Indirect Interventions in Civil Wars: The Use of States as Proxies in Military Interventions

Keywords: Proxy interventions, arms trade, civil wars, military intervention, principal-agent theory, great powers


Current research on motivational sources of military interventions in civil wars frequently assumes that states intervene due to direct interests in the civil war country. However, this study argues that there exists a subset of interventions in which weaker powers intervene on behalf of interests which great powers hold vis-à-vis the civil war country. Using the logic of principal-agent theory in combination with arms trade data allows one to identify 14 civil wars which experienced the phenomenon of indirect military interventions. This type of intervention features a weaker power providing troops for combat missions, whereas its major arms supplier is only involved with indirect military support. The analysis is complemented with two brief case studies on the Moroccan intervention in Zaire (1977) and the Ugandan intervention in the Central African Republic (2009). Both case studies corroborate expectations as deduced from the proxy intervention framework.

Author Biography

Kamil Klosek, Peace Research Center Prague, Charles University, Czech Republic

Kamil Klosek is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Peace Research Center Prague, Charles University. In his research, he focuses on civil war dynamics and international relations. His dissertation was devoted to analyzing motivational causes of military interventions in civil wars from a political-economic perspective. His special interests are related to the role of arms trade, natural resources and foreign direct investments in relation to (internal) armed conflict. His further projects encompass political-economic interactions of rebel groups during civil wars, the role of extractive industries in civil war onset and dynamics, proxy interventions in civil wars as well as the categorization and collection of data on frozen conflicts since the end of the Second World War.

Research Articles