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Political Power: Definition and Dimensions

Political Power

Political science is a very elaborate as well as a very complex science which concerns itself with the study of various disciplines and how they influence politics of the day. The field of political geography is concerned with the political power aspects. It emanates from a complex combination of cultural, political, economic, and physical factors. Political geography aims at understanding the relationships between politics and geography or political power. It is well acknowledged that geography affects politics significantly and vice versa political power impacts on geographical space. This field is concerned with the study of the practices of independent states, as well as the focus on politics of all scales, from the international level to those at the local level (Claussen & Kili, 1998). This essay seeks to describe, categorize, and explain how political power can be quantified.

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Political power can be described as a phenomenon where a nation or an individual in authority acquires the right to directly or indirectly influence the official policy that can serve the interests of the nation or of the particular individual (Bell et al., 1999). Again, the person or nation having the political power has a legal monopoly of using, at will, the physical forms of coercion. Political power can further be described as being three dimensional. First, it entails the process of decision-making by an individual who is vested with the power. The second dimension, which seeks to demonstrate the strength of having political power, is the agenda-setting role. It involves the working behind the doors away from public scrutiny with an aim of exerting power on the society by the elites. The third dimension of power is the preference-shaping, which is another aspect of normative power in the political arena. This tendency may be unfavorable and hence the various categories of political power.

The people and nations with political power have to be checked and contained in order to arrive at a balance or else the world would continually be at risk. The arrangement of power should be in such a way that the branches of power do not excessively impede the other (Bell et al., 1999). On the other hand, the interdependence of the power network should be to such an extent that one of the powers cannot singly rule out the decisions of the other. This method of classifying political power is known as the separation of powers.

The second way to categorize political power is through the division of power. It consists of the executive, legislative, and the judicial powers (Claussen & Kili, 1998). Unlike in separation of power, division of power interferes with the other from operating singly. For instance, in the United States, the President can introduce a new bill, but it must receive the approval of the Congress, the Senate in order for it to become law.

Political power can be quantified just like any other measurable quantity. Power, if not regulated, can corrupt the mind (Bell et al., 1999). Therefore, power ought to be restrained in order to maintain the social order. It can be quantified by considering the number of people who can be affected, either directly or indirectly by the decisions of the person in authority. In a country, it could affect the whole or part of the citizens. In the United States, for example, major political decisions extend not only to influence its states but also the international scale. Countries which rely on foreign aid for their survival are prone to the influence of political power exercised by the country which provides the aid.

We can therefore conclude that political power has the potential of determining the course of a people either locally or even on the international scale depending on the magnitude of the power. It is also appropriate, as we have seen, to check the political power that an individual or a powerful nation can exercise over a given group of people.

The Integral Aspects of the State

A state is a politically organized group of people under one government. It is synonymous to the word nation (Brown, 2000). Every state has its own peculiar aspects which keep it moving as far as the provision of internal and external framework for culture, economics, and physical landscape is concerned. This essay seeks to discuss the aspects of a nation and how they can be integrated to provide general framework.

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The various aspects of a nation cannot work independent of the other. Instead, it is their synchronization that makes the whole better than the parts. This implies that integral aspects of the nation are central in determining and defining it. The following section depicts the various aspects constituting a state/nation.

Firstly, a group of people can exist outside broader culture while a nation cannot. A broad culture can constitute a number of nations, for instance in the case of the European Union and the United States of America. This will therefore lead to the formation of a High Culture. Separate nations carry some of the aspects of the broad culture and exercise it in a unique way. Countries like Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and England have done that although they all fall under the EU (Brown, 2000). Nations which were colonized assert their own aspects regardless of their former masters. They embrace the nation as an idea and they do it through their day-to-day creations, actions, and expressions.

The second aspect of a nation is that of considering the state as being a destiny where every individual can naturally occupy. This aspect proposes that a nation is a psychic fact that entrenches itself into an individual rather than being a collection of persons who are connected by their common loyalty to the banking system and the market. In this case, an individual becomes a unit of the nation and the person has no separate philosophy or cultural significance once he or she breaks from the nation.

