Proxy war

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Soviet military advisers planning operations during the Angolan Civil War Soviet advisers planning military operations Angola.jpg
Soviet military advisers planning operations during the Angolan Civil War

A proxy war is an armed conflict between two states or non-state actors which act on the instigation or on behalf of other parties that are not directly involved in the hostilities. [1] In order for a conflict to be considered a proxy war, there must be a direct, long-term relationship between external actors and the belligerents involved. [2] The aforementioned relationship usually takes the form of funding, military training, arms, or other forms of material assistance which assist a belligerent party in sustaining its war effort. [2]

In international relations, non-state actors (NSAs) are individuals or groups that hold influence and which are wholly or partly independent of state governments.

Contents

During classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, many non-state proxies were external parties which were introduced to an internal conflict and aligned themselves with a belligerent in order to gain influence and further their own interests in the region. [3] [4] Proxies could be introduced by an external or local power and most commonly took the form of irregular armies which were used to achieve their sponsor's goals in a contested region. [4] Some medieval states such as the Byzantine Empire used proxy warfare as a foreign policy tool by deliberately cultivating intrigue among hostile rivals and then backing them when they went to war with each other. [2] Other states regarded proxy wars as merely a useful extension of a preexisting conflict, such as France and England during the Hundred Years' War, both of which initiated a longstanding practice of supporting piracy which targeted the other's merchant shipping. [5] The Ottoman Empire likewise used the Barbary pirates as proxies to harass Western European powers in the Mediterranean Sea. [6]

Classical antiquity Age of the ancient Greeks and the Romans

Classical antiquity is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 5th or 6th century AD centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Byzantine Empire Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Both the terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical exonyms; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".

Since the early twentieth century, proxy wars have most commonly taken the form of states assuming the role of sponsors to non-state proxies, essentially using them as fifth columns to undermine an adversarial power. [2] This type of proxy warfare includes external support for a faction engaged in a civil war, terrorists, national liberation movements, and insurgent groups, or assistance to a national revolt against foreign occupation. [2] For example, the British partly organized and instigated the Arab Revolt to undermine the Ottoman Empire during World War I. [3] Many proxy wars began assuming a distinctive ideological dimension after the Spanish Civil War, which pitted the fascist political ideology of Italy and National Socialist ideology of Nazi Germany against the communist ideology of the Soviet Union without involving these states in open warfare with each other. [7] Sponsors of both sides also used the Spanish conflict as a proving ground for their own weapons and battlefield tactics. [7] During the Cold War, proxy warfare was motivated by fears that a conventional war between the United States and Soviet Union would result in nuclear holocaust, rendering the use of ideological proxies a safer way of exercising hostilities. [8] The Soviet government found that supporting parties antagonistic to the US and Western nations was a cost-effective way to combat NATO influence in lieu of direct military engagement. [9] In addition, the proliferation of televised media and its impact on public perception made the US public especially susceptible to war-weariness and skeptical of risking American life abroad. [10] This encouraged the American practice of arming insurgent forces, such as the funneling of supplies to the mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War. [11]

Fifth column group of people who undermine a larger group

A fifth column is any group of people who undermine a larger group from within, usually in favour of an enemy group or nation. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack. This term is also extended to organised actions by military personnel. Clandestine fifth column activities can involve acts of sabotage, disinformation, or espionage executed within defense lines by secret sympathizers with an external force.

Wars of national liberation conflict fought for national liberation

Wars of national liberation or national liberation revolutions are conflicts fought by nations to gain independence. The term is used in conjunction with wars against foreign powers to establish separate sovereign states for the rebelling nationality. From a different point of view, these wars are called insurgencies, rebellions, or wars of independence. Guerrilla warfare or asymmetric warfare is often utilized by groups labeled as national liberation movements, often with support from other states.

Arab Revolt uprising against the ruling Ottoman Turks during World War I

The Arab Revolt or Great Arab Revolt was officially initiated by Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, at Mecca on June 10, 1916 with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.

