Meaning of proxy
For the sake of this discussion, proxy wars will be defined as wars in which the main actors face conflict through the use of other means—proxies. These proxies range from aid and arms supplies to full use of troops, not simply the act of war itself; there are many ways for outside forces to contribute to war and conflict between entities other than itself. Proxy war is covert and illegal, yet still frequently used as a strategy today.
Proxy wars were first defined by the way they manifested during the era of the Cold War: indirect confrontation between superpowers via substitute actors. These substitute actors could be smaller states or non-state actors. The intended purpose of proxy wars was to avoid an all-out nuclear war between the Cold War era superpowers. One of the well known examples of this type of proxy war is the Vietnam War. Vietnam was split by fighting between the communist state of North Vietnam and the Republic of South Vietnam. North Vietnam was backed by allies such as China, North Korea, and the Soviet Union, while the U.S. was heavily involved in the defense of South Vietnam, to the extent that it was considered a puppet state (nominally sovereign but effectively controlled by a foreign power).
It was expected that proxy wars would stop being the modus operandi once US hegemony was established post-Cold War; however, it continues to be a strategy both for lesser states and for the U.S.
A second usage of the term refers to war between regional states in which external states directly intervene in the case that one of the regional states falls. It is considered proxy warfare because the main conflict involves “State A” and “State B”, but when “State C” takes over fighting for “State B” after its fall, it becomes a war by proxy. It does not take place on the territory of the intervening state and they were concerned with the advancement of the intervening state rather than that of the smaller states; this intervention does not have to be contiguous with conflict between “State C” and “State A” whereas the prior war between States A and B most likely was rooted in prior tension between the states. Both sides need not be proxies in this definition. The current Syrian conflict has the potential to become this type of proxy war should the U.S. attempt to...