Archive for August, 2009


August 19, 2009

Other Modern Tyrants

The number of victims of tyrants grew in the twentieth century. Adolf Hitler was responsible for killing 6,000,000 Jews and large number opponents in his own country.

During the Cold War political scientists hesitated to call the modern totalitarian rulers of communist regimes tyrants. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its colonial empire in Central and Eastern Europe the number of modern tyrannies were heavily reduced. The terms tyrant and tyranny have since been reintroduced in the language of politics.

Since 2001 not only the Iraqi tyrant has fallen and been captured. The Taliban regime was toppled in the fall of 2001. The tyrant Mullah Omar is still on the run with the Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The detailed comparison recently between ancient and modern tyrannies has not been made but has attracted widening research since the war on terrorism in which Iraq was the central front.

The Continuing Threat of Tyrannies

A number of tyrannies are still a threat proving that not much is new in the world. One difference between classical and modern tyrannies is that the latter can acquire weapons of mass destruction. The classical tyrannies only threatened the local citizens and neighboring cities and states. Modern tyrannies are often a global threat.

Since around 1980 there has been a number of reports on the possible use of weapons of mass destruction against the West in general and the United States in particular. In early February 1983 there was a meeting of radical Islamic groups in Tehran organized by the Iranian Foreign Ministry at which the poisoning the water supplies of major cities in the West was discussed. Already in 1975 European entrepreneurs attempted to sell the nerve agent Tabun to Palestinian terrorists. Arafat’s ‘Force 17’ terrorists received training in chemical warfare. There are reports that cyanide may have been incorporated in the bomb used to attack the World Trade Center in January of 1993, when the war to destroy the United States started in earnest.

A number of tyrannies in the Middle East are a danger to civilization and to the only liberal democracy in the region, Israel. These tyrannies are the main threat in the war against the United States. The terrorist organizations would not survive without support of these tyrannies. The danger of Syria has at last, in late 2003, been fully recognized by the United States, as it has adopted the Syria Accountability Act, ten years after the war started. Syria in 1983 used cyanide gas to put down a rebellion by members of the Sunni minority in the city of Hama. By controlling terrorist training camps and headquarters in southern Lebanon Syria is a continuing threat not only to Israel. Also terrorist fighters are coming from Syria to attack coalition forces in Iraq. The tyranny in Syria has an upgraded arsenal of mass destruction weapons and long-range missiles. It is working with other tyrannies like Iran and Libya.

Libya was one of the tyrannies close to the region that has actually used chemical weapons. This was in an attack on neighboring Chad in 1987. Iran supplied the agents in question in exchange for mines and Libya had a chemical weapons plant in Rabta. The Libyan tyrant Muammar Quadaffi also funds biological warfare programs. Libya has however under pressure by the United States abandoned its programs of weapons of mass destruction.

The main terrorist sponsor in the Middle East is however the Iranian tyranny. It has financed the North Korean missile development program. The theocrats in Tehran have also funded the Syrian missile buildup. Iran’s offensive chemical warfare program began in 1983. Its program of biological warfare, commenced in the 1980s, is hidden within the country’s extensive biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Most dangerous is the present development of nuclear weapons by Iran.

The three Middle East tyrannies mentioned here are in close contact with extremist Palestinian groups.

These tyrannies have developed their destructive weapons in cooperation with North Korea, which has nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. These could in the hands of international terrorists be a mortal threat to civilization. The tyranny in North Korea regards the United States as the main enemy. In accordance with this view North Korea may well be involved in providing terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

