Plan II Honors Theses - Openly Available

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    Sleep as an Essential Luxury: Disparities in Access to a Vital Physiological Process
    (2021-05) Zhou, Jina
    The ultimate goal of this paper is to illustrate and explain the necessity for recognizing disparities in access to sleep that exist based on race and socioeconomic status in the United States. The first section of the paper will focus on contextualizing the problem of sleep disparities through an overview of sleep science and current research on sleep disparities that exist between different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups, ultimately aiming to answer the question of “where are we now?” in terms of sleep science and sleep inequity. Here, I will summarize what is currently known about the physiology of sleep, sleep related disorders, and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic-mediated differential outcomes in sleep health based on current scientific and medical literature. Of note here is the relatively short history of existing sleep disparities research, which in itself may be an indication of the inequities that exist in sleep and sleep medicine. The second section will aim to summarize the history of sleep, along with the development of sleep deprivation and sleep disparities, ultimately aiming to answer the question of“how did we get here?” by identifying the emergence of inequity in sleep, alongside trends that led to the commoditization of sleep. This section will begin by chronologically tracing depictions of sleep behaviors and sleeping conditions through history, starting with a broad survey of ancient societies from different areas of the world. The research will then follow the historical development of sleep disparities between different socioeconomic classes in Medieval Western societies, the most well-documented of which being England and similar Western European countries. The remainder of the historical research will focus on framing an unequal culture of sleep deprivation that primarily arose following the Industrial Revolution. The final section of this paper will consist of a discussion in which the information from the previous two sections is taken into consideration in proposing recommendations and hypotheses for the future development of sleep research and policies affecting or affected by sleep. This part of the paper will primarily emphasize that sleep is a key health determinant that is significantly impacted by structural inequalities disproportionately affecting certain groups of people, and that both scientific research and policymaking must recognize this in order to enact real change that results in better sleep for the majority in the United States.
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    The Future of Speech: What the Rise of China Portends for Democracy In the Digital Age
    (2021-05) Yu, Derek
    During the protests in Hong Kong a few summers ago, celebrities on both sides of the debate aired their opinions on the matter at hand. One such celebrity was Daryl Morey-- the general manager for the Houston Rockets. In a controversial tweet, he posted his support of the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony. Backlash quickly ensued. Global online outrage directed at one individual airing his opinion on political matters on another continent underscores how interconnected the world has become. Social media has democratized important conversations but it also acts as a megaphone and as a tool that can be manipulated by unfavorable actors. At the heart of this incident is China's undemocratic government and its attitude toward dissent. In this case the dissident in question was not Chinese at all, but he faced backlash nonetheless. Such is the growing influence of China in global affairs. As more of the world goes online and China's global influence grows, what does this portend for the future of speech around the world?
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    Gambling With American Futures: How Does The United States Student Loan Industry Hurt The People It Was Designed To Help?
    (2021-05) Williams, Helen
    In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the topic of student debt has become front-of-mind for many Americans, as they struggle to repay their student loans while also keeping food on the table. It has also been a topic on the forefront of American politics, as politicians debate the ways to address and remediate the current United States Student Debt Crisis. Today, over 44.7 million student borrowers hold outstanding student loans, and the total outstanding debt surpasses $1.7 trillion.  This thesis aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the United States Student Debt Crisis. It provides a thorough overview of the student loan industry and details the industry’s creation and changes over time. It then analyzes the current state of student debt in America. Next, this thesis analyzes the crisis from an ethical perspective, highlighting some of the implications that borrowers face at the hand of their student loans. Finally, the thesis aims to expose aspects of the student loan industry that raise ethical red flags. The purpose of this thesis is to provide ethical support to arguments in favor of reforming the United States student loan industry. This thesis will not propose an explicit solution to the Student Debt Crisis. It will bring to light important evidence to support the need for immediate remediation of the industry. This industry was designed with the intention of helping the American people. Today, however, it cannot help the greater population without also harming many Americans. So, how does the United States student loan industry hurt the people it was designed to help? This is the question that this thesis aims to answer.
