Predators and Parasites

Persistent Agents of Transnational Harm and Great Power Authority
Oded Löwenheim
How transnational predators exploit—and are exploited by—the Great Powers


What explains variance in the policy of Great Powers toward drug traffickers, pirates, and terrorists? Does counterharm policy depend just on the degree of material harm caused to a powerful state by such nonstate actors, or do normative, moral, and emotional factors also play a role? Why did the U.S., for example, harshly punish al Qaeda after 9/11 but avoid taking similar forceful measures against foreign drug traffickers who enable the deaths of thousands of Americans each year by selling highly illegal and harmful narcotics? Oded Löwenheim argues that the answers to these questions lie in the social construction of agents of harm.

Oded Löwenheim is Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Praise / Awards

  • "An invaluable contribution to the growing body of constructivist literature in international relations and should be read by anyone interested in the use of force in contemporary global politics. A theoretical and empirical analysis of why Great Powers resort to force against some 'persistent agents of transnational harm' but not others, the book is a major advance in developing a genuinely constructivist theory of change. Comparing a variety of fascinating historical cases, Lowenheim argues systematically and persuasively that the key determinant is whether or not an adversary threatens a Great Power's authority and the legitimacy of systemic norms that its authority constitutes and protects. Great Powers may react violently to such a 'predator' while ignoring 'parasites' that, though costly and harmful, do not directly challenge those norms. The analysis goes a long way toward explaining America's War on Terror against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and the widespread global support for this policy, as well as the highly negative global reaction to America's own intervention in Iraq and its norm-threatening doctrine of preemption."
    —Richard W. Mansbach, Professor, Iowa State University

  • "A fascinating, important book about fighting Barbary pirates and Al Qaeda terrorists with moral consistency and just conduct."
    —Jon Mercer, University of Washington

  • "Predators and Parasites shows, with impressive scholarship, that world politics is characterized by a cartel-like structure that gives states monopolies of legitimate violence. Sovereignty and a global structure of authority are not mutually exclusive. In a sense, anarchy is in the eye of the beholder."
    —Robert O. Keohane, Princeton University

  • "Prepare to be boarded! Lowenheim delivers an essential constructivist tutorial on Great Power sovereignty and authority. An intellectual swashbuckler!"
    —Rodney Bruce Hall, Oxford University

  • "At a time when tangible success in the global war on terror seems increasingly elusive, and critics question not only its direct costs (both economic and in human lives) but also the indirect costs of resources diverted from other important concerns, Oded Lowenheim provides a timely explanation of the single-minded U.S. focus on Al Qaeda at the expense of other (and some would argue) equally if not more destructive actors in international society."
    —Donna J. Nincic, The California Maritime Academy

  • "In short, Lowenheim's revolutionary work deals with the policy issues that drive GP actions with regard to the issues of the drug trade and terrorism. Remarkably, he is able to do this in a thin, readable volume that explains not just great power policies, but the process of a PATH parasite becoming a PATH predator."
    —Tom Rogers, Journal of Political and Military Sociology

Look Inside

Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 280 pages.
  • 2 Figures.
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  • 2009
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  • 978-0-472-02225-0

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