A history which aspires to traverse long periods of time, or to be universal, must indeed forego the attempt to give individuals representation of the past as it actually existed. It must foreshorten its pictures by abstractions; and this includes not merely the omission of events and deeds, but whatever is involved in the fact that Thought is, after all, the most trenchant epitomist.
The Philosophy of History (Introduction)
One could attest, without any hesitation that, conventional wisdom is a relentless enemy of thought-provoking prose and analysis. A serious analysis strategically avoids making predictions and forecasting. It detests ideological labels and it certainly loathes the compartmentalization of values and vision. It does, however, lay out a clear and concise assessment of a given event or a situation and builds on a solid foundation of historical understanding of an epic proportion and fully crafted conceptual framework. It may sound a trivial labor but it is not. Because of that reason and that reason alone, certain occupations and expertise have no conceptual ability to grasp the beauty of a serious analysis. It is for this reason, that one must realize, the task of forecasting in a social science realm is a dangerous path. Events and social order do not work in a linear fashion. They have no set mechanism to operate from and within. The human world has a unique and cruel way of punishing the followers of a linear thinking when it comes to analyzing the grand questions of social order, justice, power and how nations rise and decline. It was the result of a linear thinking, which, at the end of the cold war, celebrated the triumph of a liberal order at the global level. The surrender of communism and central economic planning was a proof enough, among the elites in academia and government, that the history will continue to happen; but not in a grand fashion as it had been. Capitalism and the liberal order, as the thinking went, had no workable alternative. The collapse of the Soviet Union had settled that question for eternity. Yet, the shrinking of the Soviet map did not materialize that scenario. Even though the evil empire had vanished; what did not disappear is the search for a global order and mutual equilibrium among major nations.
States, regardless of their political, economic and social arrangements, are not an eternal entity. Their survival requires constant assessment of their existence through coercion, diplomacy and sometimes war. States, that are in suspicious and dangerous neighborhoods, are in a perpetual state of vigilance and guard. That, in a nutshell, is an essence of geopolitics and it has made a spectacular comeback for the last few years. Of course, the idea of a comeback of a geopolitics is a surprise to many in the western world. But, in societies where tribal loyalties and territorial integration are paramount interests, the idea of geopolitics is very much alive and has taken a much broader role in defining their core strategic interests. The promised land of a global liberal order, after the fall the Berlin Wall, is lost in the realities of raw politics of global power and regional domination. This is the new reality and must be seen that way. Additionally, this is the lens through which one must analyze, understand and assess the ongoing situation in Ukraine, how Russia is managing the conflict, the overall analysis of the relationship between the west and Russia; the ongoing bloody turmoil in the Middle East; the brewing troubles in the Indian ocean and the attempt to consolidate power by Shia minority over large Sunni population in the Islamic world. The global order has returned to its central question of managing the geostrategic interests in a world of suspicion and control.
The end of history narrative after 1991, followed by the events in Europe created a false sense of purpose and security from the Western perspective. In a linear thinking manner, many observers conflated the temporary geopolitical conditions of the post-Cold war world with the more final outcome of the struggle between liberal democracy and Soviet communism. That was, in essence "the end of history." The prevailing discourse in the west, was that the geopolitics had no place in liberal order, and the peace dividends were finally here to be enjoyed by all law-abiding nations. Recent events from Asia to Europe have demonstrated otherwise. The revenge of geopolitics is enhanced by two major factors, and they are both related.
The first factor has to do with the global order where many nations do want to participate, but by the same token, advance fiercely their desire to protect their internal institutions. By not being able to control the global environment as they wish, states are constantly looking around to at least control the immediate neighborhoods to develop a buffer zone for their own security from international threats. Protection and preservation of state legitimacy are essential in a world where there is no higher authority to manage the disputes and mitigate the conflicts. How to be a part of a broader international order without giving an inch of its sovereignty, states are facing what I call "the legitimacy paradox". When feel threatened in their own backyard, it is natural for a nation-state to advance its own security, including annexing a part of another nation with strong historical and cultural ties. That is how the Crimea case must be understood and analyzed. The broken Western promise of not expanding the NATO alliance to Russian borders has also played its role in escalating the ongoing situation. Each nation views the concept of security from its own vantage point, and that leads to competing interests in the context of the geopolitical framework.
The second factor corresponds to an effective global mechanism, or lack thereof, through which major powers such as the current members of the security council balance the global and national interest based on some common ground. Because each nation has a unique history of assessing its own economic, social and political security, it is extremely challenging to develop a common theme on major global challenges. It is the contemporary situation, in regards to managing the foreign relations, when one talks about the global order.
In the above described factors, what is clear that the possibility of a large conflict is very remote (though in some regions this remains a possibility). Yet, what is clear in the context of geopolitics, is the intensification of regional hegemony through interference in other nations by using the proxy groups to either destabilize or weaken the competing actors in the regional sphere to gain control and influence. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate this point.
Without any decisive global arbiter, it seems that this "re-emergence" of geopolitics, is not some temporary arrangement. What is also crucial to realize that with no one unilaterally deciding the course of the events, each nation is in the process of adjusting its global posture even the US. After two prolonged wars (which are still going on) along with the fiscal situation, the US is facing an internal functional fatigue and external challenges and this unique combination is testing the limits of its influence across the globe and that is creating its own challenges within many regions.
What is clear is that the traditional approaches in conducting foreign relations, based on realism or idealism, have little to offer in our contemporary global situation. For the US, the traditional debate about engagement and isolationism has also run its course. One of the advantages of thinking in geopolitical framework is to advance the national agenda based on the following questions: What are the national strategic goals; how are they related to international order or disorder and what is the most prudent path to achieve them in a volatile world? Those were the questions in 1648 for the Treaty (peace) of Westphalia; 1814 for the Congress of Vienna and in 1945 for the Potsdam Conference. These questions are staring at our statesmen and women in contemporary times for answers and strategies. The road ahead to answer these questions must avoid a linear thinking as a reflective tool.
In a world where nations and societies, no matter how deeply connected, practice and preach different virtues from justice to war to equality to economics, the existence of geopolitics is a natural outcome. How to manage these different virtues in a competing global system is the true revenge of geopolitics.