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The International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict: Concepts, Indicators, and Theory

Authors(s): David Carment


Source: Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May, 1993), pp. 137-150
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
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? Journal of Peace Research, vol. 30, no. 2, 1993, pp. 137-150

The International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict:

Concepts, Indicators, and Theory*

DAVID CARMENT

Department of Political Science, McGill University

One of the growing debates among students of international politics concerns the precise linkage

between ethnic conflict and international conflict. The present investigation attempts to contribute to

this dialogue in three ways. First, prior studies of ethnic conflict and international relations are

reappraised in terms of the central concepts and presumed causal linkage, leading to several changes in

approach. Specifically, a typology of ethnic conflicts is devised deductively, including a rank ordering of

types of ethnic conflicts in terms of the impact they have on levels of international violence. Second,

testing focuses on the presumed ordering of ethnic conflicts from anti-colonial, secessionist and

irredentist utilizing data from the International Crisis Behaviour Project on cases in the period 1945-81.

A set of bivariate and multivariate indicators and an index of violence are used in the assessment of the

proposed impact ethnic conflicts have on interstate violence. Four of the five propositions are

confirmed. Third, the paper offers some preliminary conclusions about the policy and theoretical

implications of the international dimensions of ethnic conflict, including directions for future research.

The conflicts which are of global concern involve


of successive "'conflicts on the ground"' (p.

deep issues of ethnic and cultural identity, of recog-

86). In view of the fact that there are over

nition and of participation that are usually denied to

5,000 different ethnic groups in the world it


ethnic minorities in addition to issues of security

and other values that are not negotiable (Burton,

1987, p. 5).

is perhaps not surprising that of the 180

existing states in the international system

only a handful embody the principles of

nation-states (United Nations Report on

1. Introduction

Ethnicity and Development, 1987). Indeed,

as Ryan has argued, 'multi-ethnic states are


1.1 Statement of Research

likely to continue to be a feature of politics


The persistence and resurgence of ethnic

both within and between sovereign states'


conflict in the latter half of this century

(1990, p. 174). The lacunae of research on


presents a paradox to theorists and policy-

the interstate dimensions of ethnic conflict is


makers alike. As Anthony Smith percep-

clearly a case in which theory has lagged


tively notes, 'there is widespread feeling,

behind emerging realities.


popular and academic, that state interests

From a policy perspective, it is no longer


and the imperatives of the system of states,

possible to ignore the widespread tenacity of


economic as well as political, furnish both

ethnic conflict and the way in which it is


the causes and the issues for most wars'

deeply influencing current interstate behav(1986, p. 65). Such a perspective, Smith

iour. For some states, ethnic conflict


argues, 'grossly underestimates the potency

presents a wide range of challenges for


of certain kinds of identity and community

foreign policy and interstate cooperation.


and systematically fails to address the roots

Human rights issues and refugee situations

represent one level in which nations are


* I am grateful to Patrick James, Michael Brecher, Jer-

ome Black, Hudson Meadwell, Brian Job, Blema

Steinberg and Hamish Telford and the reviewers and

closely interlinked by ethnic conflict. Con-

flict management, conflict resolution and

editor of JPR for helpful comments on the earlier drafts


intervention in civil wars another (Azar,

of this paper. I would also like to thank the Department

1990; Heraclides, 1991).

of National Defence (Canada) and the Social Sciences

Such theoretical and policy concerns are


and Humanities Research Council of Canada for their

support in this research.

pressing given that ethnic conflicts often

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138 David Garment

assume a 'chronic and bitter character', in

ing variable. The second stage is a consider-

which human beings are prepared to 'sacri-

ation of a crisis-based model which specifies

fice their lives and inflict violence on each

the relationship between types of ethnic

other that seem far from insignificant - or

conflict and levels of interstate conflict in

amenable to rational, peaceful solution'

terms of the frequency of violent outcomes.

(Smith, 1986, p. 65). Interestingly, though

Third, the methodology and operationaliz-

many scholars recognize the protractedness

ation of the variables are presented. Fourth,

of ethnic conflicts and their oft violent

the empirical evidence is examined and

nature, few have argued that this intensity

assessed. Fifth, and finally, implications of

of violence poses a major threat to the vi-

the results and directions for further

ability of the contemporary state and inter-

research are explored.2

national system (Birch, 1989, p. 229). For

example, in their 1977 assessment of eight

case studies, Suhrke & Noble concluded

2. Theoretical Considerations

that internal ethnic conflict did not comprise

a significant source of international conflict

2.1 The State and Ethnic Conflict

Two theoretical orientations have been used

(1977, p. 231).1

In sum, the impetus for this inquiry is de-

to explain the involvement of states in

rived from two basic assumptions. First, the

ethnic conflicts. More specifically, elite

neglect of the study of ethnic conflict within

decision-making is shaped by both instru-

international relations theory needs to be

mental and affective motives (Heraclides,

rectified. Second, this study has implications

1990; Suhrke & Noble, 1977). From the

for understanding why ethnic conflicts tend

point of view of states at the decision-

towards violence even though, as earlier

making level, instrumental motivations for

argued, such conflicts do not constitute a

involvement in ethnic conflicts include, (1)

major source of international conflict

international political considerations; (2)

(Suhrke & Noble, 1977). Two questions

economic gains; (3) domestic or internal

are pertinent to this inquiry. 1. What types

politics; and (4) military considerations

of ethnic conflict have an international

dimension? 2. Can ethnic conflict account

for differences in levels of interstate viol-

(Heraclides, 1990).

Instrumental variables are also useful in

explaining the behaviour of groups within

ethnic conflict settings (Meadwell, 1991).

ence?

