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MacKinder meets Buzan: A Geopolitical Extension to Security complex Theory with an emphasis on the Polar Regions

Throughout the centuries interstate wars have been fought over territory to satisfy the requirement of states’ to secure sufficient land and resources to meet the lifestyle needs and economic aspirations of their citizens. While in the past, the conditions precipitating war were predominantly anthropogenic in their origin, in the twenty-first century, wars are increasingly likely to be the consequence of worldwide environmental degradation. Two environmental conditions that have paralleled humanity’s unceasing drive for wealth and prosperity are becoming significant threats to the security of every state: these threats are global climate change and natural resource scarcity. Although these two threats are global in stature, their impact will initially influence security interdependencies at the state and regional levels. Regional security complex theory is a methodological attempt to explain why traditional – military and political – security interdependencies trigger the aggregation of geographically contiguous states into regional groupings defined by the social condition of amity or enmity. However, strictures embedded within this typology prevent the same methodology from being used to explain regionalisation when threats arise from non-traditional sources or the affected states lack geographic contiguity. To overcome this methodological impediment, this thesis proposes a theoretical enlargement – a “hybrid” theory – which combines methodologies drawn from sector security analysis with essential elements of “externalities” and “Shatterbelts” drawn from Regional Orders and Geopolitics ontologies respectively. To test the authority of the “hybrid” theory, two futuristic scenarios are composed, each representing a possible, even probable, future for the two Polar Regions. Each scenario depicts the world in the year 2035, when the human population and individual wealth will likely be of a magnitude greater than they are today and when the world is also detrimentally affected by an increasingly inclement climate and the declining availability of natural resources. Common to both scenarios are potential changes to the political world order and the growing worldwide influence of emerging great powers in Asia and Latin America. In the contemporary Arctic, the future is already being determined by the inimical politics of oil. In a scenario where the Arctic region has become progressively less sanguine, the “hybrid” theory suggests that antagonisms between Arctic-rim countries will forge the establishment of at least one security complex. There will, therefore, be a security response to the region-wide competition for resources. As the twenty-first century unfolds, the presence in the Arctic of non-Arctic states as resource competitors heightens the probability that established security complexes will transmute into conflict prone shatterbelts. The Antarctic Treaty currently prohibits both the commercialisation and militarisation of the continent. It is an institutional regime that is not due to be reviewed until mid-century. Antarctica is a continent like no other for its legal status remains ill-defined and the existing seven territorial claims attract no universal endorsement. Given this political environment, the “hybrid” theory suggests, that in a world experiencing a severe shortage of resources no security complex will form in Antarctica but, instead the region will become a shatterbelt or the loci for resource wars.
Type of thesis
Gibbs, D. R. (2011). MacKinder meets Buzan: A Geopolitical Extension to Security complex Theory with an emphasis on the Polar Regions (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5966
University of Waikato
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