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    Congressional Attitude: Congressional Bill Sentiment in Major Policy Areas
    (2021-05) Whitlock, Will
    Whitlock looks at how issue ownership effects bill sentiment and the language used in the bills introduced by members of Congress. The author maps the positive and negative nature of bills introduced in Congress in three major policy areas to not only learn about major shifts in policy, but also about the roles the major political parties played in facilitating change. The study looks at bills from the topics of welfare, defense, and the environment to understand trends from a variety of policy areas. The author was able to map the changes in bill sentiment by coding a dataset of bills from 1947 to 2016 and their bill titles with a political sentiment dictionary. This data was then compared to the public opinion of the time period. The results of the research showed three major findings. First, issue ownership was not very influential on bill sentiment, but the party with a majority in Congress had a higher positive sentiment. The period known as The Great Broadening was very influential on bill sentiment. And lastly public opinion was correlated with bill sentiment in regard to national defense and the environment but was inversely correlated to welfare bill sentiment because of the influence of major social movements.
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    The Political Influence of the British Monarchy on the U.S. Presidency
    (2021-05) White, Allison
    My research analyses the political influence of the British Monarchy on the establishment of the U.S. Presidency and early presidential administrations. I study how the political influence of the British monarchy reflected and contradicted the views of the framers in the decisions made in the Washington and Adams administrations. I also compare the decisions made by Presidents Washington and Adams to the words written in the U.S. Constitution. In my analysis, I access primary sources and secondary scholarly articles. From the early presidencies, I also explore constitutional controversies such as the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 in Washington’s administration and the XYZ Affair and Alien and Sedition Acts in Adams’s administration. The British monarchy greatly influence the framers in establishing the Articles of Confederation and defining the role of the presidency in Article II of the Constitution. These decisions lead to questions about scope of power not specifically addressed in the Constitution in the first few administrations. Therefore, the early presidents defined and developed the role of the presidency rather than Congress as evident in Washington and Adams’ administrations. Similarly to the early presidents, their predecessors continued and continue to develop the presidency well into the twenty-first century.
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    Female Leadership and Power: How Language Impacts Women’s Representation
    (2021-05) Walker, Samantha
    Increased support for more egalitarian attitudes and greater women’s representation in public life has led to substantial increases in female attainments of suffrage, education, and leadership positions. Around the world, there has been an increasing importance and broad acceptance of promoting gender equality and advancing opportunity for women. As such, women are running and being elected to leadership positions at unprecedented rates globally. However, women still face a significant amount of progress to achieve full representation with men in leadership positions.  While large strides have been made in achieving equal political representation throughout the world, there is still a significant gap in achieving gender equality. This suggests there is an additional feature that influences women’s representation, aside from structural and institutional factors, that enables the gender gap to persist. Culture is another factor contributing to lacking female representation, and this essay will primarily connect how culture constrains female power and agency. Through a full analysis of a country’s structural, institutional and cultural factors, one can get a deeper understanding of the specific barriers and mechanisms that restrict equal gender representation in a society. By exploring culture as a factor of women’s representation, this thesis will establish language as an important cultural factor influencing women’s representation.
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    Hate: To Tolerate or To Legislate
    (2021-05) Wade, Jack
    What are the values that people weigh when discussing limitations on hate speech? Can hate speech laws be written such that they don't infringe upon other values? If not, does the good of such laws outweigh the bad? These philosophical questions are necessary to fully understand contemporary arguments about hate speech. In answering these questions, my thesis explores various viewpoints, traversing between the classical views of Milton and Mill, who provide an epistemological defense of free speech; the views of critical race theorists such as Matsuda, Lawrence, Delgado, and Crenshaw, who argue for hate speech restrictions; and the anti-restriction views of Strossen, who argues that hate speech laws are ineffective and counterproductive. I don't intend to provide a definitive answer to the question of hate speech (although I do line up with one of these schools of thought), but rather to try to encapsulate as best as possible the various arguments, laying out their differences in valuations and their objections to each other.
