Introduction system. They are powers with features



study of the international system gravitates around the concept of anarchy as
it is fundamental to the theories that seek to explain the politics of the
world. Anarchy is of the salient tenets of most political theories and finds
itself at the root of all political discussions and development. The different
schools of international affairs all have their own interpretation of the
anarchy that exists in the international system. However, most of the
discussions around anarchy and its features take into account only states as
the units in function. States are the most prominent political units in the
international system and their participation is what forms the system. They are
powers with features like sovereignty, material capabilities, governance and have
tangible powers in terms of military and territory. Therefore, most of the
social science narratives that surround anarchy focus on states and their
contribution and derivation of anarchy. This approach is legitimate in that
states are the most important political units; however, this approach is
limited as it does not provide for the role of non-state actors which are
increasingly becoming influential in the international system. Anarchy refers
to the absence of a higher authority which drives actors in the system to
pursue the behaviour that they do, but in looking only at the interaction
between states, we tend to neglect a whole sphere of action that contributes to
the international system as well, that perpetrated by non-states. The world is
anarchical and to decipher it, one must not only look at the role and
interaction of states but also the role of non-states and their interaction
with states which contributes to world politics. Since the influence of
non-states is increasing, overlooking it will outmode the explanatory power of
the current narrative around anarchy. This paper seeks to explain that anarchy
is not just what states make of it, but it is an amalgamation of what states
and non-states make of it by looking at how terrorist organisations have been
able to access anarchy and wield it their way.

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Views of the Different Schools of Thought


Waltz spoke of anarchy in his 1979 work, the Theory of International Politics.
He described anarchy as an ‘ordering principle’ (Waltz, 1979) which was
foundational to the international structure and which meant that states with
differing material capabilities exist in a world where there is no authority superior
to theirs that they can turn to in times of distress. This gives rise to an atmosphere
of self- help which drives states to secure their own interests and that is
what causes them to behave the way that they do. This view is the root of
realism that believes that the inherent anarchy of the system compels states to
pursue their self-interest. The realist school of thought does not make
provisions for the role of non-state actors. For realists, since the state is
the highest political unit, its influence is preponderant and non- states are
not powerful enough to participate in anarchy in a pivotal manner and thus can
be excluded from the political theory surrounding anarchy. As Charles Glaser
established, ‘Realism is designed to understand relations and interactions
between states; we should not be surprised that it has less to tell us about
non-state actors’ (Glaser, 2003)


liberalist school of thought too holds that the international system is
anarchic in nature; however, it differs from realism in that it believes that
anarchy can be wielded in a different manner and does not have to lead to an
atmosphere of self- help. Furthermore, it propagates that despite anarchy,
states can actually cooperate with each other through the instrument of
international organisations which would facilitate this cooperation. There is
no power superior to that of the state so if states become members of an international
organisation and agree to adhere to its codes of conduct, this organisation can
allow them to strike mutually beneficial deals which will reinforce the state’s
participation in the international organisation. Hence, unlike realism,
liberalism does acknowledge the presence and effect of non-state actors.
However, it focuses only on international organisations and the positive
influence of non-state actors. It does not accommodate the negative non-state
actors like terrorist organisations and the effect that they have on states and
on the international system. Moreover, liberalism only approaches non-state
actors through the medium of states. It does not talk about how non-state
actors affect anarchy independently. For liberalism, non-state actors’
contribution to the international realm comes through states and if states are
not a part of the international organisation, it would become redundant and
thus, will have no effect. Therefore, although liberalism does acknowledge the
presence and to a certain extent role of non-state actors, this acknowledgement
is limited as it does not fathom the real degree to which non-states affect


constructivist school of thought diverges from realism and liberalism in its approach
towards anarchy. It believes in the deconstruction of definitions and rejects
the idea of one overarching definition of anarchy under which states function.
According to constructivism as proposed by Alexander Wendt, self-help comes
about when anarchy and the predatory nature of some states fuses and drives all
states to secure their own interest. He establishes that states derive meaning
towards each other on the basis of their interaction with each other. They have
an identity and their interests are derived from that identity and after they
interact with each other, they form their perceptions of each other which
govern their further behaviour and this brew is what moulds anarchy (Wendt,
1992). Therefore, according to Wendt, ‘anarchy is what states make of it’
(Wendt, 1992). Wendt’s constructivism talks about the interaction between
states and how anarchy is subjectively derived by each state through that
interaction but it does not talk about the role of non-states in the
international realm. According to David Filder, ‘Constructivism, like
liberalism, interprets international relations in ways that indicate potential
roles for non-State actors.’ Despite the fact that its main focus is on the
absence of set definitions so it does not reject the presence of non-states or
does not decisively establish that states are the only actors, it focuses on
states and their functioning in order to explain the concept of anarchy and in
doing that, it neglects non-states as actors that influence anarchy.

Rise of the Non-State


three dominant schools of thought do not proactively include non-state actors
in all their influence because non-state actors have only recently acquired so
much power. That is not to say that non-state actors were redundant earlier;
they were present but their existence did not make a decisive amendment to the
international system. In the politics of the world, an actor can only fully be
recognised as a major player if it possesses material capabilities. This is why
states have always been the preponderant actors because they possess material
capabilities, territory and absolute sovereignty. In recent times, non- state
actors have acquired material capabilities as well and with the use of their
resources, they are committing actions that contribute to anarchy. Terrorist
organisations have procured great amounts of funding from either states or
illegal means like drug cartels and trafficking. Their access to material
capabilities have enabled them to access anarchy directly and commit actions
that have repercussions in the global sphere. For instance, The Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist organisation received as much as $ 20
million from kidnapping and human trafficking in 2014 and these funds allowed
it to remain persistent in its war to control Syria. Its material capabilities
have allowed it to amass recruits and increase its resources and that has given
it the opportunity to participate in the civil war in Syria as one of the
dominant actors which giants as big as the Unites States and the United Kingdom
were having difficulty deterring. The fact that there is no overruling body
that can control this terrorist organisations and the fact that it is fighting
on equal footing as nation states reiterates the existence of anarchy and shows
that non-states have now become capable enough to visibly participate in it.
Therefore, now that terrorist organisations are able to access anarchy directly,
they have a massive role to play in its shaping.


the event of globalisation has made non-state actors more active in exerting
their power. Globalisation has provided for a freer environment so that
terrorists can recruit not just on a national scale, but on a global one.
Moreover, because of globalisation, their acts become more visible and gain
more gravitas. In the event of a terrorist attack on one nation, the impact is
not just limited to that nation. There are almost always more that one
nationality of people who are victimised by the attack. This gets other nations
involved as well as their citizens are targetted and so it becomes an issue of
national security for not just one nation, but for many. Thus, the impact of
terrorism has increased due to globalisation in terms of the parties affected.
Moreover, because of the free flow of information, globalisation has given
terrorism a bigger audience and a bigger platform to operate on. The
information of a terror attack doesn’t just stay confined to the grieved
nation, but travels all across the world and incites response from other
nations as well. In the event of a massive attack, the global community becomes
obligated to respond to make it known that such acts will not be tolerated. In that
sense, a terrorist attack on one nation is treated as a terrorist attack on the
global community as such heinousness becomes absolutely unacceptable. Since the
audience becomes so much bigger, the impact of terrorist organisations and the
acts they commit also magnifies in influence.


because of globalisation, the exchange and openness of media has become quite
prevalent and because of that, recruitment into terrorist organisations and the
spread of propaganda has increased. Through social networking and the web in
general, militant leaders in different parts of the world are able to approach
people in nations across the world and indoctrinate them in their extremist
ideology. Their pool of targets has increased as the ease in communication has
become better and they are able to prey on vulnerable individuals and brainwash
them into radicalisation. As opposed to this, earlier, their access to people
was limited so recruitment was not as easy as it is now. Another dimension that
globalisation has fuelled is that of funding that terrorist organisations are
able to procure. With the increase in their visibility and the spread of
propaganda, terrorist organisations have not just been able to acquire
recruits, but also more funding. Their cause has gained more sympathisers and
with that people have been more open to sending them funds and resources.
According to David Kilcullen, ‘Globalised Internet communication also enables
moral, financial and personnel support, creating a strategic hinterland or ‘virtual sanctuary’ for insurgents’ (Kilcullen, 2006). Therefore,
globalisation has provided non-state actors more access of power and has let
them compete in a world of nation states as players with considerable power.
Before globalisation, non-state actors were not that pervasive in their
influence so they could be neglected by social scientists while theorizing
about world politics. However, with the shift in scenario, non-state actors
cannot be ignored and must be recognised as players that are able to wield
anarchy to their devices in a way that has repercussions on the international


