7.1.2 Classification of Ungoverned Power

This classification of ungoverned power examines the forms it takes, its international application, and the impact of using military force.

The previous section outlined some of the reasons why people bypass the available governance framework and rely upon their own resources to protect their interests.  This chapter does not take a moral position on these reasons, and nor does it examine the legal and political failings which have caused the use of ungoverned power to be so prevalent.  Those analyses were the subject of previous chapters.

This classification of ungoverned power takes a purely pragmatic view of the use of force, examining whether it works and whether it benefits those who use it:

(7.2)   The types of ungoverned power include its use by individuals and States.  They are all outside the legal and political frameworks of the territory concerned and several of them provoke a violent response.  Some are driven by the absence of confidence in formal governance, such as isolation, or self-protection against economic or physical threats.  Others are more aggressive, such as violent abuse of State power, corruption, and terrorism.  The use of force to counteract threats from inside or outside the country is explored further below.

(7.3)   The use of ungoverned power to attack other countries takes several forms.  Attempts to seize territory by force have been much less common since the United Nations was formed, but various forms of military intervention have nonetheless taken place – some overtly using force and some covert.  Recently, ‘hybrid warfare’ has combined covert destabilisation of a country with military force to support annexation of territory – as vividly illustrated when “Russia occupied Crimea in March 2014”.

(7.4)   There are many problems from relying on military force to keep the peace.  It doesn’t work well in a war amongst civilians.  Deterrence has become more complicated with nuclear proliferation since the end of the Cold War.  Propaganda has become an increasingly prominent factor.  The UN has been unable to protect countries from aggression, and solutions imposed by force lack stability.  There are conflicting economic pressures related to defence spending.  Overall, the international use of military force without UN agreement creates more problems than it solves.

At this point, readers who are just seeking an overview of this book’s contents may wish to move to the next chapter (8).  Alternatively, they may wish to go directly to a particular segment by following the above links or continue to read sequentially.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/712a.htm.