Surrogate Warfare

The Transformation of War in the Twenty-First Century

Andreas Krieg and Jean-Marc Rickli

"In Surrogate Warfare, Andreas Krieg and Jean-Marc Rickli offer a welcome discussion of the phenomenon of nation states farming out military and security responsibilities to ‘surrogates.'"
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Surrogate Warfare explores the emerging phenomenon of “surrogate warfare” in twenty-first century conflict. The popular notion of war is that it is fought en masse by the people of one side versus the other. But the reality today is that both state and non-state actors are increasingly looking to shift the burdens of war to surrogates. Surrogate warfare describes a patron's outsourcing of the strategic, operational, or tactical burdens of warfare, in whole or in part, to human and/or technological substitutes in order to minimize the costs of war. This phenomenon ranges from arming rebel groups, to the use of armed drones, to cyber propaganda. Krieg and Rickli bring old, related practices such as war by mercenary or proxy under this new overarching concept. Apart from analyzing the underlying sociopolitical drivers that trigger patrons to substitute or supplement military action, this book looks at the intrinsic trade-offs between substitutions and control that shapes the relationship between patron and surrogate. Surrogate Warfare will be essential reading for anyone studying contemporary conflict.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1. The History of Surrogate Warfare
2. The Context of Neotrinitarian War
3. Conceptualizing Surrogate Warfare
4. Externalizing the Burden of War to the Machine
5. Patron-Surrogate Relations and the Problem of Control and Autonomy
6. Toward a Just Surrogate War
7. Iran’s Externalization of Strategic Defense through Surrogate Warfare
About the Authors


"Clausewitz wrote that war is coercive in nature though throughout history coercion has taken many forms. This principle is more real today than ever thanks to the ability of states to contract out operations to partners or surrogates both animate and inanimate. Though not a new departure this development has taken on a new reality in a globalised and technologically vulnerable world. With remarkable erudition and insight this study represents a bold and original contribution to the field of security studies."—Christopher Coker, Professor of International Relations, Director of LSE IDEAS, London School of Economics

"This important book captures and conceptualises a phenomenon that has been increasingly pronounced in contemporary warfare. States increasingly look to others – surrogates - to carry the risks of warfare rather than put their own forces in harm’s way. These can be private companies, rebel militias, other governments, or autonomous vehicles. But can they do this and keep control of the conduct of a conflict and ensure that other agendas don’t take priority over their interests?"—Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, King's College London

"In Surrogate Warfare, Andreas Krieg and Jean-Marc Rickli offer a welcome discussion of the phenomenon of nation states farming out military and security responsibilities to ‘surrogates.'"—Michigan War Studies Review

"This work is ... a stimulating essay, offering a real debate on what war is today, especially around the ethical and legal issues linked to technological revolutions, in progress and to come."—

"Surrogate Warfare offers fresh perspectives about contemporary warfare with analysis on

technology, ethics, and the current geostrategic environment."—Terrorism and Political Violence

"At a time when increasing levels of “security force assistance” and “partner capacity building” are defining Western engagement with states around the globe, this book is an important reminder of the opportunities and threats posed by outsourcing war to others."—Political Science Quarterly

"While Surrogate Warfare offers a wealth of history, theory, and novel thought about the nature of surrogates and their evolving technological dimensions in war, it is the near- and long-term engagement with near-peer competitors in the wake of the coronavirus that serves as a catalyst to recommend this book to the joint force."—Joint Forces Quarterly

"[Andreas Krieg and Jean-Marc Rickli] argue for an expanded concept of surrogate war that includes forms of technological surrogacy such as cyber warfare and autonomous weapons. War, they argue, has moved ‘into the cyber and media domains’."—London Review of Books

"This task is left to research further into contemporary wars, for which Surrogate Warfare provides a highly relevant and useful conceptual lens by exploring the causes, dynamics and consequences of the outsourcing of the costs of war to human or technological substitutes as a key dynamic of wars in the twenty-first century."—International Affairs

"This is a conceptually innovative and important account of how wars involving state and non-state actor adversaries are increasingly being waged by the outsourcing of their strategic, operational and tactical responsibilities of warfare to human and technological surrogates, as explained in the book’s back cover, “to minimize the costs of war.”"—Perspectives on Terrorism

"The scholarly work of Andreas Krieg and Jean-Marc Rickli offers perspective through historical examples that cover strategic, operational, and tactical levels of warfare to show how surrogates have been utilized as a part of warfare throughout history."—H-Net

"A timely and essential contribution to today's national discussion about the impact of social media, Artificial Intelligence, and how related technologies are acerbating the insidious polarization and nefarious manipulation of the American public, Subversion: The Strategic Weaponization of Narratives is an impressively informative, usefully organized, and thoroughly 'reader friendly' in presentation."—Midwest Book Review


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Andreas Krieg is an assistant professor at the School of Security Studies at King's College, London and co-founder of both the Near East Centre for Security and Strategy and the Private Military and Security Research Group at King's College.

Jean-Marc Rickli is head of global risk and resilience at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and a research fellow at King's College, London.

244 pp., 6 x 9
2 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-677-6
Jun 2019

244 pp., 6 x 9
2 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-678-3
Jun 2019

244 pp.
2 figures
ISBN: 978-1-62616-679-0
Jun 2019

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