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Influence of Geography on Strategic and Defense Planning

The map of a country is among the most fundamental of a nation’s security policy. Geography is a very decisive factor in the determination of a nation’s defensive foreign policy. The geographical situation of a country is well on the way of determining whether a country is defensible or not and to what extent this would affect the strategy and planning for the defense of a country. It is not the sole factor responsible for the defensive strategy and planning but it is one of the major factors influencing the same. The outcomes of many battles have been determined by the detailed terrain of a country. The in-depth knowledge of geography and the peculiarities of the land has been a determining factor in organizing and controlling troops in battle. Defense planners find opportunities in the geography of a country in planning their strategy. The geographical layout of a country even leads to a collective consciousness of fear or a feeling of protection in the people. For example, a country like Australia felt that it could not be easily protected because of its vast size and unguarded coastline. This paranoia arises from living in a very resource-filled land that is sparsely populated and close to a thickly populated Asia (Informa world).

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Even when alliances expect cooperation among different nations and powers, all strategy is planned and executed based on the specific physical environment. The geographical world is divided into land, air, and space, including even cyberspace. It is a big historical theme, but actual theory and study have only a history of 100 years. The relationships between nations basing on geographical positions started only in the 20th century (Gray & Sloan, 1999). The extent to which a geographical situation may be exploited by a country is determined by its strategy. This also depends on the history of the country and the present opportunities and wants of a country as determined by the policymakers of that country. But the strategy does not determine geography; it is the other way around. Sloan and Gray in their book state that Geography is the mother of strategy. Even though it is very much determined by the use of the officers at hand, the layout of the terrain of battle is relevant at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of conflict. Geography also determines the alliance between nations or their foreign policy, which would have a direct effect on the economy of the nation. What happened in the Vietnam War is very famous for the heroes of America were faced with unfamiliar terrain and people. For a person who has faced hostile terrain, it is a matter of habit to view the land in front of him as ‘cover’ or ‘highground’. So for a person, Geography of land is very much the mother of strategy (Gray & Sloan, 1999).

Influence of geography on national foreign policy

In a world, where boundaries and distances are fast disappearings, geography has attained new terms of cyberspace and Aerospace. But even today, in this age of Globalization, instead of being eliminated Geography is finding new relevance. Even though boundaries fall down, the forces in the region are determined by the racial, ethnic, and even religious factors within that geographical region (Kaplan, 1999). The most recent and weighty issue is that of Transboundary movements that are important in this early part of the twenty-first century. All the oil-producing states are landlocked and all transportation has to be done either by pipeline or by tankers. So the countries would need to depend and bind themselves more closely for this energy supply line (Gray & Sloan, 1999). Which brings us to the importance and relevance of geography in the determination of foreign policy?

Geographical boundaries compel countries to form alliances and trade entities which determine the economic growth of a country. A trade entity like the OPEC is formed by geographically closely related countries. Many countries form unions based on their geographical location, like the European Union. When there is unrest in a neighboring country, or if it is developing weapons of mass destruction, it has a direct implication to the countries close by geographically. This would of course lead to a rethinking of relations between the two countries. We should remember how the geographical situation of Balkans helped condition the US Foreign policy in the case of the Bosnian Civil War with rather bad results (Gray & Sloan, 1999).

The influence is now studied under the name Geopolitics. Geopolitics is the study of influence of geography on a nation’s foreign policy. Since all states are territorial, all foreign policy is derived from the territoriality of the State. As ‘geo’ ‘graphing’ is earth writing, ‘geo’ ‘politics’ is writing about the earth and politics of a specific region. It addresses how contemporary geographical understanding and conceptions frame the visualization and actualization of the nation’s foreign policy. A flawed conception of the territoriality of a nation will surely lead to a bad foreign policy and flawed relations between countries of an area which could be disastrous to all the countries concerned. As in other cases common sense and good sense may be allowed to rule for better relations(Gray & Sloan, 1999).

List of references

Gray, C.S &), Sloan, G.R. 1999. Geopolitics, Geography And Strategy. Web.

Kaplan,R.D. 1999.The Revenge of Geography. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 9). Influence of Geography on Strategic and Defense Planning. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/influence-of-geography-on-strategic-and-defense-planning/

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