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Diffusion, Learning, and Cooperation in Managing Transnational Conflicts

Asia
Conflict
International Relations
Political Violence
War
Christoph Trinn
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Christoph Trinn
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Abstract

No state is an island. Especially today, states are affected by violent conflicts that transcend borders. In transnational conflicts, violence is exported, non-state groups strategically cross borders, and goods in dispute are spread across multiple countries. The border-transcending nature of such conflicts, be it wars or terroristic acts, makes them neither entirely domestic nor purely international phenomena. The study of trans-border diffusion has predominantly focused on non-state actors, specifically rebels, ethnic groups, and refugees. What has largely been missing in the debate is the reaction of states to transnational conflict. How do governments handle the strategic challenges posed by border-crossing non-state groups, fighting across states, or contentious issues affecting more than the territory of a single state? It seems reasonable that states faced with boundary-crossing conflicts likewise look beyond their borders. We investigate to what extent political elites find strategic role models in other governments facing similar challenges. Do authoritarian governments, in particular, learn from each other? Does transnational conflict even breed international cooperation among such regimes? The paper presents a dataset on transnational conflicts in Asia and Oceania and gives insights into the causal mechanisms underlying strategic learning. This is based on case studies of the decision-making processes of political and military elites with regard to the formulation and implementation of conflict management policies.