The international administration of Iraq in the name of “State-building” has paradoxically led to “State collapse”, characterised today by the disintegration of public institutions and the privatization of organized violence. Out of the rubble of State collapse rose the promise of State revival – the Caliphate (Weiss, 2015). Perhaps the most persistent sign of collapse in Iraq today is the rise and fall of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the world’s wealthiest and bloodiest insurgency (Rand, 2014). Oil-fuelled warfare has poured into neighbouring Syria and provoked a staggering number of mercenary and civilian casualties in the region (UNAMI, 2016).
Surely, Iraq’s turmoil cannot single-handedly be attributed to the US invasion and administration of the territory in 2003. Yet, exogenous “State-building” has undoubtedly contributed to the rise of endogenous crime. Economic extortion and racketeering, which had prospered under the tight grip of the Baath regime (1979-2003), disseminated across the territory in the wake of the U.S. invasion (2003-2011). The outcome of international administration in Iraq is a perpetual state of organized crime (2012-2017).
If the US invasion contributed to globalizing organized crime in the region, how are we to understand the paradoxical relationship between international territorial administration on the one hand, and the unmaking of the State on the other ? How did foreign intervention in the name of international law contribute to the breakdown of civil society and the rise of organized crime ? In other words, how could an international system formally designed to promote collective security become such a vector of informal criminal practices ?