Territorial Issue Salience: Escalation, Resources, and Ethnicity

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Conflict over territory is a major concern to scholars and policymakers, and much of conflict over territory is driven by the issues that make territory more or less attractive, or salient, to states. I examine the impact that tangible and intangible issue salience has on territorial claims, and in particular, how it drives both conflict and conflict escalation. I argue that intangible issues, such as ethnic or religious kin, plays a greater role in driving more severe forms of armed conflict and conflict escalation, compared to tangible factors such as natural resources. This is theorized to be due to the ... continued below

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Macaulay, Christopher Cody August 2017.

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  • Macaulay, Christopher Cody

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Conflict over territory is a major concern to scholars and policymakers, and much of conflict over territory is driven by the issues that make territory more or less attractive, or salient, to states. I examine the impact that tangible and intangible issue salience has on territorial claims, and in particular, how it drives both conflict and conflict escalation. I argue that intangible issues, such as ethnic or religious kin, plays a greater role in driving more severe forms of armed conflict and conflict escalation, compared to tangible factors such as natural resources. This is theorized to be due to the difficulty in dividing territory with intangible elements, as well as domestic political pressure driving leaders to escalate. These suppositions are supported, with the finding that identity plays a particularly crucial and unique role in driving states to more severe forms of armed conflict. Further, I examine how natural resources may be viewed by states by their type and form of utilization, with certain resources likely to be more valuable or strategic to states based on their rarity, concentration, or ease of substitution, based in part on a state's level of development. The results support a fairly uniform role of natural resources, with particular resources and combinations of resources serving to drive low level conflict, but with generally little impact on severe forms of armed conflict. Development also is found to play a role, driving poorer states to dispute natural resources of certain types. Lastly, I return to the topic of conflict over territory with an ethnic dimension by examining the role of issue indivisibility in the negotiations process, and find that negotiated settlements are harder to reach, and states more likely to favor unilateral action when disputing territory with an ethnic or religious component compared to other types of issues in claimed territory.

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  • August 2017

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  • Oct. 9, 2017, 11:44 a.m.

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Macaulay, Christopher Cody. Territorial Issue Salience: Escalation, Resources, and Ethnicity, dissertation, August 2017; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1011849/: accessed October 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .