Strategic selection

Published date01 May 2014
Date01 May 2014
Strategic selection: Political and legal
mechanisms of territorial
dispute resolution
Emilia Justyna Powell
Department of Political Science, Notre Dame University
Krista E Wiegand
Department of Political Science, Georgia Southern University
States involved in territorial disputes have several options with regard to resolving their disputes. What types of
states are more likely to resort to legal methods of peaceful resolution in attempting to resolve their territorial dis-
putes? We posit that two separate mechanisms affect states’ decisions to choose legal methods of peaceful resolu-
tion: the legal mechanism – domestic rule-of-law, and the political mechanism – win/loss record. Rule-of-law
based arguments cannot fully explain states’ behavior towards arbitration and adjudication. It is the interplay
of both of these mechanisms that explains the strategic choices made by states with regards to arbitrationand adju-
dication. We explain why some high rule-of-law states return to binding methods, while others turn to different
forums, and why low rule-of-law states consider binding methods. Empirical analyses of all attempts at peaceful
resolution of territorial disputes from 1985 to 2006 show that high rule-of-law states are more likely to return to
international binding venues only if theyhaveapositiveexperiencewiththesemethods.Ontheotherhand,we
find that low rule-of-law states are not concerned with their record of successes/failures when resorting to inter-
national binding venues. Overall, the effect of regime type/rule-of-law is conditioned by past successes and failures
in international resolution venues.
adjudication, conflict management, past experience, rule-of-law, territorial disputes
The attitude of States, then, towards the Court is but a
manifestation of their more fundamental attitude and
the real respect in which they hold international law
(Rosenne, 1997: 180).
The literature on the relationship between regime type
and peaceful resolution methods has produced mixed
findings. Recent empirical studies have put into question
the nature of the relationship between regime type and
states’ choices of different venues for resolution, specifi-
cally in the context of territorial disputes (Gent & Shan-
non, 2011; Shannon, 2009). Although there is some
evidence that democratic commitment to the principle
of rule-of-law draws democracies to binding methods
of peaceful resolution (Allee & Huth, 2006; Mitchell,
2002; Raymond, 1994), the descriptive evidence over
the past four decades raises some important questions.
In fact, low rule-of-law (LRL) states attempt binding
methods exactly the same number of times that high
rule-of-law (HRL) states do, suggesting that rule-of-law
In non-binding third-party methods, such as conciliation or
mediation, disputants may reject the settlement outcome. Binding
methods – arbitration/adjudication – produce a binding decision.
Corresponding author:
Journal of Peace Research
2014, Vol. 51(3) 361–374
ªThe Author(s) 2013
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0022343313508969

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