Interview with dr. Hichem KAROUI
Vasile SIMILEANU: Geopolitics, as a science, was challenged after the World War II. After 1989, it became part of the new world order.
Please tell us about your activities in the field of geopolitics! How do you define geopolitics?
Hichem KAROUI: Following WWII, the geopolitical scene changed dramatically with the fall of European empires and the rise of the United States as a prominent military and economic power. The end of the Cold War in 1989 signalled the beginning of a new world order, characterised by pro-found shifts in global political philosophy and the balance of power in international relations. This new world order was primarily connected with collective attempts to address global challenges beyond individual nation-states’ problem-solving capabilities.
The post-Cold War era saw the emergence of new geopolitical dynamics, with the United States and Russia improving their relations. However, questions about their future relationship remained. Meanwhile, China’s growth as a global power has resulted in a slew of concerns in the West, ranging from its one-China policy to trade deficits with the United States. Relations with Cold War allies in Western Europe and Japan were generally positive but also going through transitions.
Geopolitics continued to play a critical role in international affairs, serving as the foundation for the United States’ Cold War containment strategy and the develop-ment of NATO. Geopolitics is the study of how geography impacts politics and inter-national relations, with analysts looking at actors such as individuals, organisations, businesses, and national governments who engage in political, economic, and financial activity. Power interests began to supplant economic might as the “currency” of international politics in the “new world order” (Post-Cold War). The geoeconomics age gave way to a new age of geopolitics, with different states competing for influence in a new global order. The game is again changing today, as nations outside the USA and Europe tend to claim more participation in international decisions in a multipolar world, where the USA has no more rights than any sovereign state in Africa or Asia.
To summarise, the new world order that formed following WWII and the conclusion of the Cold War 1989 resulted in enormous changes in the geopolitical landscape. Geopolitics remains critical in comprehending the intricate interactions between geography, politics, and international relations, with power interests increasingly taking precedence over economic might in determining global politics. But today, the rise of China is changing the world. We already live in a world where the USA is no longer the only global power.
My interest in geopolitics stems primarily from my academic work as an expert in international relations. I was educated as a sociologist, primarily in macro-socio-logy. Without considering geopolitical factors, you cannot study contemporary international concerns, whether in the MENA region or global power building, such as the recent events between China and the United States. Geopolitics is essential for a good understanding of the relations, whether between global or regional powers. I define it as the study of how geography, economics, and population influence a state’s politics and foreign policy. It is also defined as the struggle for control of geographical entities having an international and global dimension, as well as the utilisation of such geographical entities for political gain. Geopolitics is a framework for under-standing the complex world around us, with a focus on how countries and other orga-nisations compete for control of these entities within the international community.
V.S.: Geopolitics has become of impact in all analyses of political, military, social, economic, cultural and diplomatic developments. Do you think that the classical theories of the geopolitical schools are still relevant?
Hichem KAROUI: Classical geopolitical theories are still relevant today because they help us understand the complex interactions between geography, politics, and international relations. Classical geopolitical theories that are still in use include:
The Heartland Theory of Halford Mackinder: Mackinder thought that whomever controlled the core of Eurasia, roughly between the Arctic Sea and the Himalayas, could dominate the world. This theory is still important today, as it explains the strategic importance of regions such as Central Asia and the ongoing battle of major powers for influence in these areas.
Nicholas Spykman’s Rimland Theory: Spykman felt that control of the coastal lands encircling Eurasia, known as the Rimland, was the path to worldwide supremacy. This hypothesis is still relevant in light of the increasing importance of maritime commerce routes and the geopolitical importance of locations such as the South China Sea.
Thayer, Alfred Mahan’s Sea Power Theory: Mahan emphasised the necessity of naval power and control of commercial sea channels for global supremacy. This argument is still relevant today, as maritime trade is vital to the global economy and nations continue to invest in naval capabilities to preserve their interests.
Rudolph Kjellén defined geopolitics as the study of the state as a geographical organism or phenomenon in space. This concept is still relevant in understan-ding how geography shapes state political behaviour and relations.
These classic geopolitical theories continue to offer important insights into the dynamics of international politics and the role of geography in determining global power relations. While the world has changed dramatically since these theories were initially offered, they continue to provide a valuable framework for analysing current geopolitical concerns and comprehending the underlying dynamics that drive international relations.
