Venezuela is accompanied by true friends. …They range from large countries like China, Russia and Iran, to smaller countries in size, but big in solidarity, like Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, among others.” There is speculation on what the purpose of this relationship is and what their endstate will be. Could their alliance be the first steps in creating a post-capitalist world order, independent of the United States..? Or do they have the makings of a Cold War reprise, leading us toward bloc-on-bloc geopolitical struggle (complete with the potential for rerun of the Cuban Missile Crisis)? Or are they neither, amounting to little more than self aggrandizing speeches and photo ops?[1]

The alliance of these nations has centralized the already looming threats that each pose independently. Their intent may just be speaking stentorian from the mount, in attempt to have the United States appear weak in its response to pompous threats and small incursions on United States’ global interests. Yet, it only takes one fanatical or desperate despot’s decision during an incursion, or a threatening gesture, to turn into a larger conflict. This can only be made possible if threats are not taken seriously, leniency is given to V.I.R.U.S. and those nations involved play a global conflict game of “chicken”, eventually bringing a perceived act of war onto sovereign soil.

It is assessed that this will not happen, as the economic ties of V.I.R.U.S with other nations would place their losses significantly disproportionate to their gains. Yet, there should still be preparation for a nightmare scenario. Russia is draining its oil reserves. Iran’s Ahmadinejad reaches the end of his last term this coming summer and Venezuela’s President made a 2009 referendum to end term limits, then elected for his 4th term just in Oct 2012. (Note: This paper was written before Chavez’s death.)

Russia yearns to renew its superpower status becoming once more a key variable in any international calculus. Iran and Venezuela seek regional preeminence with global powerbroker on a selective basis. Until recently, each nation was handily checked by Western-backing, be it Israel, Columbia, or NATO. But in league, the threat posed by the V.I.R.U.S. is greater than the sum total of its parts. Power centers emanating from Venezuela, Iran and Russia have expanded and fused, threatening the regional stability that Western allies have provided. The Andes, Middle East, and Eastern Europe have become powder kegs as a result, with cash, arms and – between Latin America and the Middle East at least- insurgents flowing between regions.[2]

Many in Washington, Cold War nostalgists in particular, see Venezuela’s foreign policy as nothing less than the embryo of a new evil empire. The relationship with Iran has aroused particular suspicion, with China and Russia seen as Superpower Patrons, and Syria and others as partners in a budding anti-US Coalition. …”The Tehran-Caracas alliance now represents the biggest threat to hemispheric stability,” contends Jaime Darenblum, a Hudson Institute scholar.[3]

As far as Russia’s relationship to Venezuela, a blockage of sales of military aircraft and naval vessels to Venezuela has virtually forced Chavez into the Russians’ arms, his supporters assert. In the last few years, he has signed contracts worth $4.4 billion for combat and military transport helicopters, fighter jets and small arms. Venezuela also has integrated itself with Russia by becoming one of only four countries in the world to recognize the Russia-backed breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[4]

Venezuela’s dealings with China included launching a Venezuelan communications satellite…that Chinese engineers built…offered to train engineers so that Venezuela will be able to build a satellite itself in 10 years... the China-Venezuela relationship is a $20 billion loan Beijing pledged to Caracas, which is partly repayable in oil. …China is getting the oil for $5 a barrel, then reselling it at a large profit.[5] It has been assessed by other experts that Russia and China just see Venezuela as a customer and like its cheap oil. Even Venezuela representatives state, “We have a strategic relationship, not a relationship of dependence.”

The cautionary aspect of this whole thing is how Iran and Venezuela see themselves in the near future. Events thus far, paint a picture of a very destructive future. The actions and words of both Venezuela and Iran have not been in short supply. Iran tends to focus on the destruction of Israel and Venezuela wants to see the United States falter economically, militarily and politically on all stages.

