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

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3.1 Lowenheim: Predators and Parasites

Oded Lowenheim (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), is interested in why states, especially the most powerful states – the ‘Great Powers’ referred to in the extracts – react differently to different kinds of non-state agents that harm them and their societies. In his book Predators and Parasites: Persistent Agents of Transnational Harm and Great Power Authority, Lowenheim (2007) makes two key claims:

  • that control over a territory cannot be readily maintained without legitimate authority (and vice versa)
  • that a state cannot long maintain its sovereignty unless both internal and external actors recognise its legitimate authority to exercise political control over its territory.

Activity 5 Predators and parasites

Download the PDF below, and read the first extract from Lowenheim’s book (A). Here Lowenheim argues that the assumption that only sovereign states can legitimately employ violence across borders is a relatively recent historical development in the history of the states system, and that 9/11 directly challenged that assumption. He also argues that transborder violence employed by non-state actors constitutes a direct challenge to the authority of all states and particularly to the rights of Great Powers to regulate the international use of violence.

Now read the second extract (B), which presents a spectrum of Great Power responses to threats that cross their borders from other states and societies. It also discusses reasons why states may respond differently to different kinds of threats. A key part of the argument here is that Great Powers respond not only on the basis of the degree of material harm caused, but also by the degree to which it represents a challenge to their authority – especially their authority in relation to the role of violence in the international system. Please read this now.

The next, more lengthy, extract (C) discusses the ways in which al-Qaeda represents a challenge to the sovereign authority of the United States and that of other Great Powers such as Russia and China. Please read this extract now.

Now read extract (D), the final extract from Lowenheim’s work this section. Here he interprets the United States’ ‘war on terror’ as an attempt to restore the authority of the states system as well as its own authority as the hegemonic power that defines the nature of international order. As Lowenheim explains, modern states face new and different challenges to their sovereignty, particularly their control over their territory. This significantly challenges the previously undisputed notions of state sovereignty established in the Treaty of Westphalia.

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