In The News

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This will be a somewhat different roundup than normal due to it being the first entry. The blog will not normally be so bloggy with links and whatnot and in the future I would like to take the time to address one or two articles at length. Also, I’ll just assume that anyone reading isn’t acutely aware of the information that I chose to highlight, such as Central Asia which is not an easily discernible geographic region. 

Occasionally I will post a roundup of articles relating to current events or a topic of study and for the forseeable future that will be Central Asia and the peripheral area (essentially the southern reach of Mackinder’s Pivot, pictured above) including Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Caucasus. Central Asia consists of  Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Stratfor has the best maps

  • One of the continuing problems with defining the term geopolitics is the difficulty of scholars to agree upon what, exactly, the word means. The ever-changing interpretation is highlighted in this article that considers ten scholarly definitions in multiple languages. There is a common theme to be sure but the ideas vary from: multiple forms of spatial determinism, a euphemism for “Cold War rhetoric” and “state competition”, and an agreement to disagree. I prefer the authors interpretation of David Criekeman’s definition that geopolitics is “part of both Political Geography and International Relations.” It’s so perfectly concise and vague. This is going to be a reoccurring topic.
  •  I don’t agree with everything in this older article, but it’s a great read and an example of  the type of realtime and non-aligned analysis that I appreciate and will usually post for it’s relevance.
  • The Asia Times Online has some great contributor’s and this particular article is from a former Indian Ambassador who has a knack for dressing up a story. Here he gives an update on the new Great Game and a more current status of Central Asia. If you read one of these, this should be the one.
  • Ok, if you’ve read everything so far and you’re still interested (I doubt it) then go ahead and read this article by F. William  Engdahl that takes an extensive look at the US military buildup in the Pacific and the Obama’s administration’s shift in focus to Asia.

Defining: US foreign policy in Central Asia – An Introduction

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Below is the introduction for my research paper that studies the affect of geopolitical theories on US foreign policy in Central Asia. This is a rough draft and the first entry of my sememster long project. This blog was always meant as an academic excercise but not as a platform for my own work. I decided that if I actually wanted to put up content on this blog during the semester then my own work will have to be integrated, if not the focal point. Please be gentle in your comments and reviews as this is a work in progress.  

Since the early 20th century the study of geopolitics has had a profound effect on international relations as well as regional or spatial strategies of foreign policy. Central Asia is one such region that is considered, if not explicitly stated, as a “pivot” area, or area of conflict by many authors of geopolitical theories. This landlocked area has been a theater of global rivalries for centuries and currently involves the world’s superpower, the US, and the two great regional powers, China and Russia. The goal here will be to examine the literature of geopolitics and geopolitical theory in order to help explain the foreign policy decisions of the powerful states that concern themselves with this region.

The ideas of Halford Mackinder in The Geographical Pivot of History and his other works effectively conceived geography as a definitive school of social science in Britain and is the reason that he is now referred to as one of the fathers of geopolitics and geostrategy. His ideas have been considered, built upon and reintroduced over the last century by such scholars as the Dutch-born Harvard geostrategist Nicholas J. Spykman, Greek historian Dimitri Kitsikis and American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, among others. Mackinder considered Central Asia as a pivot due to the 19th century struggle between Britain and Russia over this territory in what is referred to as “The Great Game” or “Tournament of Shadows”. An examination of Mackinder’s work and the theories of his successors can help to explain some of the foreign policy decisions made by states concerning Central Asia and why state actors currently seem to be putting a greater emphasis on this region of the world.

This paper seeks to explain the role of the US in Central Asia for the 21st century. It will provide a geopolitical perspective and seek answers to the questions: Do geopolitical theories help explain the US foreign policy decisions concerning Central Asia and if so, what do these theories tell us to expect from the future of US policy after the withdrawal of military forces in 2014?

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