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An Introduction to Geopolitics

Module 1 (Popular Geopolitics)

Robert Saunders

on 31 May 2011

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Transcript of An Introduction to Geopolitics

An Introduction to Geopolitics
Defining the Concept
“The theory of the state as a geographical organism or phenomenon in space” ~ Kjellen
“Geopolitics is the new national science of the state… a doctrine on the spatial determinism of all political processes, based on the broad foundations of geography, especially of political geography.”~ Haushofer
“Geopolitics has become a popular term for describing global rivalries in world politics.” ~ Taylor
“Geopolitics is the analysis of the interaction between, on the one hand, geographical settings and perspectives and, on the other hand, political processes…. Both geographical settings and political processes are dynamic, and each influences and is influenced by the other. Geopolitics addresses the consequences of this interaction.” ~ Cohen
First to treat space systematically
Theories were based on the natural sciences
The state is a fragment of humanity on a piece of soil
Focus on space (raum) and location (lage)
Frontiers as the “skins” of states
Most important traits of state were self-sufficiency, closed space, and totalitarian controls
Organic theories of the state were highly influential on the new German Reich
Bismarck and the remaking of Central Europe
Naval competition with Great Britain
Pursuit of colonies in the south Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa
Helped shape Germany’s view of itself as an aggressive, growing, capitalist state
Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904)
Halford Mackinder(1861-1947)
Established geography as a university subject in Britain
Foresaw the decline of British preeminence which was based on naval power and envisioned the world divided into a series of “islands”
Concerned with rise of Eurasian continental states
Described a “Pivot Area” impenetrable to sea power
Feared some combination of a Russian-German-Chinese alliance
Heartland Theory and Dominance of the “World Island”
Based on land-based empires of Alexander, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, etc. where mobility matter
Saw Russian dominance of Siberia and Central Asia as threatening (a “power citadel” of people and resources)
Saw the world as closed system or a zero-sum game where any gain from one power meant a diminishment of another’s
Through dominance of the Midland Ocean Basin (Atlantic Rim), Britain and its alliance partners could potential keep the land powers in check, particularly through international cooperation
Admiral Alfred T. Mahan(1849-1914)
Naval historian and president of the U.S. Naval War College
Eurasian-centered theories akin to Mackinder’s; however, he felt Russia, despite being unassailable, was at a disadvantage because of the weakness of its sea power
Predicted the rise of U.S.-British-Japanese-German (maritime) alliance to contain Russo-Chinese (land) power , thus foreshadowing the Cold War alliance structure
Saw the U.S. as the outer edge of European power and sought to extend this reach through the Pacific Rim
“Blue Water Strategy”
Annexation of the Philippines, Cuba, and other Spanish possessions as well as control of the Panama Canal Zone
Also saw European influence over the Suez Canal as a key lever of power
Rudolf Kjellen(1864-1922)
Coined the term “geopolitics” in 1899
Treated the state as an actual organism
Espoused a “science of the state”
Saw geopolitics as the most important of the other “politics” (eco-, demo-, socio-, and crato-)
Size and shape of a state were extremely important
Influenced by Scandinavian background and the growth in German power
Argued against the independence of Norway as it provided a natural shield to invasion
Feared the end of the Concert of Europe as disastrous for small states
Saw war as the only way to create large states and geopolitics as a science of war
Karl Haushofer(1869-1946)
German military commander who expropriated geopolitical theories to create the field of geopolitik
Hegelian world view influenced by Ratzel
Lebensraum as a political concept
Necessitated the destruction of the USSR and weakening of the British navy to ensure Germany’s westward and eastward expansion (expand or die theory)
Great influence over Rudolf Hess, who shaped Hitler’s Mein Kampf
Pan-regional orientation
Pan-America (U.S.)
Pan-Eurafrica (Germany)
Pan-Asia (Japan)
Influenced other thinkers
Otto Maull – organic state comprised of spatial cells
Ewald Banse – blitzkrieg approach to warfare
Traditional Spaces
Land power
Sea power
Air power
Space power
New Geopolitical Spaces
Economic power (geoeconomics)
Cultural and media power (popular geopolitics)
Cyberspace power (digital geopolitics
Module 1
Consider the ways maps distort reality
Cui bono - "Who benefits"
Every map is prejudiced
Color, perspective, angle, size, shading, and other factors are NOT neutral
“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” ~ Herman Melville
Why is this area red and Eastern Europe pink?
Notice the directionality of the hammer-and-sickle compass--do it seem threatening to you?
See the white bleed here--does it imply movement to the west? And why is there no "bleed" into Finland?
What is over the horizon? U.S./us?
Is Yugoslavia "free" becauseof its coloring?
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