The third aspect is that of considering a nation as having the possibility of falling prey to the degeneration of moral qualities. Since a nation is a living destiny, it can as well become weakened by the various evil ways in its environment (Brown, 2000). This implies that a nation is always trying to avoid crises in life. The experiences of degeneration in moral quality may be revealed either psychologically or culturally. This may be manifest through the confusion of its various forms of art, bizarre, and the people may resort to running private lives. A nation may also face difficulties in boldly affirming its own identity.

A nation as a Natural Unit of Existence is the fourth aspect. Currently, we have capitalism as the dominant ideology in the world. In order to globalize the markets, capitalism must then disintegrate the existing nations into formless groups since a market requires consumers and nothing else. This dream is yet to be fulfilled due to the strong forces of the need for self assertion. Predictions have it that this is the global market millennium as the world becomes a global village with technological advancement (Brown, 2000).

The other significant aspect of the state is the perception of national destiny as the property of the whole people. The nation exists in every individual rather than in the national political elites and culture. This aspect believes in the role of every single individual towards making the nation a better place to leave in. This is the real insistence on equality of mankind.

From the above analysis, we realize that all the aspects of a nation carries some degree of weight and helps in defining what a state or nation is or ought to be. With the high rate of technological advancement, the fourth aspect may sound convincing. However, the first aspect, in my opinion, is the most appealing since it allows for the merging of nations for mutual relations without necessarily loosing the ultimate assertion of one’s identity and independence.

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The Motives and Rewards for Colonialism

The concept of colonialism is in most cases subjected to ambivalent judgment upon considering its motives and rewards. Colonialism has been identified as an old phenomenon that is commonly directed to the notion of extending one society to another. It can be defined as a practice of ascendancy that basically involves the conquest of one people on another population (Rieder, 2008). Colonialism can be viewed as either being friendly or a foe. When the inherent activities and processes are directed towards having positive outcomes, then colonialism could be considered as an ally. On the contrary, it could be rendered an enemy if the intentions and outcomes are negative. The Americans and Europeans have been involved in propagating neocolonialism. On the other hand, the Romans, Greeks, and the Ottomans were notable colonists of the ancient histories and they exhibited the most notorious cases of colonialism (Rieder, 2008). It is important to note, however, that colonialism is not bound by specific period in time or place; instead, the recent technological advancements have just altered the process of colonialism to a more deliberate and swifter ways of operation. The goals and the eventual effects of colonialism are still being executed. This section of the paper focuses on the motives and the rewards behind colonialism.

In analyzing colonialism, many scholars have demonstrated significant variation of the usage of the term colonialism depending on what is being investigated (Wolny, 2005). Some scholars have differentiated between colonies and there ways of operation. There is the economic exploitation as well as colonies for settlement purposes. Other scholars use the term to illustrate some kind of dependencies that are directly controlled by a foreign nation.

There are a number of motives that are behind any colonization, be it ancient or modern. These motives can be traced to the principles of economy, nationalism, and culture (Rieder, 2008). The motives are inherent in European colonizers including; Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese. On the principle of culture, the colonizers used their missionaries to spread Christianity, a culture of God. The missionaries penetrated through their respective colonies with an aim of influencing the people’s culture and inculcating a new one. The second motive is that of economy where the colonists acquire resources for the economies in Europe. This principle can be considered exploitative since it involves the transfer of another country’s natural heritage without necessarily having a mutual benefit with the colony. The third principle is the conviction that the more the colonies, the more powerful a state. This is the nationalism principle (Wolny, 2005). The dependence of colony originates from the fact that it has no foreign policy or even the military of its own. In general, colonialism refers to the existence of an independent colonizer and a dependent colony where the colonizer can enforce economic, cultural, and political system to the colony.

