Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Problematic Nature of Geopolitics - part IV

In the previous posts, two essential though often overlooked aspects of geopolitics have been presented. These two important distinctions – between geopolitical interests and the realisation of these interests, and between the interests of the state and the interests of the people – are rarely taken into account in geopolitical discourse. From the point of view of the general public, which should always be the reference in a representative system, geopolitics is not only incomplete but also morally ambiguous without these two distinctions. Only by taking them into account can geopolitics be seen in the right light.

The first of these distinctions makes it evident what should be the focus of geopolitical studies: it is the realisation, or attempts at realisation, of geopolitical interests that should be monitored, analysed, and lauded or criticised, as the case may be. Geopolitics should therefore be more practical than theoretical in its approach. What should be of critical importance to the people are not the geopolitical interests of the state as such, though they should be more widely known, but the waste of public resources – human, financial, material – for the realisation of geopolitical interests that are not shared by the public.

The second of these distinctions goes even further in this direction; for it naturally raises the question of the moral position that should be adopted by the expert in geopolitics. Should he support the realisation of geopolitical interests of the state he serves, directly or indirectly, even though he knows, or should know, that they are not only not in the interest of the people, but actually contrary to the interest of the people? In a democracy, the answer should be obvious. Perhaps subjects like ethics and political philosophy should become a more important part of the curriculum of students in geopolitics. Optimally, a different type of education in geopolitics could even be undertaken along these lines, by independent seats of learning.

When these two distinctions are considered together, it becomes clear that geopolitics is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. For every nation that is looking to realise its geopolitical interests, a people is not democratically represented. In a truly democratic system, in which the interests of the people reign supreme, only geopolitical interests of a lower level would be realised. The states of such nations would then realise only the fundamental geopolitical interests of security and defence, leaving the rest of their geopolitical interests unfulfilled. More space would then be created between nations, both physically and politically, which would not be occupied or controlled by any nation in particular (but for instance by independent organisations or a community of nations, such as a reformed United Nations). In such a world, all other interests would be commercial interests, which national governments would not need to get involved with, and which would be managed internationally between individuals, corporations and international organisations.

Individuals often have conflicts of interests, but in a environment of rule of law they have shown that they are able to resolve them consensually, at the negotiating table. For nations, a system of rule of law – i.e. blind and enforced – may not become reality even in the long term. Geopolitical conflicts will thus continue to simmer around the world, until they are settled by coercive methods rather than by consensual ones. The complete acceptance by the public itself of the current geopolitical language is a sign that geopolitics will likely continue to dominate international relations for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, the nations of the world have been slowly surrendering sovereignty in the current international context. Not only are geopolitical interests progressively losing in importance, but nations are also having more difficulties than before to realise them. Though this may not directly give more power to the people over international affairs, it still represents a small step towards a more democratic world.

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