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The Delegation of War to Rebel Organizations


  • Idean Salehyan

    (Department of Political Science, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA,


States in an international dispute sometimes choose to attack their enemies with their own military forces but other times choose to empower domestic insurgent groups. What explains the decision to act through rebel proxies rather than directly engage a rival? Theories and empirical analyses of international conflict have adopted a state-centric bias, ignoring the substitution between direct uses of force and indirect action through rebel organizations. This note examines the decision to delegate conflict to rebels through the lens of principal—agent theory. While states support rebel groups to forgo some of the costs of conflict, they also lose a degree of foreign policy autonomy. Preliminary evidence of conflict delegation is presented, along with a number of empirically testable propositions. Finally, the consequences of delegation from the rebels’ perspective are explored. This framework serves as a starting point for future research on rebel—patron interactions.

Suggested Citation

  • Idean Salehyan, 2010. "The Delegation of War to Rebel Organizations," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 54(3), pages 493-515, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:54:y:2010:i:3:p:493-515

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    Cited by:

    1. Jellal, Mohamed, 2014. "Theory of civil war under asymmetric information," MPRA Paper 57600, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Abbott, Kenneth W. & Genschel, Philipp & Snidal, Duncan & Zangl, Bernhard, 2018. "The governor's dilemma: Competence versus control in indirect governance," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Global Governance SP IV 2018-101, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    3. Albornoz, Facundo & Hauk, Esther, 2014. "Civil war and U.S. foreign influence," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 64-78.
    4. Garcia-Alonso, Maria D.C. & Levine, Paul & Smith, Ron, 2016. "Military aid, direct intervention and counterterrorism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 112-135.
    5. Yuri M. Zhukov & Charles H. Anderton & Jurgen Brauer, "undated". "On the Logistics of Violence," Working Paper 255276, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    6. Martínez, Luis R., 2017. "Transnational insurgents: Evidence from Colombia's FARC at the border with Chávez's Venezuela," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 138-153.


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