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Understanding State Sponsorship of Militant Groups

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 May 2011

Abstract

States engage in coercive diplomacy by sponsoring militant violence against their rivals. This gives militant groups’ sponsors bargaining power, but may produce moral hazard, because it can empower groups so much that sponsors cannot control them. This study develops a game theoretic model to explain why states take the risk of sponsoring militant groups. The model demonstrates that sponsorship may be a form of costly signalling that increases the probability both of bargaining failure and of a negotiated settlement favourable to the sponsor. The model further demonstrates that only moderately weak states and major powers are likely to gain coercive power through sponsorship. Data on militant violence during the period 1989–2001 support the model's predictions.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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References

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23 In the course of the discussion, I refer to G as ‘she’, S as ‘he’ and M as ‘it’.

24 The assumption that S gains no intrinsic value for keeping M operational is included such that M's preferences for survival may diverge from S's preferences for policy concessions. The model allows for the possibility that M and S share very similar preferences. However, if we consider a situation in which both S and M 1 had the same preferences, S would be equally well off if M 1 did not survive and a separate group M 2 accomplished its policy objective, whereas M 1 would prefer to survive and accomplish the policy objective. It is therefore reasonable to assume that S gains no intrinsic value for sustaining any one M, but only gains value if the M that is operational accomplishes his policy objective.

25 A case example of this is the behaviour of the Kashmiris towards Musharraf following his agreement with India to curb militant violence after the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament building.

26 While it may be possible that G is not completely credible, and that G may renege on its commitment to S once M is disarmed, this possibility is left out of the current model set-up. The reason this is the case is because if G were to renege, S could reconstitute the group and begin violence again. This threat to retaliate should ensure that G would fulfil the terms, and deter G from defecting. Again, while it is possible to include this, I do not do so in the presentation for space considerations and in order to simplify the model. The results do not substantively change with this feature included.

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28 The completed version of the proofs is in the Appendix.

29 Since θ* is defined as a probability, it must be true that 0 ≤ θ* ≤ 1. Therefore, assume that if (1−γκM)/x < 0, θ* = 0 and if (1−γκM)/x > 1, θ* = 1.

30 Since we solve for x using the quadratic equation, there are two possible solutions. The solution for which x < 0 is again eliminated by assumption. Also, if 1−γκM < 0, assume that x* = 0.

31 Since we solve for x using the quadratic equation, there are two possible solutions. The solution for which x < 0 is again eliminated by assumption. Also, if 1−γκM < 0, assume that x* = 0.

32 Indicated by a value of κM→0.

33 Proof of this is in the Appendix.

34 As with the previous beliefs, 0 ≤ C*G ≤ 1, so that if C*G < 0, C*G = 0, and if C*G > 1, C*G = 1.

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45 Considering both active and passive support as the same behaviour is particularly problematic for testing the hypothesis here, largely because the predicted effect is somewhat similar to that of the ‘weak state’ hypothesis. The ‘weak state’ hypothesis predicts that the likelihood in which a state becomes a sanctuary for insurgencies increases as its weakness increases. Here, the hypothesis predicts that the likelihood in which a state becomes an active supporter increases if the state is moderately weak.

46 We do identify sponsorship from Mozambique during the 1980s. These will be further discussed as part of an out of sample test after the empirical analysis.

47 It is certainly the case that in previous periods, and the period following 1989–2001, sponsorship does occur in Latin America. However, in this snapshot, there were no cases that could be conclusively classified as sponsorship, based on the definition.

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56 I do not include measures for the government's Elevation Difference and Ethnic Fractionalization due to multicollinearity. Although the results hold when the sponsor's Elevation Difference and Ethnic Fractionalization scores are dropped, the model presented produces a better fit and allows us to examine the explanatory variable of interest when controlling for these factors.

57 To illustrate with an example, if Syria chose to sponsor Hamas against Israel from 1989 to 2000, this test would only include one observation for Syria in 1989, and would drop Israel/Syria dyads between 1990 and 2000.

58 Carter, David and Signorino, Curtis, ‘Back to the Future: Modeling Time Dependence in Binary Data’, Political Analysis, 18 (2010), 271292CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

59 This does not suggest that the ‘weak state hypothesis’ in the literature is incorrect. Since the sponsorship variable only codes those cases of intentional assistance, it is entirely possible that autonomous militants adopt transnational campaigns of violence from weak or failing states. This is not ruled out by the analysis here. The analysis does suggest, however, that when examining cases of deliberate sponsorship, moderately weak states are more likely to engage in this behaviour than very weak states.

60 Arnold, Guy, Wars in the Third World Since 1945 (London: Cassell, 1991)Google Scholar.

61 It is interesting to note that several of these states have relatively higher RPC scores, and the mean supporter RPC score in the group is 1.45. However, the standard deviation is 0.92, which indicates substantial variation.

62 Thomas, Scott, The Diplomacy of Liberation: The Foreign Relations of the African National Congress since 1960 (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 1996), pp. 2173Google Scholar.

63 Byman, Deadly Connections; O'Brien, ‘Foreign Policy Crises and the Resort to Terrorism’; Salehyan, Rebels without Borders.

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