The other tyranny in East Asia with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and possibly post-nuclear weapons of nanotechnology, is the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The aggressive China is a threat to Taiwan and the whole region, thus a future strategic problem of the United States. At present PRC is regarded as a partner in negotiations with North Korea but ultimately it is a competitor. (As early as in 2000 the Center for Research on Geopolitics warned of a cooperation between the Chinese tyranny and tyrannies in the Middle East in Research Paper No. 26, “The Global Challenge – A PRC-Islamic Coalition – A Few Notes”). The ongoing war on terrorism resulting in regime changes in the Middle East lessens the risk of a PRC cooperation with tyrannies in the region, but China is still a long term dangerous opponent of the United States. It should be central theme in the study of strategic warning, an art that needs to be developed and further strengthened in America, remembering Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

In the Western hemisphere Cuba is and has been a dangerous tyranny, even after the retirement of Fidel Castro. In the 1960s he allowed nuclear missiles to be stationed on the island threatening the United States. During the 1970s and 1980s the Cuban tyrant provided mercenaries for a number of communist tyrannies in Africa. Castro has also been a regular supporter of terrorism in the past.


It is important when regarding the threat of modern tyrannies to civilization to remember that Niccoló Machiavelli despised the cruelty of tyrants. In the writing on tyranny there are no loose threads, no words picked at random, or errors. His is, along with the writings of Xenophon, the supreme art of teaching on tyranny. When there is strategic thinking on tyrants and their removal in the modern era the best guides are classical authors and their interpreter Machiavelli.

In present U.S. grand strategy the question of remaining dangerous tyrants, tyrannies and regime change ought to be a priority. Foremost of concern are the Middle East tyrannies with weapons of mass destruction. The long term threat is in East Asia with the PRC with North Korea being a more imminent danger..

In ancient times tyrants were often removed through assassination. This option is in modern times no longer available to democracies. Instead the fate of Saddam Hussein is a warning to modern tyrants in for instance Iran, Syria and North Korea. If there is a future regime change in these countries the tyrants there could expect facing the same fate as Saddam Hussein in Iraq.


August 18, 2009


Tyrants can be found in human history back to the Bible and Nimrod. Aristotle provided an account of tyranny (fifth book of Politics). The entirely oppressive tyrant crushes and humiliates the subjects of his tyranny, so that they never acquire the strength or spirit to overthrow him.

The capture, sentencing and execution of Saddam Hussein has again brought the threat of classical and modern tyrants to the forefront. World War II was waged to bring down, among others, the Nazi tyranny. In this war the Allies did not hesitate to plan assassination of the German tyrant Adolf Hitler. The war in Iraq has removed a dangerous tyrant in the Middle East, a region where tyranny is dominant. Similar tyrannies exist for example in Syria and Iran. The deceased tyrant Yassir Arafat was a swindler and responsible for waging a terrorist war against Israel.

The aim of this short essay is to compare a few ancient and modern tyrants and argue for a consistent policy of the United States to support a policy of removal of modern tyrants from power. The difference between the removal of ancient and modern tyrants is that the latter are to be captured and sentenced by a national court set up by the new government in the respective countries after liberation.

Machiavelli and Xenophon

In the Discourses of Niccoló Machiavelli Xenophon is the classical author most referred to by the Renaissance Italian author. Xenophon is also referred to in The Prince. When Machiavelli set forth to write the Discourses he wanted to prepare for the rebirth of the spirit of antiquity as that spirit was portrayed in the First Decade of Livy’s History of Rome. Xenophon was of unique importance to Machiavelli. What is so special about Xenophon, this Athenian gentleman that after his military adventure in Persia spent most of his life as a writing country gentleman in the service of Sparta? It should be noted that Machiavelli too was a gentleman-writer living in his villa south of Florence.

Two books by Xenophon are mentioned approvingly by Machiavelli: The Education of Cyrus and Hiero, the latter being a dialogue between the Greek poet Simonides and the Syracusan tyrant Hiero. The first book is a dialogue between the Persian King Cyrus and his father, who is initiating him into politico-military morality. Central to this morality was force and fraud. These are indispensable not only for defeating foreign enemies, according to the father, but also overcoming resistance for establishing oneself as a ruler.

Three examples will be offered below of murderous tyrannies in Syracuse, Persia and Iraq to demonstrate that there is a marginal difference between ancient and modern measures of tyrants.


Machiavelli tells us in The Prince (Chapter VIII) about Agathocles that he was a killer of fellow-citizens, a betrayer of friends, treacherous, merciless and irreligious. Power may be gained by such actions, but not glory:

“Agathocles the Sicilian became king of Syracuse from a fortune [that was not only] private but lowly and abject. Born of a potter, this one always had an iniquitious life throughout his years: nonetheless, he accomplished his iniquities with such a virtue of spirit and of body that, having joined the militia, he rose through the ranks to praetor of Syracuse. Being established in which rank, and having decided to become prince and to keep with violence and without obligation to others what had been conceded him by agreement, and having an understanding concerning this design of his with Hamilcar the Carthagenian, who was operating with his armies in Sicily, one morning he convened the people and the senate of Syracuse, as if he had to deliberate things pertinent to the republic; and at a preordained nod he had all the senators and the richest of the people killed by his soldiers. Once they were killed, he occupied and held the principality of that city without any civil controversy…his ferocious cruelty and inhumanity, with infinite iniquities…do not consent that he be celebrated among the most excellent men.” (The Prince, translation and edition by Angelo M. Codevilla, 1997, pp.32-33, Of those who have come to princedom by crime).

Artaxerxes and Tissaphernes

One important book by Xenophon is not quoted by Machiavelli in his central works. The March Up-Country (Anabasis) is the true story of a remarkable adventure and of discipline. 10,000 Greek soldiers marched north along the River Tigris through great danger. They had been hired by Cyrus the Persian to take part in the overthrow of his brother, King Artaxerxes. The force started its march from the west coast of Asia Minor along the Euphrates to Babylon and then north to the southern coast of the Black Sea. Along this coast it finally returned back to the west coast of Asia Minor. For centuries the work of Xenophon has in the West been held to be perhaps the main proof of its military superiority.

In the words of Francis Bacon:

“This young scholar or philosopher [Xenophon], after all the captains were murdered in parley by treason conducted these ten thousand foot through the heart of all the King’s high countries from Babylon to Graaecia, in safety to the astonishment of the world and the encouragement of the Grecians, in time succeeding to making invasion on the Kings of Persia…”.

The Greek soldiers proved their courage and endurance, piety and humanity, independence and reasonableness during the march.

Xenophon in Anabasis is describing a similar mass murder to that which took place in Syracuse during the time of Agathocles. The Greek officers and soldiers were faced by Tissaphernes, a Persian satrap of Lydia and Ionia, and general of King Artaxerxes. The satrap was laying the trap for the Greeks. This event took place after King Artaxerxes had defeated Cyrus in the battle of Kunnaxa (around 30 miles from Baghdad) in the summer of 401 BC.

“When they reached Tissaphernes door, the generals were invited in – Proxenus the Boeotian, Menon the Thessalian, Agias the Arcadian, Clearchus the Laconian and Socrates the Achaean, while the captains waited at the doors. Not long afterward, at the same signal, those within were seized and those outside were cut down….The generals, then, after being thus seized, were taken to the king, and put to death by being beheaded.” (pp. 159 – 161, Xenophon, Anabasis Books I – VII, translated by Carleton L. Brownson, The Loeb Classical Library, 1980 edition).

Saddam Hussein

The tyrant Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was captured by American soldiers in December of 2003, was responsible for mass murder during his more than 30 years in power. Between 1980 and 1988, during the war with Iran, there were at least 375,000 deaths. The Anfal Campaign in 1988 against the Kurds resulted in 100,000 deaths, including those gassed in Halabja. There were 100,000 Iraqi deaths during the invasion of Kuweit and the following Gulf War. Summary executions are believed by the National Association of Iraqi Human rights to have been 4,000 in 1984, 3,000 from 1993 to 1998, and then 2,500 until 1999. During the Anfal campaign 100,000 refugees fled while the number of refugees after the tyrant’s purges in southern Iraq in the beginning of the 1990s have been estimated at 500,000.

