Allies, Agents, and Proxies? Hierarchy and the Costs of State-Armed Group Alignment: A Case Study of Syria, 1963-2010.
Abstract: This dissertation explains the dynamics of state alignment with
external armed groups. Academics and policymakers alike often label the armed groups as
the state's agents, allies, and proxies interchangeably. This seemingly minor semantic
confusion hints at larger questions about the precise nature of state-armed group
alignment in international politics. Most theoretically-focused ... read morework on the subject
assumes that state-armed group alignments fall neatly into a principal-agent relationship,
meaning that the state is able to offer the group support while simultaneously controlling
its actions. This approach often inflates the strategic value of the armed group within
the relationship. I argue that the armed group's role in the relationship varies
significantly according to the amount of power that the state is able to exert over the
group at any given time. Higher state power allows the state to cover the costs of both
supporting and controlling the armed group as an agent. Lower state power forces the state
to support the group as an ally, lessening the amount of control it has over the group. A
weaker state is less able to afford the necessary control mechanisms and must bear the
costs of the more independent armed group ally - which can be quite high when it comes to
the potential reckless use of force. The state-armed group relationship, therefore, is one
of variable hierarchy - the armed group is either an agent or an ally, but not both at the
same time. To test my theory, I pursue a longitudinal case study of Syrian alignment with
the armed groups born out of the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1963 to 2010. The Syrian case
offers significant intra-case variation, allowing for `cross-period' comparison over the
five decades of Syrian alignment with distinct sets of external armed groups (Palestinian
and Southern Lebanese Shi'a). Furthermore, the case offers several opportunities to
compare the relationship over time - as the Syrian-armed group relationship recalibrates
following systemic shifts. Together, these points of analytical leverage allow comparison
of predicted behaviors, and the opportunity to tease out greater clarity of the casual
relationship between state power and alignment type.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2013.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisors: Richard Shultz, and Robert Pfaltzgraff.
Committee: Malik Mufti.
Keywords: International relations, and Middle Eastern studies.read less