As abstract

A significant disparity in the belligerents' conventional military strength may motivate the weaker party to begin or continue a conflict through allied nations or non-state actors. Such a situation arose during the Arab–Israeli conflict, which continued as a series of proxy wars following Israel's decisive defeat of the Arab coalitions in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. The coalition members, upon failing to achieve military dominance via direct conventional warfare, have since resorted to funding armed insurgent and paramilitary organizations, such as Hezbollah, to engage in irregular combat against Israel. [12] [13]

Arab–Israeli conflict geopolitical conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

The Arab–Israeli conflict refers to the political tension, military conflicts and disputes between a number of Arab countries and Israel. The roots of the Arab–Israeli conflict are attributed to the rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism towards the end of the 19th century. Part of the dispute arises from the conflicting claims to the land. Territory regarded by the Jewish people as their ancestral homeland is at the same time regarded by the Pan-Arab movement as historically and currently belonging to the Palestinians, and in the Pan-Islamic context, as Muslim lands.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, officially the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.

1948 Arab–Israeli War First Arab-Israeli war

The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, or the First Arab–Israeli War, was fought between the newly declared State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states over the control of former British Palestine, forming the second and final stage of the 1947–49 Palestine war.

Additionally, the governments of some nations, particularly liberal democracies, may choose to engage in proxy warfare (despite military superiority) when a majority of their citizens oppose declaring or entering a conventional war. [14] This featured prominently in US strategy following the Vietnam War, due to the so-called "Vietnam Syndrome" of extreme war weariness among the American population. This was also a significant factor in motivating the US to enter conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War via proxy actors, after a series of costly, drawn-out direct engagements in the Middle East spurred a recurrence of war weariness, a so-called "War on Terror syndrome". [14]

Democracy system of government in which citizens vote directly in or elect representatives to form a governing body, sometimes called "rule of the majority"

Democracy is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association. "Rule of the majority" is sometimes referred to as democracy. Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, with U.S. involvement ending in 1973. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975. The outcome of the war humiliated the United States and diminished its reputation in the world.

Vietnam Syndrome, in U.S. politics, is a term used to refer to public aversion to American overseas military involvements, following the domestic controversy over the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975. Since the early 1980s, the combination of a public opinion apparently biased against war, a relative reluctance to deploy ground troops and conscription, and "Vietnam paralysis" are all the perceived results of the syndrome.

Nations may also resort to proxy warfare to avoid potential negative international reactions from allied nations, profitable trading partners, or intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations. This is especially significant when standing peace treaties, acts of alliance, or other international agreements ostensibly forbid direct warfare: breaking such agreements could lead to a variety of negative consequences due to either negative international reaction (see above), punitive provisions listed in the prior agreement, or retaliatory action by the other parties and their allies.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was tasked to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. The headquarters of the UN is in Manhattan, New York City, and is subject to extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. In 24 October 1945, at the end of World War II, the organization was established with the aim of preventing future wars. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the successor of the ineffective League of Nations.

Major Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy conflict locations Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy conflict.png
     Major Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict locations

In some cases, nations may be motivated to engage in proxy warfare due to financial concerns: supporting irregular troops, insurgents, non-state actors, or less-advanced allied militaries (often with obsolete or surplus equipment) can be significantly cheaper than deploying national armed forces, and the proxies usually bear the brunt of casualties and economic damage resulting from prolonged conflict. [15]

Another common motivating factor is the existence of a security dilemma. Leaders that feel threatened by a rival nation's military power may respond aggressively to perceived efforts by the rival to strengthen their position, such as military intervention to install a more favorable government in a third-party state.[ clarify ] They may respond by attempting to undermine such efforts, often by backing parties favorable to their own interests (such as those directly or indirectly under their control, sympathetic to their cause, or ideologically aligned). In this case, if one or both rivals come to believe that their favored faction is at a disadvantage, they will often respond by escalating military and/or financial support. [16] If their counterpart(s), perceiving a material threat or desiring to avoid the appearance of weakness or defeat, follow suit, a proxy war ensues between the two powers. This was a major factor in many of the proxy wars during the Cold War between the US and USSR, [17] as well as in the ongoing series of conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran, especially in Yemen and Syria. [18] [19] [20]

