External Rebel Sponsorship and Civilian Abuse: A Principal-Agent Analysis of Wartime Atrocities
40 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 9 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
While some groups work hard to foster collaborative ties with civilians, others engage in egregious abuses and war crimes. We argue that foreign state funding for rebel organizations greatly reduces the incentives of militant groups to the ‘win the hearts and minds’ of civilians because it diminishes the need to collect resources from the population. However, unlike other lucrative resources, foreign funding of rebel groups must be understood in principal-agent terms. Some external principals — namely, democracies and states with strong human rights lobbies — are more concerned with atrocities in the conflict zone than others. Multiple state principals also lead to abuse as no single state can effectively restrain the organization. We test these conjectures with new data on foreign support for rebel groups and data on one-sided violence against civilians. Our results provide support for these hypotheses. Most notably, we find strong evidence that principal characteristics help influence agent actions.
Keywords: civilian victimization, civil war, insurgency, foreign support
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