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    An Exploration of the Principles of a Circular Economy
    (2021-05) Villarreal, Max M.
    The push to curtail the effects of climate change has resulted in innovation around the world to slash emissions and promote sustainable resources. One such innovation that shows promise is the adoption of a circular economy. A circular economy allows for both responsible use of resources and the creation of a new, sustainable marketplace. Despite these advances there is still not an industry accepted definition of what comprises a circular economy. Which practices pursue the principles of a circular economy and which practices should be rejected by consumers and investors? This is the question this paper seeks to answer. Creating a comprehensive definition of a circular economy is something that cannot be contained in one thesis alone. This paper will utilize the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s definition of a circular economy as a foundation to establish additional sub-principles. These sub-principles will be built upon each individual principle in the definition through the evaluation of current practices. Each principle will be examined individually before the conclusion synthesizes the learnings of the paper.
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    Environmental Sustainability: Impacts on Business Performance in Apparel Industry
    (2021-05) Truong, Huong "Katie"
    From 2020 to 2025, the global apparel market expects to grow from $1.46 trillion to $2.25 trillion. Moreover, the apparel industry exists within the broader fashion industry, a $2.5 trillion industry that employs 430 million people worldwide. For perspective, 1 out of 8 participants in the global workforce works to support the fashion industry. As a major economic force, the fashion industry has an outsized capacity to inflict environmental damage. Currently, the fashion industry emits 2.1 billion metric ton of carbon, consumes 79 billion cubic meters of water, and produces 92 million tons of textile waste per year. Given these statistics, the industry ranks second in terms of its carbon footprint, water consumption, and pollution output. With this industry backdrop, how can businesses support their bottom-line and mitigate their adverse environmental impact? I rely on two methods for detangling the relationship between business performance and environmentally sustainable practices. Using profitability as a proxy for business performance, I decompose profit into revenue and cost. Under the first method, I break down the underlying components of revenue, delving into how shifts in price and volume affect profitability and sustainability. Under the second method, I conduct a value chain analysis with a focus on cost. Ultimately, I learn that consumers expect eco-friendly products to command higher prices and are increasingly willing to pay more. Consequently, businesses can increase revenue through higher prices but should not necessarily aim to increase volume, which exacerbates the problem of overconsumption. Although sustainable practices often impose higher upfront costs, businesses have the opportunity at various points in the value chain to adopt sustainable practices that generate cost savings in the long run.
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    The Evolution of Feminist Dystopian Fiction
    (2021-05) Trevino, Adam
    In the latter half of the 2010s, perhaps as a result of the current American political climate and citizens’ collective anxiety over the future, classic dystopian novels made their way back to the top of national bestseller lists. In addition to this sort of “comeback” that older dystopian novels seem to be making, the contemporary dystopian genre has seen a substantial surge in popularity since 2016, producing a new crop of novels that address a wide range of fears members of present-day society may have: fear of technology and our increasing dependence on it, fear of corporations and capitalism, fear of climate change and environmental catastrophes, etc. Probably the most popular subgenre of this new wave of dystopia is contemporary feminist dystopia, and the huge critical success of recent novels such as The Power by Naomi Alderman (2016), The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (2018), Vox by Christina Dalcher (2018), and many other similar novels is evidence of this increasing popularity. In my thesis, I analyze two popular and critically-acclaimed novels from this new wave of feminist dystopian fiction — Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (2017) and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (2018) — and, by methods of rhetorical analysis, explore how the feminist dystopian genre has evolved throughout the last decade. Specifically, I compare and contrast the most significant and interesting aspects of these two novels to similar aspects in The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), probably the most popular feminist dystopian novel ever and one that undoubtedly influenced the entire new wave of feminist dystopia. By identifying the major differences and similarities between these two generations of novels and placing these differences and similarities in their respective historical contexts, I identify how the feminist dystopian genre has evolved recently and speculate, based on historical and political context, as to why this evolution has occurred. This thesis project is a study on how the contemporary political climate can often affect contemporary literature.
