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Theory of an Emerging-State Actor: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Case †


This paper proposes a new theory of non-state actors who engage in irregular warfare to seize territory and govern openly, called emerging-state actors. Emerging-state actors arise in periods of irregular conflict, such as the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The theory tries to answer “what is/was” the Islamic State because emerging-state actors differ notably from other non-state actors and insurgencies in irregular conflict. Causal diagrams as well as key propositions present the theory. Testing occurs against a system dynamics simulation called the “Emerging-State Actor Model” (E-SAM), loaded with the ISIS historical case in Syria and Iraq. Through experiments the simulation confirms evidence of emerging-state actor behavior as well as a range of contingencies showing their applicability. The novelty of E-SAM as a simulation for irregular conflict is its ability to handle multiple forms of conflict including political grievance, terrorism, insurgencies and emerging-state actors. E-SAM can also simulate multiple actors within each conflict: domestic and foreign state actors, local conflict actors, as well as different ethnographic groups. It can be parameterized with scenarios to simulate a variety of scenarios: ISIS in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Taliban in Afghanistan and even expatriated ISIS fighters returning to pursue new conflicts such as in Indonesia.

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Full Citation:

Clancy, Timothy. 2018. "Theory of an Emerging-State Actor: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Case Systems 6, no. 2: 16. https://doi.org/10.3390/systems6020016

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