Tag Archives: Geopolitics

Redefining the Gap 4, First Geopolitical Theories

Note: This is a selection from Redefining the Gap, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06


Political Geography (geographie politique) was defined in 1751 (Kristof 1985:1178), but it’s modern study was invented by Friedrich Ratzel in his description of political geography (politische Geographie) in 1897 in terms of space and position (Kiss 1942:634). Rudolf Kjellen invented the term “geopolitics” (Agnew 1995:1; Tuathail 1994:259) shortly thereafter. Kjellen was primarily interested in how geography effects the power relations of states (Osterud 1998:191) – specifically, their land and people (Tunander 2005:548).

Alfred Mahan took a nautical view of geographical power. Essentially dividing the world in a global ocean and the lands it connects, he strongly pushed an ocean-centered view of history (Shulman 1998:407). He argued for a technologically and economically adaptive view of geopolitics (Israel 1978:371; Russell 1956:227) to account for a dynamic world. Mahan’s theories became extremely influential and were publicly praised by President Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and others (Karsten 1971:589; LaFeber 1962:674).

The “1904” line defines Mackinder’s “Pivot” (Parker 1998:104)

Mackinder reversed Mahan’s view, focusing on lands and in particular one land: the “pivot of history” (Dodds and Sidaway 2004). This area, comprising east-central Europe, central Asia, and Russia, was thought to have a potential resource and population base to dominate the world. The pivot was surrounded like an onion by an inner crescent of the warm-water Eurasian coast and the outer crescent of the rest of the world. A geopolitical model that was contemporary to world politics when it was original presented more than a century ago (Venier 2004:330), key elements of Mackinder’s philosophy were policy throughout much of the world into the 1970s (Mayell 2004:372). Even today, “Eurasianists” inspired by Mackinder are a powerful force inside Russia (G. Smith 1999:483), despite being officially discouraged under Communism (Guins 1964:342).

Spykman’s “Rimland” in dashed lines (Parker 1998:125)

Spykman synthesized the views of Mahan and Mackinder. The focus was now on the “Rimland,” a renamed version of Mackinder’s “marginal crescent” (Fisher 1971:205). The Rimland hypothesis argued that a natural hegemon would form from the Rimland states (Britain, India, China, etc.). Thus, Spykman’s arguments implied that America had more in common with these states than her hemispheric neighbors to the South (Fox 1948:72). Spkyman’s theories carried an influential following well into the 1980s (Cohen 1991:552), if not beyond.

Redefining the Gap, a tdaxp series:
Redefining the Gap 1. Prologue
Redefining the Gap 2. Summary
Redefining the Gap 3. Introduction to Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 4. First Geopolitical Theories
Redefining the Gap 5. The North and the South
Redefining the Gap 6. Critical Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 7. The Pentagon’s New Map
Redefining the Gap 8. The Research Design
Redefining the Gap 9. Methods and Operationalizations
Redefining the Gap 10. Limitations and Conclusion
Redefining the Gap 11. Results
Redefining the Gap 12. Bibliography
Redefining the Gap 13. Appendix: Computer Code
Redefining the Gap 14. Appendix: National Codes


North Korea’s Antique Food Rationing, by Andrei Lankov, Asia Times, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/GA15Dg01.html, 15 January 2005 (from NK Zone).

North Korea is a nightmare in ways both big and small. Food rationing and starvation brings both.

Rations consisted of a mix of different grains. In the 1970s, in Pyongyang rice represented as much as 70% of the allowance, but even in those relatively prosperous times, in more remote areas rations consisted entirely of corn and barley, which have fewer calories than rice – but excessive weight has never been a problem in North Korea. The proportions between rice and other less valuable kinds of grains depended largely on one’s place of residence, with Pyongyang and other major cities being most privileged.