As far as the United States are concerned, Iran shares the same wishes, but focus more on the United States military and international reputation, than the economic warfare methodology used by Venezuela. Together, Iran and Venezuela declared an “axis of unity” against the United States in 2007. A year later they signed a military pact, promising full material support and aid. …suspicious activities that include: an Iranian bicycle factory in a remote part of Venezuela rumored to be a part of a covert nuclear program; Iranian banks operating in Caracas that have been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for channeling funds to Iran’s nuclear program; Hezbollah agents reported to be working with the Venezuelan government…the list goes on.[6]

There is an important factor to keep in mind: when it comes to Iran’s geo-political actions, since the Islamic Revolution in 1979; Iran has focused on developing ties with two major countries with veto powers in the UN Security Council: China and Russia.[7] Additionally, Iran has made close connections to Brazil and Uruguay, both members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors.  The theater of strategic warfare between the United States and Iran has expanded well beyond the Middle East. … The Iranian leadership has chosen to pursue a grand strategy in the most unlikely corners of the world.[8]

Iran and Venezuela are launching joint ventures in sectors such as energy, agriculture, manufacturing, housing and infrastructure… Iran’s own financial system remains undeveloped- thanks to decades of state-centered economics and several UN resolutions against Iran’s nuclear program. Venezuela provides a perfect opportunity for Iran to engage in numerous international financial transactions beyond the restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies.  Iranian banks are already establishing subsidiaries in Venezuela, such as the International Development Bank in Caracas, a independent subsidiary of Expert Development Bank of Iran.[9]

When you look at Venezuela and Iran, their partners and pockets of influence start to appear. If you tell your typical U.S. soldier today that Hezbollah and Hamas has members and support structure in South America, you would likely see a look of surprise. Back in 1992, a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attacked an Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The bomber was claimed to be a member of the IJO (Islamic Jihad Organization), the faux-front for Hezbollah and Iran. To forward its agenda, Hezbollah strives to down play its atrocities to favorably influence public opinion and policymakers. Hezbollah does not even officially claim responsibility for its most infamous attacks, except, presumably, to its sponsor, Iran. Instead, Hezbollah blames its terrorism on a fictional front called Islamic Jihad, that only exists after an attack.[10] Additional attacks in the region were against the Argentine Jewish Center in 1994.

The Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil has become an ideal location for Islamic extremists. Hezbollah has taken advantage of the lawless region of the Tri-border Area. The lack of rule of law makes the TBA a haven for criminal syndicates, and nefarious factions from every continent come and function without restraint. Hezbollah too, exploits the lack vigilant or concerned law enforcement which permits free trade and fairly free movement across the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. At this point, Hezbollah’s fundraising capabilities in the TBA are legendary. Most of these funds are acquired through criminal industries. The conditions for fundraising in such a chaotic environment allow Hezbollah to exploit the profits of criminal industries without fear of retribution. This ideal brew of lucrative comer, lawlessness, and a network of possible recruits has made Cuidad del Este [In Paraguay, which has a large Muslim population, after many migrated there beginning in 1970’s] and the tri-border region a breeding ground for Islamist terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.[11] It is also important to note that Argentina maintains Latin America’s largest Jewish population.

Iran’s dangerous relationships are not just appeasing those who help conduct small covert actions and fundraising, but those who influence issues as important as nuclear proliferation.

Iran is aggressively courting the left-leaning powers of Latin America, challenging the United States in its own backyard. One of the fruits of Iran’s diplomatic labor in Latin America was Brazil and Venezuela’s vote in the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors. In late November 2009, as Iran’s secret enrichment plan was revealed, Brazil abstained and Venezuela opposed a resolution that called on Iran to halt uranium enrichment and immediately freeze the construction of its new nuclear facility near Qom. In economic terms, Venezuela is Iran’s biggest market in Latin America, while Brazil is the continent’s biggest exporter to Iran.[12]

Iran has few domestic reserves of uranium, so it helps Venezuela excavate its 50,000 tons of unmined uranium. Majority of the world is well aware of Iran’s nuclear program, but where the program is going and how long before Iran could have a nuclear weapon is still up for debate. One of the largest concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program, is Iran’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” If Iran were to attack Israel with a direct nuclear strike, it risks killing much of its allies in Israel and its neighboring countries. Yet, one scenario being considered would allow for Iran to achieve a striking blow to Israel that doesn’t call for the nuclear warhead to detonate at ground level and allows Iran to be more “calculated” in its targets.

