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banner_deterrence-with-proxies.jpgDeterrence with Proxies

How does one power control international terrorism, human trafficking, narcotics and other subnational threats emanating from the territory of weak allies, while using minimal coercive force, and at minimal cost, given political constraints? This project, funded by the Office of Naval Research Minerva Initiative, addresses this challenge by modeling and empirically testing an overarching framework of deterrence in proxy relationships. Deterrence with Proxies applies an incentive-based model to cases where a principal (such as the U.S.) punishes, and rewards, a proxy (or agent, such as the Iraqi government) to induce effort by the latter in suppressing the threat (such as ISIS). The model applies to cases in which the proxy does not share the principal’s objectives, preferring to expend effort on other tasks, if given latitude to do so. This project includes researchers at universities in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, spanning economics, political science, and international relations. The overall effort includes subprojects covering the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, Naxalites rebels in India, and subnational conflicts in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Korea, Denmark, Lebanon, Colombia and El Salvador.

Featured Publications

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Do Israeli Policies Deter Violence?
Oct. 11, 2021 | Lindsay Morgan interviews Esteban Klor
With fighting between Israel and Hamas ongoing, Esteban Klor, professor of economics at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, weighs in on whether Israeli defense policies deter violence. Klor analyzes Israel’s controversial use of house demolitions and retaliatory attacks, and finds that the evidence on their effectiveness is mixed. He also discusses how he balances his views about the normative implications of Israeli policies with his job as an empirical researcher.

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Proxy Wars: Suppressing Violence through Local Agents
The most common image of world politics involves states negotiating, cooperating, or sometimes fighting with one another. Yet working through local proxies or agents, through what Eli Berman and David A. Lake call a strategy of "indirect control," has always been a central tool of foreign policy. In this collection, Berman and Lake apply a variant of principal-agent theory in which the alignment of interests or objectives between a powerful state and a local proxy is central. Through analysis of nine detailed cases, Proxy Wars finds that: when principals use rewards and punishments tailored to the agent's domestic politics, proxies typically comply with their wishes; when the threat to the principal or the costs to the agent increase, the principal responds with higher-powered incentives and the proxy responds with greater effort; if interests diverge too much, the principal must either take direct action or admit that indirect control is unworkable.

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