Proxy war

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Soviet military advisers planning operations during the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), a proxy conflict involving the U.S.S.R and United States Soviet advisers planning military operations Angola.jpg
Soviet military advisers planning operations during the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), a proxy conflict involving the U.S.S.R and United States

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]

Contents

History

During classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, many non-state proxies were external parties that were introduced to an internal conflict and aligned themselves with a belligerent to gain influence and to 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 like 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 pre-existing 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]

‌Frequent application of the term "proxy war" indicates its prominent place in academic researches on international relations. Separate implementation of soft power and hard power proved to be unsuccessful in recent years. Accordingly, great failures in classic wars increased tendencies towards proxy wars. [7] Since the early 20th century, proxy wars have most commonly taken the form of states assuming the role of sponsors to non-state proxies and essentially using them as fifth columns to undermine adversarial powers. [2] That 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. [8] Sponsors of both sides also used the Spanish conflict as a proving ground for their own weapons and battlefield tactics. [8]

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, which rendered the use of ideological proxies a safer way of exercising hostilities. [9] The Soviet government found that supporting parties antagonistic to Americans and other Western nations to be a cost-effective way to combat NATO's influence, compared to direct military engagement. [10] 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 life abroad. [11] That encouraged the American practice of arming insurgent forces, such as the funneling of supplies to the mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War. [12]

Abstract

A member of the U.S.-backed Southern Front prepares to launch a BGM-71 TOW at a Syrian Army position in southern Syria, December 2014 Jesus Christ Brigade BGM-71E.png
A member of the U.S.–backed Southern Front prepares to launch a BGM-71 TOW at a Syrian Army position in southern Syria, December 2014

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 their failure 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. [13] [14]

Additionally, the governments of some nations, particularly liberal democracies, may choose to engage in proxy warfare (despite their military superiority) if most of their citizens oppose declaring or entering a conventional war. [15] That featured prominently in US strategy following the Vietnam War because of the so-called "Vietnam Syndrome" of extreme war weariness among the American population. That was also a significant factor in motivating the US to enter conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War by proxy actors after a series of costly drawn-out direct engagements in the Middle East spurred a recurrence of war weariness, the "War on Terror syndrome." [15]

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. That 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.

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

In some cases, nations may be motivated to engage in proxy warfare because of 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. [16]

Another common motivating factor is the existence of a security dilemma. A nation may use military intervention to install a more favorable government in a third-party state. Rival nations may perceive the intervention as a weakened position to their own security and 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 that 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. [17] 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. That was a major factor in many of the proxy wars during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, [18] as well as in the ongoing series of conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran, especially in Yemen and Syria. [19] [20] [21]

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 Soviet Union during the Vietnam War. In particular, the bombing campaign Operation Rolling Thunder destroyed significant amounts of infrastructure, making life more difficult for the North Vietnamese. 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. [22] Also significant was the Soviet–Afghan War (see Operation Cyclone), which cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, [23] bankrupting the Soviet Union and contributing to its collapse. [10]

The proxy war in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran is another example of the destructive impact of proxy wars. The conflict has resulted in, among other things, the Syrian Civil War, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the current civil war in Yemen, and the re-emergence of the Taliban [ citation needed ]. Since 2003, more than 800,000 have died in Iraq. [24] Since 2011, more than 220,000 have died in Syria. [25] In Yemen, over 1,000 have died in just one month. [26] In Afghanistan, more than 17,000 have been killed since 2009. [27] In Pakistan, more than 57,000 have been killed since 2003. [28]

In general, lengths, intensities, and scales of armed conflicts are often greatly increased if 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. [29] [30]

See also

Examples

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian stated policy is focused on co-operation with the oil-exporting Gulf States, the unity of the Arab world, Islamic strength and solidarity, and support for the United Nations (UN). In practice, the main concerns in recent years have been relations with the US, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Iraq, the perceived threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the effect of oil pricing, and using its oil wealth to increase the influence of Islam. Saudi Arabia contributes large amounts of development aid to Muslim countries. From 1986 to 2006, the country donated £49 billion in aid.

State-sponsored terrorism is government support of violent non-state actors engaged in terrorism. States can sponsor terrorist groups in several ways, including but not limited to funding terrorist organizations, providing training, supplying weapons, and hosting groups within their borders. Because of the pejorative nature of the word, the identification of particular examples are usually subject to political dispute and different definitions of terrorism.

