Entries with label geostrategy .

[Geoffry Sloan, Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History. Routledge. New York, 2017. 251 p.]


review / Emili J. Blasco

Today we are witnessing a frequent use of the term geopolitics that is often devoid of content. After decades of the word being stigmatized, given the contamination it suffered in the first third of the twentieth century by elaborations such as Lebensraum, its employment It has become widespread in recent years as China and Russia have begun to take positions in the new post-unipolar world order. However, it is not uncommon to speak of geopolitics as a mere synonym for international relations, without a specific meaning.

Remembering the strict value of the concept, stripping it of trivializations or misunderstandings, is the purpose by Geoffrey Sloan, a British academic specialising in Halford Mackinder, one of the great names in geopolitics. Sloan understands this as a "tripartite construction" of geography, strategy, and history, elements that give rise to the degree scroll of his book.

The author locates the dawn of geopolitics in a "first wave" of thinkers distant in time and in their philosophical conceptions, such as Aristotle, Machiavelli and Montesquieu, but it was not until the "second wave", at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, when the discipline adopt that name and define its contours with the help of Ratzel, Mahan, Mackinder, Haushofer... After a long period of ostracism, because it was considered that some totalitarianisms had fed on the ravings of certain schools, at the beginning of the 21st century the term geopolitics resurfaces. However, in Sloan's opinion, it is affected by a triple problem: its lack of definition, the lack of bibliography and its confusion with realpolitik.

Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History

Today, people have begun to talk about geopolitics so often that it has lost its proper meaning. "The term geopolitics has enjoyed a ghostly life after death, becoming used everywhere while being drained of substantive theoretical content, and is used in so many ways that it has become meaningless, if there is no further specification," warns a statement. quotation by S. R. Gokmen.

In contrast to its generic use, assimilated to that of international politics, Sloan defends its original meaning, absolutely attached to geography. "Although all the politics of a state do not derive from its geography," say the 1938 words of Nicholas Spykman—another classic of geopolitics—that open the book, "the state cannot escape that geography. Size, shape, location, topography and climate provide conditions from which there is no escape, no matter how qualified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or how resourceful the General Staff may be."

The temporal break in geopolitical thought – Sloan notes that no book on geopolitics was published in English between 1945 and 1977 – may explain why many today have lost track of the strict geographical content of the term. But even among those who seem to want to give it a specific meaning, there is the confusion of assimilating geopolitics with the realist theory of international relations. According to Sloan, "Perhaps the most common misconception about geopolitical theory is its symbiotic relationship to the realist approach. It maintains that all thinking about international relations should begin with the recognition of the primacy of power and that geographical factors are a vital part of the evaluation of power." The author warns that in geopolitics there is also room for an idealistic approach, since it is not something tied to the administrative state nor is it exclusively identified with conservative political ideologies.

Sloan proposes a "trinitarian structure" of geopolitics, in a diagram where the relationship between geography and strategy generates geostrategy, the relationship between geography and history gives rise to historical geography, and the relationship between history and strategy derives into diplomatic history.

The approach of the work is in its first part theoretical, and then gives way to certain historical concretions, for the most part in the light of concepts elaborated by Mackinder.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

[Pedro Baños, Así se domina el mundo. Desvelando las claves del poder mundial. Ariel, Barcelona 2017, 468 pages]

review / Albert Vidal

The vast majority of wars fought in the world always have a vital economic background, although other motives (political or religious, for example) are often used to safeguard these economic interests. The book Así se domina el mundo, by the analyst and researcher Pedro Baños, former head of Counterintelligence and Security of the European Army Corps, with experience in various international missions (UNPROFOR, SFOR and EUFOR), states that economic interests are the ones that rule the International Office is the main thesis , illustrated with great issue of examples, an d is supported by the book Así se domina el mundo, by the analyst and Pedro Baños, former head of Counterintelligence and Security of the European Army Corps, with experience in various international missions (UNPROFOR, SFOR and EUFOR).

"The United States is still trying to dominate the world. But its big competitor is China. Especially when it comes to the economic sphere. That is why they wage economic war, and also through interposed actors in many scenarios. Everything has an economic substratum," writes Colonel Baños. China, for its part, is determined to strike a blow against the dollar. Beijing is preparing a new contract format for crude oil transactions using the yuan, which would be fully convertible into gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges. If this were to happen, it would lead to the main reference letter of the Asian oil market, and allow crude exporters to circumvent the dollar-dominated benchmarks.

Afghanistan is another example of the primacy of Economics in geopolitics. The US decided to return to Afghanistan, where, coincidentally, opium production has multiplied. This had been reduced by the Taliban to minimal levels, as they banned opium cultivation and the Afghans switched to cotton production. But then, according to Baños, a strong civil service examination arose from the US cotton producers, so that some US states rebelled because they felt that the skill of cheap Afghan cotton could ruin them. Baños points out that there are Pentagon reports recommending such intervention. Moreover, Afghanistan is extremely rich in minerals. That is why Donald Trump declared that "China is making money in Afghanistan with rare minerals while the United States makes war".