V.S.: At university level, please tell us how geopolitics is reflected in the university curri-culum (undergraduate courses, masters, doctorates)!
What research institutes, NGOs and other formats are developed for geopolitical studies?
Hichem KAROUI: Geopolitics is mirrored in the curriculum at the university level through numerous undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate programmes. These pro-grammes usually concentrate on international politics, geography, regional societies, and the dynamic interplay of these components. The Sorbonne University (France), the University of Groningen (Netherlands), the University of Carlos III (Spain), and King’s College (UK) are among the universities that offer such programmes. These programmes’ courses may concentrate on specific regions of the world, current geopolitical theories, or other topics. Aside from formal education programmes, several research institutes, non-governmental organisations, and other organisations are dedicated to studying geopolitics. Here are a few examples:
Just in Paris, there are many. I mention as examples, The Geopolitical study centre, directed by Michel Korinman at the Sorbonne, publishes the European Geopolitical Journal (Outre-Terre). Also in France, The Paris Academy of Geopolitics (PAG) is a Private Establishment of Superior Education, and The Institute for Applied Geo-political Studies («Institut d’Études de Géopolitique Appliquée», “Institut EGA”).
The Geopolitical Studies Research Centre (GSRC) at Charles University in Prague unites renowned professionals in geopolitics and delivers intricate research on territoriality issues.
The Centre for Geopolitical Studies Riga is a Latvia-based independent research think tank focusing on security issues and geopolitical rivalries in the Baltic Sea region and beyond.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies is a world-renowned expert on global security, political risk, and armed conflict.
And in the Middle-East, I also can mention several think tanks with apparent interest in geopolitical studies, such as Trends Research & Advisory or Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, or also Emirates Policy Center (Abu Dhabi).
These organisations undertake research, publish papers and publications, and host events to increase awareness of geopolitics and its impact on various facets of global politics.
V.S.: Do you think that there is a need for a better visibility of this geographical science in research environments worldwide? Through what forms and means?
Hichem KAROUI: There is a genuine demand for increased awareness of geopolitical science in research environments around the world. Raising awareness of this field can lead to a greater knowledge of the intricate interactions between geography, politics, and international relations, allowing policymakers and organisations to make more informed decisions. Various formats and approaches can be used to increase the visibility of geopolitical science. Let’’s mention some here:
Integration into academic curricula: Universities should provide more under-graduate, master’s, and doctorate programmes in geopolitics, international politics, and geography.
Collaboration with research institutes and non-governmental organisations: Partnerships with research institutes, non-governmental organisations, and think tanks committed to the study of geopolitics can help foster research and knowledge sharing in the field.
Promoting interdisciplinary research that blends geopolitics with other subjects such as economics, environmental studies, sociology and technology can lead to a more thorough knowledge of global concerns.
Increasing research visibility: Geopolitics researchers should actively endeavour to increase the visibility of their study by publishing in respected journals, pre-senting at conferences, and participating in public debates on pertinent themes.
Using digital platforms: Geopolitical scholars can share their findings and engage with a larger audience by using digital platforms such as social media, blogs, and online forums.
The geopolitical science community may promote awareness of the importance of their profession and contribute to a better understanding of the complex forces affecting global politics by implementing these techniques.
V.S.: Should geopoliticians and their theories be made more popular in the media and social media? What about in relations with partner structures in other countries?
Who do you work with to promote geopolitics?
Should an international organisation be set up to promote the interests of this science?
Hichem KAROUI: There are several ways to make geopoliticians and their theories more popular and foster collaboration by focusing on media and social media, relations with partner structures, collaborations to promote geopolitics, and the establishment of an international organisation to promote geopolitical science. For example:
Geopoliticians can use media and social media channels to disseminate their research, thoughts, and hypotheses with a larger audience. This can serve to raise understanding about geopolitics and its impact on numerous elements of global politics.
Relationships with partner structures: Forming strategic alliances with geopo-litical research institutes, non-governmental organisations, and think tanks can help encourage research and knowledge sharing in the subject.
Collaboration with international organisations and regional partners can also improve geopolitical understanding and create cooperation on common issues.
Collaborations to advance geopolitics: Promoting interdisciplinary study and collaboration among geopoliticians and specialists from other fields can lead to a more thorough understanding of global challenges. Joint research initiatives, seminars, and workshops can facilitate knowledge exchange and networking.
Establishing an international organisation dedicated to promoting the interests of geopolitical science can help raise awareness about the importance of this field while also providing a platform for collaboration among researchers, policy-makers, and other stakeholders. An organisation of this type might encourage research, organise events, and push for the inclusion of geopolitics in academic curricula and policy debates.
By using these tactics, the geopolitical science community may raise awareness of the significance of their profession, stimulate collaboration, and contribute to a greater understanding of the complex dynamics that shape global politics.
V.S.: In the new global constructions, determined by geo-strategic actions, how do you perceive geopolitical pressures on your state?
How should state actors react to pressures from non-state actors?
Is there collaboration between geopoliticians and business?
Hichem KAROUI: There are three questions in one. I will skip the first for I have dual nationality, therefore two states. It’s complicated. As for the second, my answer is the following:
State actors can respond to non-state actor pressures through a variety of tactics, including:
Diplomacy and discussion: Engaging in diplomatic efforts and dialogue with non-state actors can assist in addressing complaints and facilitating peaceful conflict resolution.
Strengthening state institutions and governance can assist address the core reasons of non-state actor support and limit their influence.
Sharing intelligence and information: Working with foreign partners and sharing intelligence can assist state actors better understand and fight the operations of non-state actors.
Working with regional and international partners to strengthen security coope-ration can assist state actors confront non-state actors’ challenges more effectively.
Targeted military action: In some instances, state actors may be required to take targeted military action against non-state actors who constitute a direct threat to their or their allies’ security.
Legal and regulatory measures: Implementing and enforcing legal and regula-tory measures can assist state actors in countering non-state actors’ finance and support networks.
Development and humanitarian assistance: Providing development and humani-tarian assistance to areas affected by non-state actor activity can aid in addressing the underlying causes of support for these groups and promoting stability.
Public diplomacy and strategic communication: State actors can use public di-plomacy and strategic communication to fight non-state actors’ narratives and propaganda while promoting their own ideals and objectives.
By using these tactics, state actors can better handle the demands created by non-state actors while also promoting regional stability and security.
For the third question, I think geopoliticians and business are already working together. Companies are increasingly recognising the value of knowing and respon-ding to shifting geopolitical landscapes in order to maintain a sound corporate stra-tegy and protect their operations. Businesses need to understand current geopolitical risks and trends in order to make informed decisions and handle complicated global difficulties. Geopoliticians and business can collaborate in a variety of ways:
Engaging with research institutes and think tanks: Businesses can work with geopolitical research institutes and think tanks to get insights and knowledge about the geopolitical landscape and its impact on their operations.
Building deeper connections with governments: To manage the complicated geo-political landscape, companies must collaborate with governments, as govern-ments play a critical role in defining international law, trade policy, and other variables that affect enterprises.
Hiring geopolitical specialists and incorporating geopolitical analysis into decision-making: Companies can hire geopolitical experts or engage in executive training programmes that focus on the convergence of business and geopolitics. This can assist organisations in better understanding the geopolitical situation and making better decisions.
Monitoring geopolitical trends: Businesses should regularly monitor geopolitical trends and changes to assess their possible impact on their operations and alter their plans accordingly.
Businesses may better navigate the complicated and ever-changing global scene by engaging with geopoliticians and incorporating geopolitical information into their decision-making processes.
V.S.: Do you consider it appropriate to collaborate with the Romanian GeoPolitica Magazine on these approaches?
We would be honoured to publish your analyses in the magazine’s pages!
Hichem KAROUI: It’s an honour for me. Thank you for the invitation.
V.S.: New technological changes have led to the emergence of new geopolitical theories such as GeoIntelligence: the geopolitics of information, which we promoted in Romania in 2014, Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence: the fifth dimension of geopolitics (2019) and Exopolitics: the geopolitics of outer space as the sixth geopolitical dimension (2021), theories that have been presented in the pages of GeoPolitica Magazine.
How do you assess these theories?
In the environment of an academic in your country are there such concerns?
Hichem KAROUI: New geopolitical theories, such as GeoIntelligence, the Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence, and Exopolitics, can be evaluated by analysing their relevance, applicability, and possible impact on global politics and decision-making processes.
