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Space Is Power

Space Is Power

The Seven Rules of Territory

John Hickman

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To Sherri Jens






Part I



Rule #1: Expect Humans to Be Territorial



Rule #2: Expect Polities to Claim Territory Their Rulers Believe Is the Most Valuable



Rule #3: Expect the Modern State to Compete for Territory



Rule #4: Remember That Competition for Territory Between Modern States May Be Peaceful



Rule #5: Treat International Law and Diplomatic Rhetoric about Territory as Mere Words



Rule #6: Expect Territory to Provide Both Present and Future Power Resources



Rule #7: Expect Geopolitical Grand Strategies to Be Sticky


Part II





















Exotic Territories










About the Author




I am indebted to the legion who have listened patiently as I have dis- cussed the ideas in this book. An incomplete list includes Sherri Jens, Renee Hickman, John M. Hickman, Jeffrey Lidke, Hari Ray, Chaitram Singh, Michael Bailey, John Graham, Kathy Graham, Jen Corry, Larry Marvin, Matt Stanard, Christy Snider, Michael Aleprete, Peter Yo, Ian Almond, Lauren Eastwood, Veronica Armendariz, Sarah Bartlett, Marice Fernando, Tom Kennedy, Whit Whitaker, Jacek Lubecki, Clare Specht, Ann Lewinson, Koby Boatright, Will Harper, Ann Wells, Scott Pace, Sam Fuller, Sean Manion, Kayla Gray, Ireka Canty, Alexandria Wisner, Jordan Frost, Adam Hawley Smith, Ben Riggs, Maggie McCarter, and Andrew Marcus. Special thanks is owed to Amanda Mays and Darla Fox for their technical assistance and to my map-maker, Jo-Ann Parks. I am also pro- foundly indebted to the editors and staff of Lexington Books, including especially Joseph Parry, Emily Roderick, and Sarah Craig.



Perhaps it is merely the result of preoccupation with abstraction, but many intellectuals appear prone to missing or dismissing what laymen feel so intensely about territory. Consider, for example, what happened to a group of seventeen Argentinian intellectuals who dared to dissent from their government’s nationalist position on the Falklands/Malvinas Islands in February 2012. 1 Although the archipelago is close to mainland Argentina and far from the British Isles, it has been a British possession for nearly two centuries, and the three thousand residents are the descen- dants of British settlers who still think of themselves as Britons and want their islands to remain British. That the islands were once an Argentine possession does not count for much in the islanders’ reckoning. That sentiment was unambiguously confirmed in a March 2013 referendum, with islanders voting to remain British by 1,514 to 3, with a voter turnout of 92 percent. 2 If self-determination is assumed to be what matters with respect to territory, reasoned the seventeen Argentinian intellectuals, then the claim that the islands belonged to Britain had merit. That was a daring, perhaps even foolhardy position to take given Argentina’s humil- iating defeat in 1982 in the Falklands War with Britain looms large in their countrymen’s historical consciousness. Although Mexico and Boliv- ia lost proportionally more of their original territories inherited from Spain to conquest by their neighbors, the United States and Brazil respec- tively, Argentine nationalists are in the habit of hyperbolically casting their country as the leading victim of territorial aggression not just in the Western Hemisphere, but globally. 3 So the press and politicians in Bue- nos Aires responded by vituperating the intellectuals as traitors. 4 To con- cede sovereignty over the islands was deemed unforgivably unpatriotic and disloyal. What did the Argentinian public think? An April 2012 Ibarómetro public opinion poll revealed that while a majority were skeptical of the motives of the military dictatorship that took the country to war with Britain in 1982, 89 percent still thought that their country’s territorial claim to the islands was valid. 5 British public opinion reflected a striking- ly similar territorial nationalism. A contemporaneous YouGov public opinion poll of Britons, who remain very divided over the legacy of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose government took Britain to war to recover the islands, found that 62 percent believed that their coun- try’s territorial claim to the islands was valid.




Although we may sympathize with a handful of brave dissenters dar- ing to advocate peace shouted down by an enraged ‘virtual mob’ of na- tionalists, it is worth asking whether the majority of their fellow citizens’ beliefs about territory reveal something fundamental about international politics. This book answers that it does. What ordinary Argentinians understand, and perhaps ‘intuit’ is more accurate, is that territory is es- sential to the survival of the state. Public opinion about territory in other countries bears witness to that same understanding. Despite exposure to the intellectual conceits that territorial sovereignty is atavistic, that terri- torial annexation is illegitimate, and that territorial disputes are provoked by decision-makers seeking to divert public attention away from more important issues, public opinion refuses to discount the importance of territory. Public opinion is correct. Territory is essential to the survival of the state because it represents crucial power resources. Of course other factors also matter for the survival of a state. A large population is a crucial power resource if it can be properly mobilized. Economic and social development magnify or even partially substitute for a large population. Yet territory encompasses not only physical space for that population, but also other power resources such as strategic depth. Consider the outcome of the 1982 Falklands War. Britain defeated Argentina, but it was satisfied with recovering possession of the disputed islands. There was no British ground invasion of continental Argentina to impose a new pro-British regime in Buenos Aires. Beyond the obvious— the prohibitive expense of an invasion and diplomatic opposition from the United States and the rest of Latin America—it would have failed because the Argentine government and army, with assistance from other South American countries, could have withdrawn into the extensive interior of the country and continued fighting until the British withdrew in frustration. Argentina’s political autonomy was thus protected by its large national territory. The argument of this book is that territoriality is simply too basic to political behavior to be wished away and that any practical understand- ing of international politics must treat territory as basic as well. That contradicts much of what has been written about territory by scholars in the decades since the end of the Second World War. Rather than being forgotten because of the difficulty of reducing contingent geography to variables subject to generalization and the denial of human agency, geog- raphy and geopolitics were consciously avoided. 6 The risk of association with the academic Geopolitics of Imperial Germany and Weimar Germa- ny, which may have informed and was certainly deployed to justify the Third Reich’s war aims in Eastern Europe in the Second World War, discouraged scholars from giving territory the sort of attention it merited in theorizing about international relations. 7 The result is an academic discourse among international relations scholars that ranged from nu- anced diminution of the importance of territory by many Realists to out-



right dismissal of its importance by some of the Constructivists. 8 By 1996, a prominent international relations scholar would deride the territorial anxieties of impoverished countries as being trapped into “producing goods that are derived from land” as a “dirt fetish.” 9 That same scholar lauded the wealthier countries for preferring to “plumb the world market than acquire territory” and predicted that lumbering Russia, China, and India were destined to remain industrial workshops while ‘virtual states’ like Singapore were transcending the production of wealth in tangible form for wealth in the information-rich intangible form. That the absence of a hinterland makes Singapore dependent and vulnerable hardly seemed worth noting in the soaring optimism of the 1990s. Globalization appeared triumphant. The promised millennium of virtual states never arrived, but perspec- tives like that are still common. Territory is ignored even when it is the elephant, perhaps dragon, in the room. In 2013 Dong Wang published a survey of Sino-American relations, The United States and China: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, with extensive discussions of ideology, international trade, and human rights, but only scattered refer- ences to territorial issues like Taiwan and Tibet, and scarcely any mention of the disputes over the East China Sea and South China Sea. 10 Much like the topic of sex for the Victorians, some international relations scholars now shy away from territory as something that exists but must be avoided as a topic of conversation in polite company. Reinforcing this intellectual taboo are conceptual imprecision and negative associations of the word ‘geopolitics’ when it is used by authors of popular nonfiction books on ‘current events’ and journalists who re- port foreign affairs. In Naomi Klein’s 2014 This Changes Everything: Capi- talism vs. the Climate, nuclear war is described as a possibility, “should geopolitics spiral out of control.” 11 That comment is little more than a throwaway line in a discussion comparing existential threats, but the term ‘geopolitics’ is left undefined as if it were universally understood. The obvious implication is that foreign policy making informed by con- siderations of geography is something to be feared because it threatens to escape the control of decision-makers. Note that in denouncing domestic and foreign policy inaction on climate change, Klein vigorously cham- pions the territoriality of indigenous and local communities over natural resources while at the same time condemning the same behavior by states. 12 Although the word geopolitics appears in the title of Michael T. Klare’s 2009 book Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, he too leaves it undefined. 13 Breathless warning about the dan- gers of international competition for oil and gas is coupled with the pre- diction that even if interstate war is somehow avoided, energy resource scarcities threaten to “undermine basic democratic rights and the prerog- atives of local communities.” 14 Contrast how Klein and Klare used the term with the way it was used in a December 11, 2014, story about the