Presumably, a study of the international

Approaches that stress the instrumental

dimensions of ethnic conflict can have

aspects of ethnic group behaviour

broader applicability towards a theory of the

encompass two basic assumptions. First,

management and resolution of ethnic con-

ethnic identification is created or main-

flicts by delineating the conditions under

tained as a basis for collective action when

which conflicts take on a range of possi-

there are clear competitive advantages

bilities from non-violent outcomes to full-

attached to an ethnic identity. Secondly,

ethnicity is defined situationally as a set of

scale war.

In order to respond to these questions this

inquiry will: (1) empirically assess the

impact that ethnic conflict has upon levels of

socially attributed characteristics having

both behavioural and identitive dimensions.

The fluidity of ethnic identity is dependent

interstate violence; (2) determine the con-

on the situational constraints and the stra-

ditions under which interstate ethnic conflict

tegic utility attached to the identity. The

is most likely to result in violent outcomes;

idea of situational ethnic identification

and (3) make a theoretical contribution to

means that various ethnic boundaries are

the understanding of the linkages between

activated in different situations in order to

ethnicity and interstate conflict. For the

achieve specific goals. Instrumental argu-

present investigation the point of departure

ments suggest that ethnic conflict carries

is an overview of a reformulated approach,

with it a distinctly political nature and has

with an emphasis on ethnicity as the defin-

shifted away from purely cultural and

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International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict 139

linguistic spheres to political and often terri-

desh-Pakistan conflict constitutes an

torial appeals for self-determination (Mead-

example of this second type. Or, consider in

well, 1991).

this context the motivations of Indian elites

Instrumental perspectives often fall short

in explaining the behaviour of all the actors

within an ethnic conflict (Heraclides, 1990).

In some instances, elite decision-making

to send troops to Sri Lanka in 1987. Both

affective and instrumental considerations

played an important role in this decision

(Carment, 1992).

and ethnic group behaviour are also imbued

with a powerful affective component includ-

ing, (1) historic injustice; (2) common iden-

Still other ethnic conflicts involve the pro-

cesses of de-colonization between colonial

powers and nationalist groups - struggles

tity; (3) religion; (4) a shared sense of injus-

which often lead to interstate conflict. The

tice or principle; (5) a degree of inchoate

encounter between Indonesian nationalists

racial-cultural affinity; and (6) humanitar-

and the Dutch in 1957 over West Irian is an

ian considerations (Carment et al., 1992;

example of this third kind of ethnic conflict

Heraclides, 1990, p. 371).3 In sum, states

(Appendix). Anti-colonial ethnic conflicts

and ethnic groups are likely to exhibit both

differ from irredentist and secessionist

affective and instrumental behaviour within

conflicts since the conflict is between a

ethnic conflict settings. On occasion, the

highly motivated (and affectively moti-

two types of motivation are mutually rein-

forcing, while in other instances they are

contradictory.

vated) ethnic group and a colonial power.

Such conflicts often draw in third parties

whose motivations may be both affective

and instrumental in character (Heraclides,

2.2 A Typology of Ethnic Conflicts

There are three types of ethnic conflicts

having an international dimension. The

1990).

The preceding analysis attempts to

demonstrate that there is the potential for

most common type is irredentist, including,

variation among types of ethnic conflicts.

the Arab-Israeli dispute that has lasted

Variation in levels of violence requires con-

through six wars, the conflict over Cyprus

sideration of several factors. First, varia-

and the rival claims to Kashmir by India and

bility is primarily accounted for by the

Pakistan (Appendix).4 The primary actors

degree of affect and instrumental-laden

in irredentist conflicts are states. The behav-

iour of states external to the conflict (for

group behaviour and the levels of sub-

sequent mobilization of ethnic groups by

example US or Soviet Union involvement in

elites towards the pursuit of collective goals,

the Arab-Israeli conflict) may be best

ranging from greater access to resources to

explained in instrumental terms. In con-

trast, the factors that motivate states in

self-preservation, to the creation of a new

state (Gastil, 1979). When affect is a salient

irredentist conflicts where ethnicity is an

aspect of the conflict there is the potential

intrinsic aspect (for example Turkey and

for increased violence (Carment et al.,

Greece involvement in Cyprus) may be best

1992). Second, the presence of 'policies of

understood in both affective and instru-

denial' on the part of at least one group

mental terms (Chazan, 1991; Heraclides,

towards the mobilization of another will

1991).

determine whether an ethnic conflict has the

Less understood from the dual perspec-

tives of theory and policy are those ethnic

conflicts which have their origins within

potential for violence.6 Policies of denial are

often conditioned by the use of force and

are particularly significant in confrontations

state settings but spill over into the inter-

between a state and ethnic minorities such

national arena (Carment, 1992). These are

as secessionist conflicts. Policies of accept-

secessionist conflicts that lead to interstate

ance or denial also arise in conflictual re-

conflict by drawing in third party states,

lations between entire states, particularly in

'self-appointed' regional peacekeepers and

irredentist conflicts.7 When confronted by a

occasionally the major powers (Appendix).5

threat to several core values ethnic min-

India's 1971 intervention in the Bangla-

orities usually have less to lose because the

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140 David Garment

'threshold of acceptable costs' is much

of 1928-85. Descriptions of each crisis were

higher than in any one value (Heraclides,

obtained from Crises in the Twentieth Cen-

1989, p. 197). Furthermore, armed struggle

could be an acceptable choice to elites if the

alternative is loss of power, assimilation of

the group, or at worst genocide.8 Third,

tury: Volumes I and 2 (Brecher & Wilken-

feld, 1988).

