States, Canals, And Conflict: How Artificial Structures Influence Political Violence

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West Point Press
What is the impact of artificial structural factors (ASF) on political violence within a state? How do ASFs, specifically in the form of canals in Panama and Egypt, influence levels of political violence? This question is especially important to study given that some ASFs can be a critical part of global commerce or interlinkages. More importantly, when one structure dominates a significant portion of a state’s economy, there needs to be considerable exploration of how it can affect state behavior. Through a comparative historical analysis of Panama and Egypt, this study explores how a state’s decisions to negotiate with regards to their artificial structures either exacerbates or mitigates political violence. In my analysis, I show how Panama and Egypt’s divergent decisions on whether to negotiate peacefully or not on behalf of their canals—a significant artificial structure—influenced levels of political violence within the two states. Panama chose to negotiate and experienced reduced levels of political violence, while Egypt acted unilaterally and did continued to experience political violence. Ultimately, I find that traditional indicators of political violence—ethnicity, colonial legacy, and non-artificial structures—do not sufficiently explain violence levels within a state. While their ASFs are not the only cause, political violence in states like Panama and Egypt cannot be fully understood without exploring how their canals influence state behavior. This research paves the way for future research that identifies the specific types of artificial structures that warrant particular attention and shape state behavior and political violence.
Grace Brooks graduated from the United States Military Academy in May 2020 with a B.S. in American Politics. Her research interests revolve around how institutions and procedures influence state behavior. Upon graduation, she commissioned as a 2LT in the U.S. Army as an Armor Officer. Grace may be reached at
Political Science and Security Studies
Brooks, Grace. “States, Canals, And Conflict: How Artificial Structures Influence Political Violence.” West Point Journal of Politics and Security 1, no. 1 (2021): 57-73.