Sectarianism is a form of prejudice, discrimination, or hatred arising from attaching relations of inferiority and superiority to differences between subdivisions within a group. Common examples are denominations of a religion, ethnic identity, class, or region for citizens of a state and factions of a political movement.

Salman of Saudi Arabia Current King of Saudi Arabia since 2015

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

MENA Middle East and North Africa region

MENA is an English-language acronym referring to the Middle East and North Africa. It is alternatively called the WANA. The MENA acronym is often used in academia, military planning, disaster relief, media planning as a broadcast region, and business writing. Moreover, the region shares a number of cultural, economic and environmental similarities across the countries; for example, some of the most extreme impacts of climate change will be felt in the region.

General Intelligence Presidency

The General Intelligence Presidency (GIP);, also known as the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), is the primary intelligence agency of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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 21st-century Western neologism used to describe armed Islamist movements

Jihadism is a 21st-century neologism found in Western languages to describe militant Islamic movements perceived as "existentially threatening" to the West and "rooted in political Islam". 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 Islamic notion of jihad.

Saudi Arabia–United States relations Diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America

Saudi Arabia–United States relations refers to the bilateral relations between the Saudi Arabia and the United States, which began in 1933 when full diplomatic relations were established and became formalized in the 1951 Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement. Despite the differences between the two countries—an ultraconservative Islamic absolute monarchy, and a secular constitutional republic—the two countries have been allies. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have close and strong relations with senior members of the Saudi Royal Family.

Russia–Saudi Arabia relations Diplomatic relations between Russia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Russia–Saudi Arabia relations is the bilateral relationship between Russian Federation and 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.

Pakistan–Saudi Arabia relations Diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Pakistan–Saudi Arabia relations, or Pakistani-Saudi Arabian relations, refers to the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Relations have been historically close and friendly, frequently described by analysts as constituting a special relationship. Despite Pakistan's close relationship with Iran and Saudi Arabia's growing relationship with India, Pakistan has often been dubbed as "Saudi Arabia's closest Muslim ally." Pakistan has, in line with its pan-Islamic ideology, assumed the role of a guardian of Saudi Arabia against any external or internal threat.

Iran–Saudi Arabia relations Diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Iran and Saudi Arabia have had no diplomatic relations following an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran in January 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia cleric. Bilateral relations between the countries have been strained over several geo-political issues such as the interpretations of Islam, aspirations for leadership of the Islamic world, oil export policy and relations with the United States and other Western countries.

Scud missile Tactical ballistic missile

A Scud missile is one 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.

The Arab Cold War was a period of political rivalry in the Arab world that occurred as part of the broader Cold War between, approximately, the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 that brought President Gamal Abdel Nasser to power in that country, and the 1979 Iranian Revolution which led Arab-Iranian tensions to eclipse intra-Arab strife. On one side were newly-established nationalist, mostly secular republics, led by Nasser's Egypt, and on the other side were traditionalist monarchies led by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni Civil War (2014–present) Ongoing civil war in the country of Yemen

The Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided civil war that began in late 2014 mainly between the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi-led Yemeni government and the Houthi armed movement, along with their supporters and allies. Both claim to constitute the official government of Yemen.

Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict Indirect conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia

The Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict, sometimes also referred to as the Middle Eastern Cold War, is the ongoing struggle for influence in the Middle East and surrounding regions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two countries have provided varying degrees of support to opposing sides in nearby conflicts, including the civil wars in Syria and Yemen. 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, Southeast Asia, the Balkans, and the Caucasus.

Qatar–Saudi Arabia diplomatic conflict

The Qatar–Saudi Arabia diplomatic conflict refers to the ongoing struggle for regional influence between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (KSA), both of which are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). 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.

The Arab–Iranian conflict or Arab-Persian conflict is a term which is used in reference to the modern conflict between Arab League countries and Iran. In a broader sense, the term is also used in reference to the historical ethnic tensions which have existed for centuries between Arabs and Persians as well as the historical religious sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims, due to Saudi Arabia and post-revolutionary Iran seeing themselves as the champion leading states for Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims, respectively.

During the Yemeni civil war, Saudi Arabia led an Arab coalition of nine nations from the Middle East and parts of Africa in response to calls from the internationally recognized pro-Saudi president of Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi for military support after he was ousted by the Houthi movement due to economic and political grievances, and fled to Saudi Arabia.

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