Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Susan L. Woodward

Committee Members

Peter Liberman

Stephanie Golob

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Relations


Transnational Sanctuary, Insurgency, Civil War


The conventional wisdom of counterinsurgency runs that insurgent groups with bases in neighboring states (transnational sanctuaries) are relatively more difficult to defeat than comparable groups without such bases. Insurgents with transnational sanctuaries benefit from relative protection from attack by counterinsurgents, they may recruit, train, and arm safely in their sanctuaries, transmit propaganda into their target state, and use these sanctuaries as staging points for infiltration or raids into their target state. Counterinsurgents have gone to great lengths to disrupt or destroy insurgent bases in neighboring countries based on the belief that this is necessary to defeating insurgents. However, several groups have lost their sanctuaries but won their wars, while others maintained their sanctuaries throughout their conflicts, yet lost, raising questions about whether the presence of transnational sanctuary is as important as the conventional wisdom assumes. In examining the record of post-1945 insurgencies, this dissertation finds some limited support for the conventional wisdom: overall, insurgents with sanctuary do win at a higher rate than average. However, that advantage largely depends on including several cases against external interveners, who almost always lost, regardless of whether insurgents had sanctuary. Most insurgencies are fought against domestically constituted regimes who lack the option to withdraw, and insurgents generally lose these conflicts far more often, and the presence of transnational sanctuary does not appear to affect the outcome of these conflicts.