The collapse of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent disintegration of the Soviet Union have created an opportunity for a new set of studies in the international security arena. Whereas previous scholarly attention had mostly been devoted to nuclear deterrence and issues stemming from realist ideology, a new subset of research has since shone to equal status. The role that non-state actors play in the international security field has come to the attention of many, especially since the attacks of September 11th. Non-state actors come in various shapes and sizes and include nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), private military corporations (PMCs), criminal and terror networks, multinational corporations, and the United Nations, to name just a few. Nevertheless, this diverse assortment of non-state entities each plays a unique role in the ever-changing realm of international security. Certainly the deleterious effects of criminals and terror networks often act to undermine the fabric of international security. Simultaneously, NGOs and the UN, more often than not, exert their energy in a positive manner. Meanwhile, the role of private security firms and their influence on international security is a point of appreciable contention.
The influence of non-state actors in this globalized world is unquestionably stronger than at any point since the Westphalia system of state sovereignty was established in 1648. Whether non-state actors play a positive or negative role in efforts to resolve international security, stems, for the most part, from the resulting mixture of their intentions, capabilities, and the inevitable side effects of their actions. This paper seeks to further examine and elucidate how these groups have affected the states with whom they interact.
Jesse Schwartz is a graduate student at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.