Over the recent past Iran has conducted missile tests and failed satellite launches. This has some in the intelligence community drawing some interesting conclusions. Iran openly talks about using an EMP to attack Israel or the US...Tehran has undertaken offshore exercises using Scud missiles fired and positioned in such a way that they exploded in the atmosphere — exactly the method you would use for an EMP attack. [13]

There are also many who believe that Israel would conduct this very same type of attack on Iran as a pre-emptive strike. This may be at the very core of Iran’s plans. Some have stated that Iran is a small country and that it is not necessarily a threat to Israel or the U.S. Now this can be argued, on the grounds of whether you mean “overt action” or “covert action”. The covert side was previously mentioned, but for a ‘force on force’ direct attack, U.S., Israel and Iran would be hard pressed to acquire any legitimate gains. What Iran could very well be relying on is, getting attacked, at least, on a small scale.

Recently, Iran had discussed its desire to place Iranian warships off the coast of the U.S. within the near future, most likely near Cuba. This is feasible but not a very good strategy for Iran. From Iran’s perspective, this is a justified response to U.S. presence off the coast of Bahrain, south of Iran in the Persian Gulf. In an EMP attack against the U.S., Iran would only need to be 200 miles off the coast to fire the missile and attack the east coast.

If Israel attacks Iran preemptively, Israel would lose much of its international support. In that scenario, Iran would set its sights on playing victim, in the aftermath of a U.S. or Israeli attack. This gives Iran legitimacy on several levels and opens the U.S. and Israel to a large enough distraction for Iran to use many of its proxies.

                                                                                 Courtesy of the



The most likely scenario to be played out by Iran is the threat of a nuclear attack as a deterrent against any of the countries that with which Iran is in contention. Use the 2008 Mumbai attacks as an example. The Mumbai attacks had no real response from India, even after members involved in supporting and conducting the attacks, confessed that the attacks were at behest of the Pakistani ISI. The threat of mutually assured destruction can likely explain the lack of pursuit.  Pakistan knew it could get away with much more with the nuclear umbrella. Additionally, a nuclear state with the backdrop of a fanatical religious mindset, like Iran, can further persuade a nation against a counter-attack. How far could a nuclear Iran think it could go, especially now with the termination of the European Missile Defense Shield in Poland?

The threat presented by V.I.R.U.S. is a complex, but malleable one. It needs to be monitored and criticized when it commits unlawful or unjust attacks on any nation or state.


The Border       Country: United States

Involved parties:

  • Mexico
  • U.S.
  • Drug Cartels
  • Trans-national Criminal Organizations (TCOs)
  • Terror Organizations

The United States has a very long list of enemies, created by its involvement in global affairs and capability for results. The explanation of all of these enemies, that move to attack the U.S., via South and Central America, would be better examined in its own study.

 If you think of terrorism or criminal action as a virus, its growth is favorable in the right conditions. These conditions include a place where the law is forgiving at the right cost or it is just non-existent. Power, corruption and money are the mortar that binds the society to criminal organizations. This is the border areas of U.S. and Mexico.

The threats of foreign armies, fanatical groups or TCOs can very well attempt to approach the U.S. in a direct fashion, but will gain very little, if any ground. It is through the exploitation of our standards of morality, the distraction of our divisiveness or just our lack of understanding, where the students of subversive action seek opportunity. The advent of bin-Laden style terrorism has deepened the impression that a national force, no matter how powerful, will find it difficult to gain the upper hand in a game that has no rules. …If we confine ourselves to warfare in the narrow sense on the traditional battlefield now, it will be very difficult for us to regain our foothold in the future.[14]

In this section we could focus on how many nation/states, groups or organizations that have active proponents in close proximity or inside the United States. The focus will be on the most direct problems; the conduits of these ill-intended actors, cartels and other facilitators, like TCOs. Whether the U.S. military considers these threats as criminal or as part of a more dangerous entity, it is certain that its evolving strategy, tactics and capabilities will call for the U.S. military to increase its interest and involvement.

