Geography and World Politics

Becoming the world's only superpower can cause strange dreams. In the case of the United States, which achieved this status over 20 years ago, many who should know better have dreamed that economic interdependence, multilateral institutions, technological change, global democratization, the rise of non-state actors—even Barack Obama's charming personality—will have a transformational effect on world affairs, rendering irrelevant the geopolitics underlying American national security. But geopolitical competition between major world powers obviously continues, and these dreams, which are recognizably liberal dreams, remain delusive and dangerous.

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Geography and World Politics

Becoming the world's only superpower can cause strange dreams. In the case of the United States, which achieved this status over 20 years ago, many who should know better have dreamed that economic interdependence, multilateral institutions, technological change, global democratization, the rise of non-state actors—even Barack Obama's charming personality—will have a transformational effect on world affairs, rendering irrelevant the geopolitics underlying American national security. But geopolitical competition between major world powers obviously continues, and these dreams, which are recognizably liberal dreams, remain delusive and dangerous.

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Aeschylus and Strategic Culture

Fire, Aristotle observed in the Nicomachean Ethics, burns both here and in Persia, but what is seen as just seems to vary. Aristotle, of course, depended on the universality of nature (fire), including human nature (with transcendent standards of justice), to stake a claim for the possibility of political philosophy – as compared to relying on the claims of the ancestral or of convention. Of course, Aristotle goes on to say that natural right is changeable.And reflective Greeks had to take into account the real-world differences between the city states of Hellas and the empire of Persia, especially when it came to war. One such reflective Greek was the dramatist Aeschylus, whose tragedy, The Persians (performed in 472 BCE), recounts the moment when the Persian court and queen learn of Emperor Xerxes’s defeat by the Greeks in the 480 BCE naval battle near Salamis.

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Aeschylus and Strategic Culture

Fire, Aristotle observed in the Nicomachean Ethics, burns both here and in Persia, but what is seen as just seems to vary. Aristotle, of course, depended on the universality of nature (fire), including human nature (with transcendent standards of justice), to stake a claim for the possibility of political philosophy – as compared to relying on the claims of the ancestral or of convention. Of course, Aristotle goes on to say that natural right is changeable.And reflective Greeks had to take into account the real-world differences between the city states of Hellas and the empire of Persia, especially when it came to war. One such reflective Greek was the dramatist Aeschylus, whose tragedy, The Persians (performed in 472 BCE), recounts the moment when the Persian court and queen learn of Emperor Xerxes’s defeat by the Greeks in the 480 BCE naval battle near Salamis.

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Harry V. Jaffa: Can There Be Another Winston Churchill?

Jaffa references several of Churchill’s well-known major works on strategy and history (some of which were also autobiographical in nature): The Second World War, of course, as well as The World Crisis (covering World War I and its aftermath) and the biography of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough.  The latter two works are important not only for the topics at hand but because they were written between the two wars and reflect upon the great question, or theme, with which Churchill was then grappling, and which makes sense of his approach to politics and war as a whole. Is the scale of life in the modern world too large for human virtue to control?

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Harry V. Jaffa: Can There Be Another Winston Churchill?

Jaffa references several of Churchill’s well-known major works on strategy and history (some of which were also autobiographical in nature): The Second World War, of course, as well as The World Crisis (covering World War I and its aftermath) and the biography of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough.  The latter two works are important not only for the topics at hand but because they were written between the two wars and reflect upon the great question, or theme, with which Churchill was then grappling, and which makes sense of his approach to politics and war as a whole. Is the scale of life in the modern world too large for human virtue to control?

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Executive Authority and the Constitution: Reflections by Owens and Knott

Mackubin T. Owens and Stephen Knott have published a monograph in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Philadelphia Paper series, The Evolution of the Executive and Executive Power in the American Republic.  They consider the role that a republican executive has, and ought, to play in domestic affairs – (what James Ceaser terms “the zone of law”), as compared to that concerning foreign and defense policy (a “zone of ‘high’ discretion”). They trace the evolution of thinking about the executive, from Machiavelli through Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and the American Founders, following Harvey Mansfield’s Taming the Prince: The Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power

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Executive Authority and the Constitution: Reflections by Owens and Knott

Mackubin T. Owens and Stephen Knott have published a monograph in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Philadelphia Paper series, The Evolution of the Executive and Executive Power in the American Republic.  They consider the role that a republican executive has, and ought, to play in domestic affairs – (what James Ceaser terms “the zone of law”), as compared to that concerning foreign and defense policy (a “zone of ‘high’ discretion”). They trace the evolution of thinking about the executive, from Machiavelli through Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and the American Founders, following Harvey Mansfield’s Taming the Prince: The Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power

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Of Geography and Politics

If statesmanship or the political art is synonymous with the art of war or the art of acquisition on the grandest scale, then mastery of geography becomes "the first part" of the statesman's arsenal. "[H]e should learn the nature of sites, and recognize how mountains rise, how valleys open up, how plains lie, and understand the nature of rivers and marshes—and in this invest the greatest care.… And the prince who lacks this skill lacks the first part of what a captain must have." If the "desire to acquire" or the "lust for power" is inherently unlimited and is the governing principle of politics, then the primary concern of politics with geography, the concern with acquisition of territory, in principle knows no bounds. The concern of politics with geography, at a certain point in history, expanded its scope, not just in principle but in fact, to encompass the world.

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Of Geography and Politics

If statesmanship or the political art is synonymous with the art of war or the art of acquisition on the grandest scale, then mastery of geography becomes "the first part" of the statesman's arsenal. "[H]e should learn the nature of sites, and recognize how mountains rise, how valleys open up, how plains lie, and understand the nature of rivers and marshes—and in this invest the greatest care.… And the prince who lacks this skill lacks the first part of what a captain must have." If the "desire to acquire" or the "lust for power" is inherently unlimited and is the governing principle of politics, then the primary concern of politics with geography, the concern with acquisition of territory, in principle knows no bounds. The concern of politics with geography, at a certain point in history, expanded its scope, not just in principle but in fact, to encompass the world.

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