But what about meat and fish? Well, there were no regular norms for providing these luxuries. As a rule, a family was issued about a kilogram of meat two or three times a year, normally on the eve of major holidays – especially North Korean founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday. Milk was provided to schoolchildren in Pyongyang in very small quantities. Sugar was dropped from the rations in the early 1970s, and since then could be bought only by lucky owners of foreign currency (for a hyper-Stalinist regime, North Korea always had a remarkably relaxed currency-control system). Admittedly, fish was more available, but still not a part of daily diet.

The first downsizing of the rations took place in 1973 when the country’s economic growth began to decelerate. In September 1973 it was declared that “due to the dangerous international situation” the rations would be reduced: every fortnight two daily rations would be sacrificed for the strategic reserves. In 1989 the rations were cut further – by 10%: this was necessary, the authorities explained, to prepare the country for the forthcoming International Youth Festival. In 1992 a new 10% cut was imposed. These cuts meant that on the eve of North Korea’s Great Famine of 1995-99, the average worker received less than 500g of cereals. A retiree had to subsist on 220g – not exactly a generous amount.

From 1992 the North Korean media began to explain that for better health one only had to have two meals a day (the tradition of three meals was described as excessive and unhealthy). In those times people in some remote areas could not get food. They were still issued rationing coupons, but actual delivery of rations was delayed for days, and then for weeks.

The article proceeds to describe the breakdown of the rationing system. Food production fell by half, and food distribution halted. The nightmare only gets worse.

Growth Deficit

US trade gap a sign of growing economy: Snow,” AFP, http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1519&ncid=749&e=6&u=/afp/20050112/bs_afp/useconomytradesnow, 12 January 2005.

‘We are growing faster than our trading partners,’ Snow told reporters,” by “Career Prole,” Democratic Underground, http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=102&topic_id=1144233&mesg_id=1144283&page=, 12 January 2005.

Snow says US trade deficit reflects strong economic growth,” Xinhuanet, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-01/13/content_2452611.htm, 13 January 2005.

Democratic Underground linked to an Agence France-Presse article, which quoted Treasury Secretary Snow

NEW YORK (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary John Snow said the record US trade deficit was the result of strong economic growth and the United States outpacing the growth of other countries.

The impression left by the article? Snow is insane. The first paragraph makes as much sense as saying “Record High Credit Card Debt by Me Sign of Improved Earnings.” Predictably, terms like ‘crazy’ and ‘psycopath’ soon appeared in Democratic Underground. But out of the darkness, one bright light

Another warning to the Europeans!
Snow went on a tour of Europe telling all comers that the problem with the American dollar was that European leaders weren’t “growing their economies” fast enough and he specifically mentioned labor and pensions.

Snow intends to let the dollar fall until Europe pledges to squeeze its workers like we squeeze ours.
He is trying to spread the disease. He wants the whole world to be “China-fied

The spin’s left, but the sentinment’s right. We want a richer world, and that implies Europe actually working.

Background: A strong dollar is like a credit card with a great interest rate. We can buy more than we could otherwise. Because it is so cheap to buy, we can rationally live a bit further beyond our means if we know we will keep growing. This can mean things like cheaper TVs and cheaper cars. If we can offshore some medical work (like X-ray diagnosis) we even get cheaper medicine! Great deal!

On the other side, a weak currency is like a money market with a great rate. You spend less because it makes sense to invest more. Japan, Korea, and China try to keep their currencies low because of this. They have less now, but they can grow much faster because more investment is encouraged.

There are also hidden implications. Because consumption is real, it really affects people’s lives. And the buyer chooses where and how to affect lives. This is most obvious in wars. If our dollar buys more, then everything is cheaper. Uniforms from China are cheaper. Bullets from Taiwan are cheaper. Fuel for our tanks is cheaper. Electronics for Predator unmaned aerial vehicles are cheaper.

It also makes unilateral economic embargoes more effective. We have chosen to punish Iran and Cuba by not buying stuff from them. They feel this.

