GEOPOLITICS versus GEOLOGISTICS*

By Sachaklian, Harry A. | Air & Space Power Journal, September/October 2012 | Go to article overview

GEOPOLITICS versus GEOLOGISTICS*


Sachaklian, Harry A., Air & Space Power Journal


PERHAPS the most striking manifestation of the growing consciousness of geography in the United States has been the acceptance of the word "geopolitics" into the modern lexicon.

Yet, a careful examination of the origin of the term, the uses to which it has been put, and the apparent impossibility of arriving at a satisfactory definition of this word, causes serious doubt as to its applicability to the conditions that face the world today. It would appear reasonable to assume that the usefulness of the term and the concept ended with the defeat of Hitler's Germany.

Geopolitics is a word of German origin. It was conceived in the German language to reach a German audience and was dedicated to the proposition that Germany deserved more of the wealth of the world than it then possessed. It is an empty quibble to point out that Rudolf Kjellén, in whose writings the word first appeared, was a Swede. Lord Haw Haw was indisputably an Englishman but no one has yet suggested that his concepts were anything but German.

To emphasize further the German origin of the word, it must be understood that Kjellén coined the word Geopolitik in 1917 as one of a group of five such words. They were: Geopolitik (geography and the state), Demopolitik (population and the state), Oekopolitik (economic resources of the state), Sociopolitik (social structure of the state), and Kratopolitik (governmental organization).

The Germans, under the guidance of Haushofer, chose to consider Geopolitik as being all-encompassing and they virtually ignored the other classifications. It is a matter of record that Kjell was a little disturbed at this partial acceptance of his concepts, but since his concepts found favor only in Germany, he had little further influence on subsequent developments.

From the moment this word was seized by the Germans, it became the best descriptive term of the guiding philosophy of German neoimperialism. It was designed and developed as a guide to those statesmen and military men in whose hands the destiny of Germany rested. The connection between Haushofer and Hitler was close, enduring, and well publicized. The principal use of the term by the German state was to salve the conscience of the German people for murders, past, present and future. Its success as a conscience salve is measured by such institutions as Buchenwald. Its success as a concept is measured by the state of Germany today.

The term Geopolitik was not generally known in the United States until about 1937. At that time, American journalism learned about Haushofer and his Institut fur Geopolitik. With typical journalistic fervor and in true Sunday-supplement style, large segments of the American public were introduced to this mystic, geographic alchemy, this invincible blueprint for world conquest.

Despite the thoroughgoing criticism of Geopolitik by numerous American geographers, the war-induced hysteria caught on and a number of books were published explaining the principles of this new "science." Certain educators and educational institutions responded to this stimulation and began teaching something called geopolitics in American universities.

An examination of the existing literature on geopolitics reveals certain significant things. In the first place, practically all American books on the subject coincide in their condemnation of the German view of it and call the German view a perversion of geopolitics. In all honesty, it must be argued that the originators of a term or concept have the sole right to define and delimit the term or concept they originated. If American authorities refuse to accept the German definition of a German word, then they, the American authorities, are guilty of perversion if they continue to use the term or concept but ascribe a different meaning to it.

In the second place, the American authorities who choose to use the word are by no means agreed as to the different meaning or the variation from the original theme they believe is most applicable. …

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