Rethinking Geopolitics: Geography as an Aid to Statecraft – Texas National Security Review

1 Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate (New York: Random House, 2012); Peter Zeihan, The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder (New York: Twelve, 2014); and Tim Marshall, The Power of Geography: Ten Maps that Reveal the Future of Our World (New York: Scribner, 2021).

2 Miriam Rozen, “Appetite for Geopolitical Risk Management Is Growing,” Financial Times, May 15, 2023,

3 In recent years, various think tanks (e.g., Stimson’s Geopolitics and Economic Statecraft Project) and universities (Belfer Center’s Geopolitics of Energy Project) in the United States have launched research initiatives with “geopolitics” in their name. Outside the United States, the Centre for Geopolitics at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies (South Korea), the Council on Geostrategy (United Kingdom), and the Brussels Institute for Geopolitics (Belgium) and the Spykman Center (France) were founded in 2015, 2018, 2021, and 2022, respectively. Also, see various essays featured in the “Mapping China’s Strategic Space” website, launched by the National Bureau of Asian Research,

4 Mackubin Thomas Owens, “In Defense of Classical Geopolitics,” Naval War College Review 52, no. 4 (1999): 62,

5 John Gerring, “What Makes a Concept Good? A Criterial Framework for Understanding Concept Formation in the Social Sciences,” Polity 31, no. 3 (1999): 357–93,

6 William R. Thompson, “Dehio, Long Cycles, and the Geohistorical Context of Structural Transition,” World Politics 45, no. 1 (1992): 127 (fn 1),

7 Lucian M. Ashworth, “Realism and the Spirit of 1919: Halford Mackinder, Geopolitics, and the Reality of the League of Nations,” European Journal of International Relations 17, no. 2 (2011): 281, Exceptions are Harvey Starr, On Geopolitics: Space, Place, and International Relations (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2013); Phil Kelly, Classical Geopolitics: A New Analytical Model (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016); and Andrew Rhodes, “Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Decision-Making,” Texas National Security Review 2, no. 4 (2019): 90–108,

8 Klaus Dodds, Geopolitics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Jeremy Black, Geopolitics and the Quest for Dominance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015); Colin S. Gray, “Nicholas John Spykman, the Balance of Power, and International Order,” Journal of Strategic Studies 38, no. 6 (2015): 873–97,; Or Rosenboim, The Emergence of Globalism: Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939–1950 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017); Zhengyu Wu, “Classical Geopolitics, Realism and the Balance of Power Theory,” Journal of Strategic Studies 41, no. 6 (2018): 786–823,; Antero Holmila, “Re-thinking Nicholas J. Spykman: From Historical Sociology to Balance of Power,” International History Review 42, no. 5 (2020): 951–66,; and Kevin D. McCranie, Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations of Naval Strategic Thought (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2021).

9 For instance, Geoffrey Sloan, “Sir Halford J. Mackinder: The Heartland Theory Then and Now,” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 15–38,

10 For diverging assessments and prescriptions, see Jakub J. Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell, The Unquiet Frontier: Rising Rivals, Vulnerable Allies, and the Crisis of American Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016); Evan R. Sankey, “Reconsidering Spheres of Influence,” Survival 62, no. 2 (2020): 37–47,; and Elbridge A. Colby, The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2021).

11 For instance, Ladis K.D. Kristof, “The Origins and Evolution of Geopolitics,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 4, no. 1 (1960): 15–51,; Geoffrey Parker, Geopolitics: Past, Present and Future (London: Pinter, 1997); and Klaus Dodds and David Atkinson, eds., Geopolitical Traditions: A Century of Geopolitical Thought (London: Routledge, 2000).

12 Owens, “In Defense of Classical Geopolitics.” It should be noted at the outset that the term “geopolitics” is not synonymous with the German Geopolitik. The latter is one form of the former. Nicholas J. Spykman, “Geography and Foreign Policy, I,” American Political Science Review 32, no. 1 (1938): 30 (fn 3),  See also, Owens, “Classical Geopolitics,” 65–66; Herman Van der Wusten and Gertjan Dijkink, “German, British and French Geopolitics: The Enduring Differences,” Geopolitics 7, no. 3 (2002): 19–38,; Michael Lind, “A Neglected American Tradition of Geopolitics?” Geopolitics 13, no. 1 (2008): 181–95,; and Wu, “Classical Geopolitics.”

