Modernizing Mahan and Mackinder

Hello all!  My paper topic stemmed from one of the first classes I took at graduate school a number of years ago.  The course was a required geo-strategy course with readings from Admiral Mahan and Mackinder and I internalized their relative theories.  For Admiral Mahan, predictably, the path to greatness lay with naval supremacy.  For Mackinder, control of Central Asia, or the heartland, was the key to power.  After taking this course I took a time off from my studies to serve in Iraq with the Army in that very heartland, serving alongside Naval personnel whose branch was trying to find relevant ways to contribute to the mostly ground-war effort.  I came home and resumed my studies, only to come across the topic again in reading Hopkirk’s Great Game about the struggle between Russia and Britain for control of the heartland from the late 17th century to the beginning of the first World War.  Britain was devoting significant resources to control of the area at a time when her sea power was unrivaled.  I was curious about the time period and chose it as my topic of study during a brief tutorial at Oxford.  When it came time to think about a paper topic, I knew right away what I wanted to write about.

I find the “debate” enduringly interesting particularly right now as we and many of our allies are still involved in a land war in Asia and our supreme Navy is battling pirates and denying China’s military ascension.  Lucky for me, the historian who taught me that class some years ago has graciously agreed to act as my advisor for the project.

I plan on looking at the presidencies of Truman, Reagan, and Bush II and examining their foreign policy approaches from a Mahanian and Mackinder-ian standpoint.  I have not yet explored this part of the topic, since I am first focusing on learning more about China and Islam before 9/11, but I am sure the distant rampart of Afghanistan during Reagan’s administration will be relevant.

I am looking forward to meeting everyone in November and working with everyone during the year!


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