Paul R. Hensel, "Charting a Course to Conflict: Territorial Issues and Interstate Conflict, 1816-1992." Conflict Management and Peace Science 15, 1 (Spring 1996): 43-73.

Contentious issues have frequently been overlooked in the study of international relations and interstate conflict. This paper explores the influence of territory and territorial issues on processes of interstate conflict. I begin by reviewing existing approaches to the study of territory, and existing theoretical efforts to understand the role of territory. I then offer an empirical investigation of the effects of territory on conflict, using the Correlates of War Project's data on militarized interstate disputes. Conflict processes are found to differ noticeably when territorial issues are at stake between the adversaries. Disputes in which territorial issues are at stake tend to be much more escalatory than disputes over less salient issues, using several different indicators of dispute severity and escalation. Disputes over territorial issues are less likely to end in stalemated outcomes than disputes over other issues, and more likely to end in decisive outcomes. Furthermore, the same adversaries are more likely to become involved in recurrent conflict in the aftermath of disputes over territorial issues, and this future conflict is likely to recur sooner than after disputes over other issues. Territorial issues thus seem to be especially salient to state leaders, producing more escalatory confrontations and being difficult to resolve through militarized means without triggering recurrent conflict in the future. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for future research on conflict and on contentious issues, and by offering some implications for policy-makers.


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