Colonialism has had various rewards, both negative and positive. Development was associated with colonialism albeit the facts that some consequences were accidental while others deliberate. There are three main uses of colonial development, processual, intentional, and normative. The intentional use involves the development of resources and its management, for instance aid and relief system especially in the poor and underdeveloped countries. The development as a social process flowing from the intrusion of the colonialists is often known as Processual use. The normative use of development is directed towards modernization (Rieder, 2008). Generally, colonialism impacts positively on the economies, infrastructures, national identities, medical and health progression, and other development forms. The negative impacts of colonialism mainly in Third World countries include; cultural erosion, de-industrialization, population growth, among other issues concerning the marginal, undermined races, economic groups, sexualities, and cultures.

This paper has discussed the definition of colonialism, elaborated the motives and the anticipated rewards of colonialism which can either be categorized as positive or negative.

The “Second American Empire”

The United States of America is the world’s current superpower. The term Empire refers to a number of client states and traditional colonies which group together voluntarily (Glassner, 1996). The American empire came into existence for the first time in the aftermath of the infamous Spanish-American War. This was in the year 1898 when the United States put together states of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Cuba. This period did last through to the end of the Second World War. In each of these cases, the Americas has been growing and expanding its worldwide influence through the continued control of former colonies. This essay seeks to summarize the Second American Empire.

The Second American Empire came into existence in 1945 just after the end of World War II to 1982, when it started falling drastically to pave way for the third empire in 1989 (Glassner, 1996). During this period, America centered on Asia and Western Europe, assuming the role of former colonists like France and Great Britain. Immediately after the cold war, the United States started seizing the empires of its former enemies. The downfall of the Soviet Union triggered the United States to extend its military zone to include the Eastern Europe, through NATO. The US also managed to dominate Yugoslavia which was formerly neutral. Most importantly, the end of the cold war did usher the United States to increase its dominance in the Middle East. The systematic fall of this second empire started abruptly in 1974 during which there was oil crisis, the collapse of the economic system, Watergate and the US withdrawal from Vietnam. It was, however, felt after eight years.

Long before the war against Iraq transformed the United States to dominate the Persian Gulf, America was doing the groundwork for the commencement of the third empire. It laid down the strategies by developing its military base and commitments in the Middle East. The United States then stationed its troops in the Sinai desert (Kiste & Mac Marshall, 1999).

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It was in January 1980, just after the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution, when the then US president Carter issued a decree declaring its plans to protect the Persian Gulf region from any foreign influence or control (Glassner, 1996).

Soon after, President Ronald Reagan followed Mr. Carter’s footsteps and upgraded the deployment of American forces into the United States central command in the Middle East (Glassner, 1996). This move placed the American commitment in the region on equal level with those of East Asia and Europe.

The United States has widened its permanent military presence in Saudi Arabia and the entire emirates since the Persian Gulf War. This was to the fury of the Islamic militants. The US went ahead to develop a new Navy’s Fifth Fleet in the gulf. America has demonstrated its interest in the Middle East region and can be seen through its increased intimacy with Israel and the continued deployment of military forces to the region.

The Second American Empire was quite different from the previous ones. In the British Empire, the natives were regarded as being lazy and stupid, and racialism was common. During the First American Empire, the natives were considered headstrong, nationalist, and at the same time foolish. Conversely, in the Second American Empire, negative statements were no longer commonly used, unless for reference to emerging markets rather than the emerging economies (Kiste & Mac Marshall, 1999). The America’s empires are not official; they are not known to be its colonies unlike in the previous cases where it was declared that a certain region belonged to a given colonizer.

This essay has briefly discussed the chronology of the Second American Empire. The America’s empires rise and collapse due to changing times. The US has so far had three empires and the fourth one is inevitable.

The Current Land Dispute between Israel and Palestine

In 1947, the state of Palestine was divided to establish the nation of Israel (Asher, 2004). This move resulted in the creation of two separate homelands for the Jewish and the Arab people. Little was known that the division would polarize the Israelis and the Arabs for over half a century as it stands at the moment. The resulting tension has led to the ongoing violent confrontations between the two states. This essay will analyze the current state of affairs in Israel and Palestine as far as land dispute is concerned.

