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Contemporary Trends in Militarization and Politics in Africa  

Godfrey Maringira

In the formative years of African independence, the assumption was that the military would desist from politics. Even though the military is expected to subordinate itself to a civilian government, the militaries in postcolonial Africa continue to meddle in politics. Hence, when the military acts in politics, it seeks to achieve its desired interests. Whether military intervention and coups in Africa are an alternative means to achieve and attain democracy remains a question for debate. There is no consensus on this issue, as military intervention in politics and coups leads to different and varied consequences. However, recent trends in military coups have been celebrated by ordinary citizens across African countries where authoritarian political elites have been overthrown from power.

Article

Definitions of Geopolitics  

Igor Kovac

International relations literature and the foreign policy community offer and use multiple definitions of geopolitics. More often than not, both camps use the term even without providing or hinting at its conceptualization. This causes muddy thinking and misunderstandings among scholars, as well as misunderstandings between scholars and policymakers. It is unrealistic to expect that at some point, the scholarship will agree on a single common definition, nor is this something worth aiming for. Instead, raising awareness about ontological differences when defining geopolitics, as each definition leads to different (foreign) policy implications, makes more sense for academia and policymakers. Being cognizant of ontological diversity propels clarity of academic writing and informs policymaking. Thus, a conceptual analysis of the term geopolitics is needed to facilitate greater transparency when using the term. Probably the best place to start such an analysis is with the etymology of geopolitics, since no one objects to that: two ancient Greek words: gê (earth) and politikós (statesman). Gê personifies objectivity and determinism, while politikós represents subjectivity and interpretivism. Some definitions of geopolitics stress the first set of characteristics, while others emphasize the second. Moreover, two ontological continua—material–ideational and praxis–science—can be formed from this etymology that form an ontological matrix of geopolitics. Using this matrix, nine different types of definitions of geopolitics can be identified: classical geopolitics; geopolitics as strategic geography; cognitive geopolitics; global geopolitics; critical geopolitics; geopolitics as philosophy of statesmen; anti-geopolitics; geopolitics as logos, pathos, and ethos; and geopolitics as nexus. Each of them carries its unique ontological take on geopolitics, as well as lays particular foundations for policymakers. Such a typology excels other endeavors of classifying geopolitics, since they suffer from one or more vices: they are not systemic, they lack clear classification criteria, they cannot encapsulate all definitions of geopolitics, and their classroom and policy utility are mediocre. Finally, the functionality of the ontological matrix of geopolitics for didactical purposes and for bridging the gap between academia and policymaking is apparent. Namely, making students understand that meta-theoretical issues matter is much easier if visualization is possible. Depicting and explaining ontological positions on the geopolitical matrix is instrumental as similarities and differences become illustrative. Being exposed to the geopolitical matrix equips the people committed to the process of bridging the gap between academia and practice with a new and helpful tool.

Article

Environmental Security and Climate Change  

Simon Dalby

Environmental security focuses on the ecological conditions necessary for sustainable development. It encompasses discussions of the relationships between environmental change and conflict as well as the larger global policy issues linking resources and international relations to the necessity for doing both development and security differently. Climate change has become an increasingly important part of the discussion as its consequences have become increasingly clear. What is not at all clear is in what circumstances climate change may turn out to be threat multiplier leading to conflict. Earth system science findings and the recognition of the scale of human transformations of nature in what is understood in the 21st century to be a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, now require environmental security to be thought of in terms of preventing the worst dangers of fragile states being unable to cope with the stresses caused by rapid environmental change or perhaps the economic disruptions caused by necessary transitions to a post fossil fueled economic system. But so far, at least, this focus on avoiding the worst consequences of future climate change has not displaced traditional policies of energy security that primarily ensure supplies of fossil fuels to power economic growth. Failure to make this transition will lead to further rapid disruptions of climate and add impetus to proposals to artificially intervene in the earth system using geoengineering techniques, which might in turn generate further conflicts from states with different interests in how the earth system is shaped in future. While the Paris Agreement on Climate Change recognized the urgency of tackling climate change, the topic has not become security policy priority for most states, nor yet for the United Nations, despite numerous policy efforts to securitize climate change and instigate emergency responses to deal with the issue. More optimistic interpretations of the future suggest possibilities of using environmental actions to facilitate peace building and a more constructive approach to shaping earth’s future.

Article

Geography, Territory, and Conflict  

Steven V. Miller, Jaroslav Tir, and John A. Vasquez

Traditional, structural theories of international relations may have eschewed the importance of geography and territory to understanding international conflict, but the past 50 years of quantitative scholarship have returned geography and territory to the fore of the discipline. The importance of geography and territory to the study of international conflict first emerged in the discipline of political geography and the early foundations of peace science. Subsequent empirical analyses demonstrated a robust connection between geography, particularly disputed territory, and all phases of inter-state conflict. Explanations for this robust relationship emerged concurrent to the empirical findings. The theoretical arguments are eclectic and focus on territoriality as human instinct, the tangible and intangible value of territory, and whether conflict over territory conforms well to implications from the bargaining framework. Though traditionally the domain of inter-state conflict scholars, civil conflict scholarship has greatly informed this research program on geography, territory, and conflict by expanding and enriching its theoretical arguments and empirical implications. The future of territorial conflict scholarship should focus on reconciling different theoretical arguments about the emergence of peace after World War II, wrestling with the future of territorial conflict as more territorial disputes are settled, providing richer data on territorial claims, and exploring the implications of global climate change for future conflict over scarce and changing waterways and maritime/river boundaries.

Article

International Competition and Cooperation in the New Eastern Mediterranean  

Zenonas Tziarras

In the 21st century and particularly during the 2010s, the Eastern Mediterranean acquired unprecedented attention and significance as a distinct geopolitical space with new international and security dynamics. This “new” Eastern Mediterranean geopolitical order was largely “constructed” by global and regional power shifts as well as local developments, such as the trajectory of Turkish foreign policy and the discovery of offshore hydrocarbon reserves. The result was a change in the region’s patterns of interstate conflict and cooperation. On the one hand, countries such as Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Israel became part of an emerging network of cooperation and security architecture. On the other hand, owing to its problematic relations with these states, Turkey remained an outsider wanting to “deconstruct” this new state of affairs and change it to its own benefit. As such, the new Eastern Mediterranean was ushered in during a period of geopolitical polarization that is more conducive to crisis rather than peace and stability and often transcends its boundaries.

Article

Israeli Foreign Policy  

Aviad Rubin

The main principles of Israeli foreign policy emerged during the pre-state period and were shaped by Zionist ideology and the lessons of the Holocaust. The primary goal of this policy was, and still is, to secure a sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel, and a safe haven for world Jewry. Another dominant factor in the shaping of the foreign policy of Israel was the need to encounter the country’s challenging geostrategic situation—small territory; lack of natural resources, until the discovery of natural gas depots in water in the Israeli exclusive economic zone during the last decade; fragile Jewish communities around the world; and a hostile neighborhood. Combined together, these considerations are the issues that rank high on the agenda of Israeli foreign policy and affect Israel’s relationship with the international community, ranging from the global superpowers to third world countries. After maintaining a relatively steady foreign policy program throughout the 20th century, in the 21st century the state made some significant policy shifts, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu’s consecutive governments. These included a halt in Israeli–Palestinian negotiations for peace; a high-profile campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons program; more emphasis on the maritime domain; and strengthening ties with illiberal leaders around the world. In 2021, the seeming epilogue of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister leaves an open question about the relative weight of structural and ideational factors vs. powerful political agents in the design of Israel’s foreign policy.

Article

Settlers and Territorial Control  

Oded Haklai

Population settlements/settlers as a means for obtaining territorial control have been an omnipresent phenomenon throughout recorded history of human society. Whereas scholarly debates about settlers have typically been associated with European imperial settler colonialism, an emerging research agenda has started to develop in the 21st century around the politics of settlers, or population settlements, in contested territories in the post-WWII era, primarily in the postcolonial world. The research around this ubiquitous phenomenon is still in its infancy, however, and is characterized more by studies of specific cases and less by comparative analysis that aims to identify patterns of theoretical relevance. Cases of settlers in contested lands are abundant all over the world: from Xinjiang and Tibet in China, to Israel and the West Bank in the Middle East, the Casamance in Senegal, Abkhazia in the Caucasus, Aceh and Papua in Indonesia, and the islands of San Andrés and Providencia in Colombia. Multiple questions can be drawn from studies of these cases as well as the emerging body of literature around them: How have population settlements been conceptualized? What drives them? How have they been pursued? What array of variables has been identified by scholars to explain their proliferation in different cases? What broad patterns and categories can be identified and used for comparative and theoretically driven research? Finally, how can these general categories be useful for generating more robust theory-building scholarship?