The Delegation of War to Rebel Organizations
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 principalâ€”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 rebelsâ€™ perspective are explored. This framework serves as a starting point for future research on rebelâ€”patron interactions.