There are several distinct advantages to

using crisis-based data. First, though all

ethnic conflicts involve overlapping issues

crises are by definition conflicts, not all

which tend to be reinforcing. Once elite

crises necessarily lead to war. Indeed, many

political assertiveness in one issue area is

crises are successfully managed without

imbued with ingroup legitimation and mo-

recourse to war. Hence, the data selected

bilization, the move towards conflict in

capture a broad range of interstate behav-

other issue areas is often irreversible

iour including that behaviour that falls short

(Eldridge, 1979). Elites are often carried

of war but nevertheless exhibits significant

along by the fervor of the groups whose sup-

levels of conflict. Second, the dataset

port they seek. Hence ethnic conflicts tend

provides, among other important indicators,

to be more protracted, formidable and

the number of actor-states in each crisis, the

potentially more violent than non-ethnic

nature of the threat involved (the triggering

conflicts. Alternatively, anti-colonial and

mechanism of the crisis) and the issues over

secessionist ethnic conflicts are militarily

which the crisis occurred. Such information

weaker and garner far less third party aid

is vital for determining under which cate-

than in comparison to irredentist conflicts

gory the conflict falls - non-ethnic, anti-

involving entire states. Irredentist conflicts

colonial, secessionist or irredentist. Finally,

would be expected to be the most violent

the crisis data focus specifically on those

kind of ethnic conflict. Such conflicts have

conflicts that occur at the interstate level.

the potential to escalate to interstate con-

Conflicts which are of either the ethnic or

frontations involving high levels of violence

non-ethnic variety that have not yet pro-

especially when two or more states possess-

duced crises at the international level are

ing sophisticated military hardware are

involved (Rosh, 1987). In sum, there is the

potential for variation among ethnic con-

excluded. For example, the Quebec separ-

atist movement in Canada does not figure in

this analysis as it has yet to produce a

flicts in terms of violent outcomes. It is

foreign policy crisis for any one state. In

hypothesized that violence is a probable

contrast, Lebanon's ethnic conflict of 1958 is

outcome in many but not all interstate con-

included, as it constituted foreign policy

flicts where ethnic conflict is present. Here-

crises for the following actors: Jordan, the

with two propositions:

UK, Lebanon and the US.11

Proposition 1: Ethnic conflicts result in

For the purposes of this research, data for

higher levels of violence than non-ethnic

the period 1945-81 were selected. One of

conflicts.9

the major reasons for narrowing the time

Proposition 2: There is a rank order of

frame to the postwar era is to accord with

ethnic conflicts such that anti-colonial ethnic

the current thought that there has been a

conflicts are the least violent, secessionist

substantial transformation in the character

ethnic conflicts the second most violent and

of ethnic conflicts since the end of World

irredentist conflicts the most violent.

War II. For example, Connor and Smith,

among others, have commented on both the

qualitative and quantitative shift in ethnic

3. Gathering the Evidence

conflicts since 1945 (Gurr, 1990).12 Further-

The data utilized for this research are the

more, the study is concerned with those

actor level set of the International Crisis Be-

cases that are characteristic of the changing

haviour Project (ICB) developed by

international system, a system that began as

members of the Department of Political

Science at McGill University.10 The original

dataset consists of 698 cases for the period

a tight bipolar structure and evolved into a

polycentric system through this period

(Brecher et al., 1990).

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International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict 141

Table I. Violence in Ethnic and Non-ethnic Conflicts


3.1 Recoding the Data and

Operationalization
Type of Conflict

A two-stage content analysis for each crisis

Count Nonwas carried out utilizing the working defi-

Column (%) ethnic Ethnic

nition of ethnicity and the typology of ethnic

conflict provided in this investigation.

Levels of 71 75 146

Violence None 35% 29%


Initially, each crisis was coded on the basis

of whether it was deemed to fulfil the full

71 80 151

Low/Moderate 35% 31%


criteria of the working definition.'3 Those

crises that were not considered ethnic con-

60 103 163

High 30% 40%

flicts were coded O and ethnic conflicts were

coded 1. A second coding was carried out


Total 202 258 460

100% 100% 100%

utilizing the typology of ethnic conflicts.

Anti-colonial conflicts were coded 1, se-

Chi-square - 5.24 (p < 0.07); Tau-c - 0.10 (p < 0.01);

cessionist conflicts were coded 2 and irreGamma - 0.16 (p < 0.01).

dentist conflicts were coded 3.14 In the event

that there was some doubt or ambiguity

about the face validity of the conflict it was

coded a non-ethnic conflict. 15

ages in Table I, it can be inferred that ethnic

conflicts more frequently involve modestly

higher levels of violence. Furthermore,

3.2 An Index of Violence - the Dependent

Variable

recalling proposition 1, a greater proportion

of ethnic conflicts result in higher levels of

International violence is a dynamic and mul-

violence than do non-ethnic conflicts and

tifaceted concept. In order to give proper

are less frequently involved in moderate

scope to the multifaceted nature of violence

levels of conflicts and non-violent conflicts.

and the tentative state of knowledge regard-

A proportion of more than 10% (column

ing the causal mechanism linking ethnic con-

percentages) of the crises involve ethnic

flicts and violence, an ordinal index of

conflicts and high levels of violence. Is the

violence utilizing several indicators within

difference significant? The null hypothesis

the dataset was developed. Each indicator

would suggest that types of conflict and

was selected on the basis of its relatedness to

levels of violence are independent of each

the resolution of interstate conflicts. A dis-

other. In Table I chi-square is 5.24, which is

tinction has been made between indicators

significant at the 0.07 level suggesting that

of domestic violence and indicators of inter-

there is a tendency for higher levels of

state violence. As this paper is concerned

violence to occur among ethnic conflicts.

with conflicts having an international scope,

However, the effect fails to show a high co-

the domestic component of violence does

efficient Tau-c 0.10, Gamma 0.16 (p <

not figure in this index.'16 Internal and exter-

0.01).

nal validation procedures were conducted

for the index.'17

Moving from a testing of proposition 1 to

a testing of proposition 2, which utilizes the

typology of ordered ethnic conflicts, the

following relationship is revealed through

4. Testing the Propositions

percentages. Recalling proposition 2, it was

4.1 Bivariate Analysis

flicts corresponding to increases in the fre-

argued that there is a range of ranked con-

Initial analysis of the bivariate relationship

quencies of levels of violence such that non-

reveals the results given in Table I. Recall-

ethnic conflicts will rank lowest, anti-col-

ing proposition 1 of the hypothesis it was

onial ethnic conflicts second, secessionist

argued that a greater percentage of ethnic

ethnic conflicts third and irredentist highest.

conflicts should involve higher levels of

An assessment of this proposition can be

violence than non-ethnic conflicts. Thus,

inferred from reading across the column

from an inspection of the column percent-

percentages in Table II.

