1.2.2 Section 3: States and sub-state actors in global politics
International politics reflects the notion of nation-state sovereignty, which embraces two broad principles.
- Territoriality, where the state has a monopoly on the use of organised violence.
- Non-interventionism, where states do not interfere in the internal affairs of other states unless they are themselves threatened by that state.
Both these principles are under challenge in today’s world. Wars were previously fought between competing nation states but in today’s world it is unimaginable that modern, advanced, liberal democratic nation states with market economies could go to war with one another. In the post-Cold War period, the commonest form of war is intra-state civil war. Inter-state disputes invariably pit liberal democratic states against non-democratic states or else involve disputes between less developed, non-democratic states.
Section 3 therefore considers the two contemporary military threats posed to modern liberal democratic states.
- First, the perceived threat posed by non-liberal democratic, so-called ‘rogue states’ such as Iran, North Korea, and Iraq under Saddam Hussain.
- Second, the threat posed by non-state and sub-state actors, particularly from terrorist organisations, guerrilla armies and insurgent movements. These can be supported or sponsored by rogue states.
War-making is no longer the monopoly of nation states because a new type of warfare has emerged, one described as ‘asymmetrical warfare’. This is increasingly fought out between states and non-state or sub-state actors that employ terrorist methods to advance their cause.