Research

Book Project

Job Market Paper: Foreign Foundations: How State Sponsors Create Their Own Proxy Partners

States frequently seek to engage in proxy conflict to achieve their foreign policy objectives. While many states provide support to armed groups already engaged in conflict against a target government, some states — such as Iran, Rwanda, and Russia — choose to form new armed groups to serve as their proxies. These new groups are organized with the direct help of state sponsors, receiving foreign assistance in mobilizing and recruiting members, selecting leaders, and building organizational structures and military capacity. Why do states create new armed groups? How are these “foreign founded” organizations different from other militant groups, and what impact do they have on armed conflict? 

My book project seeks to answer these questions, drawing on a new large-N dataset of founding support and several case studies based on archival evidence. The book introduces a new theory of founding support that aims to explain why, how, and under what conditions states pursue this unique delegation strategy. The book also examines the effects of founding support on armed conflict, showing that foreign founded groups are more capable and violent actors than militant organizations that formed independently. Overall, this project demonstrates that foreign states play an influential and relevant role in proliferation of violent non-state actors.

Policy Reports

Original Datasets

  • Splintering and Leadership Change in Myanmar, 1939-2019: Quantitative dataset that records instances of splintering and leadership change in 43 armed groups operating in Myanmar between 1939-2019. Includes 150+ pages of qualitative information about how leaders entered office and exited office, as well as why and how groups splintered. Also contains a bibliography of sources for each group.
  • Foreign Foundations: The Nature of State Involvement in Armed Group Formation, 1990-2019: Quantitative dataset that codes the nature and extent of external state involvement in armed group formation for 225 armed groups established around the world between 1990-2019. Also includes a bibliography of sources and a qualitative summary of each group’s formation and the nature of state involvement.