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    The Effect of ADHD Diagnosis on Individual Identity Formation
    (2021-05) Thompson, Morgan
    Identity formation and the narratives we construct about who we are, why we perceive the world around us the way we do, and the lens through which we interpret our environment are all life long processes that are formed as we encounter experiences that shape us into the person that we have been, are, and will be. Categorization processes, including the diagnostic process, have a dramatic effect on how we perceive ourselves, as they define and associate us within broader social groups that we use to relate to and identify ourselves. Diagnoses shape our identities through a variety of mechanisms, including stigma, illness narratives, illness stereotypes, social factors, and institutions, and how we perceive our diagnoses has a dramatic impact on how we view ourselves. Mental health diagnoses have a particular impact on individual identity formation, as we view the mind as central to our individual identity. While identity is a well studied phenomenon, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a fairly new diagnostic label. Not much literature has been dedicated to studying how the ADHD diagnosis affects the individual’s identity formation. Thus, my thesis enhances current research by describing the processes through which we form our identities, how we make sense of diagnoses, and the structures that form diagnoses in order to answer how ADHD diagnosis affects individual identity formation. After discussing the processes through which ADHD diagnosis is interpreted by the individual, my thesis discusses how to improve the diagnostic process and the ADHD label in hopes that refinement of these processes will benefit the individual. Study of how mental health and chronic diagnoses affect identity formation are essential for moral and social understanding of our diagnostic and social structures, as we should know how the diagnostic categories we create affect what it means to be us.
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    Examining the Tradeoffs between Sustainable Development and Traditional Growth: What is Best for Developing Countries?
    (2021-05) Talukdar, Dev
    This thesis looks into how developing countries should balance their current need for development while also looking out for the best interest of the future in the context of climate change and rising energy demand. The current framework holds two issues for developing countries. First, developing countries will bear the majority of the costs related to climate change due to their low adaptive capacity, lack of financial resources, and poor infrastructure. And second, developing countries still need to develop to alleviate issues like poverty, crime, disease, and food insecurity. The author examines two routes emerging economies can take to investigate this question – a high-carbon route and a low-carbon route. The thesis utilizes various sources like cost reports, journal articles, publications from international agencies, news sources, and several others to investigate the benefits and problems with traditional growth and sustainable development. The case for renewables presents sustainable development as a low-carbon growth route, and its viability is supported by the rising affordability of renewable technology and increased public and private financing towards sustainable projects in developing countries. It has plausible causation with economic growth and can create newer and more humane jobs while also reducing emissions and avoiding a worst-case climate scenario. The case for fossil fuels presents traditional growth as the high-carbon route. Traditional growth emulates how all developed countries have developed previously and is supported by historical precedence and its ability to facilitate rapid industrialization and scale with growth. Carbon capture technology has massive implications for resource-rich developing countries and can help them employ their vast mineral wealth to alleviate poverty. The conclusion finds that both routes alone have downsides and recommends a hybrid approach to development where both sides are used to maximize short and long-run benefits. The author provides a brief policy recommendation based on the extensive research he has conducted. Developing countries are allotted the majority of the remaining carbon budget, and developed countries hasten their energy transition while increasing climate financing commitments towards adaptation and mitigation projects.
