Anarchy, Failed States, and Armed Groups: Reconsidering Conventional Analysis



Systemic theories of international politics divide the world into anarchic and hierarchic systems. Conventionally, the boundary of each system is based on juridically defined territorial borders. This article argues that within collapsed and “fragmented” states there exist autonomous armed groups, which make these states by definition anarchic systems. Unlike earlier accounts of such “domestic anarchy,” this article argues that the domestic anarchy is “open” or connected to the international anarchic system. By taking this approach, it is possible to integrate the theoretical understanding of the relations between armed groups and (external) states. Specifically, the article illustrates how there can be “mixed security dilemmas” between states and armed groups, and that other theoretical concepts usually reserved for describing interstate relations can potentially be used to describe state-armed group relations.