One hears that my new book, Geopolitik – en introduktion (Recito Forlag AB, 2009, 280 kronor, orders to Bokrondellen, Box 2052, 103 12 Stockholm, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) is selling in Russia. The science of geopolitics is everywhere in the news today. Below is a short introduction to classical Western geopolitics. For the details see the list of contents of my bookin English translation:
Part I The Theories
Chapter 1 The History of Geopolitics – A Short Overview, Chapter 2 Rudolf Kjellén – Founder of Geopolitics, Chapter 3 Geopolitics in the United States, Chapter 4 British Geopolitics – the Influence of Sir Halford Mackinder, Chapter 5 German Geopolitik, Chapter 5 French Geopolitics between the World Wars, Chapter 7 Geopolitics in South America: Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, Chapter 8, Geopolitics and Sea Power, Chapter 9 Resurrection of Geopolitics – the Latest Decades.
Part II The Threat from the Heartland 1945 – 1991 – Geopoitics of the Cold War
Chapter 10 The Protracted Conflict, Chapter 11, The Former Soviet Union (Heartland), Chapter 12 Western Europe (Eurasian Rimland in the West), Chapter 13 The Threat to the Persian Gulf (Southwestern Eurasian Rimland), Chapter 14 India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (Southern Eurasian Rimland), Chapter 15 South East Asia (Southeastern Eurasian Rimland), Chapter 16 Far East (the Eastern Eurasian Rimland), Chapter 17 Africa (Southern Part of the World Island), Chapter 18 The United States and Canada (Northern Part of the Lands of the Outer Crescent), Chapter 19 Latin America (Southwestern Part of the Lands of the Outer Crescent), Chapter 20 Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Ocean Region (Part of the Lands of the Outer Crescent), Chapter 21 Chokepoints and the Naval Strategy of the Soviet Union.
Part III Geopolitics and Geostrategy in the 21st Century
Chapter 22 New Geopolitics
List of Names
Geopolitics – A Selected Bibliography
The history of classical geopolitical thought goes back all the way to the ancient Roman geographers like Strabo. It was, however, not until the creator of political geography, German Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1894) that the roots of geopolitical thinking started to emerge in the West. The first scientist to use the term geopolitics was Swedish Professor Rudolf Kjellén (1864 – 1922), Conservative member of parliament.
Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947) a British geographer and politician was to emerge as the most influential and perceptive geopolitical thinker of all. Mackinder’s basic thesis was of great simplicity: Eurasia (Europe and Asia) had for centuries been regarded as a promontory. Communication at sea had been superior to land communication. The railroad revolution in the late 19th century, Sir Halford believed, would change that. Instead Eurasia-Africa would be regarded as a vast two-continent “World-Island”. In 1904 Mackinder named the area in Eurasia which was not accessible to sea power the Pivot Area (where the rivers drain into the ice-bound Arctic Ocean or into inland seas like the Caspian and Aral Seas). The Pivot Area could not be reached by the then dominant sea power, Great Britain (as well as the United States and Japan, all sea powers) were at the time invulnerable to land power. The coming of the railroads (and air routes) would change the relation between sea power and land power to the advantage of land power. What Mackinder feared was mainly a combination of Russia and Germany. They could use railroad and air communication to create an shift of power in Eurasia and finally conquer the World-Island. Then these two great powers could use this base in an attempt to conquer the world. The forecast was that such a bid could succeed.
Fifteen years later the British geographer in a new work published in 1919 redefined his Pivot Area to a larger zone which he called the Heartland. The basic forecast was the same: a growing advantage of land power compared with sea power.
The theory of Mackinder altered once again in 1943. Now he predicted (as most geopoliticians did) that the Allies would win the Second World War. The Soviet Union would control the greatest natural fortress in the world. This fortress would be sufficently garrisoned in number and quality. He believed, however, that another embankment of power (America, Great Britain, and France) could withstand the Soviet challenge.
Like Lea Sir Halford Mackinder understood the importance of geography. Mackinder warned also against a land power that would attempt to defeat Great Britain. One can say that Lea and Mackinder predicted the two world wars although the prediction was more relevant from 1939.
The Sea Power Theory of Alfred Thayer Mahan
We now know that the Soviet Union could be defeated. It was not a superior fortress as claimed by Mackinder, originally the theorist of land power. In the United States Admiral Alfred T. Mahan (1840 – 1914) became a strong voice for command of the sea through decisive naval battle. His theories of sea power were influential both in America and Europe. Mahan’s masterpiece The Influence on Sea-Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783 (1890), argues that fleets of large ships were needed to conquer command of the seas. His views became dominant in navies all over the world. It was Japanese enthusiasts who created the plan for fighting America with battleships.
The American geopolitician called for a strong American navy. He advocated that the United States take control of Hawaii and the Philippines. His country ought to play a greater role in the world. A construction of a canal through the Central America isthmus which would improve U.S. control of the Caribbean Sea region and make it possible for the U.S. navy to transit with ease between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The then Assistant Secretary of the Navy and future President Theodore Roosevelt shared the Mahan vision. Roosevelt corresponded until 1914 with Admiral Mahan. But the influence of Mahan was wider. He saw the United States as the geopolitical successor to Great Britain to exert its financial, military and political influence across the globe. In 1910 Mahan warned about the growing menace of the Wilhelmine Germany and recommended an American alliance with Great Britain, France and Germany. In the book The Problem of Asia (1905) he had written about the danger of Russian landpower and argued for an alliance between the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan to counter Russia. This was a remarkable prediction of containment after 1948. Many modern writers on geopolitics have placed Mahan among the most prominent thinkers advocating American strength. In reality it was a new Manifest Destiny of America drawn from sea power. It influenced America when it was moving from control of the continent to find its more influential role in the world.
The Coming of Nicholas Spykman and the Rimland
The American political scientist Nicholas Spykman (1893 – 1943) in the 1940s challenged Mackinder’s views. The First and the Second World Wars had not been only the struggle of land-power against sea-power. Spykman’s basic view was that the Soviet Union after 1945 would be able to attempt a conquest of the World-Island. He offered the theory that the power which controlled the Rimland (the area around the heartland from Scandinavia in the northwest, the Middle East, India, South East Asia, China and the Soviet Far East would control Eurasia and the destinies of the world. The United States could not tolerate that the Soviet Union controlled the World-Island. America would have to balance Soviet power concentrating on the Rimlands. In that it would be successful and be the ultimate victor.