Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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3 State responses to threats posed by non-state agents

The notion of state sovereignty, which emerged from the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, established the territorial integrity of the nation state; ensured that state interests would automatically transcend those of individual citizens; and made states the undisputed central actors in both local and global politics. Nation-state sovereignty was subsequently established by two broad principles:

  • territoriality, in which the state acquired a monopoly on the use of organised violence
  • non-interventionism, where one state would not interfere in the internal affairs of another state unless it was itself threatened by that state.

Of these two principles, the first eventually ensured that wars took place between competing nation states. Such wars - fought by states deploying their military might in pursuit of their own perceived political, economic, and sometimes ideological interests - are best illustrated by the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-15 and the World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45.

In today’s world, however, it is unimaginable that modern, advanced liberal democratic nation states with market economies would go to war with one another again. 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.

Modern liberal democratic states, while no longer faced by military threat from states similar to themselves, face two contemporary military threats:

  • the perceived threat posed by non-liberal democratic, so-called ‘rogue states’ such as Iraq under Saddam Hussain, Iran and North Korea
  • 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.

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