Understanding postmodern geopolitics

Members of the Amal movement in Lebanon in 2021 (Photo by Shutterstock).
Ahmad Abdul-Rahman looks at how postmodern geopolitics differs from earlier days.

The current geopolitical visions and strategies must be appropriate to the digital age. But although we can learn from these strategies and be guided by them, we need to innovate to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution- that is, the meeting of physical assets and advanced digital technologies. Since it is upon us, society can no longer apply the strategies that prevailed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Most importantly, there are tireless efforts at the political and academic levels to establish "postmodern geopolitics"-  that is, the development of innovative strategies in political geography that go further than what was well-known in earlier times.

"The New Eastern Europe" – a bimonthly magazine that covers articles about news and strategic affairs in Eastern Europe - devoted its April issue to this topic.

Various commentators agree that postmodern geopolitics have witnessed a radical transformation. Some of the issues that are faced include:

-Protracted wars

- The emergence of new balances of power and therefore greater competition. This is the new arrangement of relations and conflicts in the Middle East which is likely to continue for years.

For example, in the Middle East, three broad alliances have emerged: the axis of resistance, the anti-axis forces, and the axis of cordial agreement. The resistance axis is led by Iran, and includes elements in the Iraqi state and Syria, and pro-Iranian elements in Lebanon, such as Hezbollah and the Amal movement.

The anti-axis powers include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel. The three countries maintain strong relations with the West and its defence institutions. They are also fiercely hostile to Iran and its allies. Turkey and Qatar are at the center of the cordial agreement with allies such as the Libyan Government of National Accord and Hamas in Gaza. These powers maintain close relations with Western capitals.

-Changing alliances, which are often based on geography and latent wealth, rather than on such things as ideology, nationalism, or culture.

The reason for conflicts are changing

It is no longer possible to reduce a conflict in a country or region to a conflict between the North and the South, or between the Eastern and Western camps, or between the Islamic and Christian worlds.

Moreover, control no longer needs the use of hard power. This is because there is smart power and sharp power, which enables governments and companies to exercise more control and gain maximum benefit, with minimal effort. This is achieved not only in the immediate geographical vicinity, but also further afield .

Globalisation on the one hand, and digital technologies on the other, have brought down walls and obstacles between countries. For example, China has made inroads into Africa and Latin America. Historically, the latter has been the backyard of the US. Russia is also expanding in areas that once were the preserve of its ideological rival, the US.

Commenting on this, one of the theorists in the field of political geography said in The New Eastern Europe: "From now on, after the era of Columbus has passed. We have to deal with a tight political system, characterized by a comprehensive view that covers the entire globe...In other words, what is happening in Venezuela will be of great interest to China and Russia. It will never be a purely American affair."

He concluded that in today's world the goal of geopolitics is to transfer wealth to the centre.

The world has also moved on from the era of the industrial revolution; that is, where industrial production is concentrated in a specific location and the main objectives of geopolitics is to open markets.

Global economic and financial and digital technology have become increasingly intertwined and complex. There are also marine and terrestrial technologies that reveal amazing natural resources.

The key driving force of comprehensive renewal is represented in reconsidering the concepts and approaches of geopolitical strategies whether from the perspective of political economy or international relations.
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Thursday, 27 January 2022