Ahsan I. Butt, Secession and Security: Explaining State Strategy Against Separatists

Publication Date01 December 2019
AuthorHayat Ashraf Dar
Date01 December 2019
DOI10.1177/0973598419861477
SubjectBook Review
Book Review
Ahsan I. Butt, Secession and Security: Explaining
State Strategy Against Separatists. Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 2017, 308 pp., `5,999 (hardcover). ISBN:
9781501713965.
Why do states resist one secessionist movement violently while offering
negotiations to others? What explains the variations in the levels of
violence once a state decides on employing violence? This book attempts
to answer these questions. The book, in so doing, makes considerable
departure from the existing scholarship on sub-national movements that
focuses mostly on the structural conditions and on the rebels or insurgents.
Recently, scholars, including the author, have turned their attention
toward the state as a significant actor in the state-separatist conflicts.
Most of the literature in this camp draws heavily upon domestic factors
such as signaling, reputation, and deterrence to explain state strategy
against separatists. This book uses the focus on state as its point of
departure and, instead of the domestic factors, puts all its weight behind
the external security implications of a secessionist movement as the
main determinant of state strategy. This book attempts to explain states
decision to choose from a wide range of options available to it.
The central argument is that the state decision to choose a particular
response is contingent upon the external security implications of a
secessionist movement. This guides the state strategy insofar as
determining whether and how much violence it uses against the
separatists. The fear of a future war plays a critical role in the states
choice to coerce. Secession, it is argued, negatively alters the balance of
power against the host state. Post-secession redrawing of state borders
has a dual impact on the host state as (a) the seceding ethnic group poses
an increased threat to the state owing to the benefits it has accrued due to
the freshly acquired statehood and (b) the loss of territory and population
Book Review
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
23(2) 242–245, 2019
2019 Jadavpur University
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DOI: 10.1177/0973598419861477
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