Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Ultimate Non-State Actor

In the opening seconds of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) outlines his accomplishments in the time elapsed since the conclusion of the first film.

As a celebrity hero figure known by his true identity and as Iron Man, Stark's interventions in foreign affairs has ushered in an era of uninterrupted peace, stabilized east/west relations, and reduced the need for direct American intervention in global affairs.

Appearing at a Senate hearing, Stark tells Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) that he has "successfully privatized world peace". He's responding to a report compiled by Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard) that notes that Stark poses a potential threat to American interests, and so should be incorporated into the US chain of command.

Stark notes that he "isn't a joiner", but that he would consider becoming the Secretary of Defense.

In other words, unless Stark is granted the opportunity to become a policymaker, he isn't interested in being anything other than a non-state actor.

He is, in fact, the ultimate non-state actor. No terrorist or rogue state has been able to stand against him.

The flip side of this is that anyone capable of producing similar technology as that which empowers Stark can themselves become every bit as potent a non-state actor. Such is the case with Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), whose sole purpose seems to be that of revenge against the Stark family.

In a world of non-state actors as powerful as Stark and Vanko, the power of individual states -- even those as powerful as the United States -- to control them becomes largely non-existent.

Instead, an equilibrium must be found through the harnessing of similar non-state actors. Yet other non-state actors can harness them in government's stead -- as Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) does when he recruits Vanko to help provide much-needed refinement of his weapons technologies.

As the first Iron Man film establishes, the arms industry has proven to be quite a dangerous non-state actor.

Just as institutional means would be needed to prevent individual non-state actors from wandering out-of-control, so corporate non-state actors as dangerous as the arms industry must be controlled as well.

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