Battle for State Control: Lessons from Violent Nonstate Actors Imitating the State: Colombia, Nicaragua, and Lessons for Iraq
DiPaolo, Amanda, World Affairs
How do violent nonstate actors seek local change? Literature on international relations theory finally has started to take into account the role that nonstate actors play in world affairs. (1) However, most of this literature has focused primarily on nonviolent, not-for-profit nongovernmental organizations that engage in advocacy or provide services and that are placed in the framework of global civil society and social movements. Violent nonstate actors that also seek change either locally or globally are not discussed in the transnationalist literature focusing on nonstate actors. Specifically, violent nonstate actors that seek local or global change by imitating the structure of the state have yet to be explored in the context of transnational nonstate actor literature. These organizations will be the focus of this article.
Insurgencies and revolutionary groups imitate the structure of the state to achieve local or global influence or change in a similar fashion, as do nonviolent nonstate actors, which are the traditional focus of analysis. In this regard, I refer to the idea put forth by a number of scholars, (2) but which is best exemplified in a recent chapter in Comparative Foreign Policy, by Hans Peter Schmitz, that suggests that nonviolent, not-for-profit nonstate actors imitate the structure of the state. Doing so, Schmitz suggests, helps facilitate the efforts of the nonstate actor in gaining access or the ability to set the global agenda and to implement change independent of state influence. Likewise, when an insurgency group imitates the structure of the state, it is likely to achieve greater success in its goal of gaining control of the state than if the group were less or differently structured. It is not the use of the state structure by violent nonstate actors that differs from the nonviolent nonstate actors, but rather the methods and tactics used to force change once the structure is in place.
This article contains two sections, in the first section, I will explore the existing literature on the role of nonstate actors in international relations theories. I will define key propositions and look at the need to take nonstate actors more seriously in international relations. I will then show how nonstate actors imitate states to gain global influence to argue that this approach to understanding nonstate actors' influence in global affairs can be applied to how violent nonstate actors seek local change. In section 2, I will present three cases that demonstrate how violent nonstate actors that imitate the structure of the state can be successful. Furthermore, I will show that imitating the structure of the state is only the start of influence gained by the violent nonstate actor, whose use of methods and tactics in the state-like structure affects international security through asymmetric threats and hence, independent of states, affects global change. The first case is the Sandinistas' successful efforts to overthrow the Somoza government in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. The second case involves the rise of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from their creation in the 1960s until the present and their connection to the drug wars. The third case concerns the current hostilities taking place in Fallujah, Iraq, where insurgents have much at stake. Finally, I will offer suggestions for policymakers to consider in their attempts to neutralize threats posed by violent nonstate actors.
It is important to note how insurgency groups likely will achieve greater success in creating means of protecting state security from potential criminal-terrorist safe havens. Understanding the influence and the potential global reach of violent nonstate actors is significant for American foreign policy in the larger context of its conduct in the so-called war on terrorism. It is the current U.S. administration's position that failing governments (3) with massive insurgencies are threats to international security, as the inability to control such areas provides safe havens for terrorists and organized criminals. (4) This article is a call for state leaders to shape foreign policies that acknowledge nonstate actors and neutralize the threats they pose by implementing appropriate state foreign policies and military operations.
THE GROWING INFLUENCE OF NONSTATE ACTORS
Security Studies and the Lack of Emphasis on Nonstate Actors
The concept of security studies traditionally has focused on the state and its ability to survive. The traditional focus of the state, without considering other factors in world affairs as having a significant correlation to world events, has left major theories of international relations failing to adequately explain and, therefore, predict security developments in the world.
At the end of the cold war, many security studies scholars argued that the causes of future conflicts seemed likely to remain consistent with those during the cold war, stemming from "desires for greater prestige, economic rivalries, hostile nationalism, divergent perspectives on and incompatible standards of legitimacy, religious animosities, and territorial ambitions." (5) Although the main threat to the United States after the cold war typically was viewed as the proliferation of nuclear weapons to rogue states and international terrorists, the likelihood of such a scenario generally was seen as very low. (6) Some scholars predicted that the role of the U.S. military would diminish with the collapse of the Soviet Union, while realist theory with regard to security issues, denoted here and by realists as the "standard rules" of international relations theory when dealing with national and international security, predicted that another powerful state would replace the Soviet Union as the American adversary. (7) Yet, these "standard rules" did not apply in the aftermath of the cold war, as the new adversary to American interests seems to be terrorist organizations. Not only were academics wrong to view the role of U.S. foreign policy as decisively shifting toward environmental and intrastate concerns, but they also were wrong when they predicted that America's next main adversary would be another state. I do not mean to suggest that the United States no longer engages in conflicts with other states. It is easy to acknowledge that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are current challengers to U.S. interests. What is obvious, however, which was not obvious at the end of the cold war, is that the U.S. government currently portrays its greatest enemy as a nonstate actor--terrorist organizations--rather than a state adversary.
It has been argued that state-to-state threats are on a sharp turn downward, (8) although the current war in Iraq could be considered traditional warfare, even while being labeled a front in the "war on terrorism." (9) At the same time, transnational threats are on the rise. New threats to international security are those that are transnational in nature and uncontrolled by governments. (10) The porous nature of borders is advantageous to terrorists. International security has taken a new form since the scenario involving terrorists and rogue states acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction no longer remains an "improbable situation." (11) Furthermore, with elusive threats on the rise, states' ability to prepare and protect against terrorist attacks, insurgencies, or organized criminal activity in traditional ways, such as through an arms race in which the opponent is visible and to a large extent predictable, is no longer possible.
Future wars, as present circumstances show, will be increasingly fought not between states but between state and nonstate actors. As a result of the newfound global reach of terrorism--as exemplified by the September 11 attacks--the unit of analysis can no longer remain solely the state. Nonstate actors have awarded themselves a role to play on the international scene, whether states (or international relations theorists, for that matter) like it or not. A new era in security studies has emerged, and it is time to account for the threats that some violent nonstate actors pose to international security. At this point, it seems appropriate to mention that for hundreds of years leading up to the twentieth century, the state did not have a monopoly on extraterritorial violence. Only with a monopoly of extraterritorial violence came the elimination of nonstate violence such as urban militias, private armies, fiscal agents, and the like. (12) In fact, the authorization of nonstate violence began as early as the thirteenth century with the start of privateering. (13) Nonetheless, the idea of sovereignty in the long run gave the state a monopoly on the use of violence. The unintended consequence was the elimination of the legitimate use of force outside state-sanctioned actions. Jessica T. Mathews suggests that "states will set …
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Publication information: Article title: Battle for State Control: Lessons from Violent Nonstate Actors Imitating the State: Colombia, Nicaragua, and Lessons for Iraq. Contributors: DiPaolo, Amanda - Author. Magazine title: World Affairs. Volume: 167. Issue: 4 Publication date: Spring 2005. Page number: 163+. © 1999 Heldref Publications. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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