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Beyond Territorial Contiguity: Issues at Stake in Democratic Militarized Interstate Disputes

Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, Brandon C. Prins
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0020-8833.00115 169-183 First published online: 1 March 1999

Abstract

Scholars of international politics have been slow to address the fundamental issues that ground interstate conflict. Territory has frequently been cited as a primary source of contention among states, but it remains only one issue and not even the one most prevalent in the post–World War II time period. We take the first step toward understanding the broader theoretical link between regime type, issues, and militarized conflict by collecting new data on the issues in dispute between democracies from 1946 to 1992. We find that (1) a large proportion of the militarized disputes between democracies in the post-WWII period involve fisheries, maritime boundaries, and resources of the sea, (2) well-established democracies are able to remove territory as a contentious issue among them, (3) disputes between democracies have become less severe and shorter in duration over time, and (4) a majority of the post-WWII militarized disputes between democracies are not resolved. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these empirical findings for the democratic peace literature.

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