Mapping the probability of war and analyzing the possibility of peace: The role of territorial disputes

John A. Vasquez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is argued that scholars should supplement the search for correlates of war with a search for factors that increase the probability of war. Territorial disputes are seen as one such factor. The analysis maps their probability of going to war and then examines the possibility of peace in light of the results. It is found that states that participate in territorial disputes have a higher probability of going to war than expected by chance. It is also found that dyads that have more than 25% of their disputes over territory have a high probability of having at least one war with each other, but those dyads that have fewer territorial disputes have a comparatively low probability of having a war with one another. Objections to the territorial explanation of war that it is not relevant to the current era or that contiguity is a more important factor are tested. Evidence shows that wars do not seem to occur because states are contiguous; rather states that have disputes over territory (whether or not they are contiguous) have a higher probability of war. Territorial disputes, however, do not make war inevitable. When major states establish rules of the game to manage their relations, the number of territorial disputes on the global agenda goes down, as does their probability of going to war. Conversely, if territorial disputes are coupled with power politics practices, like arms races, the probability of war increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-174
Number of pages30
JournalConflict Management and Peace Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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