The broad strokes that attempt to define the concept of geopolitics may be the primary reason for misinterpretations (both inadvertent and sinister) of this theory. These misunderstandings, if unchecked, may contribute to flawed or even dangerous foreign policy development. Still, there are some undeniable truths contained within the overarching notion of geopolitics; elements that may play a positive role in creating effective foreign policy in the modern world. This paper takes a closer look at the concept of geopolitics and its role, both real and perceived, in the 20th and 21st century global environment.
Keywords Geopolitical; Globalization; Inter-governmental Organizations; International Relations; Non-governmental Organization
International Business: GeopoliticsOverview
In 1904, the British geographer, Sir Halford Mackinder, observed the countless British naval bases used to launch into the Empire's holdings around the world. He speculated that the only element that could strike fear into British colonialists despite its obvious naval power was an even greater power. If a nation were to take possession of what he called the "World Island" (namely, the giant land mass that contains Europe, Asia and Africa), the British Empire would fall.
German General Karl Haushofer, whose political views were influenced heavily by Mackinder's ideas, would later take the pursuit of the World Island quite seriously. He approached Adolph Hitler, who at the time was writing his seminal work, Mein Kampf, from prison, and promoted what would become his life's work — the formation of an enormous alliance consisting of Germany, Japan, India, Russia and China, all united against Britain. Haushofer's credo would generate a significant propaganda campaign that claimed invasion of other states and regions was justified. He was advocating for the invasion of neighboring states and areas through the use of skewed and even flawed information to convince the German people that annexation was a viable activity. To the uninitiated, the concept of "geopolitics" provided a reason for incorporating any part of the globe that contained something the German society wanted or needed into the German territorial expanse.
Meanwhile, in the years preceding World War II, Mackinder was asked his thoughts on the philosophy of his would-be disciple, Haushofer, as the General put the German interpretation of Mackinder's geopolitical ideal into policy.
My up-to-date views on geopolitics? As I understand that word, which I myself never employ, it is the name given by Germans to a political theory which, by exploiting the geographical pattern of the globe, will lead to a world, empire under German control. I have always felt, and am still of the opinion, that the grouping of lands and seas is such as to lend itself to the growth of empires and, in the end, to a single empire (Dorpalen, 1943).
As is often the case in international politics, a seemingly innocuous theory can be used for ill gain. In this case, the Makinder notion of collectivizing regions to counter a larger hypothetical entity was twisted and manipulated when utilized for political purposes. The Nazis, for example, abutted what was then Czechoslovakia on either side. Even though this country was an internationally-recognized sovereign state, Haushofer was able to seemingly rationalize annexing the Sudetenland to the Nazi leadership who, in turn, acted almost dumbfounded about why they had not yet taken over that region.
Then again, the broad strokes that attempt to define the concept of geopolitics may be the primary reason for misinterpretations (both inadvertent and sinister) of this theory. These misunderstandings, if unchecked, may contribute to flawed or even dangerous foreign policy development. Still, there are some undeniable truths contained within the overarching notion of geopolitics; elements that may play a positive role in creating effective foreign policy in the modern world. This paper takes a closer look at the concept of geopolitics and its role, both real and perceived, in the 20th and 21st century global environment.Geopolitics, Defined & Redefined
As the illustration of Karl Haushofer's interpretation of the theory suggests, the idea of geopolitics can be used to justify a wide range of foreign policy actions. Geopolitics, after all, is a broad-based term subject to a multitude of political, academic and individual interpretations. Simply defined, geopolitics is the formulation of policy based on external environmental factors. In terms of international relations, geopolitics takes on a characteristic not dissimilar from pure realism — a nation will seek to maximize the assets it needs in order to advance itself in the international community, and if it views any element (whether tangible or intangible) evident in an extraterritorial environment to be of value or a threat to its stability, it will work towards involving itself in that environment.
On its surface, this definition does appear ominous. In truth, throughout human history, this negative connotation has come to bear many times. The myriad "empires" that have cropped up on virtually every continent provide evidence of this point. The Greek, Roman, and Ottoman Empires are examples as are the countless "colonial" entities that hailed from Europe until the early 20th century. Most often, these political entities both expanded and declined with violence and war. As such, linking national interest and external resources and environments does create the potential for conflict.
Still, the hegemonic conflicts that have littered human history under the flag of geopolitics (or at least loose interpretations of that term) are offset by the benefits of appreciating a geopolitical doctrine. In truth, the idea of a world in which interests and needs eschew geographic borders is reflective of the liberal tenets offered by President Woodrow Wilson after the first World War: "In regard to these essential rectifications of wrong and assertions of right we feel ourselves to be intimate partners of all the governments and peoples associated together against the Imperialists. We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose" (Brigham Young University, 2007).
Wilson's iconic words are reflective of the importance of geopolitics to the global community. After all, the concepts of international political relations and international business are predicated on the notion that few global powers or business entities are totally self-subsistent. Similarly, targeted partners in geopolitics likely see opportunities not for conflict but for symbiotic relationship-building. This paper next looks at these two arenas and the ways in which geopolitics has become an integral contributor.Geopolitics & Political Relations
As stated earlier, in an era in which globalization is the norm, geopolitical (which is to say, external policy that is based on geographical need) relations are a necessity for most political institutions. A lack of political territoriality that is suggested by a fundamentalist view of geopolitics gives way to intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), international treaties, security relationships and mutual cooperation institutions. Examples include NATO, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), OPEC, the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization. Each of these organizations and...
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