relationship between India and Russia by New York Times reporter Ellen Barry. 15 Writing that New Delhi declined to join international criticism of Moscow with respect to recent Russian actions in Ukraine, she noted that Indian officials said that they are “less interested in geopolitics than in jump-starting the economy as fast as possible.” Barry explained that In- dian and Russian officials would negotiate the purchase of advanced weapons while constructing an oil and gas pipeline between the two countries. Klein and Klare would surely disagree and characterize such negotiations as geopolitical in nature. In the light of such messages what are mass audiences to conclude other than that there is something inher- ently threatening and costly about foreign policy making that is informed by geography? That international relations scholars choose to tread light- ly or not at all over such difficult terrain is unsurprising. The resulting denial of the importance of territory in international politics is unfortunate not only because it was associated with decades of predictions by otherwise sensible scholars that the sovereign territorial state would be replaced or diminished as the most important unit of international politics, but also because it discouraged interesting avenues of research on the behavior of states with respect to new realms of human activity in the oceans, arctic regions, and outer space. The failure to con- ceive the new realms as new territories was exacerbated by the long- standing hostility toward and/or disinterest in the natural sciences that is presented by many students of international relations. In a 1990 speech to the European Association of Social Anthropolo- gists at Coimbra social theorist Ernest Gellner criticized postmodernism as self-indulgent subjectivism that disguises its idealism in bad writing. 16 Descending briefly to sarcasm to drive home the point, Gellner says that “[t]he impoverished masses of the Third World may find consolation in the thought that their erstwhile oppressors and exploiters are now suffer- ing the agonies of obscurity of style.” 17 Constructivists thankfully avoided the postmodern absurdities of expression that rendered much of the work of Cultural Anthropology and Literary Criticism indecipher- able. Alas, what the Constructivists did not avoid was a tendency to indulge in the same sort of irrelevant idealism. Consider the first words of political theorist and political geographer Stuart Elden at the beginning of his 2013 book The Birth of Territory: “Con- flict over land, at a variety of spatial scales, is a major factor in human affairs, and, as Rousseau suggests, its effects have been almost entirely negative.” 18 Elden writes in the vein of continental philosophy and there- fore expresses his ideas as commentary on the work of figures in the European philosophic pantheon, in this case the eighteenth-century French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. If the subject matter was less important, then this exercise in Eurocentric conceit coupled with ignoring empirical observation of the world for the false security of ab- stract principle could be forgiven as scholarly entertainment. Although



exposure to Western philosophy normally involves descent into Plato’s parable of the cave, many political philosophers are content to spend their careers pondering the dim reflections cast by logic on the walls of metaphoric caves while ignoring readily available empirical evidence. After tracing the history of what various European philosophic greats have written about territory, Elden concludes that it is, “therefore histori- cally produced” and the result of the “extension of state’s power.” 19 Ter- ritory is thus a social construct, a conceptual burden that will be lifted when the state fades to insignificance, is transcended, ceases to exist, or is otherwise reduced in the sort of utopian future envisioned by neo-liberal, libertarian, anarchist, and Marxist intellectuals. 20 So entrenched is this idealistic antipathy toward the state and its territory that even admis- sions that the state is still with us is grudging. For example, consider the following stingy concession to reality. “That the nation-state is itself a historical and thus undoubtedly transient institution does not in the slightest diminish its present social reality.” 21 That territory is as important in international politics in the early twenty-first century as in any previous period in history surprises neither ordinary citizens nor foreign policy makers. Ordinary citizens might re- sent the authority of the state when crossing international borders or regret the lives lost in wars fought over territory in moments of weepy philosophical reflection, but they are unlikely to convince themselves that territory will ever cease to be important. Foreign policy makers might work to reduce some of the negative effects associated with international borders, but they do not make plans contingent upon the disappearance of the state or territory. If anyone is surprised or embarrassed by the continuing vitality of the sovereign state and the relevance of national territory, it would be the scholars who predicted its erosion or demise. Since the 1960s intellectuals have suggested that the sovereign territorial state will succumb to obso- lescence as a consequence of the effects of vulnerability to nuclear weap- ons, terrorism, organized crime, ethno-national separatism, migration, free trade, and mass protest made possible by social media. 22 In 1990, Philip Allott even predicted that it would be vanquished simply by the power of political theory. Arguing that conception depended upon vo- cabulary and vocabulary upon conception, he predicted that we will un- think the offending causes:

[S]overeignty will disappear from the vocabulary of international soci- ety and international law; together with the words war and peace and use of force and self defence and international relations and diplomacy, as redundant anachronisms, no longer required in the self-conceiving the- ories of international society and international law. 23 (Italics are the author’s.)



