While conducting research into various matters of strategy and diplomacy, those of us of a Classical bent are occasionally jarred by references to “geopolitics” that do not seem to square with the understanding we gained from reading authorities such as Mahan, Mackinder, and Spykman. Although we felt that we were properly critical of particular aspects of these geopolitical teachings, were are reminded that in recent years, something formally called “critical geopolitics” has emerged – a postmodern understanding of space, “identity,” and politics. When trying to sort out what is what, I have found this short 2009 essay by Ian Klinke to be quite instructive, of a sort.
The bottom line: the critical geopolitical perspective rejects the causal relationship classical geopolitics detects between geographic space and global politics. “Classical geopolitics, closely related to the tradition of political realism in International Relations, is seen by critical geopolitics as an ideology (or ‘discourse’ to speak the lingo) that has legitimised some of the bloodiest military campaigns of the 20th and early 21st century. Geopolitical thought has served as a guide to statesmanship and therefore as legitimisation for exclusivist foreign policy agendas and invasions throughout the world. It is through geopolitical institutes (think tanks, universities and government bodies) that the state has produced knowledge of (distant) Others.” Critical geopolitics, presumably, will allow us to construct non-exclusivist foreign policies that eschew invasions against (distant), and improperly understood, Others.