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This approach is clearly compelling not only for its parsimony but for its apparent in-case and across-case validity. It suffices to demonstrate that preferences diverge. The question then becomes whether the institutions in the center provided the holders of hard-line positions the opportunity to block concessions.

Review: Ending Empire by Hendrik Spruyt

Although he acknowledges that agent volition and preference is necessary to understand why certain actors choose to exercise a policy veto in permissive institutional environments, by characterizing groups that call for continued metropolitan control as uniformly hard-line, the oppositional, anti-majoritarian character of their demands is assumed a priori. These problems are particularly acute in his treatment of the Israeli case.

While Spruyt is certainly correct to highlight the incredibly fractious and disputed nature of Israeli politics as a key problem in reaching a domestic consensus on the status of the Occupied Territories, it is difficult to justify his quick dismissal of security-based motivations for persistent control.

That these views may actually be significantly constitutive of the Israeli political landscape fundamentally questions the appropriateness of the veto player framework.

The question must be asked, is it the fragmentation of the political system preventing a territorial settlement in line with international demands or is it the particular domestic view of the strategic and national-cultural importance of the territory in question to the state that problematizes such resolution? That significant territorial withdrawals have been achieved over the explicit objections and physical mobilization of settler interests as with the Israeli final withdrawal from the Sinai in and withdrawal from Gaza in within the same fragmented system while similar actions have not been taken with respect to the Golan, West Bank, or Jerusalem seems to question the veto point approach.

Instead, they seem to highlight the particular value, strategic or ethnohistorical, assigned to the contentious territory in question not easily captured or understood by an examination whose primary focus is institutional configurations. These reservations may potentially be applied to the British case as well. Should not the same single veto point that enabled the Macmillan government to rapidly decolonize its African and Asian territories over the objections of settler groups led to a parallel outcome in Ulster?

If democratic governments with few veto players should choose policies that come closer to what unitary-state realist theories would predict than those with multiple veto players, what went wrong in Ireland?

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While the Israeli case is clearly not a straightforward example of the impact of veto players in a cartelized political system, it would be false to claim that this dynamic was not at work. Similarly in the Northern Ireland example, the argument may be made that because actor agency matters, we should not expect a priori that a government would feel the need to withdraw from a disputed territory lacking significant external pressure.

To demonstrate the validity of the veto framework, all that one would have to demonstrate is that if the political leadership wished to extricate itself from the province, it could. The level of applicability may simply be a function of what one wishes to explain.


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If the object is to construct a generalizable, parsimonious theory that provides a compelling account of institutional resistance to territorial retrenchment, Spruyt has taken us much of the way there. If, however, the goal is to understand the root causes and conditions that perpetuate contentious international territorial disputes, much more case specific, instrumentally attuned, and culturally conscious work is clearly necessary.

Ben Meir, Yehuda, and Dafna Shaked. Snyder, Jack L.

Review: Ending Empire by Hendrik Spruyt | Ariel Zellman

Cornell Studies in Security Affairs. Ithaca, N. Spruyt, Hendrik. Cornell Studies in Political Economy. Tsebelis, George. Martin L. This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 20th, at pm and is filed under Books , Research , Reviews.

Myths of Empire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)

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