What Non-States make of Anarchy


actors have been able to access anarchy through states and independently. In
their access through states, they have compelled nations to come together and
call for collective action. Anarchy maintains that there is an absence of a
supreme power over nations that can be sought for help. Terrorism has posed
such a threat on the global community that it has been recognised as an issue
that needs to be dealt with immediately. Moreover, since the issue has become
so magnified, it cannot be obliterated by one nation alone and calls for
collective action where all states attempt to fight it together. After the
terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, President Bush promised a ‘shared
commitment’ against terrorism and sent a team of FBI agents to help with the
investigation in Mumbai. Therefore, in that sense terrorist organisations have
compelled states to come together against them and look beyond their feeling of
individual self- help to cooperate with one another so that they can all combat
this security threat collectively and consequently help themselves.


way that non-state actors can access anarchy through states is with the
exercise of state sponsored terrorism. When states avoid attacking each other
directly, through the use of their official military, sometimes they take to
state sponsored terrorism to attack their rival. This way, the state does not
have to actively take responsibility for the attack and a blow is delivered to
the target nonetheless. State sponsored terrorism legitimises terrorist actions
in their view and actually propagates militant attack on a certain opponent.
For instance, the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament was said to be committed
by the terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Pakistani government was
accused of involvement in the attack. Although the government denied it, there
is a very strong possibility that it supported the organisation in the attack
to cripple its long time enduring rival, India. Instances like these empower
terrorist organisations and give them more edge to carry out their extremist
acts. In many cases, states actually give birth to terrorist organisations to
attack their opponents and these organisations eventually grow into full-
fledged bodies which no longer remain under the control of the state and carry
out radical acts independently. For instance, the Jaish-e-Mohammed is said to
be the brainchild of the Pakistani Inter- Services Intelligence and even though
Pakistan termed it a terrorist organisation and banned it in 2002, it goes on
to carry out atrocities in Jammu and Kashmir and further its propaganda.
Therefore, there are instances where states are a medium through which
non-state actors like terrorists can exert influence in the international


have also had the provision of affecting anarchy independently of states.
Non-state actors like terrorist organisations have been able to exert such an
influence in the international realm, that they have driven nations to adopt
new policies and amend existing ones. This implies that their role and effect
has been substantial enough to worry nations into shifting their priorities in
order to combat them. For instance, post the September 2001 attacks on the
United States, the government of the country shifted its policies to address
the devastation that had struck the country. The policies before that were
economic centric but after this event, they became focused on foreign policy and
security. The ‘Bush Doctrine’ was introduced and it made many provisions like
allowing preventive warfare and facilitating relations with Russia and China as
they too condemned terrorism. Moreover, it was not just the American foreign
policy that was amended after the September attacks. In this event, terrorism
had struck a massive blow to the hegemon, the United States and undermined its
power which sent all other nations into alarm as well and terrorism was
recognised as a threat that could touch any country. Other countries too, came
up with their counterterrorism strategies as a response to this event. For
instance, the United Kingdom came up with their counterterrorism strategy
called CONTEST in 2003, as a response to the fear of terrorism that the
September 2001 attacks had instilled in the world. Therefore, terrorists have
forced nations to change their policies and their behaviour towards other


way in which terrorist organisations approach anarchy independently is by
affecting the international system in a manner that leaves nations pitted
against each other to fulfil the roles their counterparts cannot fulfil. If a
nation fails in countering terrorism on the global front, its power naturally
declines and its reputation suffers a blow. This gives other nations an
opportunity to bolster their influence and fulfil the role. David Fidler talks
about the idea of an open source anarchy wherein both states and non-state
actors have a part to play in the way anarchy shapes

itself. He maintains that,


organisations also independently access anarchy when they have extreme
influence in some areas which allows them to tilt the balance in those regions.
There have been instances when terrorist organisations have become so active in
certain regions that not only have they upturned the scenario for the region in
question, but have also caused a menace for the rest of the world. Since they
become the preponderant power in some aspect, they hold the ability to threaten
the rest of the world aggressively and create a space for themselves in the
international realm. For instance, the ISIL with its efforts in Syria and Iraq
tried to gain a stronghold on territory and succeeded for quite some time,
gaining control on parts of Syria and northern and western Iraq. It also named
itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, reiterating its image as a
state with material capabilities and territory with the sovereignty to do as it
pleased. This attempt can be seen as a non-state actor trying to propose itself
as an equal to a state and going on to trying to become a state in itself. IS
has contributed heavily to the persistence of the civil war in Syria and has
been one of the main reasons for distress in the region. Because its influence
in the region is so strong, efforts of big powers like the US have only now
managed to recede its control and have still not been able to entirely uproot
its existence from the area.