While transnational organized crime (TOC) elements operating in Latin America may not be engaged in an “ideological insurgency,” the observed conflict between TOC elements (to include cartels and gangs) and regional states can be accurately described as a “criminal insurgency.  …A “criminal insurgency” occurs when criminal enterprises compete with the state not for traditional political participation, but rather to free themselves from state control in order to maximize profits from illicit economic activity. In doing so, TOC elements seek to establish zones of “dual sovereignty” within states where they have freedom of movement, perceived legitimacy from the communities they exploit, and the complicity or acceptable of state political actors. Ultimately, the result is pervasive corruption, evidenced by a reciprocal criminalization of politics and politicization of crime.[15]

On the border of Mexico and the United States, social and political norms exist where there is a rise in its acceptability for corruption. Where some downplay the conflict to just be “coyotes” running people or marijuana, the stark reality is these organizations are becoming increasingly aggressive, methodical and without hindrance.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McGraw, in a report given to Congress in 2011, the cartels “incorporate reconnaissance networks, techniques and capabilities normally associated with military organizations, such as communications, coordinated military-style tactical operations, GPS, thermal imagery and military armaments, including fully automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.”

In the context of warfare we must start to look at this conflict for what it is. Just like the U.S. Military shouldn’t look at the perpetrators of 9/11 as a group of ideological fanatics conducting a loosely-managed attack on Americans. It should be called what it was: a structured, transnational terrorist group that conducted a deliberate clandestine operation using detailed planning and intelligence capabilities, carried out by a special operations team that had a command and control node, operators, facilitators and an intelligence/ reconnaissance cell.

There has been a reluctance to use the term “terrorism” when describing Mexican drug violence because of a fear of the implication of the word: that terrorist groups work against the United States, that they’re Islamic, or in the case of Mexico it would be activity that hasn’t been seen since perhaps the 1960’s. …we need to discuss whether the violence in Mexico has reached the level where we can use a very loaded term like “terrorism” just because the number of deaths related to this drug-related violence from 2006 to 2012 alone is maybe between 60,000 and 100,000. The number of victims is very large, but also the form in which some people are killed is extraordinarily dramatic, public and macabre. …we have to use language like “terrorism” because it is so extreme, it’s such a public spectacle, but… it’s important to use this language with a great deal of caution because of the political implications. We don’t want the United States to use this as an excuse to intervene in Mexico or to tighten the screws even more on Mexico politically. …but we want to use this language in order to understand how Mexican civil society and the political system have broken down to such a degree that you have this dramatic and broad-ranging violence carried out on a regular basis with impunity.[16]

The biggest factor when designating these organizations is dependent on their endstate. Does this include the destruction of the United States and its people? Not likely. It is the state and non-state actors that conduct socio-economic warfare (through growth of drug culture, expense of combating it and the overall degradation of society) that use TCOs as proxies, which have the destruction of the United States as their endstate. This is a slow process, but it is still effective. The cartels have plenty of time to make profits and expand into new markets.

In the realm of business, there exist two needs for success: supply and demand. There are no words to be mixed here. The United States is one of the largest, if not the largest drug market in the world. The cartels want money from its sale and so goods are exchanged. If the cartels were calling for the fall of the Mexican government and the establishment of the Revolutionary Republic of Sinaloa to stand in its place, there might be a greater call for a solution to be set. Yet, this is not the case.

What you see in the cartel world today is similar to what started in southern Italy underground and is the constitution of the mafia culture: The Code of Omerta; the code of honor that criminals under the umbrella of the mafia follow. It calls for self governance, non-cooperation with authorities, and non-interference in the illegal or legal actions of others. It is for the people who feel neglected by their government and those in partnership with the TCOs. TCOs present these people other alternatives to what their country provides, in the scope of governance and security.