But there is a cost. We can buy more, but sell less (because our goods are more expensive to both them and us). This hurts the long-term growth of the U.S., and threatens our ability to keep up the game in the future. Additionally, they eventually will want their money back, meaning we have to keep up our growth rate to pay for all the nifty gadgets & wars. And if we can’t sell to them, it’s much harder to grow.

For as much as we complained in the ’80s, Japan is a great friend. They are painfully restructuring their economy to get back to growth. As with the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S., the Liberal Democratic Party and Social Democratic Party fight it out, but all agree on the same basic plan. China, South Korea, Singapore — basically, the rest of Asia, are also on board. But as to old Europe…

The day after the DUer made his observation, Xinhua ran a longer version of the story which backs it up

“The trade gap reflects two things: that our economy is growing at a fast pace and we are growing faster than our trading partners,” Snow told reporters at the New York Stock Exchange, according to reports reaching here.

He also said that the Group of Seven industrialized countries will focus their agenda on the global economy when their finance ministers and central bankers meet in February.

“I think we’ll need more than one growth engine in the world. We need Europe to be an engine of growth. We need Japan to be an engine of growth,” he said.

Snow once again reiterated the US strong dollar policy on Wednesday.

“It’s always the same policy, our policy is the strong dollar. There’s been no change in that from the day I two years ago came into office to today,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Everything falls into place. It’s even laid out neatly on the page.

1. We have a trade deficit because you are growing to slow.
2. This means you, Europe. We want you to grow…
3. …exactly as much as we want to keep the dollar strong.

A diplomatic threat. If Europe wants to continue with slow-growth policies, fine. We’ll just stop buying from then.

And there the most powerful feature of a strong dollar of all: we can threaten to make it weak.

Concert of Asia

Re-Envisioning Asia,” by Francis Fukuyama, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/cfr/international/20050101faessay_v84n1_fukuyama.html, 6 January 2005 (from Simon World Asia by Blog thru Danwei).

Dr. Fukuyama echos Dr. Barnett’s calls for an Asian NATO. The first approach to to ignore John F. Kerry’s myopia and continue with the Six Party Talks

The White House has an opportunity to create a visionary institutional framework for the region. In the short term, it can do so by turning the six-party talks on North Korea into a permanent five-power organization that would meet regularly to discuss various security issues in the region, beyond the North Korean nuclear threat. In the long term, Washington will need to consider ways of linking this security dialogue to the various multilateral economic forums now in existence or under consideration, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the ASEAN-plus-three group, which was formed in the wake of the Asian economic crisis and includes China, Japan, and South Korea; and the developing free-trade areas. Asian multilateralism will be critical not just for coordinating the region’s booming economies, but also for damping down the nationalist passions lurking beneath the surface of every Asian country.

But Fukuyama looks beyond the current crisis and sees the power balance of a united Korea (with the typical Chinese-Japanese tensions)

Several recent incidents have brought latent tensions to the surface. Despite burgeoning trade between China and South Korea, relations recently became strained when government-sponsored Chinese researchers asserted that the ancient kingdom of Koguryo, which 2,000 years ago stretched along the current China-North Korea border, was once under Chinese control. The ensuing fight had to be papered over with a five-point accord negotiated by the countries’ foreign ministries. Beijing’s motives for allowing publication of the article are unclear, but they may have been related to rising nationalism in China and loose talk in Seoul about founding a “greater Korea” that would include not just the North and the South but also the more than 2 million ethnic Koreans currently living in Manchuria.

Meanwhile, the growing economic interdependence of China and Japan has not mitigated nationalist passions, but exacerbated them. At an Asian Cup soccer game in August 2004 in Beijing, Chinese fans screamed, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” at the winning Japanese team, forcing it to flee China. This event followed on the heels of several other ugly and apparently spontaneous displays of anti-Japanese feeling and outrage over the use of hired female “companions” in southern China by 300 Japanese businessmen.

