International Relations

Enhanced communication has allowed for the growth of “networks” of organizations.  What are the pros and cons of these new actors on the international stage?  Refer to both civil and uncivil networks- use examples.  Support your responses with references to the course material – be sure to read and reference the articles.

Instructions: Your initial post should be at least 350 words. Please respond to more than 2 other students. Responses should be a minimum of 150 words and include direct questions, evidence from the literature, alternative points of view or additional insight. For more information, please review the forum discussion rubric attached below. This is the rubric that will be used for all of the forums in this class.



In this lesson we will learn about networks. Networks are, broadly defined, groups of connected individuals or entities. Members of networks share common goals or values, but tend to lack the centralized organization that characterizes the bureaucratic structures of states, intergovernmental organizations, or multinational corporations. In the past, international relations scholars have thought about networks primarily as one method of social organization. Since the mid-2000s, however, network theory (also called network analysis)—a methodology borrowed from other academic disciplines—has allowed for more intensive study of networks themselves. Network analysis provides tools for visualizing and measuring connections within networks. The study of networks provides a way for international relations scholars to consider how the specific forms of linkages between actors (whether states, IGOs, NGOs, MNCs, or individuals) shape the international system, rather than just focusing on how the traits of individual actors affect how they interact with each other. Such analysis shows how influential networks can be in influencing outcomes in international interactions. From a network theory perspective, then, networks have their own structural properties that allow actors to enhance their own power via their position in a network and, in turn, exert disproportionate influence over the international system. The spread of the internet has done much to speed the growth and influence of networks, especially those composed of individuals who share a common cause.

· Defining “network”

· Network analysis applied to international relations

· Networks and power in international relations

· Types and examples of networks in the international system

· Network Definition

The basic definition of a network is “a group or network of interconnected people or things.” This definition can encompass anything from a social network (friends and friends-of-friends connected on social media, for instance) to a computer network (two or more computers connected to each other either locally or remotely). When scholars of international relations talk about networks, however, they generally mean something a little more specific. Often, international relations analyses borrow their definition of networks from sociology and anthropology. By this definition, a network is a group of individuals or groups that interact regularly. These groups tend to be characterized by a low level of central control, high connectivity, and widely varied or dispersed members. In this sense, a network is essentially one method of organization (differentiated from state hierarchies or markets). Networks may be sanctioned by states, or not. John Arquilla argues that, in practice, most networks form in opposition to state power (Arquilla, 2007, p. 199-200).

· Network Theory Provides Insights

Other scholarship written since the early 2000s has argued that examining international relations from a network perspective actually allows for deeper investigation of outcomes in the international system. This theoretical perspective sees networks as more than just one form of organization, and argues that network theory can provide new insight into power dynamics in the international system. Networks can help to explain outcomes in the international system as the result of relational dynamics, rather than simply the result of preferences and capabilities intrinsic to states and other actors. Increasingly, more attention is being paid to the ways in which network structures affect the behavior of actors within those networks (recall the focus of reflectivist approaches to international relations, introduced in an earlier lesson), as well as to variation between networks.

· Hierarchies

Researchers who adhere to the definition of networks as a form of organization tend to argue that the primary differentiating trait of networks (as opposed to state hierarchies or multinational corporations) is that they lack hierarchy. A hierarchy is a system by which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority. In short, scholars who adhere to this view believe that networks provide equality of power. This view is rejected by most international relations experts today, however. Unequal power relations are readily apparent within many networks today, and network analysis can in fact be very useful in analyzing unequal relationships.


When are transnational networks of activists likely to emerge? Most of the research examining transnational activism proposes that we are likely to see transnational networks emerge when citizens or groups are shut out of the domestic political process. That is, when faced with a national political system that is either unresponsive or restrictive in light of groups’ demands, citizens will engage in transnational cooperation as an alternative arena in which to press their claims. Unresponsive or repressive governments, few alliance opportunities with political parties that share common issue concerns, and little possibility of expressing demands through conventional channels of participation constitute some of the national-level factors that can shape the decision to participate in transnational networks.

Authors Keck and Sikkink (1998) propose a “boomerang effect,” which is perhaps one of the most well-known articulations of how national-level constraints mobilize transnational activism. It posits that groups participate in transnational networks in order to pressure unresponsive governments at home in an indirect way. These citizen networks thereby gain leverage in pursuing their policy goals. The authors have demonstrated how human rights activists seek out cooperative networks beyond their home countries as a means of “leverage politics” (i.e., the ability to influence more powerful state actors and increase the political effectiveness of activists).