One of the most appealing aspects of this kind of culture offered by TCOs is swift justice. Society allows the governance and security roles to be filled by the TCOs, especially when a connection already exists; the knowledge and existence of each other’s criminal activity. Society allows a quid pro quo arrangement further hold them together, until eventually a time comes when not only is society paying extra for services rendered, but for security of their businesses and family. Then taxes are being taken and increased rates as new leadership comes into play. This story is not lost on the students of history. This is just one of the many parallels between the mafia, D-Company (Mumbai-Karachi TCO that traffics drugs for the Taliban) and the cartels. These parallels relieve a lot of today’s planners, commanders and analysts of having to recreate the wheel, when it comes to determining much of their tasks, needs and essential personnel.

As the U.S. Army considers future operations for the border conflict, it will have to be prepared for the tactics of guerillas with the additive of inter-organizational funding, weaponry and personnel. The cartels are becoming so successful that they actually expanded their operations, to include shipping product to the black market Sicilian port city of Palermo. The Mexican-Italian connection is lead by Elio and Bruno Gerardi, two Italian brothers based out of Monterrey who shipped hundreds of tons of cocaine on behalf of Cosa Nostra (Italian crime syndicate; meaning “Our Concern”). The concentrated effort of international drug trafficking brings the threat of shared interest protection and use of those capabilities that might not have been available in the past. These changes can hinder regional enforcement and military’s efforts, at combating the TCOs.

A new relationship between the Los Zetas cartel and transnational gang Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) shows an example of a bleak future for those affected by TCOs. The Zetas started out as an enforcer network for the Gulf Cartel. Composed of 31 mercenaries trained by the Mexican Special Forces (Grupos Aeromoviles de Fuerzas Especiales- GAFES), the Zetas brought advanced tactics, tradecraft, and intelligence skills.[17] The Zetas continued to add to their numbers by training other former military and police members, even adding special operations defectors from the Guatemalan Kailbiles. …the Zetas now command over…[18] 10,000 gunmen from the Rio Grande, on the border of Texas, to deep into Central America.[19]

MS-13 tends to be a less unified organization that still maintains a strong network throughout. The level of violence distributed by MS-13 is similar to that of the Zetas, yet differs in employment. A network of gangs with reach from Los Angeles to New York to Guatemala and El Salvador, MS-13 emerged in Los Angeles. …MS-13 operates in 42 states and the District of Columbia in the United States and throughout Central America. …MS-13 is essentially a network of individual “cliques” that communicate and collaborate with each other based upon relationships of influence. …MS-13’s network configuration frustrates many law enforcement officers looking for a hierarchical organization that they can penetrate. The lack of an overt, formalized hierarchy, manifested through decentralization and the apparent absence of a clear hierarchy or structure, is often interpreted as lack of sophistication or a lack of capacity. [20]

TCOs in North and South America might be reluctant to use MS-13, but have found some advantages for having such an asset. Foot Soldiers: …the Maras are numerous. Territory: Maras numbers allow them to occupy territory, something the Zetas are also interested in, and much of it valuable urban territory where lucrative extortion and micro-trafficking activities take place. Propensity for violence: Maras are known to carry out brutal acts without remorse. Hierarchical structure: Maras have some ability to direct large numbers in unison. Intelligence: Large numbers means many eyes and ears.[21]

The negative effects of using MS-13 are proportionate to the positive effects. The TCOs that work with MS-13 need to take these risks into consideration. Discipline: Maras are notoriously undisciplined and unprofessional. Loyalty: Maras’ Loyalty is their gang, not the Zetas. Lack of Training: Maras do not know how to handle assault weapons. Lack of Anonymity: Maras are visible, obvious, and frequently the easiest target for security officials.[22]

Yet, it is the brutal tactics used by MS-13 that frighten those who oppose the cartels. With an organization like MS-13, if you remove some leadership, it will have little to no effects. That is another reason these groups are so appealing to the cartels. As the cartels (Sinaloa and Los Zetas) start to utilize MS-13, you can see the tactics start to appear in theater.

