Geopolitical Folly

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Geopolitical Folly


Byline: Alexander B. Murphy For The Register-Guard

MY SPECIALTY IS POLITICAL geography, a field fundamentally concerned with the organization of power on the Earth's surface - not just who controls what, but the implications of different power arrangements for peace and stability, the stuff of geopolitics.

I am not a pacifist. I respect pacifism, but I believe there are times when force cannot be avoided; I think it was necessary to stop the Nazi advance, and I thought a case could be made for limited, contained use of force against al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan in the wake of Sept. 11. I also believe that force should be a response of last resort and should be used only after the most careful assessment of options and consequences.

Let's begin by assuming that Saddam Hussein is a brutal, ruthless man who may well have chemical and biological weapons and who certainly poses some threat to regional, if not global, peace and stability.

With these matters in mind, I will tell you up front that when I look at the implications of an attack on Iraq from a geopolitical perspective, I come away with nothing but the gravest concerns about where U.S. policy may be heading.

What does an American attack mean for Iraq? To address this question, we need to know something about the history and geography of the country.

Iraq is a modest sized country lying at the northwest end of the Persian Gulf. It is a 20th-century creation. Before the 20th century, Iraq was a part of the eastern flank of the Ottoman Empire.

When Britain's military occupation began in 1914, Iraq was divided into three loosely governed provinces (Mosul in the north, Baghdad in the center and Basra in the south). The British mandate in Iraq brought together three major groups, Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs - each with its own divisions. Formal independence came in 1932, but the British dominated Iraq until 1958.

After 1958, a series of Arab-Sunni-dominated (but secular) authoritarian governments ruled the country. They presided over a state experiencing bouts of Kurdish separatism, discontent from Basra Shiites and conflicts with Iran.

Among the leitmotifs of 20th century Iraqi history, then, are: extraordinary antipathy to external rule (associated with British colonialism), internal ethnic conflict (associated with the perceived domination of Sunni Arabs in national politics) and an unstable international position (formal agreements on most of Iraq's borders were not even reached until the 1970s and '80s).

All this suggests that even in the event of an American victory (which could be quick, but which could just as easily be very messy indeed), there are enormous obstacles to creating a stable, democratic Iraq. Desire for revenge on the part of the victims of Saddam's regime could lead to an on-going guerrilla war. Ethnic fragmentation could create enormous governance problems and could complicate relations with neighboring states. Any outside power seeking to exert control would likely confront strong opposition, given the country's colonial history. It would be difficult to create economic stability in oil-dependent Iraq, given that the major oil reserves are located in areas dominated by those who have not controlled the machinery of government.

Under the circumstances, there is little prospect of holding the state together - something on which all parties are insisting - without an American- dominated strong-arm regime in Baghdad that can impose control over the entire country through force. And given the importance of oil, it is likely that petroleum concerns would play a major role in that regime.

What this means, of course, is that in the wake of an American military victory, the United States inevitably would be linked to a regime that would be seen as embodying a U.S. desire for hegemony and a preoccupation with oil. …

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
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

Geopolitical Folly
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

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

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.