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Issue Rivalries


  • Sara McLaughlin Mitchell

    (Department of Political Science, University of Iowa)

  • Cameron G. Thies

    (Department of Political Science, University of Iowa)


This article expands upon the traditional interstate rivalry concept by focusing on two conceptual dimensions of interstate rivalry: issues and militarization. The first dimension captures the number of distinct issues that characterize a dyadic interstate relationship, such as repeated clashes between states over border disputes, maritime zones, or cross-border rivers. The second dimension is very similar to the dispute density approach to rivalry, and captures the number of militarized incidents over specific contentious issues. The first dimension of issue rivalry is coded by identifying pairs of states with two or more (simultaneous) contentious issues. The second dimension of militarized rivalry is coded for single issues (such as a border dispute), capturing the presence of two or more militarized incidents over that issue in the past. Empirical analyses of these two new rivalry measures in the Western Hemisphere and Western Europe show some important variation in these rivalry dimensions. Issue rivals and militarized rivals are significantly more likely to employ militarized force and peaceful negotiation techniques to resolve geopolitical issues in comparison with dyads that experience contentious issues in non-rivalry settings. On the other hand, dyads characterized by issue rivalry do not experience disputes that escalate to high levels of violence, such as fatalities or wars. It is only prior militarization of a specific contentious issue that leads states down the path to war.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara McLaughlin Mitchell & Cameron G. Thies, 2011. "Issue Rivalries," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 28(3), pages 230-260, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:compsc:v:28:y:2011:i:3:p:230-260

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    conflict; issues; maritime; rivalry; rivers; territory;


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