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Thread: Halford Mackinder on Radio 3

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    Default Halford Mackinder on Radio 3

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...foreign-policy

    A very foreign policy: In cancelling the European missile shield, Obama is overturning a century of foreign policy based on a one-hour lecture by a Victorian geographer

    By Tristram Hunt

    Thursday, 24 September 2009, 19.30 BST

    Print edition: Friday, 25 September 2009, p.36

    Barack Obama's decision to cancel the missile defence programme by closing radar bases in eastern Europe has provoked predictable derision on the Republican right. From Senator John McCain down, it has accused the president of naivety, weakness and, worst of all, ceding the Eurasian "heartland" to Russia. But while they might position themselves as modern, strategic realists, today's neocons are in fact bewitched by the foreign policy prescriptions of a late Victorian imperialist.

    In 1904, the geographer Sir Halford J Mackinder rose, in a sparsely attended lecture theatre at the Royal Geographical Society, to deliver a talk entitled The Geographical Pivot of History. In one short hour, he set the perimeters for 20th-century geopolitics. The "Columbian age" of colonial expansion was at an end, he suggested, and a world criss-crossed by steam, telegram and train had become "a closed political system". As a result, "every explosion of social forces, instead of being dissipated in a surrounding circuit of unknown space and barbaric chaos, will be sharply re-echoed from the far side of the globe, and weak elements in the political and economic organism of the world will be shattered in consequence."Global diplomacy was now a zero-sum game, with every national victory won through the crushing of a competitor. As such, all talk of ethics and morality in foreign policy was for the birds. What mattered was power and the taking and holding of political space. The most important landmass – the "geographical pivot of history" – was central Eurasia, stretching from the edges of Europe across the steppes, desert and grassland of Russia until the Sea of Japan. And the key to controlling this heartland was to gain supremacy over eastern Europe: "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland/Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island/Who rules the World-Island commands the World."

    So, in the aftermath of the first world war, Mackinder urged a buffer zone of friendly states – Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary – to prevent Germany and Russia joining forces. A single geopolitical entity in charge of the Ukrainian wheatfields, Ural riches and Siberia would pose a devastating threat to British imperial interests. This was very much Hitler's thinking – introduced to Mackinder's geopolitics by Rudolf Hess – when he established the Nazi-Soviet pact.

    Then, as the Allies' victory looked assured and Stalin started to make a bid for hegemony, the elderly Mackinder warned how "the territory of the USSR [was] equivalent to the heartland" and that "if the Soviet Union emerges from this war as conqueror of Germany, she must rank as the greatest land power on the globe". Here lay the seeds of US "containment" policy. When the architect of American postwar anti-Soviet strategy, diplomat George Kennan, argued that "our problem is to prevent the gathering together of the military-industrial potential of the entire Eurasian landmass under a single power threatening the interests of the insular and mainland portions of the globe", it was pure Mackinder.

    Since then, Mackinder's thinking has found a secure place in the Pentagon. Under the patronage of Henry Kissinger and Zbiginiew Brzezinski, an appreciation of geographical dominance was obvious. The legacy lightened under the multilateralism and detente of Bill Clinton, but returned with red-blooded vigour under the neoconservative Project for the New American Century. In the post-cold war era, the neocons believed the US should seek total hegemony over the World Island without the interference of do-gooding idealists at the United Nations – which provides some insight into the war in Iraq.

    Even now, much of that group-think remains evident in Washington. The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine asserts that "the US projection of power into Afghanistan and Iraq, and today's tensions with Russia over the political fate of central Asia and the Caucasus, have only bolstered Mackinder's thesis". In a new essay for opendemocracy.net, Prince Hassan of Jordan has similarly spoken of how "the struggle for control of the 'energy ellipse' from Eurasia to the Straits of Hormuz" has revealed the resonance of Mackinder's thinking "for the political power plays of today".

    For it is in the resource-rich former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Belarus that the battle for the heartland is being played out most obviously. Moscow is working hard to retain its zone of privileged interest, while America is using a string of military bases, oil contracts and development aid to boost its geopolitical influence.

    So the decision to cancel the antiballistic missile shield and risk ceding the eastern heartland to the Russians is, from the Mackinder perspective, an act of monstrous strategic incompetence. Then again, it might just be another example of Obama's ability to think beyond the belligerent philosophy of the Pentagon and the prescriptions of a Victorian imperialist which so rarely offered a fair peace.

    Tristram Hunt's Radio 3 programme on Mackinder airs on Sunday at 9.30pm
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n4fpk

    Heartland Theory

    Sunday, 21:30 on BBC Radio 3


    Synopsis: Historian Tristram Hunt presents a series following the surprising journeys of ideas that first developed in Britain and then spread around the world.

    He traces the story of Sir Halford Mackinder, a forgotten British geographer, and his geopolitical 'Heartland Theory'. Mackinder argued that the geography of Eurasia meant that Russia and its border countries constituted a vast fortress, land-locked and impregnable - and that if this 'heartland' ever fell under the control of a single great power, it would give it the potential to dominate the world.

    HIs idea, first aired in 1904, was largely ignored in Britain, but in the years after the First World War, it was taken up - and twisted into a disturbing new shape - by a German geopolitician called Karl Haushofer. Haushofer was Rudolf Hess's intellectual mentor, and tutored him and Hitler while they were in prison in Munich in the 1920s. Haushofer drew on Mackinder to argue that Germany should form a grand alliance with Russia and Japan, in order to dominate the Heartland.

    So when news of the Nazi-Soviet Pact surprised the world in August 1939, American interest in Mackinder's theory suddenly sparked into life, and spread like wildfire. In the early 1940s, books, articles and even a Frank Capra propaganda movie - which Tristram watches with Mackinder's biographer - spelt out the Heartland idea and Haushofer's perversion of it, dubbing it the 'Nazi plan for world domination'.

    Finally, as it became clear that Germany would lose the war, the elderly Mackinder himself was reached in his West Country bolthole by the New York-based Foreign Affairs magazine. They invited him to give his own take on how his theory was relevant to the coming post-war world. Tristram goes to meet the current Managing Editor of the magazine, to see the letters between his predecessor and Mackinder, and how the resulting article helped to set the stage for the world after the war.

    Leading American foreign policy thinkers, steeped by now in Mackinder's newly-prominent analysis, began to argue that the emerging Soviet superpower needed to be contained. Tristram talks to US foreign policy analysts, including a former American Deputy National Security Advisor, who argue that Mackinder's ideas underpinned America's approach to the emerging Cold War.

    But is Mackinder relevant today, 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union? Tristram talks to scholars who argue that the Heartland Theory is now being rediscovered in the Heartland itself - in Russia and Central Asia.

    With contributions from Geoffrey Sloan, Brian Blouet, Colin Gray, Paul Coones, Nick Megoran, JD Crouch, Angela Stent, Holger Herwig, Chris Seiple, Gideon Rose, Charles Kupchan and Gerry Kearns.
    Broadcast: Sun, 27 Sep 2009, 21:30, BBC Radio 3

  2. #2

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    Sir Halford Mackinder, Geopolitics, and Policymaking in the 21st Century
    CHRISTOPHER J. FETTWEIS
    © 2000 Christopher J. Fettweis


    "A victorious Roman general, when he entered the city, amid all the head-turning splendor of a `Triumph,' had behind him on the chariot a slave who whispered into his ear that he was mortal. When our statesmen are in conversation with the defeated enemy, some airy cherub should whisper to them from time to time this saying: Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the World." --Sir Halford Mackinder, 1919[1]
    "Few modern ideologies are as whimsically all-encompassing, as romantically obscure, as intellectually sloppy, and as likely to start a third world war as the theory of `geopolitics.'" --Charles Clover, 1999[2]
    ________________________________________

    The world today hardly resembles the one that Sir Halford Mackinder examined in 1904, when he first wrote about the advantages of central positioning on the Eurasian landmass. His theories would have influence throughout the century, informing and shaping US containment policy throughout the Cold War. Today, almost a century after his "Heartland" theory came into being, there is renewed interest in the region that Mackinder considered the key to world dominance. The Heartland of the Eurasian landmass may well play an important role in the next century, and the policy of today's lone superpower toward that region will have a tremendous influence upon the character of the entire international system.

    Eurasia, the "World Island" to Mackinder, is still central to American foreign policy and will likely to continue to be so for some time. Conventional wisdom holds that only a power dominating the resources of Eurasia would have the potential to threaten the interests of the United States. Yet that conventional wisdom, as well as many of the other assumptions that traditionally inform our policy, has not been subjected to enough scrutiny in light of the changed international realities. Many geopolitical "truths" that have passed into the canon of security intellectuals rarely get a proper reexamination to determine their relevance to the constantly evolving nature of the system. Were the world system static, no further theorizing would be necessary. Since it is not, we must constantly reevaluate our fundamental assumptions to see whether or not any "eternal" rules of the game, geopolitical and otherwise, truly exist.

    Geopolitics is traditionally defined as the study of "the influence of geographical factors on political action,"[3] but this oft-cited definition fails to capture the many meanings that have evolved for the term over the years. Dr. Gearoid Ó Tuathail, an Irish geographer and associate professor at Virginia Tech, has identified three main uses of "geopolitics" since the end of World War II. First, it is sometimes used to describe a survey of a particular region or problem, to "read the manifest features of that which was held to be `external reality.'"[4] Geopolitics, according to this usage, is a lens through which to survey a problem: "The Geopolitics of X, where X is oil, energy, resources, information, the Middle East, Central America, Europe, etc." Second, geopolitics can be synonymous with realpolitik, which according to Ó Tuathail is "almost exclusively the legacy of Henry Kissinger."[5] Kissinger used the term to describe his attempts to maintain a "favorable equilibrium" in world politics, and his singular ability to see the proper course and set sail for it. His Machiavellian approach was infamously devoid of ideology (or "sentimentality"), and as such caused the term geopolitics to fall out of favor with many of the foreign policy practitioners who followed. Last, and most important for our purposes, geopolitics has become synonymous with grand strategy, "not, as in Kissinger, about the everyday tactical conduct of statecraft."[6] Theorists like Colin Gray place geography in the center of international relations and attempt to decipher the fundamental, eternal factors that drive state action. This belief traces its roots directly back to Sir Halford Mackinder and his theories of the Heartland.

    A Brief History of Geopolitics in Theory and Policy

    To the early 20th-century British geographer Sir Halford Mackinder, world history was a story of constant conflict between land and sea powers. In the past, during what he described as the Columbian Epoch, increased mobility that the sea provided put naval powers at a distinct advantage over their territorial adversaries. The classic example of this advantage was the Crimean War, in which Russia could not project power to the south as effectively as the sea-supplied French and British, despite the fact that the battlefields were far closer to Moscow than to London. But the Columbian Epoch was coming to a conclusion at the turn of the 20th century when Mackinder was first writing, as evolving technology, especially the system of railroads, allowed land powers to be nearly as mobile as those of the sea. Because land powers on the World Island had a smaller distance to travel than the sea powers operating on its periphery, any increase in their mobility would tip the balance of power in their favor. These "interior lines" gave the power with the "central position" on the World Island the ability to project power anywhere more rapidly than the sea powers could defend. Thus, who ruled the Heartland would have the possibility of commanding the entire World Island.

