Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2012
Territorial issues are incredibly conflict-prone. These difficult-to-resolve issues account for more disputes and wars, at a higher rate of escalation, than any other type of issue. This conclusion is well documented, and I describe the empirical basis for the claim very early in this chapter. However, the purpose of this chapter actually rests with developing the ways in which previous studies have treated the domestic political implications of territorial conflict. As I describe, almost all explanations of conflict rely on the salience of territorial issues to generate a domestic political environment that makes international conflict initiation likely. Relying mostly on the strong empirical connection between territory and war, studies search for the factor that makes the land valuable to the conflictinitiating state. An association of ethnic lands, resources, or strategic territory, with territorial conflict, also offers proof of the domestic political argument. There is little development, if any, of how territorial issues actually structure the domestic political bargaining within the state.
There are two exceptions to this pattern. First, the Steps-to-War explanation, offered by Vasquez (1993, 2009), finds the relationship between territorial conflicts and domestic politics to be somewhat recursive. Territorial conflicts affect the composition of the leadership by promoting the ascendance of hardliners, and these leadership changes make war more likely.Asecond exception concerns the growing number of studies that examine the ability of democratic institutions to mollify territorial conflict.