Powering War: When States Fight for Oil Authority

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Nunn School Faculty Candidate Job Talk:  Emily Meierding, Assistant Professor, Institute de hautes Études Internationales et du Développement (Switzerland).

When do countries fight over oil and natural gas reservoirs? Although disputes over potentially resource-rich areas like the South China Sea, the Arctic, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the border region between Sudan and South Sudan are prominent concerns in contemporary international politics, our understanding of these conflicts’ dynamics is limited, in part because International Relations scholars have historically devoted little attention to the issue of petroleum disputes. This presentation will outline a theory of international, territorial petroleum conflicts that challenges the widespread assumption that oil is a significant cause of violent interstate contention. Instead, it will argue, the inefficiency of extending national oil authority through military force means that petroleum reservoirs are unlikely to inspire international aggression. There are, nonetheless, four conditions under which oil-related territorial contention is more likely. The talk will identify these conditions, describe a large-N qualitative test of the hypotheses, and discuss implications of the findings for current international politics.


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    Debbie Mobley
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    Fletcher Moore
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