Who but an intellectual isolated in the humanities could credit abstract thought with such power over the material world? Intellectuals who wisely refrain from wishful thinking expressed as prediction may still express disdain. For some humanist scholars crossing geographic frontiers and claiming territory are expressions of what is morally reprehensible and philosophically absurd about Western Civil- ization. Brigid Hains’s 2002 geographic history portrays both the settling of the northern frontier of Australia and the subsequent Australian explo- ration of Antarctica as expressions of Social Darwinism, anxiety about racial degeneration in urban living, and profound misogyny. 24 British imperialism, Australian nationalism, and scientific ambition are cited as motives for the exploration of Australia, but what she finds particularly suspect is that the encounter with the harshest of terrestrial wildernesses provided a handful of Australian men with the chance to define their masculinity. 25 Readers are entitled to ask whether logical consistency would require that these same base motives also be counted against the bravery of the male ancestors of indigenous Australians who tested themselves against the dangers of a new continent some forty thousand years earlier. While readers wait to receive the millennial bequest of a brave new borderless world freed from the coercive authority of the state, they are invited to consider what territory has meant in the past, what it means at present, and what it is likely to mean during the rest of the twenty-first century. To that end, this book is organized in chapters that articulate seven basic rules for understanding the politics of territory. Rather than accept the premise that territoriality is simply a cause of unnecessary conflict, this book treats territoriality as neither negative nor positive but instead as a basic or innate form of human behavior. Rather than accept that the modern state and sovereign national territory are either now being transcended or will be transcended in the future, and in any event ought to be challenged in the present, this book treats the modern state and sovereign national territory as robust institutional ar- rangements that have proven too successful to succumb to competition from any proposed institutional alternative or imagined existential vul- nerability. Politicians, diplomats, generals, and journalists are often captive to speaking in the conceptual categories in which they are educated. What they say and write about events make ordinary citizens, members of news audiences, and their subordinates also captives of the same concep- tual categories. That persuasive power becomes a serious problem when those categories no longer describe the world accurately. Overwhelming- ly, the category ‘territory’ is still conceived just as the sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius described it: land plus coastal waters controlled by different sovereign states. The oceans be- yond coastal waters are still conceived as part of an undivided global



commons. A product of the politics and technology of the Early Modern Era, this basic land-ocean distinction has dissolved as states claim effec- tive sovereignty over immense expanses of the oceans under the author- ity of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS. What’s more, there is reason to anticipate that other exotic realms, includ- ing Antarctica and celestial bodies, are likely to be subjected to new or renewed claims. The common reaction to such change in the nature of territory is denial. Politicians, diplomats, generals, and journalists also conceive interna- tional politics as interaction between the foreign ministries, militaries, and intelligence agencies of territorial states and nonstate entities like multinational corporations and terrorist groups. Their time horizons are defined by the recent past and near future. Events centuries in the past and possible events decades in the future are ignored. As a consequence, the influence of civilizational affinities longer-lived than states or the entities subject to the authority of states, together with the geopolitical grand strategies that they execute, are rendered largely invisible. This influence is an example of the problem presented by a hyperobject, a structure or system that may be conceptually invisible because of its scale. 26 The seven rules of territory elaborated in the chapters of Part I are an attempt to make visible the dimensions of a hyperobject. Some of the rules may seem counterintuitive, contradicting expectations that are the product of conventional wisdom, of conceptual categories that have out- lived their relevance. Readers are forewarned that the perspective on territory in this book is at odds with those of many scholars now writing about international relations and political geography.

Seven Rules of Territory

  • 1. Expect humans to be territorial.

  • 2. Expect polities to claim territory their rulers believe is the most valuable.

  • 3. Expect the modern state to compete for territory.

  • 4. Remember that competition for territory between modern states may be peaceful.

  • 5. Treat international law and diplomacy about territory as mere words.

  • 6. Expect territory to provide modern states with present and future power resources.

  • 7. Expect geopolitical grand strategies to be sticky.

Each of the first six chapters of Part II describes the geopolitics of one of six spheres of affinity whose core states are likely to dominate interna- tional politics for the rest of the twenty-first century as great powers. The ‘spheres of affinity’ concept used here is more modest than the ‘civiliza-



tion’ concept in Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” thesis, in part because it is delineated somewhat less arbitrarily. 27 Huntington’s categorization scheme assigned identities based on their ‘foundational dominant religion’ (Western Christian, Eastern Orthodox, Islam, and Hinduism), or ‘philosophy’ (Confucianism), or ‘shared history’ (Latin America), plus the difficult-to-specify category of ‘Japan.’ 28 In Space Is Power, shared vernacular language is an unambiguous cultural marker to identify three of the spheres of affinity discussed in this book: English language defines the Anglo-sphere; Chinese language defines the Sino- sphere; and Russian language defines the Russo-sphere. Shared language is important for the other three spheres of affinity as well. Portuguese language and proximity to Brazil define the boundaries of the Brazilo- sphere. Most of its non-Lusophone states are Spanish speaking, and the linguistic distance between Portuguese and Spanish is small. The Indo- sphere presents immense linguistic diversity but is identifiable as the region where Hindu-Urdu is widely spoken and Hinduism serves as the deep structure of cultural identity. The Euro-sphere also presents impres- sive linguistic diversity, but the German and French languages are the most widely spoken. What is more, dual core states Germany and France educate most of their citizens to speak the language of the other fluently. Although the various sources of transnational identity in Hunting- ton’s scheme also identify cultural affinities, language is crucial because, as Ernest Renan wrote, “language invites people to unite, but it does not force them to do so.” 29 National identities are often constructed around shared languages, mass communications in a shared language make pub- lic opinion part of the foreign policy decision-making process, and foreign policy makers in different states may communicate with one an- other more easily if they share a language. Institutions of higher educa- tion often reinforce the cross-national ties among foreign policy makers of a sphere of affinity. For example, military officers from the white do- minions often attended Staff College courses in Britain when it was the core state in the Anglo-sphere. 30 Wartime sacrifices made as part of alli- ances with other member states of a sphere of affinity, such as the very large numbers of Canadian casualties in the First World War, reinforce those ties. 31 The boundaries of spheres of affinity are less precise than those of the borders of states because of the presence of unassimilated or partially assimilated national minorities in neighboring states. For example, siz- able ethnic Russian minorities in many of the former republics of the Soviet Union are the Russian Federation’s ‘Near Abroad.’ The future is unwritten, and other spheres of affinity assembled by core states might emerge to join or even replace some of the six identified here. Persia has been a great power multiple times in history. If Iran succeeds in assembling enough client states with Shi’a Muslim majorities or ruling minorities, it may emerge as a great power and core state of a



seventh global sphere of affinity. Indonesia might become the core state for a Malay-sphere in Southeast Asia and Madagascar. Turkey might become the core state for a Turkic-sphere in Central Asia. Both would encounter and struggle with established rivals. It is also possible that mass movements sweeping across entire regions might establish new great powers which emerge as core states of spheres of affinity. Still, because the past is often the best information about the future, it is rea- sonable to expect that the six core states and spheres of affinity discussed in these chapters will provide the structure of an increasingly multipolar twenty-first century. Chapter 14 explores three exotic realms that political geographers have been reluctant to consider as territory: Antarctica, the oceans, and celestial objects like the Moon. That Antarctica and the oceans are already objects of unacknowledged territorial ambition and why celestial objects are likely to join them will be explained. This book does not represent an attempt at a complete theory of inter- national relations. Instead, it reintroduces neglected important subject matter to the study of international relations. The use of ‘subject matter’ rather than ‘subject’ here is deliberate. Territory has been neglected for decades largely because the constructivist turn in the discipline severed the abstract concept from its material basis. Much was lost and little gained as a consequence. Thus this work returns attention to something that is ‘fundamental’ to understanding international relations. Realism informs the generalizations framed as rules in this book. In his seminal work Politics among Nations, international relations theorist Hans J. Morgenthau located considerations of relative power—whether it is maintained, increases, or demonstrated—rather than considerations of relative wealth, international law, or universal morality, at the center of calculations by national decision makers, while granting that the content of national interest beyond what is necessary for the survival of the state may vary. 32 Any subordination of the political to the economic, the legal, or the moral in international politics was explicitly rejected. Although territory would seem the ideal subject matter for the development of such an approach to international affairs, it is treated sparingly in Politics among Nations. Indeed, it is more often addressed indirectly than directly in that classic text, perhaps a reflection of frightful memories of the twen- tieth century’s world wars, which were waged in part over territory. Morgenthau describes geography as simultaneously “the most stable fac- tor” and yet “only one among other factors” of national power. 33 He even cautions that several European great powers were weakened after adding territory, while offering examples of others which avoided conflict by focusing their territorial ambition outside Europe. 34 As readers will dis- cover, Space Is Power is not burdened with a similar reticence. Viewing power as the means available to states rather than the ends states achieve, as capability rather than outcome, is consistent with the



Realism of theorists like Kenneth N. Waltz and John J. Mearsheimer. 35 For the latter, power may take the form of either military might or every- thing else in a catch-all category called latent power. 36 Military power is the “ultima ratio” of power and is largely a function of the size and fire- power of its army, the armed force capable of occupying territory. 37 Space Is Power departs from this only in directing attention to territory as a means by which states maintain and enhance their power. Raymond Aron’s cogent if overlooked observation that whether hu- mans understand any particular physical space as worth possessing ex- clusively depends on their level of technology is also important. 38 In contrast to the attention paid to military and economic competition be- tween states, recognition that scientific and engineering advances make physical space available for territorial claims is largely lost on contempo- rary observers of international affairs. Social scientists ignore the achieve- ments of natural scientists at the risk of being caught unprepared for the exogenous shocks that their discoveries and inventions produce. As will be argued here, states continue to compete with one another for new ‘exotic territory’ that is being opened by technological progress. Space Is Power also owes much to Stephen Krasner’s now classic text Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. 39 His reduction of the term ‘sovereign- ty’ to its four important meanings helped international relations scholars to distinguish sense from nonsense. Discrepancies between the different meanings inform the discussion of international law and diplomacy in chapter 5. Intellectual debt does not preclude disagreement. For Krasner, territorial claims in the oceans and faux state entities that lack territory like the Order of Malta seem little more than digressions that illustrate the conceptual incoherence of sovereignty. Missing from that approach is the recognition that a massive ‘space grab’ was already underway for the oceans and which may eventually extend to Antarctica and Outer Space. Among Krasner’s better generalizations was that the “logics of conse- quences dominate the logics of appropriateness” in international politics. What he probably meant to convey was that while the Constructivists are correct in recognizing that international norms matter, the Realists are more correct in understanding that power is what ultimately determines the behavior of states. 40 Unfortunately, as will be explained in chapter 5, Krasner himself may have succumbed to the siren call of the logics of appropriateness. Space Is Power departs from the mainstream Realism by broadening the almost exclusive focus on states as international actors to account for the importance of the cultural affinities between states and especially between decision-makers. Thus as Dominic Lieven describes internation- al politics in the wind-up to the First World War, the Anglo-American alliance was never simply a matter of trans-Atlantic geopolitical interest but was “intertwined with ethnic and ideological solidarity.” 41 Envy of the additional power resources made available to Britain because of the



Anglo-sphere helps to account for the influence of Eurasianism as a school of thought among Russian foreign policy intellectuals. Eurasian- ism emphasized and continues to emphasize the advantages of drawing together the peoples of the Russian Empire, later of the Soviet Union, and now of the Russian Federation and Commonwealth of Independent States, under the broad umbrella of Russian culture. 42 Charles Tilly’s contribution to understanding the rise of the modern state articulated in Coercion, Capital, and European States, 990–1992 was also important for this book. 43 His work is today often cited as the basis for the Predatory Theory of the State, the argument that a ‘Darwinian’ competition of sorts has driven the evolution of political units. Tilly’s path-breaking ‘war makes states’ account, the emergence of the modern state in Europe is attributable to the monopolization of legitimate vio- lence and advances in revenue collection necessary to finance the increas- ing cost of making war. Perhaps it is a tribute to the importance of his contribution that it often goes uncredited. 44 In the experience of the author some scholars recoil at the use of the term ‘Darwinian’ in the social sciences because of its past association with justifications for social inequality termed ‘social Darwinism’ and the incorrect implication that Charles Darwin viewed human society through such a lens. The problem with using other terminology is that ‘Darwin- ian’ captures the idea of selection of forms driven by deadly competition nicely in a single term. Moreover, the term also suggests strongly that there is something biological at work in the competition between soci- eties for territory. This book is enriched by the work of many other scholars too numer- ous to mention here, including anthropologists, biologists, political scien- tists, and historians. Some of them might be surprised, though I hope also pleased, to find their work cited together in the same work. Finally, for the reader’s convenience, most of the places and polities referred to in this book are given their familiar modern English language names. Readers are asked to forgive exceptions made for the sake of narrative continuity such ‘Taiwan/Formosa’ for places and polities whose designations changed in popular use in the twentieth century.


  • 1. Uki Goni. “Argentine Intellectuals Question Country’s Claim to the Falklands.”

  • 2. “Loud and Clear.” The Economist.

  • 3. Beck, The Falkland Islands as an International Problem, 67–73.

  • 4. Goni.

  • 5. YouGov. April 10, 2012. Note that popular territorial nationalism survived the

delegitimation of the ideological beliefs such as anti-Semitism and anticommunism of the last military government in Argentina. See Finchelstein, The Ideological Origins of the Argentine Dirty War, 25.



  • 6. Grygiel, Great Powers and Geopolitical Change, 3–4.

  • 7. Norman Llewellyn Hill, Claims to Territory in International Law and Relations,

10–11. Arguably greater responsibility for the horrors of the Second World War lies with German nationalists like Walther Darre, whose conception of a Blut und Boden or ‘Blood and Soil’ connection between racial purity and peasant farming helped to jus- tify mass murder in Eastern Europe.

  • 8. Hereinafter, the terms ‘neo-Realism’ and ‘neo-Realist’ will be rendered respec-

tively as ‘Realism’ and ‘Realist’ to provide a parallel to ‘Constructivism’ and ‘Con-


  • 9. Rosecrance, The Rise of the Virtual State, 45–61.

  • 10. Wang, The United States and China, 295.

  • 11. Klein, This Changes Everything, 15.

  • 12. Ibid., 293–387.

  • 13. Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet.

  • 14. Ibid., 240–241.

  • 15. Barry, “Putin, Shunned by the West, Visits India.”

  • 16. Gellner, “Anthopology and Europe,” 229–240.

  • 17. Ibid., 236–237.

  • 18. Elden, The Birth of Territory, 1.

  • 19. Ibid., 322.

  • 20. Shields, “From Topos to Utopia,” 52.

  • 21. Lang, “Hyphenated-Jews and the Anxiety of Idenity,” 12.

  • 22. Jean Gottman predicted that sovereignty would be extended across the oceans,

although that was interpreted as an erosion of sovereign territoriality. See Gottman,

The Significance of Territory, 133.

  • 23. Allott, Eunomia, 310–311.

  • 24. Hains, The Ice and the Inland, 14–20.

  • 25. Ibid., 19–24.

  • 26. Morton, Hyperobjects, 27–54.

  • 27. Nierop, “The Clash of Civilizations,” 58–59.

  • 28. Japan is as much a Confucian society as Korea or Vietnam, and certainly more

so than Myanmar.

  • 29. Quoted in Wimmer, “A Swiss Anomaly?” 719.

  • 30. Dyer, Canada in the Great Power Game, 25.

  • 31. Ibid., 172.

  • 32. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations, 4–12.

  • 33. Ibid., 110, 206.

  • 34. Ibid., 205–206, 355–356.

  • 35. Waltz, Theory of International Relations; Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power


  • 36. Mearsheimer, 55–56.

  • 37. Ibid., 56.

  • 38. Aron, Peace and War, 187.

  • 39. Krasner, Sovereignty.

  • 40. Ibid., 6.

  • 41. Lieven, The End of Tsarist Russia, 23.

  • 42. Ibid., 136.

  • 43. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States; Moffett, Adventures among Ants.

  • 44. For example, a splendid “war makes states” story about the establishment of

the Inca Empire is recounted in Quarrie, The Last Days of the Incas, 43.

Part I


Rule #1: Expect Humans to Be Territorial

Among the most common childhood experiences with the natural world is fascination with the swarm of creatures that erupts from a disturbed ant mound. Children are likely to mistake their fearless response as akin to the bravery of soldiers rather than the instinctive violence of genetical- ly identical units of a superorganism. What children understand correctly is that they are defending territory. If the species whose mound is disturbed is the fire ant or Solenopsis invicta, then the encounter may be remembered for a lifetime. What makes encounters with fire ants memorable is the speed and tenacity with which they swarm up sticks and across shoes to deliver multiple painful bites. Inadvertently introduced from northern Argentina into the United States in the early twentieth century, this species has now crossed the Pacific to invade eastern Australia and southern China. 1 One of glo- balization’s consequences is that small children on four continents now learn the same tearful lesson from the same instructor. As is true of all of the most commonly encountered species of ants, fire ants are impressively eusocial, which means that they are evolutionarily adapted to living in colonies. Eusociality or high sociality obviously of- fers immense advantages as defense against predators, competitors, and human children who poke the colony with sticks. A single fire ant is much less formidable than a hive of fire ants. Yet sociality has emerged infrequently among insects. Evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson noted that of the 750,000 species of insects only 13,000 are highly social, and yet those social insects comprise more than one-half of all insect biomass and more than one-fourth of all animal biomass on the planet. 2 Social ants, wasps, bees, and termites are both ecologically dominant and successful in terms of the longevity of their clades because colonies,



Chapter 1

which are likened to “factories inside fortresses,” provide superior de- fense against both predatory and rival species. 3 Other kinds of arthropods present lesser degrees of sociality. Approxi- mately 50 of the more than 4,400 species of aphids produce ‘soldiers,’ members of castes of sterile defenders equipped with larger claws, to defend the aphid gall (colony). 4 Approximately 50 of the more 34,000 species of spiders also live socially, either by joining their webs into a larger structure or by jointly building webs and capturing and consum- ing prey. 5 The latter is no mean achievement given that spiders are over- whelmingly solitary and cannibalistic. The dominance of social and territorial arthropod species offers a bio- logical parallel to the dominance of larger over smaller polities or human societies, an observation explained well by the predatory theory of the state. Thus bands of hunter gathers typically lost to chiefdoms; which in turn lost to tribes, which in turn lost to traditional states, and which in turn lost to modern states. Today the modern state is ubiquitous because it wages war better than any of the other polities. 6 The hive-polity parallel is so compelling that entomologist Mark W. Moffett draws it between the behavior of different species of ants and that of different kinds of human polities. 7 Where various species of weav- er ants or Oecophylla in Africa, tropical Asia and Australia would defend fixed territories with boundaries of “no-ant’s land” between colonies in a manner akin to modern nation-states, honey-pot ants in the American Southwest defend only access to food resources much as the nomadic societies of Eurasian steppe were content to assert temporary exclusive possession over pastures. Think of the difference between the way the same lands were treated by the Russian Empire and the Kipchak or Qip- chaq Tatars, popularly referred to as the Mongol Golden Horde. 8 Where the Russians raised grain crops and built permanent fortified towns, the Tatars herded livestock and extracted tribute from the towns. Making the parallel complete, weaver ant colonies develop their permanent territo- ries by constructing “flexible network of routes between population cen- ters and valued resources.” State building is associated with the construc- tion of roads and bridges for those same purposes. Parallels can only be taken so far before asking what they mean. If every social and territorial animal species other than ours were arthro- pods, then we would be justified in treating human sociality and territori- ality as merely analogous rather than homologous behaviors. 9 Unfortu- nately for the intellectual champions of human uniqueness, animals in many taxa present either or both sociality and territoriality. Humans are one of the many species of social primates which defend territory, among the best documented being ring-tailed lemurs, spider monkeys, guerezas, white faced capuchins, hanuman langurs, mantled howlers, and chim- panzees. 10