13 For instance, David Criekemans describes geopolitics as having gone “underground,” without substantiating his claim. David Criekemans, “Geopolitical Schools of Thought: A Concise Overview from 1890 till 2020, and Beyond,” in Geopolitics and International Relations: Grounding World Politics Anew, ed. David Criekemans (Boston: Brill, 2021), 119–20. See also, Lucian M. Ashworth, “Mapping a New World: Geography and the Interwar Study of International Relations,” International Studies Quarterly 57, no. 1 (2013): 138–49,; and Matthew Specter, The Atlantic Realists: Empire and International Political Thought Between Germany and the United States (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2022).

14 The “ends, ways, and means” model was first suggested in Arthur F. Lykke, Jr., “Defining Military Strategy,” Military Review 69, no. 5 (1989): 3–8, See also, Colin S. Gray, Theory of Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). For a critique of this model, see Jeffrey W. Meiser, “Ends + Ways + Means = (Bad) Strategy,” Parameters 46, no. 4 (2016): 81–91,

15 This expression is from Frederick J. Teggart, “Geography as an Aid to Statecraft: An Appreciation of Mackinder’s ‘Democratic Ideals and Reality,’” Geographical Review 8, no. 4/5 (1919): 227–42,

16 Jacky Wong, “Samsung Orders U.S. Chips, with a Side of Geopolitics,” Wall Street Journal, Nov. 23, 2021,

17 Colin S. Gray, “Inescapable Geography,” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 163,

18 Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Volume 2: The Rise of Classes and Nation-States, 1760–1914, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 56.

19 Walter Russell Mead, “The Return of Geopolitics: The Revenge of the Revisionist Powers,” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 3 (2014): 69–79,

20 Henry A. Kissinger, White House Years (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979), 914.

21 Geoffrey Sloan and Colin S. Gray, “Why Geopolitics?” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 1–11,

22 Kissinger, White House Years, 58; and Henry A. Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994). See also, Leslie W. Hepple, “The Revival of Geopolitics,” Political Geography Quarterly 5, no. 4 (1986): 26,

23 Niall Ferguson, Kissinger, vol. 1, 1923–1968: The Idealist (New York: Penguin Press, 2015).

24 Jeremy Black, “Towards a Marxist Geopolitics,” Geopolitics 16, no. 1 (2011): 234–35,

25 Gearóid Ó. Tuathail, “Understanding Critical Geopolitics: Geopolitics and Risk Society,” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 107–24,

26 Highly critical assessments are offered in Terrence W. Haverluk, Kevin M. Beauchemin, and Brandon A. Mueller, “The Three Critical Flaws of Critical Geopolitics: Towards a Neo-Classical Geopolitics,” Geopolitics 19, no. 1 (2014): 19–39,; and Black, Geopolitics, 229–39. For a more positive assessment, see Phil Kelly, “A Critique of Critical Geopolitics,” Geopolitics 11, no. 1 (2006): 24–53,

27 Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography, 27–28. In fairness, Kaplan includes historical geography and geographically conscious historical studies in his analysis.

28 Jakub J. Grygiel, Great Powers and Geopolitical Change (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 8–11.

29 Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality: A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction (New York: H. Holt and Company, 1919). Scholarly works treating geopolitics essentially as a variant of realism include: Wu, “Classical Geopolitics”; Van Jackson, “Understanding Spheres of Influence in International Politics,” European Journal of International Security 5, no. 3 (2020): 255–73,; and Specter, Atlantic Realists.

30 Robert G. Gilpin, “The Richness of the Tradition of Political Realism,” International Organization 38, no. 2 (1984): 287–304,

31 Black, Geopolitics, 9; and Kelly, Classical Geopolitics, 2–3, 29–30.

32 Or Rosenboim, “The Value of Space: Geopolitics, Geography and the American Search for International Theory in the 1950s,” International History Review 42, no. 3 (2020): 373,

33 The term is from Daniel H. Deudney, Bounding Power: Republican Security Theory from the Polis to the Global Village (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006). On his view on geopolitics in general, see Daniel Deudney, “Geopolitics as Theory: Historical Security Materialism,” European Journal of International Relations 6, no. 1 (2000): 77–107,

34 E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919–1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, reprint of 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 66. For distinctions between geopolitics and Geopolitik, see footnote 12.