On July 19, 1979, the Iraqi tyrant followed in the footsteps of Agathocles and Tissaphernes of old. He invited all members of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and several other Baathist Party leaders to a conference hall in Baghdad. During the meeting the video cameras were running. There had according to Saddam been a Syrian plot. The “traitors” were among the participants now, he stated. The names were read out. Sixty “traitors” were removed from the hall and later executed.

(To be continued).


August 14, 2009

Third Time Lucky?

It is not impossible, explained Professor Lewis in Washington, that this time the Muslims will succeed. They have clear advantages. They have fervor and conviction. They are self-assured of the rightness of their cause. In Europe we spend most of our time in self-denigration and self-abasement. The Muslims are loyal and have discipline, and perhaps most important of all, demography on their side. Natural increase and migration are producing major population changes. It can lead to significant majorities in some European countries.

The West, however, still has some significant advantages: knowledge and freedom. In Muslim countries the term freedom was and is a legal concept. One was free if one was not a slave. The Western interpretation is making headway. It is becoming more and more understood, and more and more desired. The West may after all survive the developing struggle and freedom in the Western brought to the Middle East.

The clear Muslim strategy (in the Third Phase a conglomerate of Islamic states, mainly Iran, terror groups and insurgents well explained in the term islamofascists) gives us reason to reflect. Maybe the Third Phase of Lewis is also a Second Cold War. Like in the war with the Soviet Union the enemy is seeking the demise of Western democracy. The islamofascists are seeking technological advances to be used to threaten all Western populations. The conceptual strategic clarity is similar to that of the Bolsheviks. So far the islamofascists are inferior in number, wealth, and weaponry but they are attracting support outside the Middle East: Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea to mention a few states.


The center of the ongoing new Cold War is Iran. The regime in Teheran is seeking to achieve the status of a global power (see David Hazony’s article “Cold War II – What Islamist Iran has in common with the Soviet Union”, Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2007).

“Like the U.S.S.R., Iran is an enemy that even the mighty United States will probably never meet in full force on the battlefield and instead must fight via its proxies, wherever they are found. Like the Soviet Union, the ayatollahs’ regime is based on an ideological revolution that repudiates human liberty and subjects its political opponents to imprisonment and death, a regime which, in order to maintain its popular support, must continue to foment similar revolutions everywhere it can, to show that it is on the winning side of history. And like the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Iranian regime today has two clear weaknesses, which could ultimately spell its downfall: economic stagnation and ideological disaffection.”


There is much to learn from the endgame with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. A wide range of fronts were opened: military, technological, diplomatic, psyops, covert operation, and public relations. Escalating the arms race and through trade sanctions it was possible to show that the regime was headed for collapse. Bold statements (as President Ronald Reagan’s speech in Berlin in 1987) the West emboldened the internal opposition in the Soviet tyranny and the subjugated nations of Eastern Europe. Also anticommunist resistance was encouraged from Latin America to Africa and Afghanistan. Expansion was halted and rollback achieved. The goal was to make it clear to the Soviet elite that they were on the wrong side of history. The shift had, however, to start at home in America amd in Western Europe :

“A belief that victory was possible, that the Soviet Union was impermanent, and that concerted effort could change history. It required a new clarity of purpose”.

Iran should be an easier target than the Soviet Union. Relentless pressure on the regime in Teheran (destabilizing the hard core of the rulers through an insurgent war, ever more serious sanctions etc.) could start a chain of events similar to those during the 1980s in the fight against the Soviet tyranny. There are many enemies in the present Cold War besides Iran but defeat of Iran could turn the tide of the ongoing war. Today’s conflict with Persia/Iran is not new. As Victor Davis Hanson (in he article “The Twenty-Five Hundred Years’ War”, March 30, 2007 in – A Magazine of Ideas – Online) points out Westerners have always viewed their relations with Persia in terms of freedom versus despotism. There has however, from time to time, been hopes for change. Classic historian Xenophon believed that Cyrus the Younger was a pro-Western reformer who might bring Persia into the Hellenic world. The reforming Shah Reza Pahlavi for a long time was regarded as a ruler that could incorporate ideas from the West.