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142 David Garment

Table II. Violence in Different Types of Conflict

Type of conflict

Count Column (%) Non-ethnic Anti-colonial Secessionist Irredentist

Levels of 71 26 41 8 146

Violence None 35% 40% 32% 12%

71 19 40 21 151

Low/Moderate 35% 30% 32% 31%

60 19 46 38 163

High 30% 30% 36% 57%

Total 202 64 127 67 460

100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Chi-square - 23.3 (p < 0.001); Tau-c- 0.15 (p < 0.001); Gamma - 0.21 (p < 0.0001).

Clearly, these are mixed results. For focusing exclusively on the foreign policy

example, while both secessionist and irre- crises of superpowers, all states that

dentist conflicts show higher frequencies of achieved independence up to and including

high violence (56% and 36%) than both 1945 are examined. For example, focusing

anti-colonial and non-ethnic conflicts, as on older states allows consideration of

predicted, it appears that anti-colonial Dutch involvement in Indonesian inde-

ethnic conflicts are more likely to be non- pendence and British involvement in the

violent (40%) and have frequencies of high Palestinian partition of 1947.18 In both

violence equal to that of non-ethnic conflicts instances these old states were crisis actors.

(29%). Herewith a proposition:

Proposition 3. Old state involvement in

4.2 Multivariate Analysis ethnic conflicts will increase their levels of

The purpose of this section is to test for violence.

possible threats to validity through the All states within the ICB dataset were

introduction of control variables. The first recorded as either new or old states depend-

of these multivariate analyses is designed to ing on their date of independence. The

test the conventional wisdom that involve- results for old states are shown in Table III.

ment of the superpowers, the major powers From Table III it is clear that the relation-

and other industrialized states tends to ship becomes stronger as hypothesized. For

exacerbate ethnic conflicts. Rather than example, while the frequency of involve-

Table III. Controlling for Old States

Type of conflict

Count Column (%) Non-ethnic Anti-colonial Secessionist Irredentist

Levels of 55 12 17 1 85

Violence None 38% 40% 30% 3%

59 9 20 13 101

Low/Moderate 41% 30% 35% 39%

30 9 20 19 78

High 21% 30% 35% 58%

Total 144 30 57 33 264

100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Chi-square - 25.037 (p < 0.0003); Tau-c - 0.22 (p < 0.000); Gamma - 0.34 (p < 0.000).

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International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict 143

Table IV. Controlling for New States

Type of conflict

Count Column (%) Non-ethnic Anti-colonial Secessionist Irredentist

Levels of 16 14 24 7 61

Violence None 28% 41% 34% 21%

12 10 20 8 50

Low/Moderate 21% 30% 29% 23%

30 10 26 19 85

High 51% 29% 37% 56%

Total 58 34 70 34 196

100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Chi-square - 8.129 (p < 0.2); Tau-c - 0.01 (p < 0.4); Gamma - 0.02 (p < 0.020).

ment in irredentist and secessionist conflicts

in the high violence category remains

unchanged from the original relationship

shown in column percentages in Table II

(58% and 35% compared to 57% and 36%

powers, France and the United Kingdom.

As this analysis is concerned with the period

1945-81, an era of intense Cold War con-

flict, tight bipolar alliances and the

regionalization of conflict, it is perhaps not

in Table II) there are fewer incidents of

surprising that old states have become

involvement in peaceful secessionist and

involved in frequent and violent ethnic con-

irredentist conflicts than there were in the

flicts. In an historical period in which

original table. There are, however, fewer

nuclear weapons prevented the main non-

high-violent conflicts in general than in the

ethnic conflict (the Cold War) from being

original relationship (78 compared to 163)

violent it appears that the major powers

though the proportion of moderate levels of

found themselves involved in proxy wars,

violence increases across the table but par-

many of which may have been the ethnic

ticularly among secessionist and irredentist

conflicts of allies and clients (Heraclides,

conflicts (increases of at least 5%). These

1990). Furthermore, these old states have

results also suggest that old states are likely

the resources to allocate greater percentages

to be involved almost equally in conflicts of

of their GNP to military expenditures and

both the ethnic and the non-ethnic variety

therefore high levels of conflict may be es-

(55% vs 45%). These results indicate two

pecially salient when old states come in con-

things. First the original relationship is not

tact, through their allies, with secessionist

spurious, as the introduction of the control

and irredentist movements such as those in

variable does not lead to entirely different

the Middle East, South Asia, South-East

results but rather moderately strengthens

Asia and Africa. Does a similar relationship

them, a conclusion that supports prop-

hold for the new states as concluded by

osition 3.

Suhrke & Noble (1977, p. 213)?

Proposition 4: New state involvement in

Second, in accounting for the strengthen-

ing of the relationship it is necessary to

consider the age of the state as a variable

that is theoretically related to the indepen-

dent variable. One possibility suggested by

ethnic conflicts will increase their level of

violence.