The Arab/Israeli conflict has been an ongoing dispute between Israel and Palestine for a long period of time now. Despite the fact that the conflict has a wide ranging string of causes, the issues at the heart of this problem are water rights, border security, land rights, control of Jerusalem, and the legal issues involving refugees. The situation in this region has triggered other human rights and security concerns on all states in the international dimension. The issue of Palestine and Israel has called on the attention of the United Nations since the organization’s inception. As mentioned earlier, the UN during its General Assembly voted for the partition of the land in November of 1947. The UN then deployed the initial peacekeeping forces in order to monitor the ceasefire boundary lines after the 1948 war (Agha & Malley, 2009).

The Arab-Israel conflict has seen land dispute take the center stage in recent times. The fact that land holds water which is mankind’s most necessary resource, the parties will confront each other to defend this rare commodity especially in a region which is on the margin of the earth’s most arid environments. The tension saw war erupt in 1967 and Israel ended up quadrupling the territory it manned and had access to fresh water which was double its initial resources. Any nation needs water to sustain its population and hence the sensitivity of land in the Middle East between Palestine and Israel. The land in question includes the most productive areas of West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Most attempts to resolve the crisis between the two parties has, to say the least, not been fruitful. A number of negotiations have stalled on the way while agreements reached in 1990s have failed to take effect (Guardia, 2003). In 1993, there was The Oslo Accord and the Road Map of 2003 which was developed by the US, European Union, Russia, and the UN. In the 21st century, Israel has made attempts to unilaterally solve the Palestinian issue by pooling troops and settlers from Gaza and constructing a “security fence” around the West Bank areas which has got the largest number of Palestinians (Agha & Malley, 2009). It is expected to stretch over 440 miles. Israel claims that the steps are temporary security measures although the barriers go beyond the occupied territory and more specifically into regions with high yield of fresh water. This means that Israel has encroached into Palestine’s economic areas, resourceful regions, and agricultural grounds.

The UN Resolutions 242 and 338 clearly outlines that Israel must withdraw completely from the territories causing conflicts (Asher, 2004). It took heed on September, 2005 but this move did not stop it from building more Jewish settlements in some other territories. These actions have been considered illegal by other states. In fact, the International Court Justice has so far ruled that the building of the barrier by Israel is against the international law. Currently, no ruling or recommendations have managed to quench the continuing struggle over land between Israel and Palestine.

We have assessed the current state of affairs of land dispute between Palestine and Israel and all indications show that the ultimate solution is far from being reached. However, international agencies like the U.N. should press on to pacify the two states.

Neocolonialism and Neoimperialism

Neocolonialism and Neoimperialism both have their origin from the words colonialism and imperialism respectively. Colonialism refers to the practice of ascendancy that basically involves the conquest of one people on another population or one state over another country. It is a policy through which a country extends its rule over other foreign dependencies. Colonialism in its entirety has various definitions depending on the perspective that one is considering. In general, it involves some of control exercised by one state over another be it economically, politically, culturally, or territorially (Sartre, 2001). Modern forms of colonialism constitute neocolonialism. Neocolonialism can be taken to mean the situation of continued dependence caused by colonial rule, where a nation is granted political independence only to realize later that it is not in charge of its own economy and hence cannot own policies without consulting the several powerful outsiders. These authorities can have either direct or indirect control over the said policies. Imperialism, on the other hand, has some similarity with the term colonialism. It refers to the contest between rival European countries in their quest to secure colonies and spheres of influence in Asia and Africa without resorting to war. This contest dominated international politics of the time, mid-1880s to 1914 and this period acquired the name “age of imperialism.” Neoimperialism therefore can be considered to be a strategy used by developed countries to gain control or annex another nation’s territory without any physical confrontation. This work is interested in assessing and drawing the difference between neocolonialism and Neoimperialism.

