Back To CourseGeography: Middle School
55 chapters | 528 lessons
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Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.
'No, it's mine!' How many of your childhood fights featured that language? If you have siblings, chances are that you had conflicts with them when you were growing up. Maybe they wouldn't leave you alone, or perhaps they kept stealing your toys or clothes. Dutifully, you both explained your sides of the story to your parents, and surely a few 'that's not true' or 'he's lying'-style exclamations made their way into the conversation. In the end, how did your parents decide how to settle the conflict?
When the issue was particularly confusing, you both may have simply been told to go to your rooms. However, it's hard to tell a country to go to its room. Instead, countries are forced to carry on their differences according to their own points of view. Sometimes, it's a lack of interest in the other person's point of view. Other times, it's mere selfishness. But, whatever the perspective of one side, you can guarantee that the other side won't share it.
Countries have fought over territory for centuries. However, very rarely do you see a country come out and say that it wants to conquer something merely for the sake of conquering it. Even in cases where conquest is the underlying motive, the leaders usually have a compelling reason for the conquest.
For example, during the years before World War II, Adolf Hitler kept telling the Germans that they needed more room to live, or lebensraum. Meanwhile, there were some groups of ethnic Germans living outside of Germany. Hitler and others saw those groups of ethnic Germans as needing the protection of the German state, while he portrayed their neighbors as people who had stolen from the German people.
See how he's built this case of past wrongs against the German people? In the end, Hitler wanted only conquest, but that perspective of wanting the Germans to live in Germany was actually enough to allow him to conquer Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia with no fight. Because Hitler's perspective won out, the other countries lost.
People use lots of reasons to justify their point-of-view in a conflict. Take the current situation in Israel and Palestine. A great deal can be said about that situation, so rather than get lost in the details of the whole thing, let's just look at particular piece of land: Temple Mount. Wait, isn't that the Dome of the Rock? Or, is it the Holy of Holies? Or, al-Aqsa Mosque? So many names for one piece of real estate! Yet, so much of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan deals with this collection of names for a single place. Why?
This piece of real estate is not only the holiest spot on Earth for Jews but the third holiest for Muslims, and yet they have completely different ideas as to how to treat the land. For Jewish people, it is the site of the Holy of Holies, an inner sanctuary of the now-destroyed Temple where God's presence is especially felt. Therefore, people are largely banned from the site, lest they disturb the holy nature of the ground.
Meanwhile, al-Aqsa Mosque is just that: a mosque, by which its very nature demands that plenty of people have access to the area in order to pray. In this case, the Jewish Israelis and the Muslim Palestinians have completely different perspectives as to not only how to treat this area but also what the other group should be doing there. Each side has the same motivation: religion, but a very different perspective.
Not all conflicts are as spiritual as that of the Israeli and Palestinian disagreement over Jerusalem. In fact, a few hundred miles to the east, we find one that is solely motivated by resources. In 1990, the Middle East was about to become a very hostile place. Iraq holds around 10% of the world's known oil reserves, and its tiny neighbor Kuwait also holds 10% of known oil. However, both border Saudi Arabia, which has 20% of the world's oil. There's just one problem - Iraq and Saudi Arabia used to hate each other.
The ruler of Iraq at the time, Saddam Hussein, thought that if he invaded Kuwait, then the two countries could counteract any price changes that Saudi Arabia might attempt. The Kuwaitis, on the other hand, saw it as an invasion of their territory by a much larger neighbor. In the end of 1990, Iraq had completed its invasion. However, Kuwait's perspective of being invaded and conquered by a much larger enemy won the hearts of many. As such, a multi-national coalition, led by the United States, pushed the Iraqis completely out of Kuwait.
Different perspectives can motivate states to fight each other over territory, religion, and resources. Germans were convinced of the country's need for more territory by being told that Germans living elsewhere needed the protections of a German state. The situation concerning the Holy of Holies and al-Aqsa Mosque demonstrates how two groups, Israelis and Palestinians, are motivated by completely different religious perspectives on how a historical site should be treated. Finally, we saw how Iraq's perspective in invading Kuwait was to create a more solid economic base, while Kuwait viewed the move as an invasion by a foreign power.
When countries fight, it is because they cannot agree on a particular matter that is important to them. Countries have different points of view, and often neither side wants to understand or compromise. Three examples include:
Upon finishing this lesson about countries' different perspectives, you should be able to
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Back To CourseGeography: Middle School
55 chapters | 528 lessons