since terrorist bodies are not states, they have a flexible organisation and
are mobile in terms of space. In their discussion paper for the One Earth
Foundation, Thomas G. Weiss, D. Conor Seyle and Kelsey Coolidge established that, ‘Non-state
actors have a greater degree of nimbleness and their looser organizational
structures allow for more efficient courses of action than the bureaucracies of
states can attain’ (Coolidge, Seyle, Weiss, 2013). They have the ability to
access anarchy from different parts of the world and they are able to spread
themselves across different regions unlike states who are fixed geographically.
In this, they have an added advantage over states and they exercise this advantage
to increase their influence and challenge state power. For instance, although
the ISIL operates mainly in Syria and Iraq, its influence pans across the
different parts of the world. In 2017, it was responsible for two terror
attacks in the UK which sent the nation into an alarm. It’s spread of
propaganda and radicalisation in the UK has become a major cause of worry for
the government which has attempted to tackle it with the help of the CONTEST


interaction between non-state actors is also important in contributing to
anarchy. The United Nations created the Comprehensive Convention on
International Terrorism (CCIT) which sought to define terrorism and set some
rules to combat it by banning its funding agencies and requiring necessary
actions from member states. However, this agreement has been in a position of
deadlock since 1996 since countries have not been able to reach a consensus
about all its aspects. The absence of a formal UN consensus over terrorism has
made the battle against it tougher to fight. Since there is no international
agreement on it, waging war against it has become complex and subjective for
countries. If the agreement was to pass, it would significantly affect the way
anarchy is approached. One non-state actor, the United Nations would have
accessed anarchy to make its access limited to another non-state actor,
terrorist organisations. Relations amidst one category of non- state actors has
also contributed to their working. In many instances, the Taliban and the Al
Qaeda have cooperated with one another for mutual benefit. Before the September
2001 attacks, Al Qaeda enjoyed the protection of the Taliban in Afghanistan and
the Taliban chief, Mullah Omar rejected the American authorities when they
asked him to turn over Osama to them. The relationship between terrorist
organisations strengthen them and let them contest against states in a stronger




actors do not only specifically refer to terrorist organisations. Few of the
most prominent non-state actors which affect anarchy are international
organisations and intergovernmental organisations. These organisations are
formed by state initiative to facilitate cooperation among each other in the
anarchical system. They predominantly have a positive influence on anarchy and
encourage states to look beyond their instinct of self-help to work with each
other to derive mutual benefit from agreements and deals. They also set up some
overarching rules and code of conduct that the nations are supposed to follow.
This does not encroach upon the state’s sovereignty in any manner because
states can pull out from the organisation as and when they wish so these rules
are not legally binding in a sense but since states get benefit out of being in
these organisations, this behaviour of following the rules is reinforced.
International organisations, multinational companies, transnational companies,
non- governmental organisations are perpetuated as a concept because of
globalisation that allows them more freedom and ground to conduct their
activities. Their rise, like that of terrorist organisations is also a result
of globalisation. Thomas G. Weiss, D. Conor Seyle and Kelsey Coolidge
calculated that, ‘Over the twentieth century, more than 38,000 IGOs and INGOs
were founded—a rate of more than one per day.’ With the rise in the number of
international organisations, the influence of non-state actors in the
international realm is also increasing rapidly. However, this paper deals with
the terrorist organisation aspect of non-state actors and their influence on


it can be said that non-states contribute actively to anarchy and affect the
international order to a great extent. Anarchy then becomes an amalgamation of
what states and non-states make of it. As the three schools of international
relations theory suggest, states are excessively important players in the
international system because they are what constitute the international system.
However, non-states also become important in the sense that now they have
enough power to be visibly decisive in the world order. Anarchy then becomes an
interaction between states and an interaction between non-states and states and
non-states. The global sphere is a space which is formed by a number of
different forces and this pluralism is characteristic of it. Therefore, the
pluralism of the international realm is central to its being and so it can be
maintained that non-states have now acquired enough power to exert influence in
the way it is moulded. So, in that sense, anarchy is a combination of what
states and non-states make of it.




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