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C4. Main Schools of Geopolitical Thought

C4. Main Schools of Geopolitical Thought

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Published by: Cenusa Petra Rozalinda on Jul 01, 2011
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C4. Main schools of geopolitical thought Geopolitics in France
The tradition of geopolitical thought in France differed somewhat fromthat of Britain. French geopolitics can best be understood with referenceto the French position within Mackinder’s scheme of recurring conflict between sea-based and land-based powers.Germany and Russia represented the major land-based powers of the world, whereas Britain and the United States were the world’s predominant maritime powers. France, on the other hand, was situated between the centers of land-based and sea-based power. Thus, France isthe only European power that can be considered part of both theHeartland and the Rimland.Despite the victory of the Allies in WWI, the French were concernedabout the possible expansion of German power within Europe.For the most part, France supported the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles that forces the Germans to abandon the colonies and theEuropean territory to the Allies. Resting uneasily behind the MaginotLine (fortification system along the German frontier from Switzerland toLuxembourg built 1929-1936 under the direction of the war minister Andre Maginot. In 1940 German forces succeeded to outflank theMaginot Line, passing over the Belgian border), France maintaineddifferent positions in contrast to Germany.The French school of geopolitics was interested to establish thecontrasts between West and East. The western tradition represented byFrance, Britain and the United States emphasized cooperation andflexibility. The east symbolized by Germany represented dictatorship andrigidity. In the extent of the colonial empire, France surpassed Germany,that is why it regarded German views of territorial expansion withsuspicion and alarm. As a result, France strongly endorsed the League of  Nations and advocated expanded international cooperation to settledisputes.The first French geopolitical study is considered to be “La France del’Est” published in 1917 by Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845-1918). Heexamined the whole question of the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine byGermany in 1871, pleading strongly for the return of the provinces toFrance. Rejecting the German arguments of nationality based on race andlanguage, he invoked the idea of “la geographie activebased on theimportance of historical development in the formulation of both nationaland regional character. He did not accepted but partially the Ratzel’sdeterminism and the organic view of a state, developing instead the ideaof the state as a spatial unit in which the core and the political and psychological importance of the frontiers play the most considerable role.
 
During the interwar period, the French geopolitical thinkers(Jacques Ancel and Albert Démangeon are two of the most outstandingrepresentatives) were critical of the German doctrine, considering thescience of geopolitics to be
la science propagandiste allemande
” whichaimed to rationalize “
une expansion infinie
”. They countered
l’espacevital 
(the French for Ratzel’s lebensraum) with the concepts of 
entente
(friendly agreement of two or more countries on issues of commoninterest, such as la petite entente established by Yugoslavia,Czechoslovakia and Romania after WWI directed mainly againstHungary, which having lost two thirds of its prewar territory at the Treatyof Trianon in 1920 was aggressively revisionist in regard to all three) and
communauté européenne
.Especially during the 1930s,4 the French geopolitics proved to bevery different from that of the German one, the attention being placed onthe pressing problems of Europe and less concern being given to themilitary and strategic questions. The study of geopolitics in France cameto a sharp end with the defeat by Germany in 1940. For many years after the end of WWII, the subject was avoided, particularly because of itsassociations with Nazi policies. It was only during the 1970s that thesubject has been revisited by Yves Lacoste who advocated the leadingrole of geographers in developing a better understanding of thegeopolitical reality of the world. The French periodical Herodote(established in 1976) whose editor is Yves Lacoste, considers that themain objective in the filed of geopolitics is the critical examination of global issues from a geographical perspective, with a view to reaching anunderstanding which can lead to action. Another contribution of theFrench geopolitics lies in the replacement of the term geopolitics with “lagéographie politique du pouvoir”, the study of the nature and distributionof power in the wider sense and its relationship to political powespecifically (Claude Raffestin).
Geopolitics in Germany
Both British and French geopolitics evolved in accordance withtheir respective countries positions within the European world order of the late 19
th
and late 20
th
centuries. Similarly, geopolitics in Germany can best be understood with references to German history and geography.France and Britain along with the other nations of Western Europe,had achieved political unity, having emerged as nation-states by theRenaissance. In contrast, German-speaking areas of central Europe werecharacterized by deep political fragmentation until the middle of the 19
th
century. Only under the dominance of Bismarck’s Prussia in the mid-19
th
century did Germany achieve political unification.
 
German unification proved to be a powerful stimulus for the growth of German economic and political power.By 1900, Germany was the third leading industrial country in theworld, behind Britain and the United States. Located at the center of thegreat European Plain, northern Germany had always been at crossroads,vulnerable to attack. Germany lacked the natural insularity of the Britishisles, and was faced with traditionally hostile neighbors on both sides – France on the west, and the Eastern European powers along with Russiaon the east.During the late 19
th
century, German foreign policy emphasizedrapid territorial expansion in order to counter the possibility of attacks on both fronts. A strong, united Germany or Mitteleuropa including all of theGerman speaking people of Central Europe would be the most effectivemeans of preserving the integrity of German culture. The idea was thatCentral Europe was united by a common German heritage as a result of centuries of German expansion to the east, sizable German minorities inthe states bordering Germany, an affinity for German culture andtraditions in the Low Countries, the Alps and Scandinavia and Germaneconomic dominance of the region.The German defeat in WWI confirmed these views in the minds of many Germans. The Treaty of Versailles obliged Germany to recognizean independent Poland on its eastern frontier and to cede a substantial portion of East Prussia to the new Polish state. Poland, Czechoslovakiaand other newly independent nations of Eastern Europe were establishedas a buffer between Germany and Russia. On its western border,Germany ceded Alsace-Lorraine back to France.The territorial and military losses suffered by the Germans in theWWI, rendered the German state even weaker than it had been prior tounification. In response to this perception of vulnerability, Germangeopolitical thought reemphasized the value of territorial expansion inconjunction with the unification of German speaking people throughoutCentral Europe. Only through territorial expansion could the Germanstate secure itself from external attack on both the western and the easternfronts. From the beginning of the 1920s, the German expression
 Drang nach Osten
(Push to the East) became the priority for the German political actions. Hither himself supported the orientation to the East inthe view to conquest new lebensraum in Eastern Europe, which beganwith the German attack on Poland in September 1939.German geopolitics was influenced by the ideas of Friedrich Ratzel(1844-1904). Ratzel, who is often regarded as the founder of the modern,systematic political geography, was influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution. Ratzel argued that states like organisms, obey laws of evolution, and the survival is the most important principle underlying the

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