Date of Award

Fall 11-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Coastal Resilience

Committee Chair

Dr. Robert J. Pauly, Jr.

Committee Member 2

Dr. Tom Lansford

Committee Member 3

Dr. Joseph St. Marie

Committee Member 4

Dr. Joseph Weinberg


Proxy war is a common tactic employed by great powers as a safer alternative to direct conflict, especially in the era of nuclear weapons. While proxy war is common, there is a lack of research on the formation of proxy-external state relationships. Previous research has typically examined the phenomena of proxy war through the perspective of the external state power, leaving a gap in the literature. This dissertation fills that gap by assessing the conditions under which armed groups enter into proxy relationships with external states. Using prospect theory as a framework for understanding more clearly armed group decision making (an original approach theoretically), Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis as a testing methodology, existing intrastate warfare data sets and 10 individual proxy relationship case studies, this study finds that armed groups enter into proxy force relationships with external state powers when they are in a domain of losses and are risk accepting. Furthermore, the dissertation identifies two standalone significant risk conditions and six risk condition recipes which effect armed group domain and increase the likelihood of a proxy relationship outcome. As the international system continues down the path of multipolarity, proxy wars will likely increase as an alternative to direct conflict between great powers. A thorough understanding of the phenomena will be of great importance to academia and policy practitioners in the United States alike.