Deterrence with Proxies

Project Topics
Dates Covered
2014 - 2020
Project Leader


How do we control international terrorism, human trafficking, narcotics, and other sub-national threats emanating from the territory of weak allies, while using minimal coercive force, and at minimal cost, given political constraints? We address this challenge by modeling and empirically testing an overarching framework of deterrence in proxy relationships. The Deterrence with Proxies framework is a single, incentive-based model applied across cases where a principal (such as the US) 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, given latitude to do so. It allows us to solve for optimal strategies by the principal and agent (i.e., proxy), and also allows testing in multiple settings both quantitatively and qualitatively.

 We have explored this challenge through the efforts of ten co-PIs at universities in the US, Europe and the Middle East, spanning economics, political science, and international relations. The overall effort, which continues, included sub-projects covering the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, Naxalites rebels in India, and sub-national conflict in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Korea, Denmark, Lebanon, Colombia and El Salvador.

Minerva Research Initiative