Role of Non- State Actors in International Relation – II

continue from part – I

  1. National Liberation Movement:Individuals give loyalty to and identify themselves with ethno-national groups besides nation-states. “Many people pledge their primary allegiances not to the state and government that rules them, but rather to their ethno-national group which shares a common civilization, language, cultural tradition, and ties of kinship”. As a result of people’s loyalty to and identification with ethno-national groups, national liberation movements are increasingly gaining importance in the world setting. Since most states are multiethnic and many include at least one potentially threatening minority, the rising significance of ethnic groups reduces the relevance of nation-states in world politics. As illustrated by Quebec Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, nationalism, ethno national movements demonstrate a persistent tendency to stimulate anarchic and hierarchic impulses in the political arenas in which they operate. National liberation movements (NLMs) have been playing an effective role in international politics for decades, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Some NLMs became the most important actors of many international problems. One of the most well known examples of NLMs that played and is still playing a significant role in international politics is the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Since the late 1960s, PLO has been playing the key role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab states have been considered PLO and its longtime leader Yasser Arafat as the legitimate representatives of Palestinians. Some other significant NLMs were African National Congress (ANC) of Nelson Mandela of South Africa which eventually brought down the white supremacist government; Patriotic Front which was fighting the white dominated government of Rhodesia; and the Southwest African People’s Organization (SWAPO) which gained power in Namibia. Many NLMs have been the main actors of postWorld War II process of de-colonization in Africa. These NLMs shaped the map of the African continent and political structures of African states. “Stateless nations,” “nations without states,” or nations or ethnic groups without a state, are also very significant actors of international politics. Even though there are 3000 to 5000 nations in the world, “if a nation is defined as a population with a distinctive and enduring collective identity based on cultural traits and lifeways that matter to them and to others with whom they interact”, there are only less than 200 nation-states. According a project conducted by the US Institute of Peace Press, there were about 230 disadvantaged and dissatisfied political ethnic movements in the 1990s. Some stateless nations that are effective actors of international politics are the Palestinians, the Catholics in Northern Ireland, the Tibetians in China, the Basques and Catalonians in Spain, the Quebecois in Canada, the Muslims of Kashmir and Serbia, the Hindu Tamils in Sri Lanka, and the Kurds in the Middle East.

“Native” or “indigenous” peoples living within many countries constitute an “outside world” for the nation-state system. Some observers call this group of peoples as “the fourth world”. They oppose the status quo and its institutions. In this regard they also oppose the globalization process, which threaten their traditional way of life. The most well known example of indigenous people movements is the Zapata movement, which has been struggling against Mexican government for years.

  • International Politics as Science: Though efforts have been made by scholars to study international politics along scientific lines, its claim to be regarded as a science has been challenged on the ground that it is “too vast, imponderable and unpredictable”. It is pointed out that in the main there are two difficulties in accepting international politics as a science viz uncertainty of events and uncertainty of human nature. All the events in international politics are unique occurrences and it is not possible to make generalisations on the basis of these events. 

A science may be defined as a systematic body of knowledge in which certain generalization have been made on the basis of which future events of future occurrences can be predicted. Judged by this criteria, international politics can be considered as a science. It possesses a systematic body of knowledge as well as body of generalizations, and possesses the capacity to predict the events, even though this predictive capacity is much less than possessed by physical sciences like mathematics, physics, astronomy, etc. In fact the predictive capacity of the various physical sciences is also not same and differs. For example, mathematics possesses higher predictability than astronomy. International politics has higher predictability than physical sciences. This is on account of the fact that it covers a very wide field and its data is greatly influenced by factors like sovereignty, international law, world public opinion, balance of power, etc. Despite these limitations, it cannot be denied that the science of international politics can predict fundamental changes or broad trends with a fairly high degree of accuracy. Judged in this context, international politics can very well claim to be science.

  • Terrorist groups and Drug traffickers: Although national liberation movements and ethnic groups sometime use terrorism, terrorist organizations are different from NLMs since terrorism is their main means of struggle. Terrorist groups use terrorism as the main instrument and largely lack large-scale support from the public. Individuals and groups engage in terrorism for different political, economic, social, religious, cultural, and even personal reasons. Their goals are to publicize Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, their grievances and aspirations to international community by hijacking, assassination, kidnapping and attacking on embassies. International terrorism is “the most conspicuous and threatening form” of low-intensity violence. As long as the state system and the world system leaves some groups or states out of the system, terrorism will continue to be an instrument of those who are weak. However, strong states also use “state terrorism” against the powerless groups or states. Terrorism has moved from the national to transnational level and from plane hijacking to a wider range of terrorist techniques since the 1960s. The transnational dimension of terrorism is established when there is collusion and cooperation between different terrorist groups and when some countries serve as sanctuaries and training-centers for terrorists of various nationalities. While some states orient their policies by supporting terrorist groups, some other states change their foreign policies by taking counter-terrorist measures. One way or another, all states are influenced by terrorist activities; therefore, no country tends to ignore terrorism.

 Today, terrorism is globalized like other non-state actors, as was witnessed during the attacks directed toward the heart of the American state and the US-led international system on September 11. That particular terrorist attack has caused more damages than most of the attacks carried out by nation-states and shocked the whole world as well as the US more than the Pearl Harbor attack, which made by Japanese and ended up the US to take place in the Second World War. September 11 incident showed the world the horror of terrorism, the vulnerability of all nations-states including the strongest one, and its paramount effect on international politics and the world order. Terrorism demonstrated that the powerlessness and vulnerability of the only hegemony of the world, the US, against terrorism.

Some political organizations hijack planes to increase their leverage vis-à-vis states. They use civilians as a shield and force nation-states to negotiate with them. And in this way, they become actors of many international conflicts. Especially some Palestinian groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have engaged in plane hijackings in the 1970s. After the dramatic events of September 11, plane hijackings have been a cause of much more concern to governments, airlines and to the public. Even though drug traffickers are engaged in profitable “transnational business,” they are similar to terrorist organizations because they use illegal means, including assassinations and kidnappings, and deal with products banned by international community. Therefore, they are known as narco-terrorists. One of the most well known drug trafficker organizations was the Medellin of Colombia. This largest cocaine organization caused many social and political problems in the Latin American world. Non-state actors, in an interconnected globalized world, pose a significant threat to nation-states, since they are not territorial actors. They are “enemies without an address”. Terrorism introduced a new concept into the world system. Now, there is “asymmetric wars” in which there are no rules and whose sides are nation-states and non-state actors such as international terrorists, mafia, and narco-terrorists. These actors use unconventional ways in waging wars against their enemies.

I would like to conclude here by stating, non-state actors have become essential instruments within the international system. Today, it is difficult to analyze international politics and behaviors of nation-states without attaching great importance to them. As mentioned by Brown, “the world polity is in the process of self-transformation –out of the traditional nation-state system and into a system more congruent with the contemporary global polyarchy”. Nation-states, including the most powerful one, the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, and France have to attach great significance to non-state actors in order to maintain their interests. Therefore, any new theoretical and conceptual approaches to international relations have to take non-state actors and new conditions into account in order to be able to make sound analyses about world politics.

Aishwarya Says:

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