Practical manual of geopolitics: A French view of a universal topic

January 14, 2014

Geopolitiques:  Manuel Practique is a 2010 book by Patrice Gourdin, a history professor and long time instructor at the French Air Force Academy.   Gourdin’s book is primarily focused on the methodological practices needed for good geopolitical analysis, but also includes practical examples of that methodological approach.  The book has never been translated into English, but in a brief English language interview with Exploring Geopolitics, Gourdin summarizes the key themes of the book.  Gourdin’s practice involves four steps:

  • First, we study the territory, since it constitutes both the stakes of the crisis and the battlefield. Some of the geographical and/or economic features could become the bone of contention. Other features can help to explain the nature of the confrontation.
  • Second, we examine the population of this territory, because inhabitants are the actors in a crisis or war. They act voluntarily (as supporters or fighters) or involuntarily (as victims or tools). Some demographic, ethnic, religious, social and political factors can produce social splits and exacerbate tensions. These factors can be easily manipulated.
  • Third, we have to analyse the geopolitical representations. These, contained in the arguments of each local player, are well-known because each side does explain why they fight. It is very important to understand how the involved actors use arguments to justify their behaviour. Usually, each side relies on history, politics, archaeology or anthropology. But these are truncated and/or distorted. We must know which arguments are rigged and why.
  • Fourth, we identify the foreign actors (state, non-state and criminal ones) involved in the crisis or conflict and we observe their attitudes. In the event of any crisis or war flaring up without any directly or indirectly implicated foreign actors, the latter still have political, economic and/or strategic interests.

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