The term “Great Game” was coined in the nineteenth century to describe the rivalry between Russia and Britain. The ill-fated Anglo-Afghan war of 1839–42 was precipitated by fears that the Russians were encroaching on British interests in India after Russia established a diplomatic and trade presence in Afghanistan. Already by the nineteenth century there was no such thing as neutral territory. The entire world was now a gigantic playing field for the major industrial powers, and Eurasia was the center of this playing field.
The game motif is useful as a metaphor for the broader rivalry between nations and economic systems with the rise of imperialism and the pursuit of world power. This game has gone through two major transformations since the days of Russian-British rivalry, with the rise first of Communism and then of Islam as world forces opposing imperialism.
The main themes of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games include:
- US imperial strategy as an outgrowth of British imperialism, and its transformation following the collapse of the Soviet Union;
- the significance of the creation of Israel with respect to the imperial project;
- the repositioning of Russia in world politics after the collapse of the Soviet Union;
- the emerging role of China and Iran in Eurasia;
- the emerging opposition to the US and NATO.
As the critical literature on NATO, the new Russia, and the Middle East is fragmented, this work brings these elements together in historical perspective with an understanding from the Arab/ Muslim world’s point of view, as it is the main focus of all the “Great Games”. It strives to bridge the gap between Western, Russian and Middle Eastern readers with an analysis that is accessible and appeals to all critical thinkers, and at the same time provides the tools to analyze the current game as it evolves.
The Great Games of yore – Britain vs. Russia and their empires in the 19th century, and the US vs. the Soviet Union in the 20th century – no longer translate merely as the US vs. Russia or Russia/ China. A major new player is a collective one, NATO, which today is as vital as the emperor’s clothes to justify the global reach of US imperialism. Today, the “playing field” – the geopolitical context – is broader than it was in either the 19th or 20th century games, though Eurasia continues to be “center field”, where most of the world’s population and energy resources lie.
The existence of Israel is an anomaly which seriously complicates the shaping of the geopolitical game. Its roles in the Great Games as both colony and an imperial power in its own right, is analyzed in the context of the history of Judaism and its relations with both the western Christian and the Muslim worlds.