Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2012
The connection between territorial threats and state centralization may also alter our understanding of international conflict. States with territorial issues are more likely to have recurrent conflicts with their neighbors since these disputes are difficult to resolve. Centralization further encourages these states to remain or become non-democratic. Absent territorial issues, peace and democracy follow, which is why we commonly associate peace with democracy. However, this does not necessarily imply that states at territorial peace with their neighbors are always peaceful in their relations with other states. When freed from engagement in territorial conflict, leaders of states at territorial peace may more easily choose conflict involvements based on terms favorable to their interests. Since territorial issues with neighbors have been resolved, these conflicts are likely to be among non-contiguous states. Those states still involved in territorial conflict with neighbors have little ability to choose their conflicts. Their foreign policy choices are much more constrained; hence, states involved in territorial conflicts have few war-fighting advantages.
In the sections that follow, I outline the first part of the argument by first briefly reviewing the democratic peace literature and then recasting these findings as products of a broader, territorial peace. I then test this application of the theory against a model of conflict that controls for the effects of border relationships and find that joint democracy does not exercise a pacifying effect on dispute initiation among contiguous states. Instead, states that face few threats to homeland territories – the territorial peace states – better explain the relationship between peace and regime type.