These appreciations confirm the realistic and pragmatic way in which Baños interprets the events taking place in the world. His vision of geopolitics is integrated into political realism, close to Machiavelli's interpretation. He has a Hobbesian vision of the international scenario. He defines current geopolitics as "the activity developed with the aim of influencing the affairs of the international sphere, this exercise being understood as the aspiration to influence on a global scale, while avoiding, at the same time, being influenced".

This book is a great opportunity to enrich our perspectives on the international scene. With simple language, Baños manages to convey complex concepts through different images. One of them, central to the book's thesis , is the comparison of the international scenario with a playground at high school: in the playground (the world), the great powers (the bullies) enjoy circumstantial allies (cowardly children who decide to join the court of sycophants); then there are outcasts (who suffer the malice of the bullies) and others who simply resist the pressure of group or decide to isolate themselves from the group of students. Hypocrisy, as the author well describes, is a constant in the International Office.

This is how the world is dominated. Uncovering the keys to world power

Geopolitical principles, geostrategies and errors

Baños presents four immutable geopolitical principles that, in essence, have always been present in history (even if there are accidental changes). They could be summarized as follows:

  1. The State is a living being, which has vital and existential needs, as well as those of development and evolution.

  2. The Economics is in charge, the backbone of conflicts and the source of tensions. These are economic interests often related to the arms industry.

  3. The determining weight of history, with repetition of the same scenarios, such as Afghanistan (its orography has been a graveyard for empires and superpowers) and Russia (with a winter that ruined the plans of Napoleon and Hitler).

  4. There are no eternal allies, but permanent interests. Interests create strange alliances, and these alliances are often ephemeral. For example, Saudi Arabia is one of the main allies of the USA, when their values, in principle, are totally contradictory.

After the description of geopolitical principles, the book reviews 27 geostrategies that have been recurrently used on the international scene. This section is very useful for understanding many of the movements or events occurring in the world. Some examples of such geo-strategies are:

-Theintimidation of a strong country towards other weak countries, using them for their own interests.

-Theencirclement and counterencirclement.

-Thekick to the ladder. Examples are the refusal of the atomic powers to allow others to join the nuclear club and the obligation that developed countries impose on underdeveloped economies to open up to the free market.

-Theweakening of the neighbor.

-The breaking point.

-Fostering divisionby sowing tares.

-Religious fervor as tool to gain followers.

-Goodism. In the Syrian war, we have seen killings by the Islamic State, but the killings by the international coalition, which in our eyes appear to be the rescuers of the Syrian people, have been systematically hidden.

¬Thecreation of the need. The need to buy weapons is based on concepts such as war on terrorism, preventive strategy, and others, which result in a fabulous business of buying and selling weapons.

-Indirect domination. Between 1946 and 2000 the White House has interfered in 81 elections in 45 countries, according to declassified CIA documents.

-Thecreation of the enemy. NATO and the USA encourage the enmity of Western countries towards Moscow, so that they become subordinate to NATO and ask it for protection and buy weapons from it,

-Themadman. This is a strategy used by North Korea, threatening catastrophic consequences to avoid being attacked.

Banos also exposes the mistakes that powers often make in their international actions. A couple of them are:

  1. Ignoring the idiosyncrasies of peoples. The Western world is composed, at most, of 900 million people. The rest of the world is home to 6.6 billion. On the other hand, globalization is basically Anglo-Saxon: not all peoples necessarily want to participate in it. And given the biased view we have of the world, we often have a wrong conception of other peoples. The sad reality is that many interventions abroad are carried out without any subject study or examination of the potential consequences on the cultures and peoples affected.

  2. Excessive self-confidence. There is no small enemy, not even an asymmetric one. With guerrilla tactics, even a group of peasants can become a real threat to the plans of a great power. In fact, history has repeatedly shown how those who have acted too confidently have been defeated by their more cautious adversaries.

Post-truth and disinformation

Pedro Baños stresses the importance of narratives. According to the author, to have one's own narrative is to win the game. The narrative makes reality mutate. And narratives become an instrument of emotional control of the population, which serves to justify what suits them.

On the other hand, it makes reference letter to the truth, which runs the risk of being reconstructed to justify national or corporate interests. The citizenry, says Colonel Baños, must be vigilant: "those who decide for us do so subtly, even resorting to the so-called 'post-truth', which is nothing but a big lie disguised as truth". As the author points out, the core topic of power is to influence a deliberately uninformed world, in which many conflicts of interest between states, individuals, companies, lobbies and powerful families are intermingled, all trying to exert as much influence as possible.

The cyber world is the new great stage for this battle. A very intense psychological and propaganda war is being waged there, led by fake news and disinformation. These two worlds (one physical and the other virtual) are connected by the human mind. That is why it is vital to be wary of attacks that, although we may not realize it, take place every day, veiled or not. The powers are in continuous action, with only one purpose, as Baños concludes: "to control the world and avoid being subjugated by another power. That is the only goal".

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews