Abstract: Proxy Warfare & Uncertain Sovereignty


My colleagues, Chris Day and Miklos Gosztonyi, and I will be presenting our paper, “Proxy Warfare and Uncertain Sovereignty,” at this year’s Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago on April 2.

In this paper, we explore how norms of sovereign territoriality, which have played a critical role in preventing the outbreak of interstate war in the post-WWII era, have produced conditions which are highly permissive of proxy warfare.  You can find the paper online at AllAcademic and the abstract after the jump.  Any and all feedback, as always, is greatly appreciated.

The decrease in interstate warfare since WWII demonstrates that sovereignty norms have acquired a durable, institutional embeddedness insofar as they constrain state behavior. Yet states circumvent these norms through proxy warfare to project power across their borders and achieve a favorable outcome related to domestic security, regional hegemony, or ideological territorial claims. Non-violation of sovereignty occurs because states understand both the material and normative costs of behaving otherwise. Alternatively, varying configurations of sovereignty create a permissive environment for different types of proxy warfare. We examine three contrasting cases. Sudan and Chad’s involvement in each other’s affairs is restricted by the sovereignty norms on which both countries rely and is driven by regime security imperatives. Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir is rooted in contested sovereignty claims constrained by India’s empirical control of an unsettled territorial boundary. Syria and Iran’s support of Hezbollah is driven by ideological opposition to Israel and instrumental interests in establishing regional hegemony, seizing on the juridical ambiguity and empirical interstitiality of Lebanese territory.

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