There are many examples of transnational networks that address a range of issues, including climate change, migration, human rights, women’s rights, and more. These activists band together across borders to address common issues of concern. Examples can be found by examining activist networks that work for migrant and refugee rights. For example, a loose network of individuals who advocate for more favorable policies for migrants and refugees in Europe organized a march from Strasbourg to Brussels to protest what they view as restrictive immigration and asylum policies. Called “March for Freedom,” transnational activists walked some 450 kilometers during a one-month period from May through June 2014. Starting in Berlin, the activists crossed the French border into Strasbourg, where they officially began the march before moving north to cross the border back into Germany, then into Luxembourg, and finally into Belgium where they made their way to Brussels to protest at the European Council summit on June 26 and 27, 2014.

These activists used Twitter (#Refugeestruggle) and other social media to mobilize more supporters and to publicly document their experiences. One tweet bluntly asserted, “Coming by the thousands out of Africa, Central America, etc. demanding: Share your wealth! It is the new political fight.”


Another example of transnational activism involves the ARIADNE Network against human trafficking in Southeastern and Eastern Europe. This has been an ongoing collaborative effort since 2005 among activists spanning twelve countries, and has taken the form of four interrelated joint projects. The fourth joint project focuses in part on raising awareness among vulnerable populations on the connections between trafficking and migration. There is a website dedicated to facilitating information exchange between activists in the region.

These examples highlight instances of what Arquilla calls civil networks. These transnational networks seek to change what they believe are unjust rules, policies, and institutions. They work from the “bottom up” to influence change, recruiting citizens who share their concerns across countries.

As described on their website,

 “Ariadne is a European peer-to-peer network of more than 400 funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights.

Ariadne helps those using private resources for public good achieve more together than they can alone by linking them to other funders and providing practical tools of support. ” You may wonder what these networks can actually do for members.  One function is to pool funding to provide tools that individual members could not afford.  For instance, Ariadne has collected grants data from members to create a suite of knowledge tools to assist funders and civil society.   Civil society just means all of the groups and group interactions in a state that are not controlled by the government.

criminal Networks

Transnational organized crime (TOC) refers to criminal organizations that operate transnationally, across borders for the purpose of obtaining power, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while ensuring their survival through corruption and/or violence. TOCs have multiple structure; they vary from clans, networks, and cells.  One of the main problems is that TOCs commit a variety of crimes and cannot be pigeon-holed.

TOCs have taken advantage of technological innovation and increased globalization during the last three decades.  Our increasing world with many areas of transversal spaces has allowed sites for TOCs to increase their illicit enterprises.

Criminal networks are not only expanding their operations, but they are also diversifying their activities, creating transnational threats that are more complex, volatile, and destabilizing. These networks threaten U.S. interests through alliances with corrupt elements of national governments.  They manipulate corrupt officials to further their criminal activities and strengthen their ability to continually function.

Terrorist Networks

It’s important to remember that not only has terrorism been around throughout history but that it has crossed ethnic and religious lines. Many current students are not aware of what students focused on a generation ago, the IRA. The Catholics of Northern Island had been an oppressed people for hundreds of years. The region, a province of the United Kingdom, did not gain its independence from Britain with the rest of Ireland in 1921. As a result of a long and complicate political and religious struggle, social cleavages turned violent and what was known as ‘the troubles’ began.  One of the main groups fighting for the British to withdraw from Northern Ireland was the Irish Republican Army (IRA). They were also in conflict with protestant “paramilitaries” loyal to the United Kingdom.  Between 1966 and 1999, more than 3,600 people were killed and nearly 36,000 injured.   This violence was by no means one sided.  For instance, on January 30th, 1972 British paratroopers fired on unarmed protestors, killing fourteen and injuring another thirteen. This incident is known as Bloody Sunday or the Bogside Massacre.

So how do these organizations get their funding?  Well, the funding mechanisms for terrorists were not as well-developed in the 20th century.  Nonetheless, we see the beginnings of current funding patterns.  One way the IRA obtained funds was through Irish Americans.  For instance, those growing up in the Boston area in the 70’s and 80’s remember that in Boston area taverns it was not unusual for a hat to be passed around to collect donations for ‘the cause’ or ‘the widows and orphans’.