    Mackinder believed that the world had evolved into what he called a "closed system." There was no more room for expansion by the end of the 19th century, for colonialism had brought the entire world under the sway of Europe. Power politics of the future, Mackinder speculated, would be marked by a competition over the old territories rather than a quest for new ones. His Heartland concept recalled the 18th-century strategists' notion of the "key position" on the battlefield,[7] the recognition of which was crucial to victory. Traditional military strategists thought that control of the key position on the map was crucial to winning the war, and since Mackinder recognized that the round world was now one big battlefield, identification and control of the key position would lead to global supremacy.

    Mackinder's theories might have faded into irrelevance were it not for their apparent influence on the foreign policy of Nazi Germany. A German geopolitician and devotee of Mackinder, Karl Haushofer, spent the interwar period writing extensively about the Heartland and the need for Lebensraum (additional territory deemed essential for continued national well-being) for the German people. One of Haushofer's pupils was Rudolph Hess, who brought his teacher into the inner intellectual circles of the Reich. Haushofer was appointed by Hitler to run the German Academy in Berlin, which was "more a propagandic institution than a true academy in the continental European sense,"[8] according to one observer. The actual effect of his teachings upon German policy is open to debate--Haushofer may have had an enormous effect on Hitler through his pupil,[9] or he may have been "a neglected and slighted man who would certainly enjoy learning about the hullabaloo raised by his doctrine" in the United States.[10] It cannot be proven that the Drang nach Osten (eastward push) was affected by a desire to control the Heartland. Here policy may just overlap with, rather than be dictated by, geotheory. But the possibility that there was a secret master plan at work in Berlin created a whole new interest in geopolitics and what Mackinder and geopolitics had to say.

    Haushofer's ideas probably had a larger influence upon American strategic studies during the war than they did on German policy. Wartime paranoia fed an image of a secret German science of geopolitik that was driving Nazi action, bringing Mackinder and Haushofer onto the American intellectual radar screen. In 1942 Life magazine ran an article titled "Geopolitics: The Lurid Career of a Scientific System which a Briton Invented, the Germans Used, and the Americans Need to Study,"[11] which captured the mood of the period, imagining a cabal of foreign policy "scientists" dictating policy for the dictator. Opinions differed between those who prescribed rapid acceptance of geopolitik and those who dismissed it as pseudoscience. The latter opinion was strengthened, of course, by Germany's eventual defeat.

    From Hot War to Cold

    The most influential American geopolitician to emerge out of the furor created by Haushofer and the quest for Lebensraum was Yale University professor Nicholas Spykman. Spykman, considered one of the leading intellectual forefathers of containment, speculated about power projection into and out of the Heartland. Whereas Mackinder assumed that geographical formations made for easiest access from the east, Spykman argued that the littoral areas of the Heartland, or what he called the "Rimland," was key to controlling the center. He updated Mackinder, positing, "Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia; Who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world."[12] Spykman put an American twist on geopolitical theory, and laid the intellectual foundation for Kennan and those who argued that the Western powers ought to strengthen the Rimland to contain the Soviet Union, lest it use its control of the Heartland to command the World Island.[13]

    Geopolitics as grand strategy was one of the important intellectual foundations for the West's Cold War containment policy. Canadian geographer Simon Dalby recognizes it as one of the "four security discourses (the others being sovietology, strategy, and the realist approach to international relations) which American `security intellectuals' have drawn on in constructing the `Soviet threat.'"[14] According to one of the preeminent historians of the Cold War, John Lewis Gaddis, in the late 1940s "there developed a line of reasoning reminiscent of Sir Halford Mackinder's geopolitics, with its assumption that none of the world's `rimlands' could be secure if the Eurasian `heartland' was under the domination of a single hostile power."[15] Gaddis describes how the containment policy evolved from countering Soviet expansion at every point in the rimlands to concentration of defense on a few key points, especially Western Europe and Japan.

    While Mackinder's warnings of the advantages inherent in central positioning on the Eurasian landmass certainly became incorporated into Cold War American strategic thought and policy, some observers seem to believe that the principle architects of US foreign policy throughout the Cold War era must have been carrying Mackinder in their briefcases. Colin Gray wrote:

    By far the most influential geopolitical concept for Anglo-American statecraft has been the idea of a Eurasian `heartland,' and then the complementary idea-as-policy of containing the heartland power of the day within, not to, Eurasia. From Harry S Truman to George Bush, the overarching vision of US national security was explicitly geopolitical and directly traceable to the heartland theory of Mackinder. . . . Mackinder's relevance to the containment of a heartland-occupying Soviet Union in the cold war was so apparent as to approach the status of a cliché.[16]

    Indeed, many policymakers came from the world of academia, where they were certainly exposed to Mackinder's geopolitical theories. As was described above, Henry Kissinger used the term geopolitics to denote any policy dependent upon power principles at the expense of ideology and "sentimentality." Kissinger's worldview was less dependent upon geographical realities than some of the other Cold Warriors, especially Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Carter's National Security Advisor and a graduate-school mentor of Madeleine Albright. Brzezinski has made Eurasia the focus for US foreign policy in all of his writing, consistently warning of the dangerous advantages that the Heartland power had over the West.[17]

    It is of course very difficult to trace the progression of ideas into policy. But theories and assumptions, whether articulated or not, provide the frameworks which guide decisionmaking. Without those frameworks, the proper course for the nation, or the national interest itself, cannot be identified or pursued. So while it is possible that geopolitics and containment simply coincided, it is highly unlikely that Western policymakers could look at a map of the world, see the red zone in the Heartland, and not remember the warning from Mackinder's cherub.[18]

    After the Cold War

    One might expect that geopolitics would have faded into the intellectual background with the end of the Cold War and the defeat of the Heartland power. Strangely, though, Mackinder received a fresh look by some scholars in the 1990s, both in the United States and abroad, and especially in the Heartland itself.[19] In a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Charles Clover identified the growing discussion of geopolitics among some circles in Russia today:

    Many Russian intellectuals, who once thought their homeland's victory over the world would be the inevitable result of history, now pin their hope for Russia's return to greatness on a theory that is, in a way, the opposite of dialectical materialism. Victory is now to be found in geography, rather than history; in space, rather than time. . . . The movement envisions the Eurasian heartland as the geographic launching pad for a global anti-Western movement whose goal is the ultimate expulsion of "Atlantic" (read: "American") influence from Eurasia.[20]

    Clover argues that the modern Russian geopolitik is being used as the glue to form bonds between the ultra-left and ultra-right, hinting at a "red-brown" coalition that could become dominant in Russian politics in the years ahead, with ominous implications for international stability.

    This eventuality would of course be quite problematic for an America that still views Eurasia as the chessboard upon which the game of global control will be played. The World Island is still the central focus of US policy, and the Russians are still considered to have the most fortunate position on the map. Yet is there now, or was there ever, any reason to believe that the Heartland of Eurasia bestows any sort of geopolitical advantage to the power that controls it?

    Examining Mackinder

    Mackinder's theories have been attacked from many directions over the years, but their remnants persist in our intellectual memory. Mackinder (and the geopoliticians who have followed) thought that geography favored the Heartland power for five key reasons: the Heartland was virtually impenetrable to foreign invasion; technological changes offered increased mobility which favored land powers; the Heartland was in the central position on the World Island, giving it shorter, interior lines of transportation and communication than a power defending the Rimland; the Heartland was loaded with natural resources waiting to be exploited that could give the area the highest productivity on earth; and, last, the Eurasian World Island, being the home to the majority of the world's land, people, and resources, was the springboard for global hegemony. Every one of these assumptions collapses under even the most cursory scrutiny.

    Impregnability

    "The Heartland is the greatest natural fortress on earth," Mackinder wrote. He envisioned it being guarded by natural geographical formations that make it almost impregnable to attack, specifically the "ice-clad Polar Sea, forested and rugged Lenaland [Siberia east of the Yenisei River], and the Central Asiatic mountain and arid tableland."[21] The fortress had one weakness, Mackinder concluded: there was an opening in the west, between the Baltic and Black Seas, which was not blocked geographically. This gap in the natural defenses led to the famous conclusion that whoever ruled Eastern Europe would be in an advantageous position to rule the Heartland, and therefore the World Island, and therefore the world.

    Mackinder seemed to ignore the fact that to the extent these geographical formations protected a Heartland power, they also prevented it from projecting outward. Walls tend to keep residents in as effectively as they keep invaders out. The geographical boundaries of the Heartland, to the extent that they were ever obstacles, would have hampered any attempt to use it as a springboard for hemispheric dominance.

    But more important, the Heartland can be considered a fortress only by standards of 19th-century technology. A modern army, should it want to attack the Heartland, would have little trouble bypassing "Lenaland," or slicing right through Central Asia. Even its most seemingly impenetrable boundary, the Polar Sea, offers little protection from attack from the sky by planes and missiles. The greatest natural fortress on earth is certainly vulnerable to 21st-century weaponry, offering little inherent advantage to the power within.

    The essential irrelevance of the "natural defenses" of the Heartland was pointed out during the first stages of debate on Mackinder during World War II. In debunking geopolitics as a "pseudoscience," Ralph Turner made the seemingly obvious point in 1943 that "the high mobility of land power on the steppes . . . is now amplified or offset by the far greater mobility of air power."[22] Yet many geopoliticians remain unconvinced. Colin Gray, perhaps the leading geopolitician of our time, has responded to this argument by saying, "That technology has canceled geography contains just enough merit to be called a plausible fallacy."[23] He then argues from a tactical standpoint, pointing out that logistical factors make geography's influence permanent. Surely he is correct when he points out that "it mattered enormously" that the Falklands were islands and Kuwait a desert, and geography still has a great impact upon military tactics and how battles are fought. But it has a decreasing impact upon determinations of when states choose to fight or who prevails. Gray does not make the case for the permanence of geographical factors upon grand strategy. The experiences in the disparate conditions of the Falklands and Kuwait show that technology can indeed overcome the geographical boundaries of any natural fortress, including those of the Heartland.

    Perhaps the projection of power out of the Heartland was not crucial to Mackinder's concept. Perhaps the important point was that geographical defenses would allow the Heartland power to exploit its resources and consolidate its power, uninterrupted by conquest and devastation. But even by this conception, the Heartland falls far short. Russia has been devastated time and again throughout history. Mongols, Turks, Arabs, Persians, Swedes, French, Germans, and many other groups have penetrated the walls of the fortress, repeatedly laying waste to the area and inhibiting long-term, steady growth. The Heartland was not impenetrable to the technologies of the last two millennia, much less those of the next.

    Mobility

    To Mackinder, the Heartland power had a distinct geopolitical advantage at the end of the Columbian Epoch because changes in technology allowed for rapid troop movement and power projection. The railroad put land powers on equal footing with those of the sea, and the vast flat steppes put the Heartland in the best position to exploit that new technology and mobility, especially since the Heartland afforded shorter, interior lines of movement.

    But, as was discussed above, technological advancement did not stop with the railroad. The mobility that air power brings changes all the calculations of Mackinder. There is no longer an advantage to being able to choose the point of attack, for armed forces can be airlifted between any two points on the globe in a matter of hours. Rail mobility offered a tremendous advantage before the advent of air travel, but not nearly so much since.