August 13, 2009


It has been said that he is the West’s greatest scholar of Islam. He allowed the history’s two most provocative civilizations to see each other clearly and he has allowed Muslim, Jew, and Christian to have a real dialogue of civilizations. Professor Bernard Lewis has been denied access to many Muslim countries. Much of his work has been done in Turkey. In March, 2007 professor Lewis received the Kristol Award and delivered the 2007 Irving Kristol Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute Annual Dinner in Washington D.C. ( Present were among a great number of prominent Americans Vice President and Mrs. Dick Cheney.

Professor Lewis pointed out that he was not offering any predictions concerning the future of Europe and the Middle East. He was merely identifying some trends and processes. Now, in the words of Professor Lewis, is a true turning point, a major change. 1800 – 1991 the Middle East was dominated by outsiders. In some of the Muslim countries there are ethnic, sectarian, and regional conflicts at present.

The Cosmic Struggle for World Domination

It seems as if there is a return of the great struggle for world domination between Christianity and Islam. This fight has been ongoing during fourteen centuries. The attitude of triumphalism is still a significant force and this force is expressing itself through new militant organizations.

It has been claimed that the Prophet Muhammed wrote letters to various rulers of the world at the beginning of Islam stating that he had brought God’s final message. Your time, he wrote, has passed. Your beliefs are superceded. Accept my mission and my faith or resign or submit – you are finished.

Then followed the first attack on Christendom. It can be divided into three phases.

During Phase One the Arabian Peninsula was captured. Then Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa. Then followed Spain, Portugal and southern Italy. The Muslim warriors were stopped in France. It took a long and bitter struggle to retake some of the lost territory. One of the lands not retaken for good was the Holy Land during the Crusades.

It did not take Islam long to initiate Phase Two. Now it was the Turks and Tartars, who attacked. The Mongols of Rus had been converted to Islam after conquering the land. The Turks had first taken Anatolia and in 1453 captured Constantinople. Large parts of the Balkans were next in line and for a while Ottomans ruled Hungary. Twice they reached as far as Austria. Barbary corsairs raided Europe from North Africa. Christian states counterattacked, this time more quickly and successfully. Now the term “imperialism” was invented. When Asia and Africa invaded Europe it was not imperialism.

In Phase Two the counterattack reached the Muslim heartlands. The Caliphate was abolished and in the words of Osama bin Laden, Islam had reached the ultimate humiliation.

The Third Phase started in 2001 with the 9/11 attack on New York. Now Islam was taking the war into the heart of the infidel enemy camp. This military new phase is continuing.

Political Correctness

Professor Lewis in his lecture pointed out that originally it was not acceptable that Muslims remained in countries taken by the Christians. They would have to leave and come back when Muslims reconquered the land. The legal interpretation has now changed and Muslims can live in Christian countries if they are permitted to practice their faith.

Before the Third Phase started Muslims had in great numbers started to emigrate to Europe. They were attracted by generous welfare and the possibility of employment. They would have freedom of expression and education, two things they often lacked at home. The answer to the immigration in Europe has been multiculturalism and political correctness. These terms do not exist in Islam. Here they are very conscious of their identity.

A frequent problem in Europe is the ongoing revision of history. The Pope has apologized for the “attack” of the crusades. In 2002 the French Prime Minister Raffarin in the National Assembly introduced Saladin, a hero of Saddam Hussein, as a man who defeated the Crusaders and liberated Jerusalem. Liberated Jerusalem?


