Of all the different types of civil war, disputes over self-determination are the most likely to escalate into war and resist compromise settlement. Reputation and Civil War argues that this low rate of negotiation is the result of reputation building, in which governments refuse to negotiate with early challengers in order to discourage others from making more costly demands in the future. Jakarta's wars against East Timor and Aceh, for example, were not designed to maintain sovereignty but to signal to Indonesia's other minorities that secession would be costly. Employing data from three different sources - laboratory experiments on undergraduates, statistical analysis of data on self-determination movements, and qualitative analyses of recent history in Indonesia and the Philippines - Barbara F. Walter provides some of the first systematic evidence that reputation strongly influences behavior, particularly between governments and ethnic minorities fighting over territory.

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