A partial table controlling for the foreign

policy crises of new states (those that

Rosh is that, on average, ethnic conflicts

achieved independence after 1945) indicates

elicit a military response because they serve

that the original relationship is strengthened,

to destabilize specific regions that have im-

thereby supporting proposition 4.

portant geo-strategic value to old states such

Judging from the results of Table IV it

as the two superpowers the US and the

appears that controlling for new states has a

former Soviet Union, and the major

modest impact upon levels of violence

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144 David Carment

among non-ethnic conflicts. On the one

1987). This index is believed to measure the

hand, the frequency of non-ethnic high viol-

relationship of dependence between states

ent crises is 52% compared to 30% for the

and hence the unevenness of economic re-

original relationship. On the other hand, the

lations between states. The index is based

proportion of non-ethnic crises for new

on the assumption that most states partici-

states has dropped dramatically from 202 of

pate in the international economy. It is

460 cases (or 43% of the total) to 58 of 196

argued that the degree of dependence

crises (or 30% of the total). There are also

increases geometrically as the concentration

modest changes for ethnic conflicts across

in one's commodities and in one's trading

the ranges of moderate and high violence.

partners increases. A simple random sample

From this table it can be inferred that while

of the country index was taken (n = 40) and

new states are likely to be involved in viol-

then aggregated by region such that an ordi-

ent conflicts of all types, these are more

nal ranking of dependent economic re-

likely to be secessionist conflicts (70 cases or

lations could be established for five different

regions. The ranking of the control variable

35% of the total vs 34 each for anti-colonial

and irredentist or 17% of the total). This

was as follows: North America = 1, Europe

result is not surprising given that since 1945

= 2, South America = 3, Oceania = 4, Asia

there has been a dramatic increase in the

= 5, Africa-Middle East = 6.

rise of militant separatist and secessionist

For purposes of brevity, only the partial

movements among the newly independent

table showing the control Africa-Middle

states. If developing states are indeed prone

East is given as it is the only one that pro-

to violent conflicts, can developing regions

duced significant results.

The results clearly indicate that in the

also be said to be susceptible to ethnic con-

flicts?

case of the most economically dependent

region, Africa and the Middle East, the

Proposition 5: Economically weak and

dependent regions are prone to violent

original relationship is strengthened, thus

ethnic conflicts.

confirming proposition 5. For example, in

comparison with the original relationship in

To test this proposition, a transformed

index of economic dependence as a control

Table II there are fewer frequencies of non-

variable is utilized. The index attempts to

ethnic conflicts (23 crises of 181 or 12% of

tap many of the aspects of economic depen-

the total vs 202 of 460 crises or 45% of the

dence by multiplying the percentage of a

total) and over 45% (83 crises of 181) of

country's exports that is concentrated in its

conflicts resulting in high levels of violence

(with 69% of irredentist conflicts resulting in

primary commodity by the percentage of its

exports that is accounted for trade with its

high violence). Furthermore, the high viol-

most important trading partner (Rosh,

ent cases follow the hypothesized pattern

Table V. Controlling for Africa and the Middle East

Type of conflict

Count Column (%) Non-ethnic Anti-colonial Secessionist Irredentist

Levels of 8 16 19 3 46

Violence None 35% 44% 24% 7%

9 9 24 10 52

Low/Moderate 39% 25% 30% 24%

6 11 37 29 83

High 26% 31% 46% 69%

Total 23 36 80 42 181

100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Chi-square - 21.69 (p < 0.001); Tau-c - 0.28 (p < 0.000); Gamma - 0.41 (p < 0.000).

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International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict 145

suggested in proposition 2. Are these results

spective this inquiry has suggested that

significant enough to accept proposition 5?

understanding differences between ethnic

On the one hand, the results are unsatisfac-

conflicts requires a multidimensional

tory because of the failure to produce stat-

approach utilizing both instrumental and

istically significant results for the other

affective assumptions about group behav-

regions, hence consideration must be given

iour. It has been suggested that variations

to the conceptual rather than statistical

in outcomes of ethnic conflicts can be

inferences suggested by these mixed results.

On the basis of preliminary results it is

accounted for by treating ethnic conflict as a

political phenomenon incorporating both a

difficult to accept the proposition that econ-

behavioural and an indentitive component.

omic dependence has a direct effect upon

Second, violence constitutes only one aspect

the frequency of violent ethnic conflicts.

of the multidimensional impact that ethnic

The degree to which a country's geographic

conflict has upon interstate behaviour. What

neighbourhood is characterized by insta-

is needed is the patient and sensitive exam-

bility and the strategic importance of the

ination of ethnic conflicts across a variety of

region to the major powers may also play

dimensions including the claims of rival

important roles in influencing violent out-

ethnic groups as well as the interest of the

comes (Rosh, 1987). However, determining

states involved (Gurr, 1991). The foregoing

the dynamic between economic depen-

analysis decisively shows that any attempt to

dence, regional instability and external

understand the international dimensions of

power interests requires further research. A

ethnic conflict without regard for the role of

second set of factors may be related to the

the state in violent as well as non-violent

propensity towards irredentist movements

outcomes may be theoretically limiting. At

in these regions. More specifically, Africa

the same time, however, it is no good rely-

and the Middle East has been witness to

ing exclusively on statist theoretical perspec-

numerous irredentist conflicts because of

tives to explain those conflicts which involve

postcolonial border demarcation problems

not only states but ethnically divided com-

(Azar, 1990; Heraclides, 1990; Rothman,

munities and regions as well. Third, with

1992).

regard to the theoretical consideration of

the rankings of ethnic conflicts and the evi-

dence suggesting that anti-colonial conflicts

5. Conclusions

are on average less violent than non-ethnic

As stated in the introduction, research on

conflicts, further comparative research util-

the international dimensions of ethnic con-

izing both quantitative and contextual ap-

flict is still in the preliminary stages. The

proaches may be necessary. One possible

contribution of this paper has been the cre-

reason that these rankings were reversed

ation and testing of an index of ethnic con-

from those hypothesized is the overwhelm-

flict and index of interstate violence. Cross-

ing influence of peaceful negotiations within

tabulations were employed to discover how

the process of de-colonization since 1945

the dynamics of ethnic conflicts influence

(Haas, 1983).19 Longitudinal studies incor-

levels of violence in interstate conflicts.

porating longer and shorter time periods

Initial results appear to challenge the pre-

would perhaps reveal more favourable

vailing assumption that ethnic conflicts have

a limited impact on interstate conflict. The

results.

