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.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited