May 30, 2015

What is Geopolitics and Why Does It Matter?

Video Title:  What is Geopolitics and Why Does It Matter? Source: Foreign Policy Research Institute. Date Published: February 26, 2015. Description:
February 25, 2015
Stan and Arlene Ginsburg Family Foundation Lecture Series
Ronald J. Granieri
Executive Director, FPRI Center for the Study of America and the West

To celebrate FPRI's 60th Anniversary, we have devoted this year’s Ginsburg Series to lectures on geopolitics and how it can be used to understand the greatest challenges facing the United States today. FPRI’s founder, Robert Strausz-Hupé, introduced the term, “geopolitics,” into the American vocabulary in 1942 with the publication of his book Geopolitics: The Struggle for Space and Power. Simply put, geopolitics offers a perspective on contemporary international affairs that is anchored in the study of history, geography and culture, or as FPRI’s James Kurth has put it, in the study of the “realities and mentalities of the localities.” Strausz-Hupé embedded that perspective in FPRI and it remains today our method or, to use today's language, our “brand.”

In the first event of this series, join FPRI's Ron Granieri, as he examines the meaning, the method, and the importance of using geopolitics to study conemporary world affairs. Granieri is the Executive Director of FPRI's Center for the Study of America and the West and is the host of Geopolitics with Granieri, our monthly, members-only series held at FPRI and on the web. He is also the Director of Research at The University of Pennsylvania's Lauder Institute. Granieri received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago.
On FPRI's Approach To Geopolitics:
"The value of any approach to studying international affairs lies not in how well it predetermines actions, but rather in how well it trains the mind to be able to process the wealth of information that bombards any responsible citizen, any responsible leader. There are no magic formulas that will guarantee wisdom or success. Any approach to international relations is a tool. Any tool is only as good or bad as the person who wields it, and a wise person understands that possessing a variety of tools is better than relying on only one. Geography, history, and culture are some of the tools FPRI combines in its approach to geopolitics."
"One is understand that ISIS didn't spring out of the ground. It's not like 'Jason and the Argonauts' where you sow dragons' teeth and an army comes out of the desert floor. We can only understand the existence of ISIS as the product of political decisions and policies in the past. That's one thing to keep in mind. We do need to understand the religious motivation of ISIS, as the recent cover story in The Atlantic Monthly suggest.

Although, at the same time, we have to realize that this is as much a conflict within Islam as it is between Islam and anybody else. I suspect, and I wonder, whether the recent decision by ISIS to pursue such an aggressively anti-Christian campaign as they are pursuing, whether this is less an indication of what they've always wanted to do as much as it is a desire to rally the Muslim world into believing that it is us against them. And, frankly, the West needs to be smart enough not to rise to that bait, even if we can be clear about the element of religious motivation and what ISIS is doing.

And, so, I could think of a theoretical explanation that would say if you let Iraq and Syria fall apart, the geography, lots of wide open spaces, means that all you have to do is control a couple of towns and the roads in between them and it looks like you're bigger than you are. The collapse of political order in that region has created a vacuum which has led to this.

Any long-term strategy dealing with ISIS, while it would have to involve some degree of fighting ISIS, will also have to be built around the political reconstruction of the region. And that's not something that we're going to be able to solve from today till tomorrow. We can't expect air power to solve that. We also can't expect putting boots on the ground for six weeks to solve it either, because this is long-term. And this is one of the things that George Kennan got right about the United States, one of his criticisms about the way the United States tends to pursue foreign policy. Very short attention span. And solving a problem like ISIS will take having a much longer attention span." [50:00 - 53:00].