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Changing Commitments: US Support to Rebels in Syria and Nicaragua
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Peace and Conflict Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8428-4861
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The provision of external state support to non-state actors in civil wars is a dynamic process. The calculus of state sponsors varies over time, which means that assistance provided to the armed opposition fluctuates. This is rarely recognized in existing research, which has focused more on the initiation of support and its subsequent effects on conflict dynamics. While we know many of the motives behind decisions to provide support, we know less about why state sponsorship of rebels changes over time. To address this, I propose a theoretical argument that is able to account for policy adjustments over time. The theory builds on the notion that leaders change their support commitment when there is adverse feedback and that support increases as long as the causes of policy failure can be attributed to external actors, while cutbacks occur when failure is attributed to the state sponsor’s own actions. The latter prompts domestic audiences to act in order to force leaders to back down. Process tracing is used to explore the value of this framework in within-case analyses of the United States’ support commitments to insurgent groups in Nicaragua during the 1980s and in Syria during the 2010s. The study demonstrates the utility of focusing on shifts in leaders’ perceptions rather than structural features of the international system or rebel behavior to understand temporal variation in external support.

Keyword [en]
external support, state sponsorship, civil war, US foreign policy, Syria, Nicaragua
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-331867OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-331867DiVA: diva2:1150423
Available from: 2017-10-19 Created: 2017-10-19 Last updated: 2017-10-19
In thesis
1. Sponsors of War: State Support for Rebel Groups in Civil Conflicts
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sponsors of War: State Support for Rebel Groups in Civil Conflicts
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Many civil wars are illustrative of wider international tensions and connections that transcend state borders. States often intervene to influence the trajectory and outcome of civil conflicts by providing external support to warring parties. This assistance ranges from direct military intervention to the provision of weapons, training, funds, safe havens, intelligence, logistics and other critical resources. This dissertation contains four individual essays that each seeks to advance our knowledge of state support to rebel movements. The first essays (I and II) add to our understanding of how external state support influences conflict dynamics while the latter (III and IV) begin to unpack the political decision-making process behind decisions that alter the original support commitment. Essay I evaluates whether state support to rebels increases the probability of civil war negotiations being initiated. The findings question a widespread belief among policymakers that support can foster negotiations. Essay II explores if external support influences the risk of conflict recurrence. It finds that state support to rebels can increase the risk of conflict recurrence in the short-term while there is no equivalent effect of support provided to governments. Essay III is the first global analysis of support termination and it thereby opens up an entirely new research field. The results suggest that the causes related to the initiation of support and its termination are largely distinct while the transition from the Cold War and the absence of ethnic kinship ties offer some insights into when states are more likely to terminate support. Essay IV unpacks the political decision-making process of the United States’ support to the armed opposition in Nicaragua in the 1980s and in Syria in the 2010s. The results indicate that adverse feedback functions as a trigger for increasing previous commitments as long as policy failure can be attributed to external actors, while reduced support is often a result of attributing failure to the state sponsor’s own actions. Taken together, the essays make significant contributions to advance our understanding of biased third-party interventions, conflict recurrence, civil war negotiations, foreign policy decision-making and state sponsorship of terrorism.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Institutionen för freds- och konfliktforskning, Uppsala universitet, 2017. 38 p.
Series
Report / Department of Peace and Conflict Research, ISSN 0566-8808 ; 116
Keyword
external support, intervention, civil war, state sponsorship, conflict delegation, proxy war, internationalized conflict, negotiations, conflict recurrence, US foreign policy, Nicaragua, Syria
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Peace and Conflict Research
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-331868 (URN)978-91-506-2662-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-12-08, Brusewitz-salen, Gamla torget 2, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-11-17 Created: 2017-10-19 Last updated: 2017-11-17

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