August 8, 2009

Critical Geopolitics

Concisely defined, critical geopolitics seeks to reveal the hidden politics of geopolitical knowledge. It is to a certain extent socialist or Marxist (or leftist) in its outlook and is against describing geopolitics as based on the world political map. Instead its backers are attempting to describe it as a discourse, as a culturally and politically varied (but leftist) way of describing, representing and writing about geography and international politics. In other words it is a leftist way of geopolitical thinking about politics itself.

There are several ’methods of study’. They provide a conceptual framework that basically wants to express that geopolitics is a contested political activity. In their words classical geopolitics could be described as ’conservative’. This is of course false, as there is no common conservative ideology.

Thomas Lundén – How Not to Write About Geopolitics

A good example of modern disinformation on geopolitics in Sweden is the book mentioned above, written by Professor Lundén of Stockholm University, Makten over marken – en politisk geografi (The Power Over the Ground – A Political Geography). As mentioned above the author devoted two pages to geopolitics. He equalled geopolitics with German Geopolitik and totally disregarded the development of geopolitical writing and research from the 1970s. A short section on Italian and Balkan problems (15 lines) is the only and questionable treatment of geopolitics after 1945.

The final paragraph in the book described geopolitics ”in its more peaceful form” as some kind of transnational planning. Geopolitics could be digging a canal in Western Europe, a railway tunnel between two states or the (now defunct) Comecon’s (the Soviet answer to EU) building of gas pipelines. Of course projects of the type Lundén mentions could play a geopolitical role. But the professor dislikes Prussia. Transnational planning type geopolitics does not, according to him, ”have the undertone of ’Blut und Boden’ – blood and soil – in the line of territorial expansion of Prussia and its perverted successor, Nazi Germany (translation by the author of this review from Swedish). Der Herr Professor seems to be living in the 1930s.

No doubt the book by Lundén, Makten over marken, does not meet the requirements for use at Swedish or other universities.

Kristian Stokke – Geopolitics from the Left

Basically a leftist tract a book on political geography by Norwegian Kristian Stokke (Politisk geografi, Oslo: Tano Aschehoug, 1999) in spite of its onesidedness is much more informative than Lundén’s book.
Stokke is including a discussion of both critical geopolitics and the geopolitical thinking based on the wave theory of Kondratieff.

The division in spatial, radical and critical political geography seems reasonable but the space devoted to marxist ideas seems out of place after 1991.

Thoughtfully Stokke is including at least two of the four most important geopolitical books published in the United States since the 1980s. Interestingly these four books were not published by geographers. Besides Huntington and Fukuyama, treated by Stokke, two other books belong here (see below).

Although Stokke devoted a chapter in the book to Rudolf Kjellén he fails to see the international importance of Kjellén’s books and that Kjellén was the founding father of geopolitics.

Importantly also some geopolitical cartographical material has been included in the book. With its faults, Stokke’s work is of a much higher quality than Lundén’s book and although it is ideologically too leftist it deserves some praise. If these two books is a trend, geopolitics is not in good hands at Scandinavian academies. But then geopolitics was never a science for the universities.

The Future of Geopolitics

It is interesting to note that the four most important geopolitical books since the 1980s have not been published by political geographers. Instead the authors are historians and political scientists. Three of them has had connections to American administrations.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser. In The Grand Chessboard – American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (New York: Basic Books, 1997) the global strategy of the United States is investigated and what the country should do to maintain its exceptional position in the 21st century. Of the four Kennedy, Fukuyama, and Huntington, Brzezinski is the most geopolitical of them:

”The exercise of American global primacy must be sensitive to the fact that political geography remains a critical consideration in international affairs.” (p. 37).

