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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

Standing Your Ground
Paul K Huth

(Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1998)
275pp. Index. Bibl. $47.50; ISBN 0-472-10689-9. Pb.: $19.95; 0-472-08520-4.

Territorial disputes and international conflict present a dilemma to the analyst who wishes to draw upon the current theories of why conflicts escalate into war. Huth draws upon theoretical frameworks for analyzing territorial disputes. Huth's objective is to "advance an understanding of the dynamics of interstate conflict over disputed territory" and "also to try to contribute to international relations theory by developing a more integrated approach to theory building" (p.7).

Issues of ethnic minorities along borders become the focus of a dispute when there is a "political unification based on common ethnic background between the challenger and target population" (p. 70). By analyzing the marginal impact of variables in measuring the issues at stake, Huth concludes that the desire to acquire control over strategically located territory was a powerful motive behind the territorial claims of challenger states. He uses statistics to chart the change in the value of the explanatory variable, such as language, ethnicity, and natural resources to a change in the probability of territorial disputes.

However, when there are conflicts that do not involve territorial disputes between countries that share common ethnic and linguistic ties, such as in Northern Africa and Central and South America, there is historical, diplomatic precedent settling their border disputes. Another contributing factor is the "stronger sense of separate national political identities" within differing colonial powers (p. 80).

The irredentist claim is one who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but now subject to a foreign government. Huth postulates that one irredentist theory is now inaccurate. This particular theory states that if "the location of a large ethnic group is divided by state borders, the minority status of that ethnic group in one country will stimulate irredentist territorial claims by the other state" (p. 80). In developing countries outside of Europe, Huth raises a compelling argument that "leaders within challengers had good domestic political reasons not to make a major issue of ethnic minorities across the border" (p. 83). "In some cases irredentist claims were not raised because the challenger itself was not ethnically homogeneous" (p.83). As a result, foreign policy issues become divisive when larger ethnic groups within the challenger attempt to increase in size "by annexing the bordering territory of the target populated by the same ethnic group" (p. 83). Huth draws upon the work of Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict for this argument.

Patricia Aqiimuk Paul

Patricia Aqiimuk Paul

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