Changes in World Geopolitical System with Emphasis on Iran-West Relations

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dr. Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh

Studying the world political developments from the viewpoint of geopolitics has not become common in Iran and still structural developments in world system are discussed in terms of international relations and within the framework of international system which is not efficient enough to recognize geopolitical conditions of the world. This is why we should first talk about political geography and geopolitics at the beginning of any study which is carried out in Iran on changes in the world system.

Political geography and geographical politics, or geopolitics, supplement each other and study the role of political power within a specific geographical environment. In political geography, the impact of human decisions on geographical environment is studied in terms of country, nation, state, country divisions, and borders. In geopolitics, however, effects of geographical factors on political decisions in power rivalries are discussed. Examples include assessment of the role of natural elements, geographical situations and natural resources in plans related to promotion of political goals. In other words, while political geography discusses political- environment developments within a country, geopolitics focuses on political-environmental developments within the framework of power. Thus, geopolitics means to study cooperation or rivalry between political powers according to their geographical environment or possibilities available to them through their environment.

Until disintegration of the bipolar world system at the beginning of 1990s, geopolitics was “descriptive” and was a tool at the hands of foreign policymakers to promote foreign policy goals of leaders. However, after the collapse of that system when the remaining superpower decided to impose a unipolar system, geopolitics entered a new era in which people in power denied originality of science, which characterized modern times, and claimed that they could manage the world by replacing “originality of ethics” (democracy and human rights) for “originality of science” and establish their ideal “new world order.” US politicians chose people like Francis Fukuyama, Graham Fuller, and Samuel Huntington as their consultants none of whom were geopoliticians. Thus geopoliticians had to define a new role for academic geopolitical studies which was mostly critical of the status quo. Since every critical topic will finally evolve into an independent field of science, geopolitics is on its way to become an independent science at the beginning of the 21st century. Scholars however maintain that geopolitics has a long way to go before it is accepted as an independent scientific discipline.

In the United States, which pursued unilateral policies, empowerment of neoconservatives and their geopolitical and geo-strategic decisions coincided with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the former bipolar system. Afterwards, ideas emerged which aimed to establish a unipolar geopolitical system based on religious conservatism which was another result of new geopolitical ideas in the United States as well as the religious revolution in Iran. Radical conservative churches went as far as introducing the new concept of “Christian Zionism” and played a major role in the election of radical conservative politicians who are known as neoconservatives. Since the election of Ronald Reagan, the United States has tried to establish its own new world order and that effort took a new momentum under both Bush administrations and through support of Christian and Jewish lobbies. Reagan considered collapse of the former Soviet Union as an act of God and claimed that since free market economy (absolute liberalism) is right, it should become global. Following such religious superstitions, George W. Bush met with Tony Blair, the then British premier, after the 9/11 attacks and convinced him that he had a divine mission to fight terrorism across the world. In his meeting with Palestinian leaders, he said that God had told him to go and oust Saddam Hossein from Iraq.

The new world order perceived by the neocons was a unipolar one which saw the United States at the top of the power pyramid which aimed to dominate political destiny of other nations and introduce a new post-modern form of old colonialistic geopolitics by classifying other nations in lower ranks and within “regional system.” That system finally led to American dictatorship in 2000s in which the United States intended to see a uniform world. In new geopolitics, Washington was bent on realizing that uniform world by going through the following stages:

1.    Establishment of an integrated economic system by promoting free market economy or absolute capitalism or globalization. They also tried to get most countries join the World Trade Organization. Although globalization of free market economy, which prefers capital, profits, service, insurance, and banking over production and has taken capital and information beyond traditional borders, has had permanent economic effects on economic life of human beings at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, as management of new economic system transcended legal borders and managers of money and capital market assumed an autonomous state, its untoward consequences were witnessed in final years of neoconservatives’ rule in the form of the current horrible economic crisis.

2.    Establishment of an integrated political world by implementing special moral and political rules such as intervention in other countries on the excuse of fighting terrorism and promoting democracy has led to new regional wars in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza have dealt deadly blows on democracy and human rights and have been ensued by record civilian casualties prompting benevolent people in the United States, Europe and Middle East to issue a new world statement for promotion of humanitarian law in 2007.

3.    Creation of an integrated world was a natural spinoff of presumed uniformity of the political world. Obviously, integration of economic and political conditions in any environment will lead to integration of security concerns in that environment. Therefore, Washington believed that its national security depended on unilateral military action to achieve its goals. This meant taking hostile measures without any clear provocation and was totally at loggerheads with human ethics. According to this strategy, some countries are taken as “enemy” and are then charged with planning hostile measures, thus justifying preemptive measures to thwart that hostility. If it was proved that enemy hostility has been cooked up by false intelligence reports, as was the case with Saddam’s nuclear arsenal, they embarked on unilateral action. However, the fiasco in Iraq prevented them from repeating that experience by waging another war against Iran on the ground of the country’s nuclear energy program and on the account of propaganda launched by International Atomic Energy Agency.

In line with above the presumptions, George W. Bush announced that in new world geopolitics, the United States looked for its national security on Baghdad streets. He then occupied Iraq which turned it into a den for international terrorists ignoring the role of the United Nations to gain legitimacy for intervention in other countries’ affairs. The United States is plagued with guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan and even boasted about taking unilateral military action against Iran. Military failures of Israel in Lebanon and Gaza and failure of unilateral military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in the second half of 2000s ended in withdrawal from those countries which was a confirmation by US and Israeli leaders that the strategy of unilateral military intervention had totally failed.

The European Union, which was experiencing an exceptional situation after the collapse of bipolar world system and could easily emerge as a new superpower, was influenced by British views, which has always preferred cooperation with the United States to working with other European countries, and decided to follow suit with new world geopolitics of the American neocons. A major instance of that obedience was seen in European Union’s role as an agent of the American geopolitics in Iran’s nuclear case which was brought up by the United States and Israel in 2000s. Tony Blair, the then British prime minister, prescribed “horizontal development” strategy in order to prevent development of Europe’s vertical power. That strategy caused the European Union to take more members, mostly former allies of the Soviet Union, onboard instead of trying to increase its international clout. It not only assimilated Eastern Europe and Turkey, but delineated a future outlook for membership of North African countries and Israel. Thus, by taking in weak economies of Eastern Europe, economic might of EU dwindled and it could not play the role of an integrated power to be considered a rival for the United States and other world candidates for a “superpower” position.


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