    Gray and others argue that planes have to land, and therefore geographical positioning is still vital. But this too is rapidly becoming obsolete. Mackinder clearly did not anticipate, and Gray does not take into account, the implications of bombers that can take off from Missouri, drop their bombload on Kosovo, and land back in Missouri. In our rapidly shrinking world, where air power can now be projected around the world from any position, the geographical location of bases (and indeed geography itself) is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

    Central Position

    Mackinder would have us believe that central positioning is an advantage to a Heartland power, for it allows shorter, internal lines of transportation with which the Heartland power can choose the point of attack. To Cold War strategists, this central positioning made containment a nightmare, for it necessitated defense of the enormous littoral rimlands.

    Mackinder might have been the first strategist in history to suggest that the surrounded have the advantage. When has central positioning ever been advantageous to any nation? No one spoke of the "interior lines of communication" of the Third Reich, for instance. Germany has always been at a disadvantage because of her position in the heart of Europe. Similarly, the central positioning of the Heartland of Eurasia has never been geopolitically advantageous to its inhabitants. Rather than providing a springboard to attack in any direction, central positioning has rendered the Heartland power vulnerable on all sides. Rather than providing a heightened security, this position actually heightens the Heartland's insecurity. Indeed, Russian history is filled with attacks from the east, west, and south, feeding an insecurity and a paranoia to which Americans, historically protected by vast oceans, cannot relate.

    Central positioning is an advantage only to a Heartland power bent of expansion. Realpolitik and geopolitik informed the West that while their intentions in the Rimland were benign (or at least not offensive in nature), the Soviets had imperial designs on every region of the world. To the West, the Soviets were not threatened from all directions, but rather were threatening to all directions. This assumption of the eternality of Russian imperialism continues to affect our policy today, and we continue to see the Russian littoral as threatened by its vast neighbor.

    The inability to understand the other's view is one of the great historical features of US foreign policy. We still are not able to understand that the quest for empire in Russian history is at least in part an attempt to bolster the insecurity that its position has always entailed. Russia's imperial outposts in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and elsewhere provided buffer zones against the attacks that have periodically devastated Russian land. Central positioning has led to a state of permanent insecurity, which has poisoned Russia's relations with its neighbors. The West clumsily heightens that sense of insecurity with every new foray into the Rimlands.

    Productivity

    Ironically, the real reason behind the ability of the Heartland to resist attack also guarantees that it will never be able to live up to Mackinder's forecast. In order to dominate the World Island, a Heartland power would have to exploit its vast resources. But since virtually all of the pivot area lies latitudinally above the continental United States, the harsh climate makes mining difficult, growing seasons brief, and successful attack nearly impossible.

    Large sections of the Heartland are not and will never be productive. So it is hard to imagine that the productivity of the region will ever match Sir Halford's key condition for dominance of the World Island.

    "Who rules the World Island commands the World"

    Using Mackinder's own qualifications, it appears that he has placed the key geographical position in the wrong part of the world. It does not appear true that the Eastern Hemisphere bestows any strategic advantage over the Western. In fact, control over the Western Hemisphere has allowed the United States to rise to an unprecedented position of power, for many of the very reasons Mackinder identified with the Heartland. The oceans provide it with heretofore virtually impregnable boundaries, and it has command over a collection of resources far greater than any Eurasian power could effectively exploit, given climatic realities. It seems hard to argue that geographical factors favor Mackinder's Heartland over the American, or to see why so many strategists continue to put Eurasia as the center of the world. Heterogeneity alone seems to predestine the Eastern Hemisphere to infighting, and to disadvantages when compared to the Western.

    The point here is not to reinvent the Heartland, however, or to argue that "who rules North America commands the world." Rather it is to show that even by the terms he used, Mackinder's Heartland never was capable of bestowing any extraordinary advantages upon its inhabitants. If anything, it was and is a disadvantage, especially when compared to other, more manageable, geographical positions.

    Implications for Policy and Theory

    One of the reasons that Mackinder is being resurrected yet again is because policymakers are searching for ways to conceptualize and deal with the heart of his Heartland--Central Asia and the Caspian Sea--which is a region that has the potential to become a major source of great-power contention in the next century. Some analysts estimate that the fossil fuels in the region will transform it into a "new Saudi Arabia" in the coming decades.[24] Its vast deposits made the Soviet Union one of the largest exporters of oil during the last decades of the Cold War, and new reserves have been discovered through intensive exploration since. An apparent power vacuum within the region is once again the subject of rivalry from without, and a new "great game" (an analogy to which we will return) seems to be unfolding, with Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and the United States as the players. Desire for fossil fuels and the wealth they create has the potential to damage relations between the global and regional powers, if diplomacy is mishandled.

    Russian behavior toward the states of Central Asia, and indeed toward all the other former Soviet nations, is often seen to be a bellwether of its new nature. Some observers assume that Russian meddling in the affairs of the states on its periphery is an inevitable sign of neoimperialism, which is a permanent characteristic of its eternal national character. To head off any return to empire, many feel that the West must be firm in discouraging a growth in Russian influence in the new states. Thus the United States is interested in projecting power into Central Asia in the belief that filling power vacuums is necessary to prevent the Russians from doing so, and to keep the Cold War from recurring. Russia and China today are regional powers that seek influence only in their littoral; the United States projects power everywhere. The three overlap in Central Asia, which is the only region where the Cold War tradition of "triangular diplomacy" may well become a reality again if geopolitical concerns dominate our strategy.

    The heart of the Heartland is floating on top of a sea of oil. Before we decide on the nature of our policy toward the region, we must examine some of the assumptions that we bring into the debate. The theories of Mackinder and the geopoliticians still linger, affecting the ways that our policy is made, despite the fact that the foundations upon which those theories are built are intellectually shaky at best.

    Geopolitics and Eternal Realities

    Geopoliticians, by all uses of that term, seem to claim to understand the eternal and fundamental geographical realities in a way that automatically places their analyses above those of ordinary strategists. Mackinder, Kissinger, Brzezinski, Gray, and the rest all would have us believe that they can see the proper course for policy because they understand the "eternal" realities that the earth provides, despite the fact that their assumptions are often baseless or archaic. Ó Tuathail has described this phenomenon, and his remarks are worth quoting at some length:

    To understand the appeal of formal geopolitics to certain intellectuals, institutions, and would-be strategists, one has to appreciate the mythic qualities of geopolitics. Geopolitics is mythic because it promises uncanny clarity and insight in a complex world. It actively closes down an openness to the geographical diversity of the world and represses questioning and difference. The plurality of the world is reduced to certain "transcendent truths" about strategy. Geopolitics is a narrow instrumental form of reason that is also a form of faith, a belief that there is a secret substratum and/or a permanent set of conflicts and interests that accounts for the course of world politics. It is fetishistically concerned with "insight," and "prophecy."

    Formal geopolitics appeals to those who yearn for the apparent certitude of "timeless truths." Historically, it is produced by and appeals to right-wing countermoderns because it imposes a constructed certitude upon the unruly complexity of world politics, uncovering transcendent struggles between seemingly permanent opposites ("landpower" versus "seapower," "oceanic" versus "continental," "East" versus "West") and folding geographical difference into depluralized geopolitical categories like "heartland," "rimland," "shatterbelt," and the like. Foreign policy complexity becomes simple(minded) strategic gaming. [Ó Tuathail makes reference to Brzezinski here] Such formal geopolitical reasoning is . . . a flawed foundation upon which to construct a foreign policy that needs to be sensitive to the particularity and diversity of the world's states, and to global processes and challenges that transcend state-centric reasoning.[25]

    As unsettling as it may be, there are no "timeless truths" in world politics. The international system changes as fast as we can understand its functions, and often much faster. It seems to be natural for the human mind to use analogies and slogans to comprehend situations that are difficult to grasp. If policymakers indeed simplify the world into frameworks to make it comprehensible, then they must beware not to base those frameworks on outdated and intellectually sloppy assumptions of geopolitics.

    Analogies and Policy

    Policy is driven by analogy, both historical and theoretical. One common, and dangerous, analogy that drives US Eurasian policy is "the game." Brzezinski speaks of chess; Central Asian policy is the "new great game"; Kissinger and Nixon used game analogies throughout their reign and in their writings afterward.[26] Impenetrably complex problems are simplified to games, which was problematic enough during the Cold War but is acutely poisonous today.

    Take Brzezinski's chess analogy. Chess has two players, and one opponent; it is zero-sum, and to the finish; there is a winner and a loser, with no middle ground. The opponent of the United States to Brzezinski is, and has always been, Russia. If we approach Eurasia as if it were a chessboard, then we will be met by opponents, and cooperation and mutual benefit would be removed from our calculations. If the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth were to conceptualize foreign policy as a chess game, it would virtually ensure that other nations would as well. A Eurasian alliance to counteract growing US influence would be virtually inevitable.

    Mackinder's Heartland theory is a another example of inappropriately applied analogy. Sir Halford took Britain's traditional fear of the dominance of the resources of continental Europe by one power and extended it to encompass the entire world. To many geopoliticians, the United States is an island power, peripheral to the crucial and decisive land of Eurasia. The only way America can be safe is if the continent does not unify against her.

    England's fear of a united European continent in the 19th century was understandable, because only a continental power unconcerned with land enemies would be able to concentrate its resources to challenge the Royal Navy. The analogy with the World Island and the United States falls apart, for no nation that dominates that continent would ever be able to threaten our hemisphere. Even if it were conceivable that one power could dominate Eurasia (which of course it is not), such an imbalance would not necessarily threaten American interests, and the dominant power presumably would not be able to project power over the oceans. Any imaginable alliance of Eurasian powers would be too unwieldy and disparate to operate effectively. Some fear that a Eurasian alliance would be capable of shutting off trade with the United States, ruining our economy and standard of living. While this may have had some relevance when there was the potential for the rest of the world to be dominated by the communists, as long as the great powers of the World Island continue to be wedded to the free market (and do not perceive US power to be threatening), then there is little danger of their voluntarily shutting their doors to the American market and investment structure.

    Paradoxically, our attempts to prevent a Eurasian anti-American alliance may make that outcome more likely. As Steven Walt has persuasively shown, imbalances of threat, not imbalances of power, drive alliances together.[27] Our attempts to project power into the Heartland, if done clumsily, can heighten threat perceptions in its capitals, making such counterproductive alliances more attractive.

    British uneasiness with the European Union is reflective of this fear of continental alliances. But is there really any threat of a state marshaling forces against the British Isles? Analogies, and their accompanying "eternal interests," tend to persist long after their useful life is over. Sometimes we fail to perceive the end of that intellectual shelf life.

    Frameworks for Grand Strategies

    The Clinton Administration has been criticized from the beginning for running a foreign policy that is at best reactive and at worst rudderless and confused. While this characterization may not be entirely accurate or even fair, it is apparent that running a foreign policy without the framework provided by a global rival can appear to be unfocused and ad hoc. Without a vision of what the next century ought to look like, no policies can be formulated to bring it about.