From a policy perspective, the con-

findings suggest that ethnic conflict is an im-

clusions relate to understanding why ethnic

portant explanatory variable in analysing

conflicts are generally more violent than

levels of interstate violence.

Some tentative conclusions can now be

their non-ethnic counterparts. One obvious

problem is the absence of effective conflict

offered, although caution should be exer-

management techniques in areas where the

cised in interpreting the results as alterna-

problem of collective identity is concerned

tive approaches may provide different

(Azar & Burton, 1986). This is particularly

conclusions. First, from a theoretical per-

true wherein the groups involved are not

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146 David Garment

states but communities which often lack the

ominous, perhaps, is the possibility that

commitment to and experience of conflict

levels of interstate ethnic violence will

management practices.2 Equally problem-

increase over time.

atic has been the relative neglect of such

conflicts by the international community.

NOTES
A second policy aspect touches upon the

need to redefine the meaning of inter-

1. The example of Bangladesh in 1971 is, of course,

the most well known. An examination of a current


national security, in particular for those

geopolitical map points to potential cases including

states of the developing world wherein the

the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and South

major objections by state leaders against


Asia.

refocusing our attention on ethnic conflicts

is that they constitute a potential threat to

2. Ethnic identification can attach itself to any one of

six different criteria including: (i) race - shared

phenotypical features such as pigmentation stature


the leadership and integrity of many states

and facial or hair type, (ii) kinship - assumed blood

(Azar & Moon, 1986). Thus recent efforts in

ties and alleged common ancestry such as is gener-

transcending the intrastate and interstate


ally claimed by clans, tribes and occasionally by

distinctions of ethnic conflict have met with

whole nations, (iii) religion as a leaven of social

allegiances, not as a formal belief system about


success in invoking the primacy of the inter-

ultimate essences, (iv) language - as a vehicle of

national community in ethnic conflict resol-

communication and as a symbol of ethnic and cul-

ution, but it remains to be seen if and how


tural identity, (v) customary mode of livelihood -

such approaches can be applied and whether

examples include the Javanese and Bengali who

preen themselves as the bearers of customs and


they will be accepted by leaders sensitive to

cultures superior to those of their neighbours, (vi)


internal security problems (Gurr, 1990;

regionalism - in which groups of people are united

Ryan, 1990). A third implication of this


because of a distinct geographic region (see Roths-

study relates to the fact that the period


child, 1981, pp. 86-87). For Fredrik Barth, the

selected (1945-81) constitutes the time in

critical features of an ethnic group are that it is

ascriptive and exclusive: its continuity depends on


which the Cold War was at its peak. One

the maintenance of a boundary (Barth, 1969, p.

tentative but partial conclusion is that ethnic

14).

conflicts generally tend towards violence


3. Testing of affective variables in irredentist crisis

because the structure of the international

settings has been carried out by Carment et al.

(1992).
system - a bipolar system - prohibited con-

4. For a comprehensive examination of the relationflict between the major powers but not

ship between irredentism and international poli-

among its clients (Tillema, 1989). While it is


tics, see Chazan (1991). On the complex inter-

certainly important to situate local and


relationship between irredentism and secessionist

regional ethnic conflicts in terms of the

movements see Horowitz (1991, pp. 9-22). 'Irre-

dentas and Secessions: Adjacent Phenomenon,


wider structure of bipolar superpower blocs

Neglected Connections' in Chazan (1991). For

and their client systems it would not serve

Donald Horowitz irredentism contains two distinct

our purposes to identify systemic factors as


subtypes: 'the attempt to detach land and people

the primary source of explanation. More

from one state in order to incorporate them in

another, as in the case of Somalia's recurrent irrelikely the answers to managing, resolving

denta against Ethiopia, and the attempt to detach


and anticipating future ethnic conflicts are

land and people divided among more than one

to be found in both case study and macrostate in order to incorporate them in a single new

level perspectives. Perspectives that on the


state - a "Kurdistan", for example, composed of

one hand provide insight into the question

Kurds now living in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey'

(Horowitz, 1991, p. 10). On the relationship beof how ethnic conflicts shape interstate be-

tween secessionism and separatism, see Meadwell

haviour and on the other hand provide

(1991).

answers to the question as to why ethnicity


5. According to Alexis Heraclides (1991) the inter-

is such a vital and persistent form of political

organization. If the findings of this paper are

national system can respond in one of three ways:

(i) by diffusion and encouragement, (ii) by reconci-

liation, or (iii) by isolation and suppression.


indeed valid then it stands to reason that the

6. For a fuller description of the term 'policies of

end of the Cold War will have only a partial


denial', see Heraclides (1989) and Azar & Burton

effect on reducing the significance of ethnic


(1986).

