International

The Forever Wars: Geopolitics And Conflicts Are As Ancient As History

From the ancient conflicts over hunting grounds to the ongoing wars in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, land has continued to drive humans into warfare. The combination of geography and politics —geopolitics— is key to understanding the timeless human proclivity for wars and conflicts.

AP Photo/Oded Balilty
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In the ancient Indian strategic treatise ‘Arthashastra’, Chanakya wrote that your immediate neighbour is your natural enemy as they covet your territory and resources. 

While it might appear to be a generalisation, and critiques of Chanakya have been written, the core of the idea has survived the test of time. From the ancient conflicts of early humans over hunting grounds to the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, the idea of land remains central to wars and conflicts.  

When geography combines with politics, geopolitics is born. From the Great Game in Afghanistan to India’s confrontations with its belligerent neighbours, the politics of geography has often led to wars. The basic cause —geopolitics— is as old as time. In its simplest sense, the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also one over land: Who gets how much of a chunk of land in the Middle East for their nation? The conflict in the region is also not new. It’s the conflict’s latest iteration. 

For centuries, the Christians and the Muslims fought over the Holy Land of Jerusalem where the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have their holiest sites at a stone’s throw from each other. Before that, the Babylonians expelled the Jews and destroyed their Temple of Solomon on Temple Mount, which was rebuilt and was again destroyed later by the Romans. Thus, the conflict in the Holy Land runs much deeper than one might realise at first. 

In his piece on Jewish-Muslim relations, Iftikhar Gilani writes that the Jews and Muslims lived relatively peacefully in the region before the 20th century. Thus, the framing of the conflict in religious terms is an incorrect interpretation of history. 

In his piece, Dilip Simeon traces the Zionist movement for Jewish nationhood and writes about the cycle of violence in the region. 

The Outlook’s year-end issue on Palestine also features an extract from Palestinian-American public intellectual Edward Said’s book ‘On Palestine’, in which he indicted the Israelis for their campaign against Palestinians. “In sum, Palestinians must die a slow death so that Israel can have its security, which is just around the corner but cannot be realised because of the special Israeli ‘insecurity’. The whole world must sympathise, while the cries of Palestinian orphans, sick old women, bereaved communities and tortured prisoners simply go unheard and unrecorded,” writes Said.

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