International Relations of Asia Essay: Strategic Geometry”
“This is the only region in the world where so many combinations and permutations of two, three, and four, and even two plus four or three plus three power games can be played on the regional chessboard with all their complexities and variations.”
The concept of strategic geometry comprises the notion that the interactions and interconnections between a number of political actors within a particular system of international relations, either global or regional, can be seen in terms of geometric patterns of strategic configurations.
It can be a case of simple geometry in which A interacts with B. However, in a more complex system such as Asia, with the presence of more than one major actor, each with their distinct and sometimes conflicting political agendas, the interaction between A and B is likely to affect C or be influenced by C. The concept of an international system implies that events are not random, and units within the system are interrelated in some patterned way. This patterning can be envisaged or conceptualized as patterns of strategic geometry. Any attempt to analyze the transition from a Cold War system of international relations to a post-Cold War one will incorporate an analysis of the general nature of the system itself, in this case, the system of international relations in Asia; the actors involved and their respective roles; how changes in the political environment and specific policies of the actors shape the evolution of a new system; and finally, the nature of the new system with its own actors, their new roles, and new concerns. The concept of strategic geometry enables us to understand these changes in the political dynamics from one system to another, in our case, the transition from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era, by serving as an analytic tool. If we view the international relations of Asia and the interactions of the main actors in terms of strategic configurations and geometric patterns of alignments and oppositions, then we can assess changes in the political system over time by way of the changes in the strategic geometry.
Some strategic configurations change, while others remain the same. New patterns of strategic geometry appear as old forms dissolve. Understanding the shifting pattern of strategic geometry enables us to comprehend the transition from the Cold War era to the post-Cold War era. Geopolitical and politico-economic factors have changed the content of some configurations, but not their form. In other cases, both form and content have changed. My essay will focus on the dual analysis of the content and form of major patterns of strategic geometry and their changes over time from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era. To assess the usefulness of the concept of strategic geometry, we must first examine how well the concept is expressed in the international relations of Asia.
Firstly, I will briefly outline the general strategic concerns and tenets of the Cold War era, the roles and interactions of the actors involved, and the major strategic geometric patterns this produced. The second part of my essay will comprise an analysis of the evolution of the system and the tenets of the new post-Cold War system. I will draw attention to the usefulness of the concept of strategic geometry to explain the transition. Pre-Cold War international relations can even be conceptualized in strategic geometric terms. The past is replete with instances of three-way interactions between Japan, China, and the Soviet Union. According to Mandlebaum, the fate of the region has for the last two centuries” depended on the fate of three major powers: China, Japan, and Russia, on the stability and tranquility of their mutual relations. Hence, we may presume that it is not novel or unknown to apply the concept of strategic geometry to Asia. As I shall illustrate, it will prove particularly useful in understanding the transition from the Cold War to the post-Cold War era. Let us begin with a simpler model of strategic geometry that existed in Europe during the Cold War.
From 1948 onwards, a clear-cut line divided Europe into two main political and military blocs: the communist bloc and the free world of Western Europe, resulting in almost perfect bipolarity. However, politics in Asia during the same period were more dynamic and nuanced than the simple East-West divide of Europe.