America’s use of power in the world has long been entangled with dreams of world peace. In the settlements of both the First and Second World Wars, American statesmen worked to build international institutions that could resolve disputes between states as legal matters. In 1929, the U.S. Senate, through its lopsided ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact (there was only one dissenting vote, John J. Blaine of Wisconsin,) went so far as to ban war altogether. Ambitions of mutual disarmament drove Cold War policymakers in both Republican and Democratic administrations—and hopes for collective security, robust arms control, and in general, the beating of swords into ploughshares remain very much alive today.

Yet the bearers of such hopes are regularly mugged by geopolitical reality. To understand how liberal visions of peace through mutual understanding are undermined by human nature and by geography itself, and to organize our thinking about a realistic basis for America’s global policy, we will examine Nicholas Spykman’s classic geopolitical study America’s Strategy in World Politics. Building on the work of British geopolitical theorist Halford Mackinder, Spykman developed the idea that the key to global security was to be found in control of the Eurasian “Rimland,” an insight that has driven American grand strategy ever since, with varying degrees of self-consciousness. We will then apply the teachings of Spykman to understanding 2024’s endemic instability, from a land war in Europe to the effective closure of the Red Sea to the threat of Chinese expansionism in the Pacific. What does classical geopolitical analysis suggest for America’s actions today?

Mike Gallagher on Asian Geopolitics & Beyond

Faculty

Mike Gallagher

Congressman Mike Gallagher served seven years on active duty as a Human Intelligence/Counterintelligence Officer and Regional Affairs Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, earning the rank of Captain. He was recently selected to serve as Chairman of the Select Committee on China.

Aaron MacLean

Aaron MacLean is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Previously, he was senior foreign policy advisor and legislative director to Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. Aaron served on active duty as a U.S. Marine for seven years, deploying to Afghanistan as an infantry officer in 2009–2010.

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