Neoimperialism is a situation where some relatively powerful nations dominate over others in terms of unequal economic conditions of exchange. In essence, Neoimperialism exists when a weaker nation relies on another due to its inability to survive economically in the present time without the direct or indirect aid from the stronger nation (Sartre, 2001). Unlike the earlier empire system, the new system is not founded upon the direct imposition of political power by one strong society over a weaker one. To the contrary, neo-imperialism in the modern world maximizes the power of money as a way of keeping the needy countries from stepping outside of the predefined roles. These roles are laid out by the richer nations.

The relationship that exists between industrialized countries and the Third World is a good example of neo-imperialism. This is because the Third World nations, to a large extend, expect to get monetary aid from the industrialized world in order to buy food, get shelter, and other basic needs (Loomba, 2005). Agencies used to promote neo-imperialism include the World Bank and I.M.F. The industrialized countries are more than willing to grant this in terms of aid but with strings attached; the Third world states will be expected to go by the foreign policies of the nations that provided the aid or else be at the risk of having the continued aid withdrawn.

Neo-imperialism covers a large modern section as a result of the current strong global aspect. It has been realized that the United States is leading in the development of imperialistic relationships with other countries. The US does this by offering strong foreign aid packages as well as foreign policies that are intrusive in nature which raises the question of whether neo-imperialism is morally right or not.

Neocolonialism, as has been defined earlier, refers to the continuation of an economic model of former colonizer after a colonized nation has achieved political independence. This phenomenon occurred to many African countries in the latter half of the 20th century. This arose from the fact that European nations had colonized Africa since the late nineteenth century (Loomba, 2005). During this period, they exploited Africa’s resources by instituting a crude economic system. The raw materials they targeted included; cash crops and minerals. The concept of neocolonialism proposes that even after the African states were granted nominal political independence in the second half of the 20th century, the colonizers still controlled the economies of the new African states. Neocolonialism thrives through the weakening of local markets of producer countries in Africa as well as through foreign aid which earn extremely very high interest rates (Loomba, 2005).

From the above discussion, it is evident that there are notable differences between Neocolonialism and Neoimperialism albeit marginal. We can distinguish between the two in that neocolonialism is a practice while Neoimperialism is the idea that drives this practice of exercising control over an otherwise politically independent state.

The Ethnic Groups in Today’s Iraq

Iraq came into existence in the region commonly known in the west as Mesopotamia after the WWI, and the population in 1920 was estimated at 3 million people. Approximately 75% of Iraq’s population covers the flat land that extends southeast from the city of Baghdad (Levinson, 1998). The plain and the delta benefits from the massive silt deposited by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers each year. The fertility of the plain as well as the delta, coupled with the water from the two rivers has served to support agriculture, hence enabling the nation to sustain its people. This essay will assess the different ethnic groupings in today’s Iraq as well as focusing on the points of conflict between them.

There are a number of ethnic groupings in Iraq, the most dominant being the Arabic speakers, then the Kurds, Iraqi Turkmen and the Assyrians. There are also the minority groups and include the Armenians, Shabaks, Persians, and Lurs. The most commonly used language is Arab with 75%-80% of the population, followed by Kurdish constituting 15%-20%. The remaining 5% goes to the Turkmen and other minorities (Levinson, 1998).

The Arabs of Iraq descended from a group cluster called the Levant Arabs. The two main subgroups of Arabs are the Sunnis and the Shiites (Lobell & Mauceri, 2004). This group of people is spread from Israel to Kuwait as well as east Iran. Several scholars are convinced that Arabs from the Peninsula are the original generation of Arabs.

The tribes of nomads and villagers who lived in the Arabian Desert for several centuries are considered to be the pioneers of the Arabian culture (Hauss, 2008). The second group is that of the Kurds. In July 2007, the total number of the Kurds people stood at 25 million. Only 3.5 million Kurds occupy the mountainous region of northern Iraq. After the World War I, the colonial powers divided the tribal lands of the Kurd people, commonly known by the inhabitants as Kurdistan. France and the Great Britain were responsible for the divide (Hauss, 2008). During this time, the Kurd people became the minority in Iraq, turkey, and Iran. In these three countries, the Kurd people’s intentions for national independence were considered as threatening. For several decades now, the Kurds have been faced with prosecution due to their clamor for independence. This has been one of the sources of conflict between the other ethnic groups and the Kurds.

It was in the early1970s when the Kurdish people confronted the Iraqi government. At the particular time, Hussein was the second most powerful man in Baghdad. In 1975, the United States, Israel, and the neighboring Iran withdrew their support and the Kurdish guerilla movement subsequently collapsed. In the 1980s, when Iran waged war against Iraq, the Kurdish people joined them to fight the Hussein administration. Nearly 5,000 residents of the Kurdish town, Halabja were killed when Hussein retaliated with poisonous gas. This action forced the Kurdish people out of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The Arabs were then brought in to settle on the land.

Turkmen is third largest ethnic group in Iraq. It is mainly covers the central and northern regions of Iraq. They have ruled the nation six times since the establishment of their first state at around 600 BC.

The conflict between the Turkmen and the Kurds in the modern times is over the question of ownership of the oil rich Kirkuk region and its environs (Lobell & Mauceri, 2004). Either party claim to own this region and this has resulted in the continued clashes. This has been worsened by the current constitution making process which must outline the ownership of the resourceful region (Hauss, 2008).

Apart from the Kirkuk land ownership issue, the other source of conflict among the three ethnic groups is the fight over political dominion in Iraq especially after the invasion by the United States. This has worsened due to the great tension between the Arab majority, the Shiites and Sunnis. This war emerged after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime (Hauss, 2008). This divide is currently Iraq’s most volatile experience. The source of this tension, however, can be traced back to the 7th century when there was a deadlock over who was to inherit Prophet Mohammad’s leadership mantle of the Muslims (Levinson, 1998). In essence, the Sunnis are the minority compared to the over 60% Shiites of the Arab population.

We have learnt that there are three major ethnic groups in Iraq, the Arabs, Kurdish, and the Turkmen and other minority groups like the Assyrian. The Shiite and the Sunni Arabs are the most dominant in this country. The ethnic groups have over time experienced tensions and violence over various issues including land, and power struggle.

References

Agha, H. & Malley, R. (2009). Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over? The New York Review of Books, 56 (19), 5-9.

Asher, K. (2004). A Quest for Peace and Security. Palestine-Israel journal of Politics, Culture, and Economics, 11 (1), 1-5.

Bell, R., Edwards, D. V. & Wagner, H. R. (1999). Understanding political power (6th ed.). Free Press.

Brown, B. (2000). A focus on contemporary nationalism: ethno-cultural, multi-cultural, and civic politics. Taylor & Francis.

Claussen, B. & Kili, S. (1998). The structures of political power, political education, and Socialization (4th ed.). P. Lang.

Glassner, M. I. (1996). Understanding Political Geography (2nd ed.). J. Wiley Plc.

Guardia, A. (2003). War without end: Israelis, Palestinians, and the struggle for a promised land. St. Martin’s Griffin.

Hauss, C. (2008). A Comparative perspective of politics: Responses to global dynamics. Cengage Learning.

Kiste, R. C. & Mac Marshall (1999). An assessment of American anthropology in Micronesia. University of Hawaii Press.

Levinson, D. (1998). Worldwide ethnic groups: a historian’s reference handbook. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Lobell, S. E. & Mauceri, P. (2004). Understanding Ethnic conflict and international politics. Palgrave Macmillan.

Loomba, A. (2005). Colonialism & Post-colonialism (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Rieder, J. (2008). Colonialism and the beginning of scientific fiction. Wesleyan University Press.

Sartre, J. P. (2001). Understanding Neocolonialism and Neoimperialism. Routledge.

Wolny, P. (2005). Colonialism: An Analysis. The Rosen Publishing Group.

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