Lines in the Sand (& Sea)

By Sands, David R. | Insight on the News, April 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Lines in the Sand (& Sea)


Sands, David R., Insight on the News


All around the globe, hundreds of land (as well as maritime) boundaries are in dispute. While many such disputes remain wars of words, any one of them suddenly can flare into conflict.

Modern global-positioning systems can calculate to the inch the distance of a golf ball from a flagstick. Cameras in spy satellites can read a car's license plate from outer space. But on Machias Seal Island, just off the coast of Maine in the Bay of Fundy, the most sophisticated technology in the world determines whether the lighthouse shines on Canada or the United States.

That's because both countries claim the uninhabited 15-acre puffin rookery, one of more than 50 land borders around the globe in dispute. With even more maritime boundaries in dispute, the ancient question of who owns what remains a potent source of conflict, despite globalization.

"When you study international politics, you quickly see that territorial disputes remain by far the most important generator of conflict," says Paul K. Huth, a senior research scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and one of the nation's leading scholars on international territory disputes. "For all the talk about the decline of the nationstate and the end of sovereignty, if you understand which borders are in dispute, you understand where the potential hot spots are."

The Cold War froze several major disputes, adds Clive Schofield, deputy director of the International Boundaries Research Unit, or IBRU, a London-based umbrella group for scholars. The collapse of the Soviet bloc not only revitalized long-dormant border spats, but it also created a host of potential new arguments as some 20 independent nations emerged. "We all got used to seeing the global map as relatively static, and now we're finding that that's not the case," says Schofield.

Maritime disputes are even more contentious. Despite the advances of modern cartography, about 265 of the world's 425 maritime boundaries -- 62 percent -- have not even been officially sanctioned, with fishing stocks, oil and mineral rights and strategic shipping lines yet to be apportioned.

The resulting ambiguity can be dangerous -- witness the outbreak of hostilities between North and South Korea last summer over the "Northern Limit Line." Pyongyang never formally recognized the U.N.-designated buffer zone.

But cartographers say the single most contested piece of real estate on earth almost certainly is a group of barren rocks in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands, parts of which are claimed by China, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Control of the Spratlys gives the owner first claim to the fishing and mineral resources of the surrounding ocean, as well as a front seat on a critical leg of one of the world's busiest shipping lines. Daniel J. Dzurek, who has studied the dispute intensively for the IBRU, predicts the wrangle will persist for decades, largely because none of the claimants enjoys a clear title to the islands, based on international law or historic precedent.

Islands, and their unfortunate propensity to appear or disappear without regard for geostrategic imperatives, present particular problems for territorial-dispute theorists. When a rock, reef or shoal graduates into a formal island often depends on tricky calculations of squatters' rights, the location of islands that can disappear underwater for months and the "optimal tidal level choices for insular definition." In some instances, writes IBRU scholar Clive Symmons, "the way an insular formation is defined can affect jurisdiction over literally thousands of square miles of ocean space."

Most of Europe's borders have been settled, but islands are at the heart of two protracted disputes. Spain and Britain remain at loggerheads over Gibraltar, dating back to Britain's seizure of the strategic spot in 1704. Greece and Turkey, in addition to their dispute over Cyprus, continue to contest several small islands in the Aegean Sea that have been a source of continuing tension between the two NATO allies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Lines in the Sand (& Sea)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.