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State Death in the International System

  • Tanisha M. Fazal (a1)


Under what conditions do states die? Survival is often assumed to be the primary goal of states. Yet international relations scholars have not previously examined the rate or the causes of state death in a systematic way. I argue that buffer states—states caught between two rivals—are particularly vulnerable to being coerced out of existence. Each rival is afraid that its opponent will conquer the buffer that lies between them, gaining strength and strategic advantage. The rivals' inability to credibly commit to preserving the buffer state's sovereignty means that buffer states are extremely vulnerable to conquest. Using event history analysis, I test this argument while controlling for traditional realist variables such as power and alliances, as well as for changes in the post–World War II era. The analysis generates three major findings: buffer states are significantly more likely to die than are nonbuffer states; violent state death (conquest and occupation) virtually ceases after 1945; and the relationship between power and state survival is tenuous.For their valuable comments and suggestions, I thank James Fearon, Page Fortna, Erik Gartzke, Hein Goemans, Simon Jackman, Stephen Krasner, David Lewis, Scott Sagan, Erik Voeten, the editor of IO, two anonymous reviewers, as well as seminar participants at Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Virginia Law School. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2000 Annual Meetings of the International Studies Association and the American Political Science Association. Jessica Stanton provided valuable research assistance. I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Center for International Security and Cooperation and the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. Any errors are my own.



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State Death in the International System

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