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Geography's Role in Strategic Thinking

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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Geography's Role in Strategic Thinking
    Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 16:22
In relations between political entities, whether regional or global, geography must be a critical element in assessing how to reconcile ends with means.  All political entities have interests, from some merely maintaining integrity and independence, to others projecting power far afield.
 
Bonaparte's observation that a nation's geography determines it's strategy is valid still, but must be modified to allow for technological changes since the early 19th century.
 
Geographic features are relatively permanent.  As the Earth no longer accomodates very large nomadic population groups, it's various populations since the beginning of the industrial age are often both constrained by their own particular geographical conditions, as well as prompted to compete, peacefully or otherwise, for necessities that are located among geographic features that are not readily accessible.
 
To this must be added the growth and expected continued growth of those various populations.  Although perhaps not inevitable, reconciling ends with means in an atmosphere of burgeoning population and perceived finite resources, is likely to result in competition that may evolve into conflict.
 
World government is unlikely to materialize; international cooperation tends to occur infrequently, and usually when some polities recognize more advantage to themselves than to others.  Since the Second World War, diplomacy has tended to be seen by many polities as a weapon rather than as an instrument of conflict resolution.
 
So, the politics that derive from the points above seem to me to indicate that geopolitics and "geopolitical strategy" are more, not less, important going forward into the current century.  Geopolitics as a concept had bad press during the years between the two World Wars, but regained its importance during the Cold War when there were really only two major players.  Now there are many players.
 
Before the eclipse of Europe as the political center of the world stage, a balance of power was viewed as an important part of reconciling ends with means.  In recent decades, an overwhelming advantage of power, sometimes only in a regional or local sense, has found a strategic audience.
 
From a geopolitical perspective, viewed through the prism of ENDS, WAYS and MEANS, let's discuss some things that come to mind (and any other geopolitical issues the members want to explore):
 
1) Russia's geographical and historic position in the Eurasian land mass.
 
2) The resource interests of many polities in central Asia.
 
3) The Western Hemisphere and vital US interests there.
 
4) The Southern Hemisphere; Africa's reality and the potential of Brazil as a geopolitical factor in that geography.
 
5) India's development as a geopolitical factor in the critical area of the Indian Ocean.
 
6) China's efforts (ongoing) to advance her interests by resource accumulation in other geographical areas....both economic and strategic in nature.
 
Many, MANY others.
 
Feel free, please, to discuss all this in an historical perspective that seems to me to date from around 1900 AD.  Some of the writings of geopolitical thinkers may be helpful going forward, and a few of the more influential are available at *gasp* wiki:
 
 
Welcome to the "Institute" and let's have fun.
 
 


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 17-Jun-2009 at 23:07
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 16:38
Geography has lost its end all and be all role. The US is no longer invulnerable, a 25 minute flight of an ICBM means that all its poltial, population and economic centers are within a potential adversarys targeting capabilities. Geography is now a complicating factor than a limiting factor; militarily.
 
Politically its still highly relevent. Nations in the periphery of conflict find their prospects dictated by them. Worse still are the nations who lie in route to a strategically important area. They have all the burdens and none of the benefits.
 
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  Quote Kevin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 17:27
Originally posted by Sparten

Geography has lost its end all and be all role. The US is no longer invulnerable, a 25 minute flight of an ICBM means that all its poltial, population and economic centers are within a potential adversarys targeting capabilities. Geography is now a complicating factor than a limiting factor; militarily.
 
Politically its still highly relevent. Nations in the periphery of conflict find their prospects dictated by them. Worse still are the nations who lie in route to a strategically important area. They have all the burdens and none of the benefits.
 
 
I would agree to most of your statements how geography can still become a limiting factor militarly.
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  Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 17:44
That's a really good list Pikeshot1600. Look forward to reading and jumping in every now and then with a few Sekoisms on those potential subjects.
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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 18:56
Originally posted by Sparten

Geography has lost its end all and be all role. The US is no longer invulnerable, a 25 minute flight of an ICBM means that all its poltial, population and economic centers are within a potential adversarys targeting capabilities. Geography is now a complicating factor than a limiting factor; militarily.
 
Politically its still highly relevent. Nations in the periphery of conflict find their prospects dictated by them. Worse still are the nations who lie in route to a strategically important area. They have all the burdens and none of the benefits.
 
 
The observation concerning ballistic ordinance is appreciated, but I would argue that it only has it's greatest validity in a doomsday scenario.  It can also be argued that the very existence of such ordinance has had a beneficial effect on geopolitical development in the second half of the 20th century. 
 
In the first half, geopolitical ends were sought with mass destruction and mass casualties (Domination of the Eurasian land mass; Lebensraum; the East Asia "Co-prosperity Sphere," and the Allies' countermoves geopolitically, etc.).  In the second half, geopolitical competition (under the perception of controlled nuclear umbrellas) resolved itself more into low intensity conflicts including assymmetrical strategies, from anti-colonial conflicts to the first several years of the Viet Nam war.  No doubt not appreciated by the infantry soldier or the downed pilot, but not nations laid waste and 50,000,000 killed
 
Under the direction of leaders who were often born in the late 19th/early 20th century, these tended to be more ideological struggles, and were frequently contested by proxies or other surrogates (volunteers), etc.  Now, the economics of strategic ends are being recognized as all important, and polities without nuclear weapons are engaging in geopolitical efforts to achieve ends understood as vital to them.
 
A lot of things that are vital are not located on one's doorstep, and geographical factors control that.
 
 
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 20:43
I would say a lot of the ideological struggles had an economic basis, definatly the whole concept of "living space" was economic in nature and the racial theory provided a convinient cover.
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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 20:50
Originally posted by Sparten

I would say a lot of the ideological struggles had an economic basis, definatly the whole concept of "living space" was economic in nature and the racial theory provided a convinient cover.
 
Actually I wasn't clear on that.  The ideological factor I was referreing to was in the "wars of liberation," and so on, after the first half of the 20th century.
 
The whole Haushofer concept, as perverted by the Nazis, was to a great degree economic, I agree with you.
 
 


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 06-Jun-2008 at 21:03
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 21:07

Those wars also had an (admittedly not always dominant) economic issue. Be it that the colonial power could no longer get much by the way of profit out of it (Belgium), or justify the expense now that strategic imperitives were gone (British in Aden), or it was felt that locals would now be more efficient at it (India).

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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 21:44
Originally posted by Sparten

Those wars also had an (admittedly not always dominant) economic issue. Be it that the colonial power could no longer get much by the way of profit out of it (Belgium), or justify the expense now that strategic imperitives were gone (British in Aden), or it was felt that locals would now be more efficient at it (India).

 
I would suggest that the later stage of the Malayan emergency (a period of low intensity covert war) was both strategic and economic.  Indonesian initiatives threatened Singapore as a free passage to and from the Indian Ocean, and that choke point was still a strategic imperative for Britain.  The control of the straits by a hostile Indonesia could possibly have been economically detrimental due to Sukarno's hostility to the West (he wasn't that "non-aligned").
 
The city-state of Singapore was not a threat - it was small, and its well being depended on plenty of trade, and not liberation politics.
 
 Note: Those 1960s operations in Borneo and Sarawak were so covert they don't even really have a name.  Wink
 
 


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 06-Jun-2008 at 21:45
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