Effects

Proxy wars can have a huge impact, especially on the local area. A proxy war with significant effects occurred between the United States and the USSR during the Vietnam War. In particular, the bombing campaign Operation Rolling Thunder destroyed significant amounts of infrastructure, making life more difficult for North Vietnamese citizens. In addition, unexploded bombs dropped during the campaign have killed tens of thousands since the war ended, not only in Vietnam, but also in Cambodia and Laos. [21] Also significant was the Soviet–Afghan War, which cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, [22] bankrupting the Soviet Union and contributing to its collapse. [9]

The proxy war in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran is another example of the destructive impact of proxy wars. This conflict has resulted in, among other things, the Syrian Civil War, the rise of ISIL, the current civil war in Yemen, and the reemergence of the Taliban [ citation needed ]. Since 2003, more than 500,000 have died in Iraq. [23] Since 2011, more than 220,000 have died in Syria. [24] In Yemen, over 1,000 have died in just one month. [25] In Afghanistan, more than 17,000 have been killed since 2009. [26] In Pakistan, more than 57,000 have been killed since 2003. [27]

In general, the lengths, intensities, and scales of armed conflicts are often greatly increased when belligerents' capabilities are augmented by external support. Belligerents are often less likely to engage in diplomatic negotiations, peace talks are less likely to bear fruit, and damage to infrastructure can be many times greater. [28] [29]

See also

Examples

Related Research Articles

Guerrilla warfare form of irregular warfare

Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Guerrilla groups are a type of violent non-state actor.

Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly. This is typically a war between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement militias who often have status of unlawful combatants.

South Yemen former country in western Asia

South Yemen is the common English name for the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, which existed from 1967 to 1990 as a state in the Middle East in the southern and eastern provinces of the present-day Republic of Yemen, including the island of Socotra. It was also referred to as Democratic Yemen or Yemen (Aden).

Modern warfare is warfare using the concepts, methods, and military technology that have come into use during and after World Wars I and II. The concepts and methods have assumed more complex forms of the 19th- and early-20th-century antecedents, largely due to the widespread use of highly advanced information technology, and combatants must modernize constantly to preserve their battle worthiness. Although total war was thought to be the form of international conflicts from the experience of the French Revolutionary Wars to World War II, the term no longer describes warfare in which a belligerent use all of its resources to destroy the enemy's organized ability to engage in war. The practice of total war which had been in use for over a century, as a form of war policy, has been changed dramatically with greater awareness of tactical, operational, and strategic battle information.

MENA is an English-language acronym referring to the Middle East and North Africa region. An alternative for the same group of countries is WANA. The term covers an extensive region stretching from Morocco to Iran, including all Mashriq and Maghreb countries. This toponym is roughly synonymous with the term the Greater Middle East.

OTR-21 Tochka Soviet short-range tactical ballistic missile with a fragmentation warhead that can be replaced by a nuclear, biological or chemical warhead

OTR-21 Tochka is a Soviet tactical ballistic missile. Its GRAU designation is 9K79; its NATO reporting name is SS-21 Scarab. It is transported in a 9P129 vehicle and raised prior to launch. It uses an inertial guidance system.

Yemeni unification took place on May 22, 1990, when the area of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen was united with the Yemen Arab Republic, forming the Republic of Yemen.

Jihadism Western neologism to describe armed Islamic movements

The term "Jihadism" is a 21st-century neologism found in Western languages to describe Islamist militant movements perceived as military movements "rooted in Islam" and "existentially threatening" to the West. It has been described as a "difficult term to define precisely", because it remains a recent neologism with no single, generally accepted meaning. The term "jihadism" first appeared in South Asian media; Western journalists adopted it in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of 2001. It has since been applied to various insurgent and terrorist movements whose ideology is based on the notion of jihad.

Russia–Saudi Arabia relations

Russia–Saudi Arabia relations is the bilateral relationship between Russia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The two countries are referred to as the two petroleum superpowers and account for about a quarter of the world's crude oil production between them.