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    False Familiarity and Agenda Setting: Trump’s Unique Approach to Twitter in the Presidential Election of 2016
    (2021-05) Snasdell, Aiden
    In this study, Donald Trump’s tweets were closely examined during the time period of May 5, 2016, the date in which Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, to November 8, 2016, the United States’ presidential election day, in which he beat his opponent Hillary Clinton and became the 45th president of the United States. Through the specific lenses of the false familiarity theory and the agenda setting theory, these tweets were categorized and examined. The study found that Trump’s use of identity construction of the outsider and simplistic language supports the false familiarity theory and served to create a unique closeness with his base. Additionally, with 25.7% of Trump’s tweets occurring between the hours of midnight and four am, Trump gained authority over the agenda setting power of news mediums. As Trump was able to directly influence news coverage, he was able to not only expand his political outreach, he set the agenda of what issues voters found important in the presidential election of 2016.
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    Texas Education & Social Entrepreneurship: Falling Short of Impact
    (2021-05) Smith, Celesia
    The United States has a significant issue with education equity– an issue that is especially pronounced in the state of Texas. With the racial wealth gap widening each year– and with it, the opportunity gap– the question remains as to how advocacy groups, policy changes, and social enterprises are addressing the growing racial and socioeconomic inequity. Although various studies seek to analyze the influence of policy and advocacy on education inequality exist, little research deep dives into the role that social enterprises play in closing the opportunity gap. This thesis 1) addresses the inequity issues that Texas specifically faces, 2) provide an overarching perspective on social entrepreneurship and the role of social enterprise, and 3) present three case studies on various types of social enterprises in Texas, each of which include a logic model and theory of change analysis to gauge the long-term, systemic impact each enterprise has on its beneficiary group. Using this theory of change and logic model framework, this thesis finds that most social enterprises fail to address the root-causes of inequity, choosing to use a reactionary as opposed to a preventative approach. Further, it asserts that stakeholders in the social sector must make an effort to shift their mindset to one of a systemic focus, as to address inequity issues at the root instead of at the surface. If this mindset shift does not occur, the opportunity gap will continue to persist.
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    Social Media in Sports: How Popularity Status Affects a Team’s Social Media Strategy.
    (2021-05) Shih, Daniel (Cheng-Ying)
    As the influence of social media continues to grow, professional sports teams have been paying more attention to their marketing strategies through their social media channels. However, a study with straightforward comparisons of sports-related social media content is uncommon. This thesis aims to add to the media studies literature by comparing and contrasting the Twitter accounts of three Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, the San Diego Padres, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the New York Yankees. Each team represents a popularity stature in the MLB. The study collects one month's worth of tweets posted by each of the three accounts. Each tweet is categorized based on whether it’s an in-game highlight or not. The form of the content embedded in the tweet is also recorded. Categories include text-only still-based graphics and motion-based graphics. Ultimately, the study analyzes the benefits and deficiencies of the social media strategy implemented by each team. Readers will also get an idea of the most common social media practices and what content fans tend to engage in.
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    More than 1s and 0s: An Analysis of the State of the Labor Movement in the Tech Industry
    (2021-05) San Soucie, Robert
    Over the last 40-50 years, economic inequality in the United States has dramatically increased at the same time as union density has fallen precipitously. During this period, the high tech industry has seen explosive growth, giving us some of the most valuable companies in the world, as well as several of the richest people in the world. This explosive economic growth in recent decades has fueled the trend of growing inequality in this country, as the drivers, delivery people, and warehouse workers that make the "gig" economy function struggle to get by. In recent years, there have been signs of workers starting to organize for better conditions for all, both those creating the technology and those working "gigs”. This paper seeks to analyze this growing trend of worker actions in the tech industry. First, what is actually happening, and how often? Why is it happening, and how? What is making these actions successful or not? And finally, I will examine the growing prevalence of unions among tech workers, and what all of this could mean for the future of the industry. Through all of this, I hope to produce a fuller and more complete understanding of what is actually happening with workers in the tech industry. Through my findings, I will lay out why working in the tech industry is becoming more precarious and insecure, and how workers are increasingly organizing with their coworkers to change these conditions.
