The Proxy Paradox Explaining (Lack of) Control over State-Sponsored Proxy Armed Groups

Email – irevents@st-andrews.ac.uk to register!

The Institute for the Study of War and Strategy (ISWS) seminar series presents Dr Sara Plana postdoctoral fellow at Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania.

How do states control non-state armed groups they sponsor in foreign civil wars (proxies)? The speaker argues that the state sponsor's goal against the shared enemy with the proxy—specifically, whether it involves defeating the enemy or stopping short of defeat—affects the tools of control states use and how effective they are at achieving proxy compliance. The seminar will test this theory and reveal the various dilemmas facing state sponsors by drawing on nested case studies of three efforts by the US to support non-state armed groups in the proxy war in Syria from 2013 to 2020.

Sara Plana received her PhD from MIT in September 2021 and is a postdoctoral fellow at Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania. Her book project examines how states manage non-state armed groups they sponsor in foreign civil wars (proxies) through in-depth, multi-method case studies of state-proxy relationships in the Syrian civil war from 2011 to present. Her broader research agenda investigates the causes, conduct, and consequences of proxy warfare as well as military organizational behavior and civil-military relations. She is a Fellow with the Bridging the Gap Project and a non-resident Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She graduated with an A.B. in Government from Harvard University.

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