TO HAVE A STATE OR NOT

Jakub Grygiel is the George H. W. Bush Associate Professor of International Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University. He has published a highly acclaimed book on geopolitics (Great Powers and Geopolitical Change, 2006). In an important journal article (“The Power of Statelessness”) Grygiel has pondered with revolutionary and terrorist groups seem to no longer want to build and control a state. Nonstate groups are more capable to achieve their goals without a state apparatus. A state is more of a burden. Modern technologies and globalization make it possible for them to organize, seek finances and plan without establishing a state. They actively avoid a state.

These groups today mainly make out the greatest threat to a nationstate (not the neighbouring state as it was in earlier centuries). Thus states have to prepare for sudden attacks against the infrastructure and destabilization. Since Georgia 2008, however, we know that attacks from neighbours have not quite receeded into the past.

Grygiel: “The response to the threat of stateless groups may be a trend toward state decentralization. In fact, the most effective way of defending oneself against unpredictable attacks deep inside one’s own territory is a devolution of security tasks to local communities. This may lead to a weakening of the monopoly of violence, which monopoly characterized the modern state. Paradoxically, then, the response to stateless groups may be the rise of more stateless — or sub-state — groups.”

What is needed is obviously defense both against neighbours (like Sweden against Russia) but also defense against attacks by terrorists on the infrastructure and large population centers.

An interesting aspect of the reasoning of Grygiel is the question of the Soviet Union. As a revolutionary terrorist group the Bolsheviks from 1917 sought the creation of a state (USSR). Establishing a state made the Soviet communists more vulnerable to containment and liberation from the West. On the other the state could be used for backing a large number of left-wing militant and terrorist groups in the Third World: PLO, the Red Army Faction in Germany, Italy’s Red Brigades, the Japanese Red Army, the Sandinista military forces in Nicaragua, FARC and so on. With Soviet assistance training camps for militant groups were set up in for instance Libya, Iraq, East Germany, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. The terrorist groups were given funds, training, weaponry and ideological support to further the global aggression of the Soviet Union. The Communist regime in Moscow is gone but of course not the old contacts of the Soviet leadership in Africa, Asia and Latin America.. Some of the Cold War contacts of the Soviet Union could be revived in the coming years. It depends on how the relations to the United States and the European Union develop.

The weaponry of the Cold War terrorists was not overwhelming. The Soviets never sold small nuclear arms to the revolutionary groups. After 1991 with proliferation of nuclear weapons there are a growing number of states who might e willing to provide terrorist groups with weapons of mass destruction.

Grygiels reasoning is important and one can only hope that he will continue to write on the question of why nonstate groups do not seek statehood any more. A prime example in this category is Hizbollah in Lebanon.

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