    During the Cold War, foreign policy decisions were never easy, but at least the Soviet Union provided an enemy to be opposed. Conventional wisdom recommended countering every Soviet move, no matter how trivial. Today the United States is at a unipolar position in every possible sense--militarily, economically, culturally, politically, and on and on. The world looked to the United States at the end of the Cold War to lead a new century, to redefine the rules by which the system operates. As Fareed Zakaria has noted, after the last two world wars, "America wanted to change the world, and the world was reluctant. But in 1999, the world is eager to change--along the lines being defined by America--but now America is reluctant."[28]

    American policymakers have continuously underestimated the impact that a hegemon can have on the "rules of the game" because they are wedded to the archaic realist and geopolitical notion that those rules do not change. Yet as disconcerting as it may seem, the rules evolve as quickly as "the game" itself, and policymakers must have the vision to anticipate that evolution and adjust accordingly. The end of the Cold War has provided the United States an unprecedented opportunity to shape the nature of the system. In order to do so it is necessary to jettison antiquated and baseless concepts like geopolitics once and for all.

    Conclusion

    "Eternal" geopolitical realities and national interests are mirages. The idea that a Heartland power has any advantages due to its position on the map cannot be historically or theoretically justified; the notion that an imbalance of power in Eurasia (even if it were conceivable) would somehow threaten the interests of the United States is not tenable; and the idea that geographic "realities" of power can operate outside of the context of ideology, nationalism, and culture is pure fantasy. Worse than mirages, these ideas can cripple the way we run our foreign policy in the new century.

    Debunking the fundamental assumptions of geopolitics is an important task when one considers how policy is made. Policymakers operate with a set of assumptions and frameworks through which they interpret international events. As Richard Neustadt and Ernest May have persuasively argued, historical (and often wildly inappropriate) analogies, banal slogans, and outdated theories often become the driving forces in policymaking.[29] One of these outdated theories that persists in our intellectual memory is Sir Halford Mackinder's geopolitics.

    Policymakers in the United States vastly underestimate the hegemon's potential to shape the nature of the international system. Intellectuals wedded to old ideas about the unchanging nature of power have so far failed to lead the world in the new directions that it expected. The unparalleled unipolar position that the United States found itself in when the Cold War abruptly ended is being wasted by politicians with no vision for shaping the future. The debate that occasionally resurfaces over the "isolationist" nature of the United States misses a key dimension: if nothing else, America has certainly been intellectually isolationist in the post-Cold War era, hiding behind walls and refusing to lead the world in new directions that its unprecedented power has made possible. The rules that govern international relations evolve. No so-called permanent interests, or eternal geographical realities, exist. The only way that the next century can be better than the one we are leaving is with a reevaluation of the assumptions and attitudes that underlie our actions. A prolonged investigation into the utility of all geopolitical theory would be a good place to start.
    ________________________________________

    NOTES
    1. Halford Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality (New York: W. W. Norton, 1962 [original publication 1919]), p 150.
    2. Charles Clover, "Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland," Foreign Affairs, 78 (March/April 1999), 9.
    3. From Jean Gottman, "The Background of Geopolitics," Military Affairs, 6 (Winter 1942), 197.
    4. Gearoid Ó Tuathail, "Problematizing Geopolitics: Survey, Statesmanship and Strategy," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 19 (1994), 261.
    5. Ibid., p. 263.
    6. Ibid., p. 267.
    7. For more on this, see Alfred Vagts, "Geography in War and Geopolitics," Military Affairs, 7 (Summer 1943), 85-86.
    8. Ibid., p. 87.
    9. For this perspective, and summation of Haushofer's writings, see Hans W. Weigert, Generals and Geopolitics (Oxford, Eng.: Oxford Univ. Press, 1942).
    10. Vagts, p. 87.
    11. J. Thorndike, "Geopolitics: The Lurid Career of a Scientific System which a Briton Invented, the Germans Used, and the Americans Need to Study," Life, 21 December 1942.
    12. Nicholas J. Spykman, The Geography of Peace (New York: Harcourt & Brace, 1944), p. 43.
    13. For more on Spykman, and his links to Mackinder and Kennan, see Michael P. Gerace, "Between Mackinder and Spykman: Geopolitics, Containment, and After," Comparative Strategy, 10 (October-December 1991), 347-64.
    14. Simon Dalby, "American Security Discourse: the Persistence of Geopolitics," Political Geography Quarterly, 9 (April 1990), 171.
    15. John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment (Oxford, Eng.: Oxford Univ. Press, 1982), p. 57.
    16. Colin S. Gray, "The Continued Primacy of Geography," Orbis, 40 (Spring 1996), 258.
    17. See, for instance, Brzezinski's Cold War writings like Game Plan: A Geostrategic Framework for the Conduct of the U.S.-Soviet Contest (Boston: the Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986) and The Grand Chessboard (New York: Basic Books, 1997) from after it was over.
    18. For an analysis of the effect of geopolitics, Mackinder, and the Heartland on US Cold War foreign policy, see G. R. Sloan, Geopolitics in United States Strategic Policy, 1890-1987 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988), esp. pp. 127-239; and Colin S. Gray, The Geopolitics of Superpower (Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1988).
    19. See, in addition to those works already cited, reviews of the current literature in Colin S. Gray, "Geography and Grand Strategy," Comparative Strategy, 10 (October-December 1991) 311-29; David Hansen, "The Immutable Importance of Geography," Parameters, 27 (Spring 1997), 55-64; John Hillen and Michael P. Noonan, "The Geopolitics of NATO Enlargement," Parameters, 28 (Autumn 1998), 21-34; and Gerald Robbins, "The Post-Soviet Heartland: Reconsidering Mackinder," Global Affairs, 8 (Fall 1993), 95-108.
    20. Charles Clover, "Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland," Foreign Affairs, 78 (March/April 1999), 9.
    21. Halford J. Mackinder, "The Round World and the Winning of the Peace," Foreign Affairs, 21 (July 1943), 603.
    22. Ralph Turner, "Technology and Geopolitics," Military Affairs, 7 (Spring 1943), 14.
    23. Colin S. Gray, "The Continued Primacy of Geography," Orbis, 40 (Spring 1996), 251.
    24. Carl Goldstein, "Final Frontier," Far Eastern Economic Review, 10 June 1993, p. 54.
    25. Geraoid Ó Tauthail, "Understanding Critical Geopolitics: Geopolitics and Risk Society," Internet, http://www.majbill.vt.edu/geog/facul...stratstud.html.
    26. Ó Tuathail documents Kissinger's usage of the game metaphor in "Problematizing Geopolitics," pp. 266-67.
    27. See Steven M. Walt, The Origin of Alliances (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1987).
    28. Quoted in Thomas Freidman, "The War Over Peace," The New York Times, 17 October 1999, op-ed.
    29. Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers (New York: Free Press, 1986).
    ________________________________________
    Christopher J. Fettweis is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. His fields are international relations and comparative politics, and his dissertation addresses US foreign policy toward Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.
    ________________________________________

  3. #3

    Default Mackinder's influence on James Burnham

    American Diplomacy Vol. V, No. 4 Fall 2000 (Nov 30)

    James Burnham: The First Cold Warrior by Francis P. Sempa


    (The author, principal deputy attorney general for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, earned degrees at the University of Scranton and Dickinson University School of Law)

    http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD..._burnham1.html

    Often we remark that the convert exhibits an unusually devoted commitment to his or her new cause. Such evidently was the case with the subject of this essay. Remembered as an anticommunist American intellectual and dedicated foe of the Soviet Union, university professor James Burnham started his career at the opposite end of the political spectrum. The author, who recently wrote an appreciation of Halford Mackinder’s world view for this journal (Winter 2000), assesses Burnham’s scholarly approach to Cold War strategy as set forth over some three decades. ~ Ed.

    DURING THE EARLY post-Second World War years, James Burnham, a leading American Trotskyite in the 1930s, emerged as a chief critic of the policy of containment as articulated by the Department of State’s policy planning chief, George F. Kennan, and implemented by the Truman Administration. At this time, Burnham was a prominent liberal anticommunist associated with the journal Partisan Review who had worked for the Office of Strategic Services during the war. In three books written between 1947 and 1952, and in hundreds of articles written over a twenty-five-year period for the conservative magazine National Review, Burnham criticized containment from the ideological Right, arguing for a more aggressive strategy to undermine Soviet power. That strategy, which Burnham called “liberation” and others called “rollback,” was widely ridiculed at the time and subsequently, even though, ironically, Kennan in his memoirs termed it “persuasive.”1 Decades later, however, the Reagan Administration’s confrontational style and offense-oriented policies during the 1980s, an approach which arguably resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the end of the Cold War, can be said to have vindicated Burnham’s strategic views.

    Burnham was born in Chicago in 1905. His father, Claude George Burnham, who emigrated as a child to the United States from England, was an executive with the Burlington Railroad. James attended Princeton University where he studied English literature and philosophy, and graduated first in his class, delivering his valedictory address in Latin. Burnham earned a masters degree at Balliol College, Oxford University, in 1929; later that year he accepted a teaching position in the philosophy department of New York University. He remained on the faculty of NYU until 1953.

    From 1930-1933, Burnham co-edited (with Philip Wheelwright) Symposium, a review devoted to literary and philosophical criticism. In 1932, he and Wheelwright wrote a textbook entitled Introduction to Philosophical Analysis. During his editorship of Symposium, Burnham became acquainted with Sidney Hook, a colleague in the Philosophy Department at NYU. According to Hook, their relationship became “quite friendly” when Symposium published Hook’s essay “Toward the Understanding of Karl Marx.” Burnham’s articles in Symposium impressed Hook and other readers, including Soviet exile Leon Trotsky.

    During the 1930s, with the country in the throes of a great economic depression, Burnham joined the Trotskyite wing of the international communist movement. He had read Marx and Engels while living in France in 1930, and was later greatly impressed by Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution. His move to the far left, however, was not without detours along the way. For example, in the April 1933 issue of Symposium, Burnham described the communist party as “ridiculously utopian” and “barbaric.” John P. Diggins, one of Burnham’s biographers, believes that three principal factors persuaded Burnham to join the communist movement: an article by Sidney Hook on Marx; Adolf Berle’s and Gardiner Means’s book, The Modern Corporation and Private Property; and Burnham’s tour of the country in the summer of 1933 where, in Diggins’s words, “he encountered the first stirrings of an authentic class struggle.”

    In 1933, Burnham helped Hook, A.J. Muste, and J.B.S. Hardman organize the American Workers Party. The next year, the party merged with the Trotskyite Communist League of America to form the Socialist Workers Party. Burnham, according to Hook, emerged as the Party’s most admired and “most distinguished intellectual figure.” Samuel Francis, another Burnham biographer, notes that during that time Burnham was considered a “leading spokesman” of the Trotskyite branch of the international communist movement. Diggins goes further, describing Burnham as Trotsky’s “chief spokesman” within American intellectual circles. Burnham became an editor of the Party’s monthly journal, New International, wherein he defended Trotsky from Stalinist verbal attacks. Initially, Burnham viewed Stalinism as an “aberration of Bolshevism.” He saw Trotsky as Lenin’s true heir, and Trotskyism as the fulfillment of the ideals of the Bolshevik revolution. After the signing of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact in August 1939, however, Burnham began distancing himself from Trotsky (who defended the pact). In May 1940 Burnham resigned from the Socialist Workers Party, ended his involvement in the international communist movement, and began to write regularly for Partisan Review, the leading journal of the non-communist left.2

    Burnham emerged as a Cold War strategist in 1944 upon writing an analysis of Soviet post-war goals for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services. The seeds of his intellectual evolution from Trotskyite to anticommunist cold warrior were planted during the time period between his break with communism and the beginning of the Cold War. It was then that Burnham formulated his “science of politics” and began viewing the world through a geopolitical prism. This intellectual evolution began in 1941 with the publication of his The Managerial Revolution, a study in which he theorized that the world was witnessing the emergence of a new ruling class, “the managers,” who would soon replace the rule of capitalists and communists alike. The book was an instant best-seller and was translated into most major foreign languages. It received critical acclaim from the New York Times, Time, The New Leader, Saturday Review, and leading opinion-makers of the day. John Kenneth Galbraith recalled that The Managerial Revolution was “widely read and discussed” among policymakers in Washington in 1941. William Barrett remembered it as “an original and brilliant book when it appeared” which “anticipated by a good number of years the discovery of the ‘New Class’.”3

    The Managerial Revolution is mostly remembered as a political and socioeconomic work, which in part it was. What is often overlooked, or at least understated, is that the study was Burnham’s first intellectual foray into global geopolitics. In it he sketched an emerging post-war world divided into “three strategic centers for world control”:

    1. the northern two-thirds of the Western Hemisphere;
    2. north-central Europe, west Asia and northern Africa; and
    3. the “Asiatic center,” east Asia and the off-shore islands.

    “Geography,” he explained, “gives certain advantages to each of the contestants in certain areas: to the United States in the northern two-thirds of the two Americas; to the European center in Europe, the northern half of Africa and western Asia; to the Asiatic center in most of the rest of Asia and the islands nearby.”

    A key factor that conditioned Burnham’s selection of those regions as “strategic centers” was their concentrations of modern industry. Burnham predicted that “the world political system will coalesce into three primary super-states, each based upon one of these three areas of advanced industry,” and the “nuclei of these three super-states are… Japan, Germany and the United States.” Russia, he believed, would break up as a result of the war, “with the western half gravitating toward the European base and the eastern toward the Asiatic.” Somewhat more presciently, he predicted the dissolution of the British Empire resulting from “the consolidation of the European Continent….” Burnham explained that England’s dominant position depended on its ability to “balance Continental nations against each other” and that “the balance of power on the Continent is possible only when the Continent is divided up into a number of genuinely sovereign and powerful states.”

    Burnham was right, of course, about the fact of the collapse of British power, but wrong about its cause. The British Empire broke up because after the war Britain lacked the resources and, more importantly, the will to maintain it. The whole European Continent was not consolidated as Burnham had predicted; instead, the Continent was strategically divided between two super-states. Burnham was correct in predicting that the war would produce a world struggle for power among “super-states.” Whereas he foresaw the emergence of three super-states, however, the war’s outcome produced only two, the United States and the Soviet Union. Instead of three “strategic centers,” there were only two — the northern two-thirds of the Americas and the Asiatic center.

    Although in The Managerial Revolution Burnham clearly underrated the staying power of the Soviet regime, he accurately forecast the role of the United States in the post-war world. “The United States,” he wrote, “…constitutes naturally the nucleus of one of the great super-states of the future. From her continental base, the United States is called on to make a bid for maximum world power as against the super-states to be based on the other…central areas.” He even foresaw that the United States would become “the ‘receiver’ for the disintegrating British Empire.4

    By this time Burnham’s break with communism was complete. In The Managerial Revolution he noted that “all evidence indicates that the tyranny of the Russian regime is the most extreme that has ever existed in human history, not excepting the regime of Hitler.” He no longer believed, as he had in his Trotskyite days, that Stalinism was an aberration from true Marxism-Leninism. “Stalinism,” he wrote, “ is what Leninism developed into…without any sharp break in the process of development.”5

    In 1943, to his growing anti-communism and geopolitical world view, Burnham added a “science of politics” based on the ideas and concepts of thinkers that he called “the Machiavellians.” The Machiavellians, according to Burnham, studied and analyzed politics in an objective, dispassionate manner in an effort to arrive at certain fundamental truths about “political man.” From the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli, Gaetano Mosca, Georges Sorel, Robert Michels, and Vilfredo Pareto, Burnham deduced that:

    1. All politics is concerned with the struggle for power among individuals and groups;
    2. genuine political analysis involves correlating facts and formulating hypotheses about the future without reference to what ought to happen;
    3. there is a distinction between the "formal" and "real" meaning of political rhetoric, which can only be discovered by analyzing the rhetoric in the context of the actual world of time, space, and history;
    4. “political man” is primarily a “non-logical” actor driven by “instinct, impulse and interest;”
    5. rulers and political elites are primarily concerned with maintaining and expanding their power and privileges;
    6. rulers and elites hold power by “force and fraud;”
    7. all governments are sustained by “political formulas” or myths;
    8. all societies are divided into a “ruling class” and the ruled; and
    9. in all societies the “structure and composition” of the ruling class changes over time.6

    The Machiavellians is the most complete exposition of Burnham’s approach to the study and analysis of politics. Samuel Francis judges it to be his "most important book,” and opines that “virtually all of Burnham’s writing since The Machiavellians must be understood in reference to it.” Brian Crozier agrees, calling The Machiavellians “the most fundamental of Burnham’s books,” and “the key to everything he wrote subsequently." Joseph Sobran calls the book “the key to Burnham’s thought.” John B. Judis believes that Burnham’s approach to analyzing power politics as set forth in The Machiavellians “informed his tactical understanding of the Cold War….”7

    In the Spring of 1944, a year after writing The Machiavellians and just three years after The Managerial Revolution, Burnham used his “science of politics,” his understanding of the nature of Soviet communism, and his grasp of global geopolitical realities to prepare an analysis of Soviet post-war goals for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).8 Although there is some lack of clarity on just when it was written, according to Diggins and Christopher Hitchens, Burnham’s analysis was prepared for the U.S. delegation to the Yalta Conference. His study of Soviet intentions was later incorporated in his first Cold War book, The Struggle for the World (1947). As Burnham noted in the opening essay of The War We Are In (1967), “The analysis of communist and Soviet intentions in Part I of The Struggle for the World was originally part of a secret study prepared for the Office of Strategic Services in the spring of 1944 and distributed at that time to the relevant Washington desks.”9 In his OSS paper, The Struggle for the World, and in two essays that appeared in the spring of 1944 and early 1945 in Partisan Review, Burnham warned that the Soviet Union was aiming at no less than domination of the Eurasian land mass. He identified the communist-inspired mutiny in the Greek Navy at Alexandria in April 1944 as the beginning of what he called the “Third World War.” The mutiny was quickly crushed by the British, but Burnham saw larger forces at work. The mutineers were members of the ELAS, the military wing of the Greek Communist Party-controlled EAM, which in turn was directed by the Soviet Union. The incident, therefore, was fundamentally a clash between Britain and the Soviet Union, at the time ostensibly allies in the still-raging Second World War. To Burnham, this meant that the Greek mutiny was a skirmish in another and different war. Events in China, too, indicated to him that supposed allies in the war against Japan — Chiang Kai-shek’s army and the communist Chinese forces led by Mao Tse-tung — were battling each other as much or more than they were opposing Japanese forces. From these events he concluded that “the armed skirmishes of a new war have started before the old war is finished.”10

    The new phase of Soviet policy evidenced by Greek and Chinese events, according to Burnham, was the sixth major period in Soviet policy since 1917. The first period, “War Communism,” lasted from 1918 to 1921. It was succeeded by the New Economic Policy (NEP) which continued until 1928. The years 1928 to 1935 marked the “Third Period,” which encompassed the first Five Year Plans and the forced collectivization of agriculture. The fourth period, which Burnham called the “Popular Front,” lasted the next four years, and was followed by the “Hitler Pact,” from 1939-1941. After an “interregnum” between 1941 and 1943 when the very survival of the regime was at stake, the sixth or “Tehran” period commenced. Writing in the spring of 1944, Burnham concluded that “the object of the present (Tehran) period is to end the European phase of the war on a basis favorable to the perspectives of the Soviet ruling class, i.e., in de facto Stalinist domination of the Continent.”11

    Burnham believed Stalin’s foreign policy was driven by a “geopolitical vision” that corresponded to the theories and concepts of the great British geographer, Sir Halford Mackinder.12 “Out of this war,” explained Burnham, “…Stalin has translated into realistic political perspective the dream of theoretical geopolitics: domination of Eurasia.” Borrowing Mackinder’s terminology, Burnham warned that, “Starting from…the Eurasian heartland, the Soviet power…flows outward, west into Europe, south into the Near East, east into China, already lapping the shores of the Atlantic, the Yellow and China seas, the Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf.…”13 The goals of Soviet foreign policy as he saw them were:

    1. The political consolidation of Eurasia under Soviet control;
    2. the weakening of all non-communist governments; and
    3. a Soviet-controlled world empire.

    Burnham’s OSS study perceptively identified the post-war geopolitical structure that was then emerging from the ashes of the Second World War. It did so a full two years before George Kennan wrote his “Long Telegram” from Moscow and Winston Churchill delivered his “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri. It even predated Kennan’s lesser-known papers, “Russia—Seven Years Later” (September 1944) and “Russia’s International Position At the Close of the War With Germany” (May 1945), that predicted future difficulties between the United States and Soviet Union. No one foresaw or recognized the emergence of the Cold War more accurately, more comprehensively, or earlier than James Burnham.14

    “The Sixth Turn of the Communist Screw” and “Lenin’s Heir,” which appeared in Partisan Review in the summer of 1944 and early 1945, respectively, were the first public indications of Burnham’s altered focus (the OSS study remained secret). The Soviet Union, he asserted, was positioned to extend its political control from the Heartland to the remaining key power centers of the Eurasian continent. Moreover, Soviet goals would not likely change after Stalin because Stalinism was “a triumphant application” of Leninism. “There is nothing basic that Stalin has done… from the institution of terror as the primary foundation of the state to the assertion of a political monopoly, the seeds and even the shoots of which were not planted and flourishing under Lenin.” “Stalin,” wrote Burnham, “is Lenin’s Heir. Stalinism is communism.” Burnham’s linking of Stalin to Lenin produced, according to the historian Richard H. Pells, “a painful reexamination of socialist doctrine among American intellectuals in the immediate postwar years.” Many on the anti-Stalinist Left still believed that Stalinism had betrayed, not fulfilled Leninism. As William Barrett recalled, “Hitherto, the name of Lenin had been protected almost as a holy relic; the blame for any miscarriage of the Russian Revolution had been shunted over entirely on the head of Stalin, who thus provided a ready-made excuse for not locating the fault within the nature of Marxist doctrine itself.” Most of the anti-Stalinist Left, however, was not ready to so drastically and fundamentally change the premises of their political beliefs.15

    Any lingering doubts in the intellectual community about James Burnham’s shifting intellectual focus were dispelled by the publication in 1947 of The Struggle for the World. There, for the first time in the United States and the West, was a broad, comprehensive analysis of the beginning of the Cold War, the nature of the Soviet communist threat to the world, and a strategy for U.S. and Western victory. Over the next five years, Burnham expanded and refined his analysis in two more books, The Coming Defeat of Communism (1950) and Containment or Liberation? (1952). Those books present a penetrating and lucid trilogy on the early years of the Cold War. Burnham’s admirers, such as Brian Crozier, Samuel Francis, and John O’Sullivan, have treated the three books as essentially a single three-volume work. O’Sullivan, in a brilliant, reflective essay in National Review, demonstrated that the fundamental geopolitical vision informing Burnham’s Cold War trilogy is traceable to The Managerial Revolution.

    These three works by Burnham span the time period from 1944 to 1952 and can be analytically divided into three broadly defined topics:

    1. The global context of the struggle and the nature of the Soviet communist threat;
    2. estimates and critiques of then existing U.S. and Western policies for dealing with the threat; and
    3. proposals or strategies to effectively respond to the threat and achieve ultimate victory.

    Each book of the trilogy discusses, with varying emphases, those three topics; when considered together, they show Burnham’s ability to respond to specific events and changes within a larger, consistent intellectual framework.

    All three works also manifest the continued influence on Burnham’s thought of “the Machiavellians” and the geopolitical theorist Halford Mackinder. He described the Soviet Union of 1945 as controlling the vast interior of Eurasia that Mackinder termed the Heartland of the “World-Island” (the Eurasian-African land mass). The Soviet position, wrote Burnham, “is…the strongest possible position on earth.” [T]here is no geographical position on earth which can in any way be compared with [the Soviet] main base.” The Heartland, he explained, is “the most favorable strategic position of the world.” From its Heartland base, the Soviet Union was positioned to expand into Europe, the Middle East, and Eastern and Southern Asia. 16

    The United States and North America, according to Burnham (here he borrowed from both Mackinder and Yale University’s Nicholas Spykman), constitute “an island lying off the shores of the great Eurasian land mass.” Geopolitically, the United States was to Eurasia what Britain was to Europe — an island facing a great continental land mass. Both Mackinder and Spykman made this precise analogy. (Spykman judged the power potential of coastal Eurasia — Europe, the Middle East and East Asia, which he termed the “Rimland” — to be greater than that of the Heartland.) Burnham agreed with Mackinder that “potentially, the Heartland controls the Eurasian land mass as a whole, and, for that matter, the…African Continent.” It was “an axiom of geopolitics,” Burnham explained, “that if any one power succeeded in organizing the Heartland and its outer barriers, that power would be certain to control the world.” (Mackinder had written in 1919 that control of the Heartland and command of the World-Island would lead to world dominance.) Air power and atomic weapons, Burnham believed, “upset the certainty of this…axiom,” but the “facts of geography” still gave the Soviet Union an incomparable advantage in the post-war struggle because “[g]eographically, strategically Eurasia encircles America, overwhelms it.”17

    Burnham pictured the Soviet geopolitical position as a “set of concentric rings around an inner circle.”18 (Mackinder’s 1904 world map consisted of the Russian-occupied heartland or “pivot state” bordered by an “inner or marginal crescent” and far removed from an “outer or insular crescent”.) Burnham’s inner circle was the Soviet Union. The first concentric ring contained the Kuriles, South Sakhalin Island, Mongolia, Turkish regions, Bessarabia and Bukovina, Moldavia, Ukraine, East Poland, East Prussia, the Baltic States and Finnish regions — territories already absorbed or soon to be absorbed by Soviet power. The second ring included Korea, Manchuria, North China, the Middle East, the Balkans, Austria, Germany, Poland, Scandinavia, and Finland — territories within range of Soviet domination. The third ring contained Central and Southern China, Italy, France, smaller western European states, and Latin America — areas where Soviet influence or neutralization was possible. The fourth and final circle included England and the British Commonwealth and the United States and its dependencies— territories forming the rival base of global power.

    This geographical setting formed the surroundings for a clash between two major power centers or, as Burnham referred to them in The Managerial Revolution, super-states. The clash, according to Burnham, proceeded “simultaneously and integrally along political, economic, ideological, sociological and military lines.” It “affects and is affected by events in all parts of the earth,” opined Burnham, and was zero-sum in nature.19 A U.S. or Western defeat was a Soviet or communist gain, and vice-versa.


    The Soviet enemy, wrote Burnham, was the head of “a world-wide conspiratorial movement for the conquest of a monopoly of power.” Conspiracy, deception, and terror were integral and essential aspects of Soviet communism. Soviet leaders and their clients conducted “a political, subversive, ideological, religious, economic, . . guerrilla, sabotage war, as well as a war of open arms” against the West. The communists exerted external pressure on target countries and sought to infiltrate those countries’ trade union movements, technical and scientific establishments, and media enterprises. The ultimate goal of Soviet policy, as manifested in official documents, speeches, and a plethora of Soviet actions since 1944, was “the conquest of the world.”20

    The United States from 1945 to 1952, as we know, reacted to this global challenge by gradually positioning itself in opposition to Soviet encroachments. Thus emerged the policy of containment that was explained most succinctly by George F. Kennan, the State Department’s Policy Planning Chief, in his famous “X” article in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs. Even before Kennan’s highly influential article appeared, Burnham accurately perceived the broad contours and direction of early post-war American foreign policy. In The Struggle for the World, Burnham noted that during the latter stages of the Second World War, U.S. policy amounted to “appeasement” of her wartime Soviet ally. The United States ceded to the Soviets the Kurile Islands, South Sakhalin Island, Darien, Port Arthur, Manchuria, northern Korea, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, eastern Germany, and part of Austria, all in an effort to “get along” with Russia. The United States coerced Chiang Kai-shek into joining a coalition government with the communists in China, “when we should have aided Chiang," Burnham wrote, "to block communist domination of…the Eastern Coastland of Eurasia.” United States policy, Burnham lamented, “has not hindered but furthered communist expansion on Eurasia; it has not combated but aided communist infiltration all over the world….” Those policy failures, he believed, resulted from “a completely false estimate of communism and…of the communist dominated Soviet Union.” American statesmen mistakenly believed that Soviet Russia was a normal, traditional nation-state and that Soviet leaders could be influenced by demonstrations of good intentions by the United States. Those flawed judgments and beliefs, Burnham thought, resulted from even more fundamental U.S. handicaps: political immaturity and ineptness; a provincialism and ignorance of world affairs; a misconception about human nature; and a tendency toward “abstract, empty and sentimental…idealism.” Judging by the evidence of its policies up to 1946, Burnham believed that it was “unlikely that the United States will adopt any sustained, consistent, long-term world policy,” but instead would follow a “policy of vacillation.”21

    Burnham’s view of U.S. policy became somewhat more optimistic when the Truman Administration moved forcefully to block Soviet threats to Iran, Turkey, Greece, Berlin, and Italy, and Tito moved Yugoslavia out of the Soviet orbit. In The Coming Defeat of Communism, he wrote that “Our general diplomacy and foreign policy could be judged, compared to our past performances, reasonably strong and intelligent.”22 He applauded what he viewed as a shift in policy from appeasement to containment. But he viewed containment favorably only as a temporary defensive policy to block communist expansion. As a long term policy, containment, wrote Burnham, was incapable of achieving victory in the Cold War. He identified four principal defects in the policy:

    1. It was not “sufficiently unified,” i.e., it was not being applied consistently by all U.S. policy makers and agencies;
    2. it was too narrow in that it overemphasized the military aspect of the struggle to the detriment of the political, economic, ideological, and sociological aspects;
    3. it was wholly defensive in nature; and
    4. it lacked an objective, i.e., it did not seek the “destruction of communist power.”

    The most serious defect of containment, according to Burnham, was the policy’s defensive nature. This criticism appeared in all three books of Burnham’s Cold War trilogy, and it was the major theme of Containment or Liberation? (1952). A “defensive strategy, because it is negative, is never enough,” he wrote. It left unsolved the “intolerable unbalance of world political forces.” Containment, he explained, “leaves the timing to the communists. They have the initiative; we react …. Our policy, as a consequence, is subordinated to, determined by, theirs …. They select the issues, the field, and even the mood of combat.” “Containment doesn’t threaten anyone,” Burnham explained, “it doesn’t ask anyone to give up what he’s already got.” Furthermore, wrote Burnham, the effort to contain communism “is as futile as to try to stop a lawn from getting wet by mopping up each drop from a rotating sprinkler…. [T]o stop the flow we must get at the source.”23

    Even if containment could be successfully implemented by the United States, which Burnham doubted, it would not prevent a Soviet victory in the Cold War. “If the communists succeed in consolidating what they have already conquered,” he explained, “then their complete world victory is certain.” “The threat,” he wrote further, “does not come only from what the communists may do, but from what they have done…. The simple terrible fact is that if things go on as they are now, if for the time being they merely stabilize, then we have already lost.”24 Here Burnham was simply taking Mackinder’s geopolitical theories to their logical conclusion. At the time Burnham wrote those lines, the Soviet Empire and its allies controlled the Heartland, Eastern and part of Central Europe, China, northern Korea, and parts of Indochina. Political consolidation of such a base, coupled with effective organization of that base’s manpower and resources, would give the Soviets command of Mackinder’s World Island.25 “That is why,” warned Burnham, “the policy of containment, even if 100 percent successful, is a formula for Soviet victory.”26

    The Truman Administration’s focus on Western Europe and the Republican Party’s advocacy of what he called an “Asian-American strategy” were both misguided according to Burnham because they excluded efforts to penetrate the Soviet sphere. No positive gains could result from those wholly defensive strategies. At most they would buy time until the Soviets completed their consolidation and organization of their great continental base, after which, to borrow Mackinder’s phrase, “the end would be fated.” Burnham’s strategic vision, however, consisted of more than simply a critique of the policy of containment. He also set forth in some detail an alternative grand strategy that he called “the policy of liberation.” That policy, wrote Burnham in The Struggle for the World, must seek to “penetrate the communist fortress,” to “reverse the direction of the thrust from the Heartland,” to “undermine communist power in East Europe, northern Iran, Afghanistan, Manchuria, northern Korea, and China.” The United States should seek to exploit Soviet economic and cultural weaknesses. The Western powers should launch a world-wide propaganda offensive against the communist powers. As a result, predicted Burnham, “the communists will be thrown back on the political defensive ….The walls of their strategic Eurasian fortress…would begin to crumble. The internal Soviet difficulties, economic and social, would be fed a rich medium in which to multiply.”27

    Burnham became more forceful and specific in his policy proposals three years later in The Coming Defeat of Communism (1950). He called for America to adopt a policy of “offensive political-subversive warfare” against the Soviet Empire. America should aim, he advised, to increase Soviet economic troubles; to stimulate discontent among the Soviet masses; to encourage more Tito-like defections from the Soviet orbit; to facilitate the “resistance spirit” of the enslaved satellite nations of the empire; to foment divisions within the Soviet elite; and to recruit from behind the Iron Curtain “cadres of liberation.” He was too much of a realist, however, to expect the complete achievement of every U.S. and Western goal in the struggle against communism. In a remarkable chapter in this volume entitled “A Deal With Russia,” Burnham set forth five specific conditions that would allow the United States to claim victory in the Cold War without militarily defeating the Soviets:

    1. An end to the world wide communist subversive apparatus;
    2. an end to the world wide Soviet propaganda offensive;
    3. the withdrawal of the Soviet army and security services to the pre-1939 Soviet borders;
    4. full sovereignty for those territories conquered or annexed by the Soviets since 1939; and
    5. the modification of the Soviet governmental structure to permit unrestricted travel, a free press and international inspection of scientific-military facilities.28

    Half a century later, most of Burnham’s conditions for victory either are in place or in the process of being achieved.

    In Containment or Liberation? (1952), Burnham identified Eastern Europe as the crucial target of U.S. strategy. U.S. policy, he wrote, must shift its focus from protecting Western Europe to liberating Eastern Europe. “A strategy which had Eastern Europe as its geopolitical focus — Europe from the Iron Curtain to the Urals — would best serve the American objective,” he explained.29 Eastern Europe, he repeatedly asserted, was the key to the world struggle. Here again we see the influence of Mackinder. In his 1919 classic, Democratic Ideals and Reality, Mackinder, too, emphasized the importance of preventing a single power from controlling both Eastern Europe and the Heartland. In perhaps the book’s most famous passage, Mackinder recommended that an “airy cherub” should whisper to British statesmen the following warning:

    Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland:
    Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island:
    Who rules the World-Island commands the World.30

    When Burnham was writing Containment or Liberation?, the Soviet Union controlled the Heartland, Eastern Europe, and was allied to China. Mackinder’s geopolitical nightmare was a fact of international life. From Mackinder’s 1919 analysis, it logically followed that the only way to prevent Soviet world hegemony was to undermine Soviet positions in Eastern Europe. That is precisely what Burnham’s proposed policy of liberation was designed to do.

    Kennan, according to Peter Grose in a new book titled Operation Rollback, secretly proposed during the Truman Administration an ambitious program of organized political warfare against the Soviets, which included sabotage and subversive operations, propaganda, and help to resistance forces throughout the Soviet empire. Kennan’s flirtation with a liberation policy ended, according to Grose, when the Truman Administration’s attempts to implement the strategy failed. Dulles abandoned “rollback” after U.S. responses to the East German, Polish, and Hungarian uprisings of the 1950’s demonstrated to the world America’s unwillingness to support resistance forces within the communist bloc. There is no evidence that either Kennan or Dulles was directly influenced by Burnham’s ideas; given his prominence at the time in intellectual circles and his connections with the intelligence community, it is likely that both Kennan and Dulles were familiar with his writings.31

    Public reaction to Burnham’s Cold War trilogy was mixed. Henry Luce gave The Struggle for the World prominent play in Time and Life. Luce even urged President Truman’s press aide, Charles Ross, to persuade the president to read it. The Christian Century speculated that the book was the intellectual foundation for the Truman Doctrine announced during the same week that Burnham’s book was published. The American Mercury published excerpts from all three books. Liberal anticommunist reviewers, such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., accepted Burnham’s analysis of the Soviet threat but dissented from his call for an offensive policy. For conservative anti-communists, however, Burnham’s Cold War trilogy achieved almost Biblical status. As George Nash pointed out in his study of the American conservative movement, “More than any other single person, Burnham supplied the conservative intellectual movement with the theoretical formulation for victory in the cold war.”32

    Other reviewers were less kind. Charles Clayton Morrison called The Struggle for the World a “blueprint for destruction.” Harry Elmer Barnes called it a “most dangerous and un-American book.” George Soule in The New Republic asserted that Burnham wanted “reaction abroad and repression at home.” George Orwell accused Burnham of worshiping power. The Coming Defeat of Communism received strong criticism from, among others, James Reston, David Spitz, R.H.S. Crossman and Louis Fischer. Containment or Liberation? received even harsher treatment. The editors of Foreign Affairs commented that Burnham’s “temper at times outruns his argument.” The Atlantic Monthly described the book as “permeated with absolutist thinking.” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called the book a “careless and hasty job, filled with confusion, contradictions, ignorance and misrepresentation.” It was, wrote Schlesinger, “an absurd book by an absurd man.”33

    Burnham’s relations with his colleagues on the non-communist Left suffered as a result of his Cold War trilogy. Where once there was widespread acclaim for The Managerial Revolution, now his colleagues on the Left disdained him as a warmonger who advocated atomic war. For many liberals (and some conservatives) Burnham’s geopolitical vision was too sweeping and apocalyptic. To many, a policy of “liberation” was simply too dangerous in the nuclear age. The non-communist Left sought, at most, to contain the Soviet Union while searching for areas of accommodation. Burnham did not think that accommodation with communism was a long-term possibility. For Burnham, the Cold War was a systemic conflict that would only end when one or the other system changed or was defeated.

    His final and lasting break with the non-communist Left, however, resulted not from his proposed strategy of “liberation,” but from his views toward domestic communism and what came to be known as “McCarthyism.” Burnham, unlike many intellectuals of the time, believed the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, Elizabeth Bentley, and other ex-communists who identified and described the activities of a Soviet espionage apparatus that operated in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. He supported the congressional investigations of domestic communism and even testified before investigating committees. He also called for outlawing the Communist Party of the United States.

    As Senator Joseph McCarthy became increasingly reckless in his accusations of communist infiltration of government agencies, including the military, the non-communist Left condemned the very idea of loyalty oaths and congressional investigations of American citizens and their ideological affiliations. This was too much for Burnham. Condemning specific erroneous accusations by Senator McCarthy was one thing, but ignoring the reality of communist penetration of the government was potentially suicidal.

    Burnham broke with Partisan Review and the American Committee for Cultural Freedom (an organization of anticommunist intellectuals) over this issue. He began writing for The Freeman, a conservative journal of opinion. In 1954, with his wife’s help, he wrote an analysis of communist penetration of the government entitled The Web of Subversion.34 That book, based largely on testimony before congressional committees and the revelations of Chambers, Bentley, and other communist defectors, makes interesting reading today in light of the “Venona project” disclosures which support many of the charges of communist infiltration and subversion that were made in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

    In addition to writing books and articles about the Cold War, Burnham lectured at the National War College, the Naval War College, the School for Advanced International Studies, and the Air War College. He was a consultant for the Central Intelligence Agency and is reputed to have had a hand in the successful plan to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh and install the Shah in power in Iran in the early 1950s.

    Having severed ties to the anticommunist Left, Burnham found his permanent intellectual home in the pages of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s National Review, where for twenty-three years he provided the magazine’s readers with a running commentary on the events and personalities of the Cold War. In his regular column, originally called “The Third World War” and later changed to “The Protracted Conflict,” Burnham brought his “encyclopedic mind” to bear on specific events as they occurred, but also fitted those events into the larger global geopolitical context. The extent of his knowledge and learning was formidable. A typical Burnham column would include insightful references to Thucydides, Gibbon, Kant, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Tocqueville, Trotsky, Faulkner, Palmerston, Toynbee, J.F.C. Fuller, Clausewitz, Liddell Hart, Mahan, Sun Tzu, Lincoln, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Churchill, and, of course, Mackinder and the “Machiavellians.” Burnham, like all great thinkers, understood that he stood on the shoulders of giants.

    Burnham demonstrated in his columns an ability to relate seemingly disparate events within a single strategic framework. He showed, for example, how Soviet moves in Cuba and Latin America might affect Berlin and Western Europe; how our Middle East policy could impact on the solidarity of NATO; how our defeat in Indochina, the loss of U.S. nuclear superiority, the rapid de-colonization in Asia and Africa, the French loss of Algeria, and the British pull-out from Suez and Aden amounted to a general Western global retrenchment, and how the resulting power vacuum could be filled by Soviet expansion. He also showed an ability to view world events from a Soviet or communist perspective. Here, he benefited from his Trotskyite past. Several of his most perceptive columns were written from the perspective of a fictional Soviet intelligence officer. Burnham was yet another example of how ex-communists often make the most intelligent and realistic anti-communists.

    He had a tendency in some of his writings to be too schematic in his analysis of world events. Not everything that happened in the world significantly affected the Cold War, but Burnham sometimes gave the impression that it did. He also at times portrayed Soviet leaders as almost perfect strategists who nearly always made flawless political and strategic calculations. He sometimes gave Soviet strategists too much credit for causing or influencing world events. He occasionally overrated the strategic stakes involved in local and regional conflicts. The consequences of some of our defeats in the Cold War were not as catastrophic as Burnham thought they would be. But, unlike many other Western observers, at least he understood that there would be negative consequences to those defeats.

    Burnham was frequently controversial. In some columns he suggested using nuclear or chemical weapons in Vietnam. Although not anti-Israel, he favored a more balanced U.S. policy in the Middle East, on one occasion writing that if Americans had to choose between oil and Israel they should choose oil. He heaped scorn upon the “peace movement” in the United States, viewing it as a composition of pro-communists and “useful idiots.” However well intentioned a “peacenik” was, thought Burnham, the political and strategic effect of his conduct benefited the nation’s enemies. He refused unambiguously to condemn Joe McCarthy and he defended congressional investigations of domestic communists. He viewed the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a U.S. defeat and a retreat from the Monroe Doctrine. Although he recognized there was a Sino-Soviet dispute and recommended that the United States exploit the differences between the two communist giants, he dismissed the notion that the dispute was ideological, maintaining that both countries were part of the world communist enterprise and, therefore, enemies of the United States. He viewed superpower summits and arms control efforts as dangerous Western illusions. Finally, he used his column to attack liberal icons such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George Kennan, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Linus Pauling.

    In his National Review columns Burnham was not a predictable conservative. He had a soft spot for Robert McNamara, repeatedly defending him from critics on the Left and Right. He criticized libertarian conservatives who opposed the draft and the welfare state, and other conservatives who sought ideological purity in their political candidates. He wrote in opposition to ballistic missile defenses. He advocated ending U.S. control of the Panama Canal and favored granting diplomatic recognition to communist China. He also criticized those conservatives who overestimated the military, technological, and economic prowess of the Soviet Union.

    What is most striking about Burnham’s National Review columns, however, is how often he got things right. Consider Vietnam. As early as March 1962, Burnham predicted a U.S. defeat in Indochina. He criticized Kennedy’s policy of confining military activities to South Vietnam. Fighting a war in this manner, he argued, was “senseless butchery.” Four months later he criticized the concept of “escalation” warfare, which became a key aspect of America’s failed Vietnam policy. In a January 1963 column, he wrote that the nation was losing the war in Vietnam, and he predicted that for Americans the war was “likely to get much dirtier before it is over.” That year, he scathingly attacked the “qualitative and quantitative” restrictions on U.S. military activity in Vietnam, and he predicted that a unwillingness to attack the enemy’s base of operations (North Vietnam) would lead to the United States pulling out of Indochina.