Recently Mexican authorities found four bodies in Acapulco. One victim had been beheaded. They later announced that the bodies to four local cops who had gone missing a week earlier. Bodies littered with bullets have become a weekly affair in Acapulco since the cartels have begun fighting over access to the Pacific to receive shipments of cocaine from South America. …There is hard evidence that organizations like Los Zetas have not only used some members of this particular gang, as the Juarez Cartel has used Barrio Azteca [U.S. prison gang formed in El Paso, which has allied with La Linea and operates as the armed wing of Juarez Cartel] to enforce their will, but Los Zetas have also conducted training of Central and South America...

Two trends are clear: First, Mexico’s warring cartels have begun to outsource their muscle to non-Mexican elements. Significant evidence has mounted indicated that the Kaibiles are indeed involved with the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. [23] Some might speculate that this indicates that the cartels are on the run and are circling the wagons, especially after the killing of Los Zetas leader; Heriberto Lazcano, aka “The Executioner” or "Z-3” and fellow Zetas leader; Miguel Trevino Morales, aka “Z-40” or “El 40”, but the cold hard facts point to expansion.

The failure of the U.S. and its partners to significantly reduce the cartels operations in the North American theater will be hard-pressed to meet enforcement requirements. These failures will produce higher risks as the introduction of super-corridors becomes reality. EZ-Passes, express checkpoints and high speed rail systems are just some of the tools that, if not effectively controlled by enforcement personnel, will grant the cartels with a more effective conduit for its operations. If the cartels don’t see the opportunity the super-corridors provide in the expansion of their business, it will become a readily available target for all TCOs and terrorist organizations.

                                                                                                                                                        Courtesy of the Canada Free Press

While indicators suggest that criminal insurgency is spreading in Latin America, most recently to Central America, it is unclear whether the current U.S. response will be sufficient to prevent the failure of states in the region. …Governments that are incapable of meeting their citizens’ needs represent unstable regions that may directly threaten the American people. …If the status quo prevails, criminal insurgency may create the conditions for the next long war.[24]

Instability in economic, social or political terms within the United States will only give opportunity for TCOs and those willing to support TCOs to strengthen numbers and build ties. The already declining status of the rule of law along the border has bred towns that have obvious connections to TCOs. Towns that have a decrease in areas like employment and property value yet, increased signs of affluence.

The political contention over illegal immigration has likely hindered law enforcement along the border from certain action. If border crossings increase in a higher caliber of criminal and militant, coupled with actions that stray from criminal into acts of warfare, the military will have to broaden its knowledge. This knowledge will have to include TCOs, guerilla warfare and its application at our borders.





We attempt to predict the future of conflict and try to confine it to the narrows of our understanding. Yet, the chaotic nature of conflict and its human element can produce infinite outcomes, some stranger than fiction. We must not lose sight of all the lessons learned from the warriors before us, as it was their greatest hope that their fight would be the last. If their defeats and victories can lend the leaders of today the knowledge to which we can circumvent the misery of conflict, it is our duty to employ this knowledge.

This is best conceptualized by a headstone of an unknown British soldier in India, which contains the following epitaph: We give our today, for their tomorrow.”

[1] Joshua Kucera, “What is Hugo Chavez up to?” Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2012): 24.


[2] Sean Goforth, “A Global V.I.R.U.S. of Instability” (April 9, 2010): 1.


[3] Joshua Kucera, “What is Hugo Chavez up to?” Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2012): 25.


[4] Joshua Kucera, “What is Hugo Chavez up to?” Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2012): 25.


[5] Joshua Kucera, “What is Hugo Chavez up to?” Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2012): 26.


[6] Sean Goforth, “A Global V.I.R.U.S. of Instability” (April 9, 2010): 1.


[7] Sean Richard Javad Heydarian, “Iran’s Adventures in Latin America” Foreign Policy in Focus (November 18, 2010): 1.