conflict in international relations. More

7. Values seem to be most susceptible to large-scale

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International Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict 147

agreement and conflict. There are three important

political world created by the modern states and by

aspects here: First, values have a large affective

nationalism . . . [w]hich amount to the systematic

component. Second, values, because of their level

denial of the aspirations of particular ethnic and

of abstraction, serve as organizing principles for

would be nations for social and political recog-

most other concepts. As Boucher, Landis & Clark

nition, and an inability to make provisions for the

argue: 'There is little that cannot be seen as an

respective security fears and identity needs of vari-

exemplar of a particular value. One could then pos-

ous communities (Smith, 1986, p. 74). A second

tulate that when differences in values are made

important reason is that the results of this study can

salient, the stage is set for inter-ethnic conflict'

more readily be compared to other correlational

(1987, p. 21). Third, some values, such as identity

studies and case studies which use a similar time

and territory, are 'non-negotiable' in confron-

frame though their assumptions and conclusions

tations between ethnic groups (Rothman, 1992).

about the nature of ethnic conflict are somewhat

8. According to Heraclides, armed struggle is the

different. For example, Heraclides (1990) and

result of an ethnic group's quest for identity, posi-

Suhrke & Noble (1977) rely exclusively on cases

tive group distinctiveness and ingroup cohesion

from the postwar era, but test assumptions derived

(1989).

9. The concern here is not absolute differences in

terms of the total number of conflicts but relative

largely from conventional wisdom.

13. These measurements are, admittedly, imprecise.

There are a number of criteria by which to measure

differences - the proportion of each type of conflict

the phenomenon of ethnic conflicts. Having said

resulting in different levels of violence. This focus

this, there appears to be face validity. However,

allows inferences to be made about the impact that

scoring can change according to the measurement

kinds of conflict have upon levels of violence - the

impetus for this investigation.

10. International ethnic conflicts like all international

conflicts are first and foremost foreign policy crises.

used.

14. In order to develop intersubjective agreement on

the nominal definition of ethnic conflict, a second

coding was carried out utilizing a random sample of

In Crises in the Twentieth Century (1988) Michael

75 crisis cases by a colleague familiar with research

Brecher & Jonathan Wilkenfeld define a foreign

on ethnicity. The second coding scored 80% agree-

policy crisis, that is, a crisis viewed from the per-

ment, prior to consultation, for ethnic and non-

spective of an individual state, as: a situation with

three necessary and sufficient conditions deriving

from changes in a state's external or internal en-

vironment. All three perceptions are held by the

ethnic conflicts.

15. Value Type Frequency Percent

0 Non-ethnic 234 47

1 Anti-colonial 64 12

highest level decision-makers of the actor con-

2 Secessionist 127 26

cerned: a threat to basic values, along with the

3 Irredentist 67 14

awareness of finite time for response to the value

threat and a high probability of involvement in

Total 492 100

The discrepancy in total frequencies for non-ethnic

military hostilities. The crisis definition utilizes an

conflicts between these frequencies and the con-

important concept that is useful for this research:

tingency tables (234 vs 202) is accounted for by 32

threat to values. In the case of ethnic conflict,

cases missing data relating to the index of violence.

threat to values is based on an ethnic boundary

The overall number of cases examined in Tables I

between ingroup and outgroup which has the

potential to give rise to group mobilization and

politicization qua separate community, society or

state. Threat to values encompasses: cultural,

political, social, religious and economic values.

11. In contrast to cases selected for this paper the

Suhrke & Noble studies are limited to eight cases.

All but one case includes Islam as a major com-

ponent of ethnicity. The authors also recognize

that their study may have been biased towards

'penetrable' developing states in which radical

challengers of the ethnic status quo were present

and II is therefore 460.

16. V = Index of Violence, where V = V1 + v2 + V3;

vI = severity of violence (the magnitude of

violence from none to full-scale war); v2 = cen-

trality of violence (the importance of violence with

respect to the resolution of the conflict); V3 =

timing of violence (the presence of violence before,

during or after the conflict).

17. Internal validation procedures for v1 and v2; v2 and

V3; and v1 and V3 produced correlations of 0.66,

0.45 and 0.27, respectively. With respect to exter-

nal validation, one indicator that is related to the

(1977, p. 321). Similarly, Heraclides' (1990) assess-

index, but not part of it, was selected. Theoreti-

ment of seven cases concentrates heavily on three

cally speaking, the external validator is linked to

developing regions, the Middle East, Africa and

the index as a whole but not as closely as the actual

Asia and exclusively on secessionist movements

component. The external validator chosen is intra-

(Heraclides, 1990, p. 344).

12. Quantitative aspects include the significant

war crisis (IWC), which refers to crises that occur

during periods of war. Intra-war crises are quite

increase in conflicts (both domestic and inter-

common among ethnic conflicts since many ethnic

national) that have arisen out of processes associ-

conflicts result in violence. If introduced into the

ated with state and nation building, de-colonization

index, the variable IWC might exaggerate the level

and development. Qualitative shifts include 'the

of violence for ethnic conflicts. Pearson corre-

sense of exclusion and failure in the social and

lations between the Index of Violence and the

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148 David Carment

external validator are strong at 0.51 (p < 0.01).

Taken together, the results of the external and

internal validation procedures provide ample sup-

port for the construction of an index along the lines

noted above.

18. The distinction is not arbitrary. Most states that

have achieved independence since 1945 are former

colonial possessions, developing states beset with

Brecher, Michael; Jonathan Wilkenfeld & Sheila

Moser, 1988. Crises in the Twentieth Century, vol. 1,

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Brecher, Michael; Patrick James and Jonathan Wilken-

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19. If the study were to be extended to include the

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Garment, David, 1992. 'Les dimensions internes des

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20. Perhaps it seems obvious that interstate conflicts

can be more easily solved through diplomacy than

conflicts between states and ethnic groups. This has

two main reasons. The first is that states have dip-

lomats and are represented in international organ-

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an armed threat to each other from the very outset,

if not by their own armies then through' alliances.