    In a September 1964 column, Burnham argued that we had two options in Vietnam: use enough force and an appropriate strategy to win or get out. Two months later Burnham wrote that Lyndon Johnson would be a war president. By 1966, Burnham was criticizing Johnson for wasting American lives by forbidding troops the use of weapons and methods that could win the war. He also perceived that the North Vietnamese communists viewed the United States, not Indochina, as “the principal front in the war.” In a February 1968 piece, Burnham noted that television coverage was negatively impacting war effort. A month later, he pronounced the U.S. strategy of “gradual escalation” a failure. By August 1968, Burnham recognized that the domestic political debate over Vietnam was now a debate about “how to get out.” In a July 1969 column, Burnham foresaw that the communists would only agree to a “settlement” that guaranteed their takeover of South Vietnam. A year later, he accurately characterized Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy as a “policy of withdrawal.” As negotiations intensified and the 1972 election drew nearer, Burnham wrote that the United States had effectively lost the war; what Nixon and Kissinger were calling an “honorable peace” was nothing more than a defeat. By April 1972, Burnham predicted that South Vietnam would not survive as an independent nation, and he viewed our failure there as resulting from the “self-imposed strategic prison” of containment. After the peace agreement was signed to much public acclaim, Burnham noted the uncomfortable facts that South Vietnam was encircled and infiltrated by the enemy, and predicted that the U.S. would not muster the political will to intervene again to prevent the now certain communist takeover of the South.35

    Burnham’s prescience in his columns was not limited to Vietnam. He dismissed unsupported claims of Soviet technological superiority in the wake of Sputnik. He criticized Western observers who uncritically accepted Soviet disinformation regarding economic achievements, military power, and technological advances. In September 1962, he correctly guessed that the Soviets had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. He was an early critic of the “détente” policy with its accompanying emphasis on arms control, summitry, and trade concessions. In the early 1970s, he wrote about the “internationalization of terrorism” and noted the links between the various terrorist groups, anticipating by several years the more detailed analysis of this phenomenon by Claire Sterling in The Terror Network. He also anticipated Jeane J. Kirkpatrick’s analysis in Commentary of the important distinctions between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. He even foresaw the rise in the United States of an imperial presidency that would upset the delicate constitutional balance established by the Founding Fathers, a topic he discussed at length in his much neglected book, Congress and the American Tradition (1959).36

    The most important thing Burnham got right was a strategy for winning the Cold War. The essence of that strategy was to wage political, psychological, and economic warfare against the Soviet Empire and thereby weaken and eventually break Soviet control over Eastern and Central Europe. The strategy’s key elements were the following:

    1. An ideological and propaganda offensive against Soviet rule;
    2. assisting dissident and resistance groups within the Soviet Empire;
    3. using U.S. economic and technological strength to put strains on the vulnerable Soviet economy;
    4. utilizing psycho-political warfare to encourage fear and divisions among the Soviet elite;
    5. using trade and other economic weapons to further weaken the Soviet economy; and
    6. forcing the Soviets onto the geopolitical defensive.

    During the 1980s, as Peter Schweizer, Jay Winik, Andrew Busch, and others have described, the Reagan Administration formulated and implemented an offensive geopolitical strategy designed to undermine Soviet power.37 While there is no evidence that Reagan or his advisers consciously sought to apply Burnham’s precise strategy of “liberation,” Reagan’s strategy consisted of policies that in a fundamental sense were remarkably similar to Burnham’s proposals. Reagan launched a vigorous ideological and propaganda offensive against the Soviets, calling Soviet leaders liars and cheats, predicting the Soviets’ near-term demise, and daring its leader to tear down the Berlin Wall. Reagan provided aid and encouragement to Poland’s Solidarity movement and the Afghan rebels, two resistance movements within the Soviet Empire. Reagan built up U.S. military forces, deployed intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe, and announced the plan to develop the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), thus putting additional pressure on the already strained Soviet economy, thus serving to convince the Soviets that they could not win an arms race with the United States.

    The so-called “Reagan Doctrine” placed the Soviets on the geopolitical defensive throughout the world. Less than a year after Reagan left office, the Berlin Wall came down, the enslaved nations of Eastern Europe revolted, and the Soviet Empire was on its way to dissolution. Burnham, it turns out, was right all along. Containment was not enough to win the Cold War. It took an offensive geopolitical strategy to undermine Soviet power. And, as Burnham had argued, Eastern Europe was the key to victory.

    Burnham had little confidence that such a strategy as his would ever be implemented by the United States. His pessimism in this regard was most profoundly expressed in his 1964 book, Suicide of the West. Burnham argued that since reaching the apex of its power in 1914, Western civilization had been contracting, most obviously in a geographical sense. Burnham described the contraction in terms of “effective political control over acreage.” Because the West continued to possess more than sufficient relative economic, political, and military power to maintain its ascendancy, the only explanation for the contraction was an internal lack of will to use that power. Hence, the West was in the process of committing “suicide.” In the book he was highly critical of modern liberalism, but the author did not claim, as some have stated, that liberalism caused or was responsible for the West’s contraction. “The cause or causes,” he wrote, “have something to do…with the decay of religion and with an excess of material luxury; and…with getting tired, worn out as all things temporal do.” Liberalism, instead, was “the ideology of Western suicide.” It “motivates and justifies the contraction, and reconciles us to it.” He expressed his belief that the collapse of the West was probable, although not inevitable. He acknowledged the possibility of a “decisive change” resulting in a reversal of the West’s contraction.38

    Suicide of the West provided a good analysis and explanation of historical events and trends, but its main conclusion is wrong. This is so not because Burnham misunderstood historical events or misjudged current trends; his mistake derived from his apparent unwillingness in this instance to be more open to the possibility that things might change. The Western contraction did stop, at least temporarily. The United States found the will to use its resources and adopt an offensive strategy to win the Cold War.

    In 1978 Burnham suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. His last column for National Review was an analysis of the potential impact of the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Accord on U.S.-Soviet relations in the Middle East. In 1983, Ronald Reagan, who presided over the West’s victory in the Cold War, presented the United States’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to James Burnham, who had envisioned a strategy for that victory nearly forty years before. The citation reads:
    As a scholar, writer, historian and philosopher, James Burnham has profoundly affected the way America views itself and the world. Since the 1930’s, Mr. Burnham has shaped the thinking of world leaders. His observations have changed society and his writings have become guiding lights in mankind’s quest for truth. Freedom, reason and decency have had few greater champions in this century than James Burnham.

    At the end of July 1987, James Burnham died of cancer. Two years later, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, his vision became reality.

  4. #4

    Default The Anglo-American party line on Mackinder

    [QUOTE=Paul Rigby;11526]

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n4fpk

    Heartland Theory

    Sunday, 21:30 on BBC Radio 3


    Synopsis: Historian Tristram Hunt presents a series following the surprising journeys of ideas that first developed in Britain and then spread around the world.

    He traces the story of Sir Halford Mackinder, a forgotten British geographer, and his geopolitical 'Heartland Theory'. Mackinder argued that the geography of Eurasia meant that Russia and its border countries constituted a vast fortress, land-locked and impregnable - and that if this 'heartland' ever fell under the control of a single great power, it would give it the potential to dominate the world.

    His idea, first aired in 1904, was largely ignored in Britain, but in the years after the First World War, it was taken up - and twisted into a disturbing new shape - by a German geopolitician called Karl Haushofer.
    Broadcast: Sun, 27 Sep 2009, 21:30, BBC Radio 3
    Tristram Hunt (and the anonymous writer of the blurb describing his programme) here dutifully follow the British establishment li(n)e, which would have us view Mackinder as a prophet scorned by his native land. In May 2007, for example, the Guardian’s Saturday Review section carried a book review by historian Maya Jasanoff of John Darwin's After Tamerlaine: The Global History of Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2007):

    “But a deeper resonance lies with the work of a scholar of decidedly different stamp: the early 20th-century geographer and ardent imperialist Sir Halford Mackinder. In his pioneering work on geopolitics, Mackinder identified Eurasia as the "heartland" of global empire. "Who rules East Europe rules the Heartland," he wrote in 1919. "Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: Who rules the World-Island commands the World." Mackinder's opinions were little heeded by the British government, but would find uncanny resonance in the policy of Adolf Hitler, who anchored his visions of world empire in the resource-rich domains of the Soviet Union” (1).

    In fact, Mackinder’s thesis was the geopolitical bible of the British elite for nearly half a century (2); and its author so ignored by an ungrateful establishment that it made him High Commissioner of South Russia, 1919-1920, for which service he was knighted in the latter year (3). The conventional version has that Mackinder sought to save the White Guardists. As Giacomo Preparata demonstrates, the truth was otherwise.

    (1) http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/s...077495,00.html

    (2) Preparata, loc. cit., pp. 8-15

    (3) Blouet, B.W. (1976). Sir Halford Mackinder as British high commissioner to south Russia, 1919-1920. Geographical Journal. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halford_John_Mackinder

  5. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Rigby View Post
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...foreign-policy

    A very foreign policy: In cancelling the European missile shield, Obama is overturning a century of foreign policy based on a one-hour lecture by a Victorian geographer

    By Tristram Hunt

    Thursday, 24 September 2009, 19.30 BST

    Print edition: Friday, 25 September 2009, p.36
    Letters, The Guardian, Tuesday 29 September 2009

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...story-politics

    Don't be too quick to discount Mackinder

    I write in mild defence of the second director of the London School of Economics from the disapproval of Dr Tristram Hunt (A very foreign policy, 25 September). Understandably, for his rhetorical purposes Hunt over-dramatises his claims for Sir Halford Mackinder's views and influence. Both were less determinist and more subtle than he suggests. But Hunt is right on one thing. Unlike other LSE pioneers such as the Webbs, Mackinder grasped the threat from the USSR instantly.

    His 1920 report as high commissioner for south Russia, in which he recommended that the west back General Denikin and the Whites swiftly and seriously, with force, or suffer geopolitical disadvantage and face 60 years of a Bolshevik enemy, turned out to be spot-on. The British cabinet of the day was too war-weary to contemplate his recommendations. Yes, the Nazis read Mackinder with closer attention; but Mackinder thereby carries no more guilt by association than would Hunt if Osama bin Laden happened to find his works helpful. The fault lay – then as now – with those in the liberal democracies who lacked the mental or moral force to grapple with inconvenient ideas and unwelcome evidence.

    You do not have to be sulphurously on "the republican right" to worry that the Obama administration's decision to concede to Russian demands over the missile shield is unwise; you only need to recollect some history and Halford Mackinder's track record for correct geopolitical insights. Hunt's notion of "fair peace", as stated in your pages, begs too many questions to be useful.

    Professor G Prins,
    The Mackinder Programme for the Study of Long Wave Events, LSE
    Don't miss the website for the latter - the Navy League lives on!

    http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info...avy_league.htm

  6. #6

    Default Rollback v. the continued division of Russia and Germany

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Rigby View Post
    American Diplomacy Vol. V, No. 4 Fall 2000 (Nov 30)

    James Burnham: The First Cold Warrior by Francis P. Sempa


    In Containment or Liberation? (1952), Burnham identified Eastern Europe as the crucial target of U.S. strategy. U.S. policy, he wrote, must shift its focus from protecting Western Europe to liberating Eastern Europe. “A strategy which had Eastern Europe as its geopolitical focus — Europe from the Iron Curtain to the Urals — would best serve the American objective,” he explained.29 Eastern Europe, he repeatedly asserted, was the key to the world struggle. Here again we see the influence of Mackinder. In his 1919 classic, Democratic Ideals and Reality, Mackinder, too, emphasized the importance of preventing a single power from controlling both Eastern Europe and the Heartland. In perhaps the book’s most famous passage, Mackinder recommended that an “airy cherub” should whisper to British statesmen the following warning:

    Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland:
    Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island:
    Who rules the World-Island commands the World.30
    Here we see the most important tension within elite post-WWII US policy-makers - between adherents of rollback and those in favour of the maintenance of the division between Germany and Russia. The former offered the prospect of smashing Moscow's physical occupation of Eastern Europe, but carried with it a threat, to wit, that a deideologised Moscow would, in the medium to long term, at last combine with Germany, the natural resources of the one complimenting the technological accomplishments of the other.

    It was for this reason that Beria's moves to retreat from Eastern Europe, junk communist ideology, and court, not only, but above all others, Germany, constituted such a threat in the spring and summer of 1953.

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