GEOG 128
Geography of International Affairs

War

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Required Reading

Please begin by reading Chapter 3 of Flint, C. (2012). Introduction to geopolitics (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

The two most common themes for justifying war: material interests and values.

As Flint explains, these two themes are not competing or mutually exclusive. However, they are the two most common themes used to justify participation in warfare.

There is an interesting geographic distinction associated with each of these themes:

  1. Representations of war that are based upon material concerns are territorially based, often reflecting concerns over control of territory or boundary locations in order to access key resources.
  2. Representations of war that resort to ideals are less bound to specific pieces of territory, and tend to speak to visions of what is best, or “common sense” for humanity.

(Flint, 2012, p. 69)

Read: World War I

Read President Woodrow Wilson’s speech to congress back in 1917 as he urges Congress to declare war against Germany. How does he represent the US interest in going to war with Germany? How does Wilson explain its geopolitical position and how he, as the US President, came to the conclusion that war is justified? Who has he identified as our allies and our enemies? Note also how he treats the German people in contrast to his consideration of the government making decisions and taking action on their behalf.

Woodrow Wilson’s “War Message to Congress” (April 2, 1917)

Now let’s journey to the present, nearly a century after Woodrow Wilson’s speech, and examine our current geopolitical code embedded in President Barack Obama’s speech to the public outlining the US strategy to combat the terrorist group known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

Read: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

Read the transcript of President Barack Obama’s public address on September 10th 2014 outlining a four-part plan to combat the Islamic State. How does President Obama identify our enemy? What distinctions does he make about who ISIL is and who they represent? How does he represent American interests in actively combating ISIL? What is our justification for engaging in armed conflict with ISIL?

Transcript: President Obama’s speech outlining strategy to defeat Islamic State