Bones of contention: Comparing territorial, maritime, and river issues

Paul R. Hensel, Sara Mc Laughlin Mitchell, Thomas E. Sowers, Clayton L. Thyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Citations (SciVal)


Contentious issues are important sources of militarized conflict. This article advances an issue-based approach to world politics, focusing on disagreements over territory, maritime zones, and cross-border rivers. We characterize militarized conflict and peaceful techniques as substitutable foreign policy tools that states can adopt to resolve disagreements over issues, and we present hypotheses to account for issue management based on issue salience and recent interaction over the same issue. Empirical analyses reveal that states are more likely to use both militarized conflict and peaceful methods when the issue at stake is more salient, both when the general issue type is considered more salient and when the specific issue under contention has greater within-issue salience. Recent issue management also plays an important role, as histories of both militarized conflict and failed peaceful settlements increase pressure to take further action to settle the issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-143
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Conflict management
  • Contentious issues
  • Maritime
  • Militarized disputes
  • River
  • Territory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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