[8] Sean Richard Javad Heydarian, “Iran’s Adventures in Latin America” Foreign Policy in Focus (November 18, 2010): 1.


[9] Sean Richard Javad Heydarian, “Iran’s Adventures in Latin America” Foreign Policy in Focus (November 18, 2010): 3.


[10] Cyrus Miryekta, “Hezbollah in the Tri-Border Area of South America” Center for Army Lessons Learned (September 10, 2010): 1.


[11] Cyrus Miryekta, “Hezbollah in the Tri-Border Area of South America” Center for Army Lessons Learned (September 10, 2010): 2.


[12] Sean Richard Javad Heydarian, “Iran’s Adventures in Latin America” Foreign Policy in Focus (November 18, 2010): 3.


[13] David Shamah “An electromagnetic pulse attack — the ‘other’ Iranian nuclear threat” Times of Israel, (October 14, 2012): 2.


[14] Col. Qiao Liang and Col. Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare- China’s Master Plan to Destroy America, (Pan American Publishing Company, August 22, 2002): 58


[15] David C. Eckley, “Describing conflict in Central America: “Criminal Insurgency” Small Wars Journal, (August 12, 2012): 1.


[16] Howard Campbell and Tobin Hansen “Extreme Violence and Terrorism in Mexico: A dialogue between Howard Campbell and Tobin Hansen” Small Wars Journal (August 14, 2012): 1.


[17] Samuel Logan, “A Profile of Los Zetas: Mexico’s Second Most Powerful Drug Cartels” Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel, (Feb 16, 2012): 5.


[18] Adam Elkus, John P. Sullivan, “Los Zetas and MS-13: Non-traditional Alliances” Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel (June 12, 2012): 1.


[19] Ioan Grillo, “Mexico: Zetas rewrite Drug War in Blood” Reuters (May 29, 2012): 1.


[20] Adam Elkus, John P. Sullivan, “Los Zetas and MS-13: Non-traditional Alliances” Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel (June 12, 2012): 2.


[21] Adam Elkus, John P. Sullivan, “Los Zetas and MS-13: Non-traditional Alliances” Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel (June 12, 2012): 2.

[22] Adam Elkus, John P. Sullivan, “Los Zetas and MS-13: Non-traditional Alliances” Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel (June 12, 2012): 3.


[23] Border Beat reporter Buggs, “MS-13 recruited by the Sinaloa Cartel” Border Beat (February 25, 2012): 1.


[24] David C. Eckley, “Describing conflict in Central America: “Criminal Insurgency” Small Wars Journal, (August 12, 2012): 2.


About the Author(s)

D. Stiegman is a US Army Veteran. He has served as an Infantryman, Instructor and Intelligence Analyst over 13 years. He has operated in Asia, Europe and North America, with deployments to Kosovo and Afghanistan. Now, he teaches at a college, advises on security issues and volunteers in the Search and Rescue services.


I’ve just read all three articles by Mr Stiegman……very interesting and I’m surprised (and sorry) that I missed them when first published. His perspectives remind me of Robert Kaplan (one of his reference sources), Parag Khanna (author of “The Second World”), and even Samuel Huntington.

Given the issues brought up in these three articles, what should our government & military be prepared for? My first thought is that diplomacy and economic efforts should be maximized (especially when dealing with China)….no military required. If that doesn’t work as well as we’d like, then perhaps we ought to consider throwing SOF elements into the mix IOT conduct destabilization operations focused on economic centers / areas and fomenting greater public unrest within the primary "antagonist" countries (this may be more of a CIA thing). If real military force is required, using forces that are rapidly deployable, light, and highly mobile may be the preferred choice: US Marines and / or Army airborne elements. I’m thinking that the next area of concern for the USG and military, should the conflicts occur, may be what skills our military will need beyond “close with and destroy the enemy”…..counter-insurgency; understanding of local governance; security sector reform (SSR); disarmament, demobilization, reintegration (DDR)…..?

Good articles.