Asymmetric Territorial Conflicts: Empirical Findings

I present empirical findings on the dynamics of asymmetric territorial conflicts based on a study of 389 territorial rivalries in the 1816-2000 period (Resnick, 2013). I construct a formal model of asymmetric territorial conflict - centering on a phenomenon of evolving 'patience' (discount factors) - which provides a longitudinal prediction for two key conflict variables: territorial control and the eruption of violence. I compare the predictive success of this model with other continuous path predictions that have been explored in prior research on enduring rivalries (Goertz and Diehl, 1998) and examine some descriptive statistics pertaining to structural properties of the rivalries. Specifically, I look at their duration (defined in terms of extant territorial claims), their longitudinal patterns of violence and territorial change, their final territorial outcome (in uncensored cases) and their overall extent of violence (in terms of violent years as a proportion of overall  rivalry duration). The pattern of contiguity, the extent of the rivals' respective territorial claims and the distribution of capabilities between them are key independent variables which can influence the above factors. I report a particularly strong relationship between contiguity and final territorial outcomes: weak-contiguous rivalries (those in which the disputed territory is not contiguous with the homeland territory of the powerful rival) almost always end in exclusive control of the disputed territory by the weaker rival; mutually-contiguous rivalries (those in which the disputed territory is contiguous with the other territorial holdings of both rivals, where such exist) typically are censored (i.e. ongoing as of the last year in the dataset), with the powerful rival maintaining exclusive control of the disputed territory. To examine conflict patterns in instances which witness independence, I present the findings of an additional study comprising 166 instances of  independence in the 1816-2001 period (Resnick, 2012). Territorial claims are found to reveal a strong, positive association with conflict, as has been found in prior research (Hensel, 2006; Vasquez and Henehan, 2011). Cognitive mechanisms such as post-decisional dissonance and choice-supportive bias may be able to explain some of the differences in the effects of predecessor and successor (newly independent) state claims. Moreover, the findings indicate that while treaties do not reveal a strong negative association with post-independence conflict, resolution of territorial claims through territorial change (partition) does, especially when the latter reduces the magnitude of a cross-border ethnic tie.

: Elath Hall, 2nd floor, Feldman Building, Givat-Ram Campus
Sunday, December 29, 2013 - 18:00
Uri Resnick
Israel Minstry of Foreign Affairs