If Criminality Takes Root

by Patrick Appel

Steve Negus is worried:

[T]he post-uprising Egyptian state lacks a security apparatus which can control its territory. Maybe I’m too influenced by Iraq, here. The army and police have not been disbanded, the power has not been shut off nationwide, etc. But there are a few parrallels.

Prisons are being broken open, weapons looted, policemen and police auxiliaries are turning gangster. There are reports of kidnapping so far, but if this persists for any extended period of time, gangs might start developing the networks and techniques needed to run abduction rackets. If the police lose even the passive support of the populace, they will become demoralized, cut off from their sources of information, unable and unwilling to venture beyond their bases to pursue ordinary criminals or militants alike. Al-Qaeda thrives in a power vaccuum.

He adds:

I think that the main threat comes not so much from desperate measures by the regime, but simply by the natural expansion of criminal networks in a power vaccuum. A serious culture of criminality takes time to organize itself, but when it sinks roots, it can be very difficult to reverse.

(Hat tip: Issandr El Amrani)