Heightening security concerns threaten the Japanese-South Korean relationship and could spark an arms race. Ten years ago, while doing research in Tokyo, I was told by a number of officers in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces that in the event of Korean unification, the combined military of North and South Korea would be close to ten times the size of Japan’s. If Korean troop strength did not fall dramatically at that point, they said, Japan would have to take appropriate defensive measures. Not only does this risk remain, but today there is the added factor of North Korea’s nuclear weapons–and what a potentially united Korea would do with them. In a recent Tokyo Shimbun poll, 83 of 724 members of the Japanese Diet said publicly that Japan should consider becoming a nuclear power in light of the North Korean threat, an assertion that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

The solution is clear: multilateralism. Fukuyama goes onto endorse a two-tracked approach. As with Europe, there should be a security organization encompassing both regional players and the U.S. If we are going to build on the current Five Parties, this military alliance would encompass Japan, a united Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, the United States of America, and possibly Russia. There should also be an Asian “EU” which melds together the economies of Japan, Korea, and China.

This is smart. Directly participating in a swaydo Northern Pacfic Treaty Organization and working with an Asian Union, the U.S. can banish disconnectedness and hook the Asian powers in a permanent peaceful system. Because of American leadership, war in Europe is unthinkable.

Dr. Barnett once said Asia today is just like Europe, except a paranoid and bitter East Germany (North Korea) is hanging on. We may be closer to an ever-peaceful Asia than we realize. NPTO and AU — let’s go!

They Are Never Coming Home

Mr President, Here’s How to Make Sense of Our Iraq Strategy,” by Thomas P. M. Barnett, Esquire, pg 148, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/published/esquire2004.htm, June 2004.

Iraq Troops Complain,” The Onion, http://theonion.com/wdyt/index.php?issue=4050, 15 December 2004.

A humorous joke from The Onion

“Years from now, our troops will look back at the war in Iraq and wonder why they haven’t been allowed to go home yet.”

Except it’s true.

Is this any way to run a global war on terrorism? The new conventional wisdom is that the warmongering neocons of the Bush administration have hijacked U. S. foreign policy and sent the world down the pathway of perpetual war. Instead of dissecting the rather hysterical strain of most of that analysis, let me tell you what this feedback should really tell us about the world we now live in. And as opaque as the administration has been in signaling its values and true motivations, I will try in this piece to explain what Iraq should mean to us, why all the pain we have encountered there is the price we must pay to ensure a peaceful century, and why this is the birthing process of a future worth creating.

There is no doubt that when the Bush administration decided to lay a “big bang” upon the Middle East by toppling Saddam Hussein and committing our nation to reconnecting a brutalized, isolated Iraqi society to the world outside, it proceeded with virtually no public or international debate about the scope of this grand historical task. I, however, see a clear link between 9/11 and President Bush’s declared intention of “transforming” the Middle East.

History’s clock is already ticking on that great task. As the world progressively decarbonizes its energy profile, moving away from oil and toward hydrogen obtained from natural gas, the Middle East’s security deficit will become a cross that not even the United States will long be willing to bear. The bin Ladens of that region know this and thus will act with increasing desperation to engineer our abandonment of the region. Like Vladimir Lenin a century earlier, bin Laden dreams of breaking off a large chunk of humanity into a separate rule-set sphere, where our rules hold no sway, where our money finds no purchase, and where our polluting cultural exports can be effectively repelled. Bin Laden’s offer is the offer of all would-be dictators: Just leave these people to me and I will trouble you no further.

What does this new approach mean for this nation and the world over the long run? Let me be very clear about this: The boys are never coming home. America is not leaving the Middle East until the Middle East joins the world. It’s that simple. No exit means no exit strategy.

America has made this effort before and changed the world. Now is the time to rededicate this nation to a new long-term strategy much as we did following World War II, when we began exporting the security that has already made war only a memory for more than half the world’s population, enabling hundreds of millions to lift themselves out of poverty in the last couple of decades alone. It is our responsibility and our obligation to give peace the same chance in the rest of the world.

Please read the rest.