In 1988 Yale University Professor Paul Kennedy published his widely debated The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1988). 7) In this book he claimed that based on a study of earlier great powers, the United States had reached its eclipse. This was of course not correct. America went on to defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War that ended in 1991. Since then the American military and economy has come to outgrow all other nations. Around 15 years later Kennedy indicated, to say it mildly, that he had been
wrong in 1988 8):

”The larger lesson…is that in military terms there is only one player in the field that counts…Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power, nothing.” 9)

But the United States has also acted to strengthen its economy:

”cutting costs, making companies leaner and meaner, investing in newer technologies, promoting a communications revolution, trimming government deficits…” 10)

It is notable that both Brzezinski and Kennedy are not mentioned in Stokkes book.

After reading the two new Scandinavian political geography books one rather might conclude that the important writing in the field of geopolitics has passed from political geographers to historians and experts in international relations. And having rested in the shadow of international relations geopolitics once more has emerged as an important factor in global political analysis.

There is one exception from the rule of the leading geopoliticians. The British political geographer Geoffrey Parker has written two excellent overviews on geopolitics. Both are absent in Stokke’s bibliography. 11)


1. Phillip Kelly is Chair of the Division of Social Sciences and Professor of Political Science of Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, USA.

2. Phillip Kelly, Checkerboards & Shatterbelts – The Geopolitics of South America, Austin: University of Texas Press 1997, p.4.

3. Ibid. P.5.

4. Ibid.

5. Thomas Lundén, Makten over marken – En politisk geografi, Lund: Studentlitteratur, 1997.

6. Afro-Asian Geopolitics, International Seminar funded by the University Grants Commission (in association with the Society for the Study of Geopolitics, University of Chandigarh, India), 4th to the 11th of April, 1990, pp. 44-45.

7. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, New York: Random House, 1988.

8. Paul Kennedy, ”The Eagle Has Landed”, Financial Times, London, February 1, 2002.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Geoffrey Parker, Western Geopolitical Thought in the Twentieth Century, London: Croom Helm, 1985, and Geopolitics: Past, Present and Future, London: Pinter, 1998.


August 7, 2009

Introduction and definitions

During the end of the 1990s geopolitics seems to have returned to Scandinavia in the form of a few political geography books. German Geopolitik during the 1930s and 1940s contributed to the demise of geopolitics for decades. But there were for a long time an Anglo-Saxon alternative to German Geopolitik. The leading theoretician was Sir Halford Mackinder, a British geographer and politician, who published his first leading article on geopolitics in 1904.

The German geographer Friedrich Ratzel in his book Politische Geographie (1897) developed a number of concepts of space, that interested both the founder of geopolitics, Swedish Professor Rudolf Kjellén, and Sir Halford Mackinder. The latter’s central term was heartland, more or less Russia (or later the Soviet Union), although the more exact area of the heartland was in Siberia. Russia (and later the Soviet Union) was a land power that threatened British sea power. Mackinder introduced factors such as communications, populations and industrialization. The American Admiral Alfred T. Mahan was a geopolitician before the term was introduced in 1899 by Kjellén. Mahan’s thesis was broadly that the seapower could maintain control through a number of naval bases around the Eurasian heartland.

For more on geopolitical theory and doctrine before and after the Second World War see see The Future of Geopolitics below.

This author claims that in reality Mackinder’s geopolitical theories during the post-Second World War had a decisive influence on world politics. The Soviet Union threatened a Western maritime alliance around the United States, NATO being the military arm of that alliance. It used containment to stop the landpower Soviet Union from controlling Eurasian and African (the World Island) rimlands. Moscow had replaced Berlin as the main threat to the sea alliance. The basic struggle in global politics is landpower against seapower. This contradiction will continue to play a major role in world politics also in the 21st century.