35 Robert Strausz-Hupé, Geopolitics: The Struggle for Space and Power (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1942), 137–38.

36 On this assessment, see Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century, with a New Prologue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), xix–xxi. The term “inside-out” is from Peter Gourevitch, “The Second Image Reversed: The International Sources of Domestic Politics,” International Organization 32, no. 4 (1978): 881–912,

37 Mackinder’s was about the geographic scope determined by the dominant mode of transportation. In contrast, Mahan’s book stops in 1783 because he needed a break at the time of his writing. Halford J. Mackinder, “Geographical Pivot of History,” Geographical Journal 23, no. 4 (1904): 421–37,; and McCranie, Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations, 14.

38 Walter A. McDougall, “Why Geography Matters … But Is So Little Learned,” Orbis 47, no. 2 (2003): 224–25,

39 Mahan parted with the “material” school and had become an adherent of the historical approach by the time he wrote his first book. McCranie, Mahan, Corbett, and the Foundations, 55–57.

40 Quoted in Owens, “Classical Geopolitics,” 60.

41 Isaiah Bowman, “Geography vs. Geopolitics,” Geographical Review 32, no. 4 (1942): 646–58,

42 Daniel H. Deudney, “Geopolitics and Change,” in New Thinking in International Relations Theory, ed. Michael W. Doyle and G. John Ikenberry (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 97, 120 (fn 4).

43 This is political scientist George A. Lipsky’s view, cited in “Fifth Meeting: Political Geography vs. Geopolitics, April 8, 1954,” in American Power and International Theory at the Council on Foreign Relations, 1953–54, ed. David M. McCourt (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020), 169–73.

44 Thucydides, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, ed. Robert B. Strassler, trans. Richard Crawley (New York: Free Press, 1996).

45 For a summary of Montesquieu’s view, see Karl Marcus Kriesel, “Montesquieu: Possibilistic Political Geographer,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 58, no. 3 (1968): 557–74,

46 Deudney, Bounding Power, 17–18.

47 McDougall, “Why Geography Matters,” 220.

48 W.H. Parker, Mackinder: Geography as an Aid to Statecraft (New York: Clarendon Press, 1982), 57–58; Deudney, “Geopolitics as Theory,” 81–84; and Lucian M. Ashworth, A History of International Thought: Fromm the Origins of the Modern State to Academic International Relations (London: Routledge, 2014), 1–92.

49 John A. Agnew and Luca Muscarà, Making Political Geography, 2nd ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), 59–60.

50 Agnew and Muscarà, Making Political Geography, 21–22. See also, Owens, “In Defense of Classical Geopolitics,” 65.

51 David T. Murphy, The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990); Holger H. Herwig, “Geopolitik: Haushofer, Hitler and Lebensraum,” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 218–41,; Ola Tunander, “Swedish-German Geopolitics for a New Century: Rudolf Kjellén’s ‘The State as a Living Organism,’” Review of International Studies 27, no. 3 (2001): 451–63,; Friedrich Ratzel, “Lebensraum: A Biogeographical Study” (1901; translated into English by Tul’si [Tuesday] Bhambry), Journal of Historical Geography 61 (2018): 59–80,

52 Historian Jonathan Haslam noted that the concern of fin de siècle German intellectuals was to harness nationalism after long years of division and impoverishment following the Thirty Years’ War, unlike in France and Britain where the “contractual” notion of the state had become established, hinting at the source of different intellectual orientations in Britain and the United States. Jonathan Haslam, No Virtue Like Necessity: Realist Thought in International Relations since Machiavelli (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 167–69, and footnote 12.

53 The original term was “seapower,” deriving from the Greek term thalassokratia. Mahan split this term and, in doing so, narrowed the meaning to denote naval power. This article will use Mahan’s term (“sea power”) interchangeably with “maritime power.” Andrew D. Lambert, Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires and the Conflict that Made the Modern World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018), 2–4.

54 Alfred T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 (London: S. Low, Marston, 1890), 1, 14.

55 Mahan, Sea Power, 29, 70–74. Jon Sumida wrote that this chapter was added in a rather ad hoc manner and does not represent Mahan’s view in full. For the purpose of our discussion, however, the present work draws from this section. Jon Sumida, “Alfred Thayer Mahan, Geopolitician,” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 46–50,

56 Philip A. Crowl, “Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Naval Historian,” in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret, Gordon Alexander Craig, and Felix Gilbert (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 463–65.

57 Mahan, Sea Power, 42.

58 Alfred T. Mahan. “The United States Looking Outward,” Atlantic Monthly 66, no. 398 (1890): 823,

59 Alfred T. Mahan, The Problem of Asia and Its Effect Upon International Policies (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1900).

60 This expression is from Mackinder, “Geographical Pivot,” 421. His basic geopolitical outlook, expressed in his “pivot” lecture and the 1919 treatise, were laid out earlier in a series of lectures at the Institute of Bankers in 1899. Halford J. Mackinder, “The Great Trade Routes: Their Connection with the Organization of Industry, Commerce, and Finance,” Lectures 1–4, Journal of the Institute of Bankers XXI (1900): 1–6, 137–46, 147–55, 266–73,

61 Mackinder, “Geographical Pivot.”

62 Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, 79 (“world island”), 93 (“heartland”).

63 Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, 177.

64 Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, 4.

65 Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, 191.

66 Mackinder, “Geographical Pivot,” 436–37.

67 Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, 134–36.

68 Mackinder distinguished this railroad belt for the purpose of dividing geographic regions according to their resource endowment and population. Halford J. Mackinder, “The Round World and the Winning of the Peace,” Foreign Affairs 21, no. 4 (1943): 598–99,

69 Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, 186. Raleigh’s original statement was: “He who commands the sea controls trade and commerce, he who controls trade and commerce commands the wealth and riches of the world, and he who controls wealth controls the world.” Quoted in Archibald S. Hurd, “Coal, Trade, and the Empire,” The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review 44, no. 261 (1898): 722.

70 Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1942), 16–17, 41.

71 Spykman, “Geography and Foreign Policy, I,” 40; Nicholas J. Spykman, “Geography and Foreign Policy, II,” American Political Science Review 32, no. 2 (1938): 213–36,; Nicholas J. Spykman and Abbie A. Rollins, “Geographic Objectives in Foreign Policy, I,” American Political Science Review 33, no. 3 (1939): 391–410,; Nicholas J. Spykman and Abbie A. Rollins, “Geographic Objectives in Foreign Policy, II,” American Political Science Review 33, no. 4 (1939): 591–614,

72 Nicholas J. Spykman and Helen R. Nicholl, The Geography of the Peace (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1944), 40–41.

73 Spykman and Nicholl, The Geography of the Peace, x.

74 Spykman and Nicholl, The Geography of the Peace, 6.

75 Spykman, America’s Strategy, 207–09; and Spykman and Nicholl, The Geography of the Peace, 5–6.

76 The term is from Mackinder, “Geographical Pivot,” 435.

77 In fairness, Huntington mentioned proximity, albeit in passing. Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 (1993): 22–49,

78 Wallerstein, The Modern World-System I.

79 The other such approach was Marxist theories of imperialism. A.J.R. Groom, André Barrinha, and William C. Olson, International Relations Then and Now: Origins and Trends in Interpretation, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2019), 29–30. For similar interpretations, Haslam, No Virtue Like Necessity, 181; Joseph M. Parent and Joshua M. Baron, “Elder Abuse: How the Moderns Mistreat Classical Realism,” International Studies Review 13, no. 2 (2011): 193–213,; and John M. Hobson, The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics: Western International Theory, 1760–2010 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), chaps. 5 and 7.

80 For instance, “Geopolitics,” Google Books Ngram Viewer, accessed Dec. 15, 2022,

81 On Spykman’s death, see Gray, “Spykman,” 874; and Or Rosenboim, “Geopolitics and Empire: Visions of Regional World Order in the 1940s,” Modern Intellectual History 12, no. 2 (2015): 380, On the closure of geography departments, see Neil Smith, “‘Academic War Over the Field of Geography’: The Elimination of Geography at Harvard, 1947–1951,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 77, no. 2 (1987): 155–72,; and McDougall, “Why Geography Matters,” 227–28. On the notion that periphery no longer existed under bipolarity, see Kenneth N. Waltz, “The Stability of a Bipolar World,” Daedalus 93, no. 3 (Summer 1964): 881–909,

82 Agnew and Muscarà, Political Geography, 115. On fundamental differences between Nazism and Geopolitik, see Mark Bassin, “Race Contra Space: The Conflict Between German Geopolitik and National Socialism,” Political Geography Quarterly 6, no. 2 (1987): 115–34,

83 Quoted in Peter Francis Coogan, Geopolitics and the Intellectual Origins of Containment (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1991), 227, The same view is expressed in Earle’s review of America’s Strategy: Edward Mead Earle, “Power Politics and American World Policy,” Political Science Quarterly 58, no. 1 (March 1943): 94–95,

84 Edmund A. Walsh, Total Power: A Footnote to History (New York: Doubleday, 1948); Coogan, “Geopolitics,” 65–66, 332–37; and Specter, Atlantic Realists, 128.

85 David Ekbladh, “Present at the Creation: Edward Mead Earle and the Depression-Era Origins of Security Studies,” International Security 36, no. 3 (Winter 2011/12): 140,

86 William Fox, “Geopolitics and International Relations,” in On Geopolitics: Classical and Nuclear, ed. Ciro E. Zoppo and Charles Zorgbibe (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 1985), 27; and Coogen, “Geopolitics,” 140, 145. Perhaps Earle’s interest in Mackinder is not surprising given his earlier work on the Bagdad Railway. Edward Mead Earle, Turkey, the Great Powers, and the Bagdad Railway: A Study in Imperialism (New York: Macmillan, 1924).

87 Edward Mead Earle, Gordon Alexander Craig, and Felix Gilbert, eds., Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1952).

88 As their students wrote, they had “lifelong interest in the interplay between geographic factors and new developments in science and technology.” James N. Rosenau, Vincent Davis, and Maurice A. East, eds., The Analysis of International Politics: Essays in Honor of Harold and Margaret Sprout (New York: Free Press, 1972), 3.

89 Harold Sprout and Margaret Sprout, The Rise of American Naval Power, 1776–1918 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1939).

90 Harold Sprout and Margaret Sprout, Foundations of National Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1945).

91 For instance, see Harold Sprout and Margaret Sprout, “Geography and International Politics in an Era of Revolutionary Change,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 4, no. 1 (1960): 145–61,

92 Margaret Sprout, “Mahan: Evangelist of Sea Power” in Makers of Modern Strategy, ed. Earle, Craig, and Gilbert, 415–45.

93 Paulo Jorge Batista Ramos, Role of the Yale Institute of International Studies in the Construction of the United States National Security Ideology, 1935–1951 (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Manchester, 2003), 139,

94 Ramos, “Yale Institute,” 16.

95 Inderjeet Parmar, “‘To Relate Knowledge and Action’: The Impact of the Rockefeller Foundation on Foreign Policy Thinking During America’s Rise to Globalism 1939–1945,” Minerva 40, no. 3 (2002): 247–48,; Ramos, “Yale Institute,” 96–67, 123–25; and Michael C. Desch, Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019), 37, 39–40.

96 Ramos, “Yale Institute,” 164–65.

97 Arnold Wolfers and Laurence W. Martin, The Anglo-American Tradition in Foreign Affairs: Readings from Thomas More to Woodrow Wilson (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1956); and Coogan, “Geopolitics,” 337–39.

98 Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperative (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1997).

99 Fox, “Geopolitics and International Relations,” 22; Ramos, “Yale Institute,” 141–43, 167–68; and Bruce Kuklick, Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 84.

100 Robert G. Angevine, “The Rise and Fall of the Office of Naval Intelligence, 1882–1892: A Technological Perspective,” Journal of Military History 62, no. 2 (April 1998): 291–312,; Robert G. Angevine, “Mapping the Northern Frontier: Canada and the Origins of the U.S. Army’s Military Information Division, 1885–1898,” Intelligence and National Security 16, no. 3 (2001): 121–45,

101 Neil Smith, American Empire: Roosevelt’s Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 25, 118–35, 181–82, 192; and David M. McCourt, “The Inquiry and the Birth of International Relations, 1917–19,” Australian Journal of Politics & History 63, no. 3 (2017): 399–400,

102 Fox, “Geopolitics and International Relations,” 30.

103 Their involvement in military organizations are described in Coogan, “Geopolitics,” esp. 196–238 (chap. 6); and Ramos, “Yale Institute,” 152–91 (chap. 5). On Strausz-Hupé, Andrew Crampton and Gearóid Ó. Tuathail, “Intellectuals, Institutions and Ideology: The Case of Robert Strausz-Hupé and ‘American Geopolitics,’” Political Geography 15, no. 6–7 (1996): 533–55,

104 Coogan, “Geopolitics,” 102–05, 217–29, 401, 423 (quote).

105 Brian C. Schmidt, “The Need for Theory: International Relations and the Council on Foreign Relations Study Group on the Theory of International Relations, 1953–1954,” International History Review 42, no. 3 (2020): 589–606,

106 These included Carr’s historical theorizing, Harold Lasswell’s scientific approach, Marxist theories of imperialism, Wilson’s idealism, and, of course, Morgenthau’s realism. See various minutes of meetings in McCourt, American Power.

107 On the lack of theoretical canon, see Ramos, “Yale Institute,” 183.

108 Nicholas Guilhot, “The Realist Gambit: Postwar American Political Science and the Birth of IR Theory,” International Political Sociology 2, no. 4 (2008): 281–304, For the broader institutional context in which realism rose in U.S. academia, Kuklick, Blind Oracles, 78–87.

109 Lucian M. Ashworth, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold? The 1953–4 CFR Study Group Meeting and the Decline of International Thought,” The International History Review 42, no. 3 (2020): 660–61, Compare with Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 7th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2005).

110 Daniel H. Deudney, “Regrounding Realism: Anarchy, Security, and Changing Material Contexts,” Security Studies 10, no. 1 (2000): 1–42,; Daniel Bessner and Nicolas Guilhot, “How Realism Waltzed Off: Liberalism and Decisionmaking in Kenneth Waltz’s Neorealism,” International Security 40, no. 2 (2015): 87–118, For a contemporary critique, see Stanley H. Hoffmann, “International Relations: The Long Road to Theory,” World Politics 11, no. 3 (1959): 34–77,

111 To see how Waltz did this, see Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1979), 100 (especially figure 5.2).

112 While Deudney pointed out that the main distinction between realism and geopolitics is their unit of analysis, both in fact focus primarily on the state and its external behavior. Deudney, “Geopolitics and Change,” 98.

113 Jean Gottmann, “Geography and International Relations,” World Politics 3, no. 2 (1951): 153,

114 Both security and power are considered to be a state’s ends by defensive and offensive realists, respectively. Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, “Security Seeking Under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited,” International Security 25, no. 3 (2001): 128–61,

115 Peter Hugill, “Transitions in Hegemony: A Theory Based on State Type and Technology,” in William Thompson, ed., Systemic Transitions: Past, Present, and Future (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 35.

116 Good summaries of the literature on the influence of territory upon conflicts can be found in Paul R. Hensel, “Territory: Geography, Contentious Issues, and World Politics,” in What Do We Know About War? ed. John A. Vazquez, 2nd ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012), 3–26; and Monica Duffy Toft, “Territory and War,” Journal of Peace Research 51, no. 2 (2014): 185–98, A more recent work positing geography as an object of statecraft is Dan Altman, “By Fait Accompli, Not Coercion: How States Wrest Territory from Their Adversaries,” International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 4 (2017): 881–91,

117 On “buffers” and similar concepts, see Michael Greenfield Partem, “The Buffer System in International Relations,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 27, no. 1 (1983): 3–26,; Tanisha M. Fazal, “State Death in the International System,” International Organization 58, no. 2 (2004): 311–44,; Rajan Menon and Jack L. Snyder, “Buffer Zones: Anachronism, Power Vacuum, or Confidence Builder?” Review of International Studies 43, no. 5 (2017): 962–86,; Evan N. Resnick, “Interests, Ideologies, and Great Power Spheres of Influence,” European Journal of International Relations 28, no. 3 (2022): 563–88,; and Boaz Atzili and Min Jung Kim, “Buffer Zones and International Rivalry: Internal and External Geographic Separation Mechanisms,” International Affairs 99, no. 2 (2023): 645–65,

118 Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, 127–35. For the continued relevance of territory in the nuclear age, see Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, The Myth of the Nuclear Revolution: Power Politics in the Atomic Age (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2020), especially 22–24.

119 John R. McNeill, “Woods and Warfare in World History,” Environmental History 9, no. 3 (2004): 388–410,

120 Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 138–48.

121 Eric J. Hamilton and Brian C. Rathbun, “Scarce Differences: Toward a Material and Systemic Foundation for Offensive and Defensive Realism,” Security Studies 22, no. 3 (2013): 436–65,

122 Quoted in Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 56.

123 Steven G. Marks, Road to Power: The Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Colonization of Asian Russia, 1850–1917 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 172–73, 202; and Constantine Pleshakov, The Tsar’s Last Armada: The Epic Journey to the Battle of Tsushima (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 91–111.

124 Spykman and Nicholl, The Geography of the Peace, 40–41.

125 John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, updated edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014), 44.

126 Patrick Porter, The Global Village Myth: Distance, War and the Limits of Power (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2015), 9.

127 Øystein Tunsjø, The Return of Bipolarity in World Politics: China, the United States, and Geostructural Realism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).

128 There are other recent works making use of geography as an explanatory variable, but they do not establish how certain geographic features affect foreign policy specifically. For instance, see Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Partnership or Predation? How Rising States Contend with Declining Great Powers,” International Security 45, no. 1 (2020): 90–126,; and Norrin M. Ripsman and Igor Kovac, “Material Sources of Grand Strategy,” in The Oxford Handbook of Grand Strategy, ed. Thierry Balzacq and Ronald R. Krebs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021), 205–20.

129 Robert Jervis, “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30, no. 2 (1978): 167–214, The expression is from David Blagden, “When Does Competition Become Conflict? Technology, Geography, and the Offense-Defense Balance,” Journal of Global Security Studies 6, no. 4 (2021): 1–23,

130 For instance, Keir Lieber argued for its exclusion in War and the Engineers: The Primacy of Politics Over Technology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 30–33. Some important works and reviews on the “offense-defense” balance include: Charles L. Glaser and Chaim Kaufmann, “What Is the Offense-Defense Balance and How Can We Measure It?” International Security 22, no. 4 (1998): 44–82,; Sean M. Lynn-Jones, “Offense-Defense Theory and Its Critics,” Security Studies 4, no. 4 (1995): 660–91,; and Stephen Van Evera, “Offense, Defense, and the Causes of War,” International Security 22, no. 4 (1998): 5–43,

131 Stephen M. Walt, “Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power,” International Security 9, no. 4 (1985): 3–43,; and Stephen M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987).

132 Barry Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984).

133 Some recent works using this dichotomy are Jack S. Levy and William R. Thompson, “Balancing on Land and at Sea: Do States Ally Against the Leading Global Power?” International Security 35, no. 1 (2010): 7–43,; Evan B. Montgomery, “Competitive Strategies Against Continental Powers: The Geopolitics of Sino-Indian-American Relations,” Journal of Strategic Studies 36, no. 1 (2013): 76–100,; and Joseph M. Parent and Sebastian Rosato, “Balancing in Neorealism,” International Security 40, no. 2 (2015): 51–86,

134 Mearsheimer, The Tragedy.

135 Bernard Brodie, Sea Power in the Machine Age, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1943), 105–6.

136 John M. Schuessler, Joshua Shifrinson, and David Blagden, “Revisiting Insularity and Expansion: A Theory Note,” Perspectives on Politics (2021): 1–15,

137 Mahan, Problem of Asia, 20.

138 Starr, On Geopolitics, 22–29.

139 According to one estimate, the overall sail distance was 50 percent greater than steam for trans-Atlantic voyages. N.A.M. Rodger, “Weather, Geography and Naval Power in the Age of Sail,” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 191,

140 On the concept of “time-space compression,” see David Harvey, “Between Space and Time: Reflections on the Geographical Imagination,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 80, no. 3 (1990): 418–34,

141 Steven Gray, “Fuelling Mobility: Coal and Britain’s Naval Power, c. 1870–1914,” Journal of Historical Geography, no. 58 (October 2017): 92–103,

142 David F. Trask, The War with Spain in 1898 (New York: Macmillan, 1981), 142–44, 270, 275–77.

143 Strausz-Hupé, Geopolitics, 182.

144 A. Wess Mitchell, The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018).

145 Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991).

146 Spykman and Nicholl, The Geography of the Peace, 4.

147 On this point, see David W. Blagden, Jack S. Levy, and William R. Thompson, “Sea Powers, Continental Powers, and Balancing Theory [with Reply],” International Security 36, no. 2 (2011), 201–2, Blagden briefly discusses this point in “When Does Competition Become Conflict?” 14–15.

148 On Eurocentrism in the realist tradition and its limits, see William C. Wohlforth, “Gilpinian Realism and International Relations,” International Relations 25, no. 4 (2011): 499–511,

149 William C. Wohlforth et al., “Testing Balance-of-Power Theory in World History,” European Journal of International Relations 13, no. 2 (2007): 155–85,

150 Ludwig Dehio, The Precarious Balance: Four Centuries of the European Power Struggle (New York: Knopf, 1962). Similarly, Paul Schroeder noted that it was the preponderance of two “flanking” powers, Britain and Russia, that maintained stability in Europe after the Congress of Vienna. Also, by virtue of geography, they could expand outside of Europe. Paul W. Schroeder, “Did the Vienna Settlement Rest on a Balance of Power?” The American Historical Review 97, no. 3 (1992): 683–706,

151 Everett C. Dolman, “Geostrategy in the Space Age: An Astropolitical Analysis,” Journal of Strategic Studies 22, no. 2–3 (1999): 83–106,; Daniel Deudney, Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020).

152 For a trenchant critique, see Christopher J. Fettweis, “On Heartlands and Chessboards: Classical Geopolitics, Then and Now,” Orbis 59, no. 2 (2015): 233–48,

153 Rob Bailey and Laura Wellesley, Chokepoints and Vulnerabilities in Global Food Trade (London: Chatham House, 2017),; Daniel Yergin, The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations (New York: Penguin Press, 2020); Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalizing American Manufacturing, and Fostering Broad-Based Growth, The White House, June 2021,; and Chris Miller, Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology (New York: Scribner, 2022).

154 Harvey Starr, “On Geopolitics: Spaces and Places,” International Studies Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2013): 435,

155 Simon Dalby, “The Geopolitics of Climate Change,” Political Geography 37 (2013): 38–47,

156 Rodger Baker, “Revisiting Arctic Geopolitics: Climate, Competition, and Governance,” Presentation at Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, Oct. 13, 2022.

157 There are a few exceptions. See, for instance, Michael C. Desch, “The Keys that Lock up the World: Identifying American Interests in the Periphery,” International Security 14, no. 1 (1989): 86–121,; Robert J. Art, “Geopolitics Updated: The Strategy of Selective Engagement,” International Security 23, no. 3 (1999): 79–113,; and Grygiel, Great Powers and Geopolitical Change.

158 Paul M. Kennedy, “The Operations Plans of the Great Powers, 1880–1914,” Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift 19, no. 1 (1976): 194,

159 For instance, John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War,” International Security 15, no. 1 (1990): 5–56, An exception is Aaron L. Friedberg, “Ripe for Rivalry: Prospects for Peace in a Multipolar Asia,” International Security 18, no. 3 (1993): 5–33,

160 Toshi Yoshihara, “China as a Composite Land-Sea Power: A Geostrategic Concept Revisited,” Center for International Maritime Security, Jan. 6, 2021,

161 Robert S. Ross, “The Geography of the Peace: East Asia in the Twenty-First Century,” International Security 23, no. 4 (1999): 81–118,

162 Gottmann, “Geography and International Relations,” 165.

163 The original expression is from Todd G. Buchholz, New Ideas from Dead Economists: An Introduction to Modern Economic Thought (New York: Plume, 2007).

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