A Geopolitical Analysis of a Partitioned Iraq: Political, Economic, and Military Viability

By Vanzo, John P. | World Affairs, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Geopolitical Analysis of a Partitioned Iraq: Political, Economic, and Military Viability


Vanzo, John P., World Affairs


The George W. Bush administration's definition of political success in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq has changed almost as frequently as its rationale for the initial military invasion. Gone are the heroically optimistic predictions of peace, economic development, religious tolerance, and multicultural civil society in Iraq, which would then serve as the first falling domino in a cascade of democratization throughout the Middle East (Danner 2002; Gaddis 2002; White House 2002). Chastened by rising military, financial, and political costs, the administration now speaks more soberly of a fairly stable, someday reasonably democratic government for the New Iraq (Diamond 2005; Wright and Knickmeyer 2005).

If the definition of success in Iraq has been a moving target, one definition of abject political failure has remained a constant: the fragmentation of the country into separate, possibly warring ethnoreligious enclaves. At least eight Arab countries have echoed the Bush administration's emphatic warnings about Iraqi Balkanization.

Despite the administration's best efforts, recent events indicate that civil war and territorial partition are increasingly likely outcomes (BBC 2006; CBS 2006; CNN 2006). This article offers a heuristic exploration of a fragmented Iraq. Specifically, it employs traditional geopolitical methodologies to assess the political, economic, and military viability of an Iraq divided into Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni political entities.

THE GEOPOLITICAL APPROACH

Geopolitics has been a mainstay of political analysis and the practice of statecraft since the early Roman Empire. The prestige of geopolitics as an academic discipline reached its zenith during the late nineteenth century, when theorists such as Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Halford MacKinder wove grand theories of national behavior based on the geographic characteristics of states. Firmly grounded in the traditional realist school, until the middle of the twentieth century geopolitics was considered necessary for a clear understanding of international relations.

In the aftermath of World War II, however, the Axis Powers' crimes engulfed geopolitics in a wave of intellectual disrespect and moral revulsion. Academic idealists almost universally vilified geopolitics as morally bankrupt and a major cause of war (Parker 1985). For many years thereafter, geopolitics became a taboo subject within the discipline of international relations, either totally ignored or dismissed as "a curious medley of unscientific jargon, irrefutable facts, and plain Hokum" (Beukema 1942).

However, Pentagon planners zealously continued to use geopolitical analysis and strategies in their containment of Communism during the Cold War. Quantitative political science has recently taken an interest in geopolitics, as territory-related issues are the underlying reason for 70 to 90 percent of wars (Vasquez 1993).

Today's geopolitical analysts and political geographers have generally abandoned the deterministic tone of earlier theorists; geographic factors are now seen as influencing rather than determining national behavior. More art than science, geopolitics considers variables such as the shape and nature of a country's borders (Vanzo 1999), the type and distribution of natural resources, the defensibility of terrain, transportation infrastructure and access to the outside world, industrial and agricultural production, and climate and demography (and admittedly unscientific notions such as a population's "character").

Despite its idiosyncratic, archaic, and nonreplicable nature, geopolitics continues to generate findings that command the attention of top military planners and political decision makers.

CASUS BELLI

Although it is beyond the main focus of this article to examine the rationale and conduct of the invasion of Iraq, it does bear mentioning that, from a traditional geopolitical perspective, the Bush administration's military adventure in Iraq was a war that would have been better left unfought.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Geopolitical Analysis of a Partitioned Iraq: Political, Economic, and Military Viability
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.