Wagner group and the future of non-state actors

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Crescent International

Safar 18, 1445 2023-09-04

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

The western corporate media is obsessed with dissecting Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death in a manner that is more suited to tabloid journalism.

The saga of Prigozhin and the Wagner group is likely to further steer global discussion about non-state actors in the current politically charged environment.

Over the past two decades the role, prominence and capabilities of non-state entities have increased significantly.

The acquisition of power was not due to their opposition to or detachment from state institutions.

It was due to their compliance with and usefulness to state machinery that enabled them to acquire such power.

In Wagner’s case, just as in the case of the US mercenary outfit, Blackwater (it has changed name several times from Xe Service to its current iteration, Academi), these outfits provided the state with plausible deniability.

From the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia learned that the so-called private contractors can be utilized as useful scapegoats for strategic and tactical purposes.

As Crescent International’s earlier analysis of Prigozhin’s mutiny of June 2023 had mentioned, no non-state actor can purchase tanks, artillery and engage in military operations in multiple locations without state backing.

Nobody believes that the US mercenary outfit Blackwater (Academi) was acting independently during America’s war on Iraq without coordinating with Washington?

It must be borne in mind that the state remains the most powerful player on the political scene.

In addition to its vast economic and military resources, it remains the most organized structure capable of mass mobilization of people for social, economic, military, and political purposes.

As the world moves toward multipolarity, the power of non-state actors is likely to decrease.

In the new multipolar world order, for state entities which are racing to acquire global influence, non-state actors are simply used as leverages.

There is no diversion from this formula, as the fate of Wagner clearly shows.

One of the key signs of decrease in power of non-state organizations was their behavior in how quickly they towed the line in confronting Russia.

For decades western academic and public discourse has preached about disassociation of businesses and non-governmental organizations from politics and state policies.

The world was told that political institutions should allow businesses to operate freely via the principle of free market.

Immediately after Russia launched its military operations in Ukraine, western firms were “gently” pressured to join the economic front of the geopolitical war against Moscow.

Businesses and societies were forced to sacrifice their livelihoods and comfort for the sake of state interests.

How is this relevant for the Muslim world?

Most state entities in the Muslim world are repressive kleptocracies with foreign allegiances.

For decades it was the Islamic non-state entities which took it upon themselves to provide services to Muslim societies – from health and education to matters of personal safety.

In fact, it can be strongly argued that over the past several decades in places like Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt and Palestine non-state players have been the only entities with authentic popular backing and the ability to mobilize the masses.

As the process of decline in the power of non-state actors continues, this can have both a negative and positive effect depending on local developments in the Muslim world.

The negative aspect of the trend might be that players occupying positions in state institutions will become engulfed in confrontation with non-state actors.

Due to the fear of their potential, this may further aggravate social tensions in many Muslim societies.

On the positive side, non-state actors might realize that in order to continue to positively contribute to the wider society they will need to acquire state power via legitimate popular backing.

This was the case in Iran, Yemen and to a lesser extent in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine.

The march of Islamic non-state players towards state power is likely to continue as there is an intellectual consensus among Islamic scholars and leaders that centrality of state power is crucial in Islam.

Dr. Kalim Siddiqui stated that Islam without the Islamic state is incomplete.

The late Islamic scholar also postulated that in order to advance Islamic values and worldview in Muslim societies, Muslims must have the requisite capabilities.

The Prophet (pbuh) instituted Islamic education, taxation and inter-state relations via state structures and pursued power via ethical means and for ethical purposes.

The phenomenon of advancing a particular worldview via state power is not limited to Islam.

Western secular-liberal societies also advance their cultural narratives via state institutions.

This was evident during the Qatar 2022 football World Cup and during the recent racist ban on Abayas (Islamic clothing for girls) in French schools.

As long as “debate” about the future of interconnectedness between state and non-state actors remains political, economic, and social without becoming violent, it is a discussion the new world order needs to have in a frank and intelligent manner.

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