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Militarized territorial disputes: States' attempts to transfer reputation for resolve


  • Krista E Wiegand

    () (Department of Political Science, Georgia Southern University)


States involved in territorial disputes are more likely to initiate militarized interstate disputes (MIDs) compared to states involved in other types of interstate disputes, when the disputed territory has strategic or ethnic value, and when the opposing states are contiguous, rivals, or have relative power parity. Though useful, these factors are static or rarely change over time, so they cannot explain the timing of an MID in a territorial dispute. It is not clear why a challenger state would threaten or use force at one point in the dispute, but not at another point. This study proposes that challenger states sometimes use MIDs not only to signal resolve to the opposing state in the territorial dispute, but to credibly demonstrate resolve to other adversaries in other disputes - an attempt to transfer reputation for resolve. To tackle the debate about transferability of reputation for resolve, the study empirically analyzes all territorial disputes from 1919 to 1995 and finds support that challenger states are more likely to initiate territorial MIDs as costly signals of resolve and credibility around the same time as another MID with a different adversary. Further analysis indicates that in terms of intensity level, challenger states are more likely to use threats, displays of force, or low intensity uses of force when initiating an MID to signal resolve to other states.

Suggested Citation

  • Krista E Wiegand, 2011. "Militarized territorial disputes: States' attempts to transfer reputation for resolve," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 48(1), pages 101-113, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:48:y:2011:i:1:p:101-113

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