Definitions of geopolitics abound. One that takes into account the political side of the term is Professor Phillip Kelly 1): geopolitics is the impact of geographic factors on a country’s foreign policy. Several South American geopolitical experts have presented their own definitions. 2)

A variation of the Kelly definition could be:

”Geopolitics is the impact on foreign security politics of certain geographic features, the more important being locations among countries, distances between areas, and terrain, climate, and resources within states.” 4)

A definition that well describes the South American view or ”feeling” for
geopolitics is that of Argentinian Jorge Alencio 4)

”Geopolitics is the science that studies the influence of geographic factors in the life and
evolution of states, with an objective of extracting conclusions of a political character…”

Alencio continued to describe how geopolitics can be useful for statesmen in the conduct of domestic and foreign policy. Armed forces can draw conclusions concerning national defense.

The outstanding promoter of South American geopolitics, Professor Bernardo Quagliotti de Bellis, has underlined the importance of nationwide development in South America and the regional economic cooperation. This certainly a basic rule also in other parts of the world.

The great lack of understanding, as a contrast to South America, in present Swedish political geography of geopolitics is demonstrated in a book by a Stockholm professor 5). He does not attempt to define geopolitics. The author of that book totally igonered Anglo-Saxon geopolitics and in a two page (out of more than 170 pages) treatment of geopolitics equals it with German Geopolitik. This is a totally outdated view ignoring the vast literature by geopoliticians published since the 1970s.

Rudolf Kjellén – The Founding Father

In the Swedish book mentioned above Rudolf Kjellén, the creator of the term geopolitics (geopolitik in Swedish) is accused of ”bombastic style” and presenting his material ”without basis in source research” (p. 153).

One can contrast the view of the author on Kjellén with that of Indian Professor M.M. Puri, a leading modern geopolitician:

”…in the body of the work by the distinguished political scientist from Sweden, Professor Rudolf Kjellén, one finds inspiration and stimulus to sustain an approach that may return more satisfying answers in comprehending Afro-Asian reality – political, social, economic – … than the other approaches…That his ideas were plagiarised, perverted and distorted….is no fault of his.

I wish to acknowledge here the intellectual debt…[owed] to the thought of this great Swedish political scientist…who imparted to the discipline of political science a substance, meaning and dimension, in the closing years of the 20th century, which was far ahead of his time.

The state and substance of political science in the Anglo-Saxon world, the world that really mattered so to say, in the 19th century and even till about the beginning of the Second World War, was, in fact, nothing more than history or philosophy or economy or law – anything but what constitute political science today. And here was this protagonist and professor of the subject who talked about political processes being based on and affected by the resource inventory, and the level of resource utilisation; he suggested, and maintained, that the evolution and orientation of policy and political processes ought to bear a close and ongoing relationship with the material environment which they seek to modify. Clearly, this is precisely what the present condition of the Third World particularly demands and is in need of; even the other parts of our world can scarcely afford to overlook or disregard this.” 6)


August 5, 2009

Foreign Policy Initiative’s (FPI) Jamie Fly and Daniel Halper wrote in Politico:

“Since President Barack Obama entered office, North Korea has tested a nuclear device, fired a long-range missile theoretically capable of hitting the United States, unnerved U.S. allies in the region by launching multiple short-range missiles, sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor in a prison camp and seized a South Korean fishing vessel. These actions, as well as North Korea’s continued proliferation of selling missile and other sensitive technology to state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria, have exposed U.S. policy as ineffective at best and, at worst, as strengthening Kim Jong Il’s regime. The approach must be changed in order to rectify this dangerous predicament. U.S. efforts should focus on preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies, enhancing U.S. alliances in the region and preparing for the only long-term solution: regime change in Pyongyang.”

In Wall Street Journal of August 4, 2009, author Gordon Chang warned that North Korea’s dictator might have secured promises from the Obama administration which would give the regime more time to prepare its nuclear arsenal and to develop ballistic missiles. Mr. Chang also reminded the readers that there are more hostages of Pyongyang. In fact Kim is holding all his 23 million people as hostages.

The acceptance of one of the few remaining hardline Communist dictatorships of the world started already under President Carter, continued under President Clinton and is now completed by President Obama. How long will the North Korean regime be allowed to continue to build up a threat to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan?