The Geography of War
Mentor:Jodi Titus, Professor of Geography , Irvine Valley College
The two-year long Ethiopia-Eritrea War which began in the spring of 1998 claimed tens of thousands of casualties and displaced millions of citizens. Nevertheless, the impetus of the border conflict which escalated into a full-scale war has remained nebulous twelve years after a cease-fire and has left countless internal, as well as foreign observers bewildered. This study argues that the
geopolitical history of the region was a significant underlying precursor to the dispute which led to the war. Geopolitical history refers to political and territorial reshuffles which mostly took place in the 20th century, and it is postulated that the recurrence of secessionist conflicts and unsanctioned delineations of territories made the region vulnerable to reverting to war. The examination employs a
qualitative analysis to understand the underlying reasons directing the actions of the two East African governments. Several Ethiopian and Eritrean academics and nationals were consulted in the study, in addition to governmental publications and scholarly journals. The research acknowledged that several causes of war have been proposed such as the existence of ambitious and belligerent ruling parties and possible economic incentives. However, closer analysis revealed that nearly all alternative propositions are appendages of the underlying cause: the regional inclination for combative territorial disputes in the 20th century, which has produced a culture predisposed to warfare. The ease with which the desolate small town of Badme sparked a deadly war underscores the fact that the region was already
ripe for war despite motives seeming trivial. The existence of a tacit border agreement in the Badme region only served to exacerbate what was already a shaky diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Consequently, the long-standing tradition of belligerency was the only sensible solution for these two countries unaccustomed to peaceful resolutions.