GeoIntelligence: This theory focuses on information geopolitics and the rising economic and political importance of information in shaping states’ policy choices and priorities. GeoIntelligence can be evaluated by examining how it assists govern-ments and organisations in understanding and managing geopolitical risks, deve-loping advanced big data models, and communicating transparently in the context of mitigation and intervention measures.
Artificial Intelligence Geopolitics: This theory investigates the geopolitical con-sequences of AI development and the rivalry for AI resources and domination among major powers such as the United States, China, and the European Union. Examining the impact of AI on national power, global security, and the potential for technical decoupling between major countries is part of evaluating this theory.
Exopolitics is a theory that focuses on the geopolitics of outer space as well as the prospective political connections between humans and extraterrestrial civili-sations. Exopolitics entails weighing the strategic value of outer space for national power, global security, and the possibility of international cooperation or conflict in space research and utilisation.
We may examine the relevance and possible impact of these theories on influencing international relations and decision-making processes by studying them in the context of present global politics and technology breakthroughs. The new geopolitical theories above mentioned, have been criticised, though. For example:
Lack of empirical evidence: Some detractors believe that these theories lack adequate empirical data to substantiate their assertions and predictions. This makes determining their validity and usefulness in real-world settings difficult.
Overemphasis on technology: Critics contend that these theories may overem-phasise the significance of technology in influencing geopolitics, thereby missing other crucial aspects such as culture, history, and human action.
Ethical problems: The development and implementation of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), raises ethical questions about privacy, surveillance, and the potential for misuse by harmful actors. These theories, critics claim, may not effectively handle these ethical difficulties.
Oversimplification: Some detractors believe that these new geopolitical theories may oversimplify complicated geopolitical dynamics, potentially resulting in faulty or inadequate analyses.
Uncertainty and unpredictability: Because of the quick pace of technological change and the complex linkages between technology and geopolitics, predicting the future impact of these theories on global politics is challenging.
Despite these concerns, the new geopolitical theories provide useful insights into the changing dynamics of international relations as well as the prospective impact of developing technology on global politics. When applying these theories to real-world circumstances, it is vital to critically analyse them and acknowledge their limitations, just as it is with any theoretical framework.
Finally, Academics in France and the United Kingdom are indeed interested in these new geopolitical theories. Various research publications, conferences, and events provide evidence of this interest. For example, a thesis from Malmö Uni-versity focused on the geopolitical discourse on AI between French and Chinese policy, underlining French interest in AI’s geopolitical elements. Dr. Keegan McBride, a departmental research lecturer in AI, Government, and Policy at the University of Oxford, has written about AI, geopolitics, regulation, and digital innovation. In addition, the UK government has announced intentions to host a global AI summit, empha-sising its commitment to establishing global AI standards. Furthermore, the European Parliament produced a report on AI diplomacy, which addresses the geopolitical impact of AI and its impact on Europe and the EU. The Brookings Institution has also produced essays on the geopolitics of AI and the emergence of digital sovereignty, which examine the possibility of “technical decoupling” between China, the United States, and the European Union as a result of various approaches to AI. These examples show that academics everywhere are actively exploring and debating new geopolitical theories relating to artificial intelligence and other developing technologies.
Academic researcher in the Sociology of International Relations, dr. Hichem KAROUI is Researcher and Consultant for the Abu Dhabi-based “Underscore Media” and Political Analyst. He was Director of the Gulf Future Center (London), Researcher and Consultant at the Diplomatic Institute, Doha.
Hichem KAROUI holds a PhD in Sociology (Very honourable), Sorbonne University (Paris 3), as well as master’s degrees in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Studies, in English Language, Literature and Civilisation and in Arabic Language, Literature and Civilisation from the same University.
Hichem KAROUI has a prestigious scientific activity, He is the author/coauthor of more than 30 scientific books such as: The Fifth Column: Islamist objectives in the twenty-first century. Invasion of the West and China, The Gulf Future Center’s Papers (London: 2021). Ebook, Revolution, Democracy and Terrorism: Challenges Facing the Arabs. The Gulf Future Center’s Papers (London 2021). E-book, Inventing The Middle East. Noon Publishing (Paris: 2018). Ebook. He also published numerous articles and academic research papers, as well as 20 Literary Works.