Scud tactical ballistic missile family

Scud is the name of a series of tactical ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It was exported widely to both Second and Third World countries. The term comes from the NATO reporting name attached to the missile by Western intelligence agencies. The Russian names for the missile are the R-11, and the R-17Elbrus. The name Scud has been widely used to refer to these missiles and the wide variety of derivative variants developed in other countries based on the Soviet design.

Arab Cold War series of conflicts in the Arab world between the new republics led by Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and the more traditionalist kingdoms led by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia

The Arab Cold War was a series of conflicts in the Arab world that occurred as part of the broader Cold War between, roughly, the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 that brought President Gamal Abdel Nasser to power there, and the period after his death in 1970.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, United States. He researches and teaches classes about Russian politics and foreign policy, revolution, and the "War on Terror."

Al-Islah (Yemen) political party

The Yemeni Congregation for Reform, frequently called al-Islah, is a Yemeni Islamist party founded in 1990 by Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, Mohammed al-Yadumi and Yahya Rassam. The first article of Islah basic law defines it as "a popular political organization that seeks reform of all aspects of life on the basis of Islamic principles and teachings".

South Yemen Civil War

The South Yemen Civil War, colloquially referred to as The Events of '86, or more simply as The Events, was a failed coup d'etat and armed conflict which took place in January 1986 in South Yemen. The civil war developed as a result of ideological and tribal tensions between two factions of the ruling Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), centred on Abdul Fattah Ismail and Ali Nasir Muhammad for the leadership of the YSP. The conflict quickly escalated into a costly civil war that lasted eleven days and resulted in thousands of casualties. Additionally, the conflict resulted in the demise of much of the Yemeni Socialist Party's most experienced leadership cadre, contributing to the country's eventual unification with North Yemen in 1990.

The Arab Winter is a term for the resurgence of authoritarianism, dictatorships, and Islamic extremism evolving in the aftermath of the Arab Spring protests in Arab countries. The term "Arab Winter" refers to the events across Arab League countries in the Mid-East and North Africa, including the Syrian Civil War, the Iraqi insurgency and the following civil war, the Egyptian Crisis, the Libyan Crisis and the Crisis in Yemen. Events referred to as the Arab Winter include those in Egypt that led to the removal of Mohamed Morsi and the seizure of power by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in an anti-Muslim Brotherhood campaign.

Yemeni Civil War (2015–present) ongoing conflict where fighting started in 2015

The Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing conflict that began in 2015 between two factions: the internationally recognized Yemeni government, led by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and the Houthi armed movement, along with their supporters and allies. Both claim to constitute the official government of Yemen. Houthi forces controlling the capital Sana'a, and allied with forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have clashed with forces loyal to the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, based in Aden. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have also carried out attacks, with AQAP controlling swathes of territory in the hinterlands, and along stretches of the coast.

International reactions to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen of 2015 were mixed. Most other Arab League nations and several Western governments backed the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition, but other governments warned against an escalation in the violent situation in Yemen.

Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict

The Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict, sometimes also referred to as the Iran–Saudi Arabia Cold War, Middle East Cold War or Middle East Conflict, is the ongoing struggle for influence in the Middle East and surrounding regions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The two countries have provided varying degrees of support to opposing sides in nearby conflicts, including the civil wars in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. The rivalry also extends to disputes in Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Morocco, as well as broader competition in North and East Africa, parts of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.

The following is a timeline of the Yemeni Civil War (2015–present), which began in March 2015 and is ongoing.

Qatar–Saudi Arabia diplomatic conflict

The Qatar–Saudi Arabia diplomatic conflict, sometimes referred to as the Second Arab Cold War, is the ongoing struggle for regional influence between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) monarchies of Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Qatar–Saudi Arabia relations have been especially strained since the beginning of the Arab Spring, that left a power vacuum both states sought to fill, with Qatar being supportive of the revolutionary wave and Saudi Arabia opposing it. Both states are allies of the United States, and have avoided direct conflict with one another.

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