Ethnic groups have neither diplomats nor armies

and therefore have gradually to escalate their con-

flicts through the use of violence. However, the

focus of this investigation has been a comparison

between those interstate conflicts in which ethnic

conflict is present and not present. The results indi-

cate that there is a significant difference between

various types of interstate conflict, suggesting that

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Non-ethnic conflicts. Expected average levels of violence

- low. In non-ethnic conflicts ethnicity is not a factor in

the triggering of the conflict or in any of its phases from

escalation to resolution. Example - 'The Cod Wars'.

Disputes over fishing rights in waters contiguous to Ice-

land precipitated a crisis for the UK and Iceland from

23 November 1975 to 1 June 1976. On 23 November

British trawler skippers warned the UK that they would

withdraw from Iceland's 200-mile zone unless they

were assured of Royal Navy protection. On the 25th

the British Government, convinced of the danger to the

welfare and safety of the fishermen, dispatched frigates

to Icelandic waters, triggering a crisis for Iceland.

Britain maintained the presence of the Royal Navy in

order to protect the trawlers. On 1 June 1976 an interim

agreement between the two countries was signed in

Oslo allowing British trawlers rights within the 200-mile

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150 David Carment

zone. Talks were held under UN auspices and the Nor-

dic Council discussed the economic and military impli-

cations of the crisis and met with the British and Icelan-

dic leaders.

dence in 1949 and reached crisis proportions in 1957.

Following an Indonesian decision to liberate West

Irian, Sukarno appealed to the USSR for political and

military support, which was granted. A new Dutch plan

was designed stressing the idea of self-determination

Irredentist conflicts. Expected average levels of violence

- high. These are protracted ethnic conflicts involving

whole communities and states occasionally escalating to

full-scale wars with high levels of violence and low

levels of negotiation. Core values such as territory and

for the Papuans. In order to focus world attention, the

Indonesian government implemented a small-scale

infiltration into West Irian. This triggered a crisis for

The Netherlands. Active participation by the UN Sec-

retary-General and an announcement by President

population are usually threatened. Both instrumental

Kennedy of the USA to seek a solution actively per-

and affective motivations are highly salient. Irredentist

suaded The Netherlands to drop its demand for Papuan

movements usually lay claim to the territory of an

self-determination on 3 January. According to an

entity - usually an independent state - wherein their

agreement signed by the Dutch and the Indonesians on

ingroup is in a clear numerical minority. Example -

15 August 1962, the UN would supervise the evacu-

Ogaden. War between Ethiopia and Somalia over the

ation of Dutch military forces and take over adminis-

disputed territory of Ogaden lasted from 22 July 1977

tration of the area until it could be handed over to

to 14 March 1978. Since Somalia's independence in

Indonesia not later than 1 May 1963,

1960, Somalia had sought the creation of a 'Greater

Somalia' which would include Djibouti, the Northern

Separatist and secessionist ethnic conflicts. Expected

Frontier District of Kenya and above all the Ogaden on

average levels of violence - moderate. These are ethnic

Ethiopia's border with Somalia. In Ethiopia, the anti-

conflicts that have their origins within state settings and

monarchical revolution of 1974 had brought about the

occasionally involve third party intervention, hence

upsurge of competing regional nationalism - 14 states

they have the capacity to become interstate conflicts.

in Ethiopia were in a state of armed insurrection afford-

Levels of violence are expected to be greater because

ing Somalia an opportunity to realize the long-held aim

they almost always involve policies of denial, the use of

of liberation. On 22 July 1977 Somali troops attacked

force and politically mobilized, well-organized ethnic

the Ogaden and by October most of the disputed terri-

insurgency movements. These conflicts are likely to

tory was completely overrun. At that time the Soviet

become protracted and are also likely to involve spor-

Union came to the aid of Ethiopia in the form of an

adic and violent conflict. Motivations of the actors are

airlift of weapons and after that air and military person-

imbued with high instrumental and affective content.

nel. A counter-offensive involving Cuban and Ethio-

Example - Bangladesh. The crisis over Bangladesh

pian troops managed to retake most of the territory by

took place from 25 March to 17 December 1971. In

March 1978. By 14 March 1978 the Somalis formally

mid-February 1971 a decision was taken by the military

withdrew, conceding victory to Ethiopia. Source:

rulers in West Pakistan to suppress the growing fervor

Brecher and Wilkenfeld, 1988.

of East Bengal nationalism. Military personnel were

posted to the East. On 1 March President Yahya Khan

Anti-colonial ethnic conflicts. Expected average levels of

postponed the opening of the assembly. This was pro-

violence - low-moderate. These conflicts, where ethni-

tested by the Awami League, which launched a non-

city is deemed to be a factor in the triggering of the

cooperative movement on the 6th. The UN approached

conflict and in all of its phases, are developed from the

by Bangladesh in March 1971 declared the matter an

UN declaration of the right to self-determination and

internal matter for Pakistan. While fighting raged over

policies of de-colonization. These conflicts generally

the spring and summer an estimated nine million refu-

constitute a low to moderate threat to the core values of

gees fled from Bangladesh to India. On 21 November

the protagonists. They involve policies of negotiation as

the Indian Army crossed into West Pakistan already at

well as policies of denial and the occasional use of

war with Bangladesh. Indian forces overwhelmed the

force. Example - West Irian. There were two actors in

Pakistani troops in seceding territory. The war ended

this crisis, Indonesia and The Netherlands. It began in

on 17 December 1971 with Pakistan's surrender and the

September 1961 and ended on 15 August 1962. The

emergence of a new sovereign state on the Indian sub-

dispute over the territory of West Irian (West New

continent.

Guinea) began when Indonesia attained its indepen-

DAVID GARMENT, b. 1959, PhD Candidate in Political Science, McGill University; MA, Norman

Paterson School of International Affairs (1985); Current main research interests: international re-

lations, ethnic conflict and resolution, global change, and conflict processes.

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