Studies of conflicts involving the use of surrogates focus largely on states, viewing the relationship between sponsors and proxies primarily as one in which states utilize nonstate actors as proxies. They have devoted far less attention to sponsor-proxy arrangements in which nonstate actors play super-ordinate roles as sponsors in their own right. Why and how do nonstate actors sponsor proxies? Unlike state sponsors, which value proxies primarily for their military utility, nonstate sponsors select and utilize proxies mainly for their perceived political value. Simply put, states tend to sponsor military surrogates, whereas nonstate actors sponsor political ancillaries. Both endogenous actor-based traits and exogenous structural constraints account for these different approaches. An analysis of three case studies of nonstate sponsors that differ in terms of ideology and capacity—al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the People's Protection Units in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon—confirms this argument, but also suggests that the ability and desire to control proxies varies with the sponsor's capacity. High-capacity nonstate sponsors such as Hezbollah behave similarly to state sponsors, but remain exceptional. Most nonstate sponsors are less dominant, rendering the relationships to their proxies more transactional and pragmatic, and ultimately less enduring than those of state sponsors and their clients.

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