Another way that the IRA collected money was through criminal activities and ties with other criminal groups just as we see with terrorists today.     With this money, the IRA procured weapons from international arms dealers and foreign countries such as Libya.

While it is important to note that terrorism is not even a slightly new phenomenon, the nature of terrorist operations may be changing.   Terrorist networks are becoming increasingly flexible and loosely organized. (Dunne 2005: 264).  While certainly there are some terrorist organizations that hold territory and act in place of the state in some cases, there are even more terrorists working in loosely organized cells or acting as lone wolves.  They may be connected to other members of the network only by social media.

Let’s take a look at a recent blog post by one of our APUS faculty members, James Hess:

The Evolution of Modern Terrorism By James Hess

In September 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist terrorist. McKinley’s successor was President Theodore Roosevelt—who called for the end of terrorism everywhere.

One hundred years before 9/11, terrorism was present in America. Given this history with terrorism, I will discuss the roots of modern terrorism, the scholarly perspective on the evolution of terrorism, and the importance of understanding the motivations and strategies of terrorists.

The Starting Point for Terrorism

Most experts in the study of terrorism point to the French Revolution as the starting point for modern terrorism. Not surprisingly, there was a period during the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror. During the Reign of Terror, tens of thousands were executed for their perceived resistance to the revolution.

Martha Crenshaw, an internationally renowned expert on terrorism studies, retired professor, and former Guggenheim Fellow, argues that terrorism exists “in the context of violent resistance to the state as well as in the service of state interests.” Crenshaw’s point, that terrorism exists as violent resistance against the state, certainly holds true during the French Revolution. Walter Reich, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University tells us “terrorism is an expression of political strategy.” Crenshaw and Reich, both, provide important arguments demonstrating some of the theories behind modern terrorism.

UCLA political science professor, David Rapoport, writes that the French Revolution “introduced terror to our vocabulary.” Rapoport writes extensively about how modern terrorism has evolved through four waves.

Rapoport’s writing, The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism (PDF), looks looks at specific time periods that can be categorized into specific phases precipitated by events. These waves are:

The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism

Anarchist Wave  –  In the case of the French Revolution, the first wave, or Anarchist Wave, began when a group of revolutionaries, who referred to themselves as terrorists, assassinated Czar Alexander II in 1881. This event led to a series of assassinations and assassination attempts of leaders throughout the world. The assassination of President McKinley occurred during the first wave, as well as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which put in motion the events that would lead to World War I.

Anticolonial Wave –The second wave, or the Anticolonial Wave, began after the Treaty of Versailles. During this wave, we see the initial creation of the state of Israel, with roots to the Balfour Declaration and dissolvent Ottoman Empire. Another significant event during this wave was the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would have theological consequences on a future wave of terrorism.

There were also multiple organizations, typically declaring themselves as freedom fighters that emerged throughout the globe: Ireland, Greece, and Algeria, to name a few. Again, as in the first wave, America experienced its own terrorist attack during this wave—the bombing of Wall Street in 1920.

New Left Wave – The third wave, or the New Left Wave, essentially began with the onset of the Vietnam War. The Soviet Union encouraged revolt while offering material support to would-be terrorist organizations. During this wave, organizations such as the German Red Army Faction, Italian Red Brigades, The Sandinistas, and other far-left, ideologically driven groups emerged.

The Religious Wave – The fourth wave, or the Religious Wave, essentially began with the Iranian Revolution, but to be fair, did not really take root until 9/11. The Soviet-Afghan War occurred during this wave, as well as the emergence of groups such as Hezbollah and Aum Shinrikyo—a Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian-influenced organization that attacked a Tokyo subway with nerve agents.

Rapoport points out that the majority of attacks have been committed by Islamic-based organizations, but there have been non-Islamic terrorist groups during this wave, as already mentioned with Aum Shinrikyo. Another non-Islamic terrorist organization to emerge during this wave was The Covenant, The Sword, and The Arm of the Lord, which was an anti-Semitic, Christian organization in northern Arkansas training to conduct attacks in the United States.

The Ongoing Influence of Ideology

One thing that is common through these waves is how ideology influences organizations. Ideology determines the target, (i.e. assassinations of national leaders during the Anarchist Wave, or the twin towers during 9/11).

Rapoport’s wave theory to describe how ideology has evolved is relevant in our understanding of modern terrorism, which is supported by both Crenshaw’s violent resistance and Reich’s expression of political strategy.

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