The Geography of the Peace

The Geography of the Peace

The Geography of the Peace

The Geography of the Peace

Excerpt

If there is one field in which the planning of our statesmen has proved completely inadequate, it is in the maintenance of national security. In spite of having what appears to be the safest position of any nation in the world, we have been involved in two devastating world wars in the space of a quarter century, and, at least in the second one, we were at one point in serious danger of defeat. While the record of our actions shows that our statesmen were certainly not indifferent to the fate of the nation, it also shows that their expectations regarding the outcome of their actions were consistently wrong, and that their methods of thinking about the problem generally failed to provide successful answers. Hence there is good reason why we should seek by every possible means to improve our tools of analysis and ways of approach to this most difficult of all subjects.

In recent years little advance has been made in the theoretical study of the problem of security in international relations. In fact, the world did not even recognize the one significant contribution which was made by the English geographer, H. J. Mackinder , in his article The Geographical Pivot of History published in 1904. From a study of geographical location, he derived some general conclusions which he applied to the security position of the British Empire. Unfortunately the geographical approach to the problem was taken over by Haushofer and the German school of geopolitics, and distorted into a pseudo-scientific justification for a policy of territorial expansion. In other countries, little attention was paid to the subject.

The late Professor Nicholas John Spykman of Yale University was one of the few American scholars to perceive that, in ignoring the geographic factor, we were overlooking a very important source of light on the subject of security. The more he studied the location of this country in relation to the rest of the world, the more he became convinced that our security policy was unrealistic and inadequate. While he was aware that the methods of the early geopoliticians were crude and inaccurate, he nevertheless saw that they brought to light many pertinent facts which our policy makers were ignoring.

Professor Spykman's first published work in this field was a series of articles on the relation between geography and foreign policy, which appeared in The American Political Science Review in 1938 and 1939. Thereafter he undertook to study from this viewpoint the policy of hemisphere defense, which was strongly advocated in the United States at the time as the best means of escaping involvement in Europe's wars. Superficially there seemed to be much in its favor. The broad expanses of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans appeared to provide almost impregnable barriers to invasion from Europe or Asia, and the immense supplies of raw materials in this hemisphere seemed to free us from dependence on outside sources. Apparently all we had to do was to keep the Panama Canal open and then sit back and wait for an invader to approach within range of our guns.

The analysis made by Professor Spykman showed conclusively that this was a dangerous illusion. Against a determined attack launched by a power or group of powers controlling the European mainland, our chances of defending ourselves . . .

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