Essay on Structural Realism and Non-State Actors

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The rising power of transnational terrorist organizations post 9/11 has weakened the state-centric framework of the international system and challenged the structural realist’s conception of power. As one of the major theories, one would assume that the premises of structural realism would be more applicable in the 21st century. However, leaders of today are enveloping countries in a globalist mindset, contesting a state mentality that honors sovereignty. 9/11 represents a historical turning point; in which clashes between state and non-state actors increased the vulnerability of state actors and challenged their internal sovereignty. This paper will examine the premises of structural realism and explain how the rise of non-state actors…show more content…
While nation-states are not the only actors, they are the primary ones and form the structure of the international system.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 altered the environment of international relations, as the world saw first hand the damage a non-state actor can inflict on a regional hegemon. While non-state actors have always existed, for example maritime pirates or private mercenaries, the events of 9/11 provided non-state actors, in the form of terrorist organizations, the platform needed to expand their influence. Despite the urgency posed by the rise of non-state actors, the field of international relations continues to use an interstate framework to analyze conflict. This is the natural result of a long history of state-centered analysis that came to formal fruition post-WWI and dominated through the Cold War. Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this discipline remained intact. However, as most conflicts today involve non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations in the mountains of Afghanistan and pirates off the coast of Somalia, this state-centric framework is deteriorating.
The rise of terrorist organizations post 9/11 has challenged nation-state borders and their sovereignty. The presence of insurgencies and terrorist organizations has begun to affect the legitimacy of governments externally and their internal sovereignty.
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