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    Trash to Treasure: A Case Study and Conjoint Analysis of Consumer Preference for Sustainable Apparel Shopping
    (2021-05) Sampayo, Helena
    The fashion industry is taking a toll on the environment, and all eyes are on industry leaders and circular business models to respond to the crisis and help repair the integrity of fashion. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2018, 13 million tons of apparel were generated and over 9 million tons of clothing and footwear were landfilled. While consumer interest in sustainable product offerings has risen in past years, the "green" attitude-behavior gap is a challenge for market offerings that primarly target ethical personal values of sustainable consumption. Through several case studies, this thesis explores the potential economic value in business models that enhance service and product attributes relating to sustainable fashion, including: online resale, upcycling, and rental services. The final chapter of this thesis employs the findings of the case studies to empirically determine the value of various sustainable apparel offerings. To evaluate the unrealized value of apparel at various stages of use, a conjoint analysis is performed on the data collected from a panel of 262 US consumers. The findings suggest that consumers attribute a certain utility to unique, scarce items and more convenient methods of shopping sustainably.
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    COVID-19 and the Insurance Industry: Workers Compensation in the Unseen Future
    (2021-05) Robles, Kathryn
    The presence of COVID-19 has affected many industries across the United States, with one of the more prominent industry being workers compensation. With an insurance contingent on the basic concept of a worker within their work environment, the introduction of this contagious illness impacted the industry as a whole. Insurance claims have adjusted: the frequency and severity rates, premium costs, and overall workers compensation loss costs have changed to fit the new socio-economic environment. However, to what extent? As such, this thesis aims to elaborate on three main topics. First, can we better understand the impact of workers compensation claims by analyzing how workers compensation was affected during previous recessions and trend it to the current recession transpiring in the United States. Second, how do less restrictive regulations and social interactions in a state such as Texas impact workers compensation loss costs. Finally, what actions can be taken to mitigate the changes in loss costs and better prepare workers compensation claims for future pandemics. As COVID-19 continues to develop across the United States, workers compensation has been impacted on both a financial and social basis.
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    Heidegger and the Situationist International: A Revolution in Technology and Everyday Life
    (2021-05) Robertson, Anna
    While Martin Heidegger and the Situationist International exist politically and ideologically opposed, the intersection of historical events, people and ideas creates a framework for investigating their common ground. The relationship between Situationist ideas, the revolutionary Paris events of 1968 and Heideggerian thought contains elements of both philosophical influence and historical connections. As the historical outline demonstrates, Heidegger influenced French philosophy across a variety of dimensions by way of Hebert Marcuse, Kostas Axelos, and Jean-Paul Sartre, all of whom were involved in the French New Left. The pertinence of the connections between Martin Heidegger, French philosophers and the events of May 1968 illuminates the notion that political and intellectual developments emerge shaped by and dependent on context. After exploring the historical connections between Heidegger and French universities and intellectual circles in the 1960s, Heidegger and the Situationist International are examined philosophically in tandem. As both Heidegger and the Situationist International critique the advent of technology divorced from human values, there begins a discussion of some of the most philosophically important topics of our time, including authenticity, freedom, objectification, technology and everyday life.
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    Enemy of My Enemy, Enemy of My Friend: the United States, the Syrian Kurds, and Proxy War in Syria
    (2021-05) Reppeto, J.P.
    An ongoing resurgence of proxy warfare in the world’s conflicts has created an opportunity to reexamine the frameworks used to study it, namely principal-agent theory. In Syria, the United States formed a principal-agent pairing with a local Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), to defeat the transnational threat posed by the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Their relationship is but one of several proxy dynamics taking place in Syrian Civil War, with the pressure exerted by different actors such as Turkey and Russia ultimately affecting the US-YPG partnership. This thesis seeks to update principal-agent applications to proxy war by inspecting the impact of third parties on the US-YPG principal-agent relationship.