The American Interest

In Praise of Geopolitics

The noun geopolitics and the adjective geopolitical are increasingly present in media discourse on world affairs.  In principle, this is a good thing.  Relating political power to the immutable imperatives of space and resources is essential to an analysis of world affairs that is free from the ideological baggage of American exceptionalism, whether Wilsonian or neoconservative.  The trouble is that most media commentators use geopolitics as a substitute for “power politics.”  Five recent examples illustrate the problem.

“The most important geopolitical shift of 2014 . . . will be the easing of hostility between the United States and Iran,” former New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer opined in an editorial on January 6.  The gulf states are “late to the geopolitical party,” warned a Financial Times book reviewer on January 12.  The South Stream pipeline “will add a layer of diversity to a regional natural gas market vulnerable to geopolitical disputes between Russia and Ukraine,” UPI reported from Moscow on January 21.  “Restoring Soviet era economic and geopolitical clout in the Middle East is an overarching goal for Russia,” an Al Jazeera commentator wrote on January 23.  To some extent, argued a German Marshall Fund of the United...

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