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Geopolitics, Geography, and War  

Christopher J. Fettweis

The study of international relations has always been multidisciplinary. Over the course of the last century, political scientists have borrowed concepts, methods, and logic from a wide range of fields—from history, psychology, economics, law, sociology, anthropology, and others—in their effort to understand why states act as they do. Few of those disciplines contributed more to the course of 20th-century international relations scholarship than geography. As the layout of the chessboard shapes the game, so do the features of the Earth provide the most basic influence upon states. That geography affects international relations is uncontroversial; what is not yet clear, however, is exactly how, under what conditions, and to what extent. After all, a board can teach only a limited amount about the nature of a game. Many theories of state behavior involve several ceteris-paribus assumptions about the setting for international interaction, even if the substantial variation in geographical endowments assures that all things will never be equal. Some states are blessed (or cursed) with a rich supply of natural resources, good ports, arable land, and temperate climate; others struggle with too little (or too much) rainfall, temperature extremes, mountain ranges or deserts, powerful neighbors, or lack of access to the sea. While the number of studies examining the effects of the constants of geography on state behavior may pale in comparison to those that focus on the variables of human interaction, international relations has not been silent about geography. What insights have come from the many investigations into the relationship between the game of international politics and the board it is played on, the surface of the Earth?

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Ecuador: Military Autonomy Under Democratic Rule  

Maiah Jaskoski

Under Ecuador’s “third wave” democracy that began in 1979, the armed forces have exhibited considerable autonomy vis-à-vis civilians in government, as measured by (a) military intervention in politics and (b) the armed forces’ spread into internal security. Perhaps most noteworthy, military participation in politics and internal security increased significantly during the second half of the 1990s, in a permissive environment: as a result of their rule in the 1970s, the armed forces enjoyed a positive reputation within society as an institution capable of getting things done, without committing human rights abuses. Within that context, a traumatic military role crisis prompted the armed forces to expand their political and internal security roles. The armed forces lost their traditional mission of defending Ecuador’s southern border against Peru in the late 1990s, due to the resolution of that border dispute. In its search for institutional justification, the military proactively intensified its participation in politics and internal security. That extensive internal security work not only served as an indicator of military autonomy vis-à-vis civilians but it also made the armed forces ineffective and unreliable in responding to the civilian government’s basic national defense requirements, as evinced by the military’s response to a new sovereignty threat. When Colombian guerrilla crossings into northern Ecuador became a salient border threat in the 2000s, the armed forces focused on internal security in the north and not border defense.

Article

Eritrea: The Everyday Politics of Mass Militarization  

Jennifer Riggan

Eritrea has a long history as a heavily militarized nation, dating back to its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia. Militarization is a core component of Eritrean nationalism and state formation, which is arguably forged out of war but is also implicated in Eritrea’s problematic human rights record. Following Eritrea’s 1991 independence, the country was poised to democratize and liberalize. At that time, the country also began an intensive process of nation-building of which militarization was a central part. In 1995, Eritrea introduced the national service program. Eritrea’s national/military service, which requires 6 months of military training and 12 months of free military or civil service for all Eritreans (male and female), initially enjoyed widespread public support although there were always concerns about harsh living and labor conditions. In 1998, a border war with Ethiopia broke out. At this time, those who had military training in national service were recalled. Although fighting ended in 2000, the border war deepened Eritrea’s adherence to militarization as a key strategy of national defense, nation-building, and development. A condition of no-peace, no-war followed the border war. The long period of no-war, no-peace with Ethiopia allowed Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afewerki, to consolidate his power, deepen authoritarian rule, and extend the national service program indefinitely. The indefinite extension of national service meant that conscripts were not demobilized and new recruits into national service could not be assured that they would ever be released. Due to the indefinite extension of military service, harsh conditions in the military, and extreme punishments for those who try to escape the military, Eritrea’s national/military service requirement is at the center of concern about human rights and civil liberties in Eritrea. Militarization has since become fused with state control and punishment, leading to human rights and civil liberties violations and the mass flight of close to half a million Eritreans over the past decades. Despite the announcement in summer of 2018 that Eritrea and Ethiopia had finally agreed to peace, no one has been released from the military and Eritreans continue to flood out of the country to avoid national service conditions which have been equated with slavery.