Rule #1


The behavior of chimpanzees merits attention here because they are not merely social and territorial but also political and cultural. Self-aware creatures with problem solving skills equivalent to that of young human children, individual chimpanzees struggle for social status within troops that possess distinct cultures in the sense that there are differences be- tween isolated troops in the tools used to gather food. 11 Armies of males engage in warlike raiding to defend and extend the territory of their troops. 12 What their territories offer is food, safety, and reproductive opportunity. 13 If the territoriality of this best available model for our pre- human and early human ancestors is innate, then surely the territoriality of humans is also innate to some degree. Comparisons such as these tend to alarm humanities scholars and elicit a search for what the naturalist Stephen Jay Gould called a “golden barrier,” some characteristic to distinguish and thereby elevate moral regard for our species above other primates. Rather than succumb to that species-ist temptation, consider the humbling examples of two species of squirrel-size monkeys inhabiting the forests of the Coach Cashu region of Peru. 14 Saddleback tamarins have dark faces and multicolored coats, while Emperor tamarins sport mustaches that would have been the envy of any officer in Queen Victoria’s armies. What is remarkable about these monkeys is that although troops of the two species do not forage togeth- er, they band together to do battle with rival troops of the same two species at the boundaries of shared territory. 15 Pierre Boule’s novel Planet of the Apes and its film adaptations are entertaining science fiction, and the closest that humans or the other ape species have ever come to such cross-species cooperation in the absence of domestication. Notwithstanding the Natural Man Myth bequeathed by English polit- ical philosopher Thomas Hobbes, anthropologists and primatologists agree that humans are and always have been innately social. 16 Early hu- mans lived in very small groups, but they were still social creatures. Some hunter-gatherer bands may have tolerated overlapping territories when their populations were small and dispersed across large areas. Yet what we know of the rapid extermination of mega fauna in virgin lands in the prehistoric Americas and Australasia together with evidence of prehistoric human cannibalism suggests a brutal struggle for existence that probably included violence between the bands for hunting grounds. 17 We know that chiefdoms and tribes dependent on herding and crops were highly territorial. In their synthesis of the origins of war political scientists Jack S. Levy and William R. Thompson explain that war, organized violence between groups, was born from the struggle for territory and its resources in the prehistoric transition from less to more complex societies. 18 Their account allows for a sputtering appearance of warfare after the transition from unsegmented to segmented societies. 19 Unsegmented societies are no more complex than the nuclear family, while segmented societies present clans linking nuclear families to create


Chapter 1

larger group identities. The evidence for war is unmistakable after the emergence of sedentary agricultural societies. Indigenous peoples have competed for territory both with other in- digenous peoples and European settlers on every continent except Ant- arctica, which has no indigenous population. Although overshadowed in modern history by the wars between indigenous peoples and European settler societies in the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, upland Southeast Asia, and insular Australasia, largely because those are the wars Euro- peans deemed worthy of recording, interindigenous wars were also part of the precolonial history of those regions. Indigenes fought indigenes for reasons just as rational as those that caused indigenes to fight colonial powers and colonial powers to fight colonial powers. 20 The echoes of those interindigenous wars are still heard in interethnic conflicts like that in Kenya, where the indigenous Kalenjin have fought Kikuyu settlers for land in the Rift Valley. That territory is central to concerns about identity is evident in the use of the words “lands” and “territories” together in the same passages twenty times in the fifteen-page United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was issued in March 2008. 21 Sixteen of those twenty passages also included the word “resources.” Although the idea of indigenousness and indigeneity may mean different things in the new millennium, clearly it still encodes the idea of control over territory and what it contains. Note that the diplomats who drafted the document were careful to stipulate that none of its provisions should be understood as contradicting the territorial sovereignty of the state. The Yaqui in northern Mexico provide a moving example of intense attachment to specific territory among indigenous peoples. Their histori- cal memory and collective identity is marked by resentment about a cen- tury of subjugation to paternalistic Jesuit missionaries under Spanish co- lonialism and bitterness about their mass deportation to work as forced laborers in the henequen plantations in the Yucatan peninsula from 1900 to 1915 under the dictator Porfirio Diaz. 22 The long years of exile failed to sever their connection to their traditional homeland in the Yaqui River valley in southern Sonora. When the Mexican Revolution abolished pe- onage in 1915 the Yaqui deportees returned to Sonora despite being free to live anywhere else in Mexico. What they prized the most was not restitution of expropriated agricultural land in the valley but the sacred precincts surrounding the eight original pueblos that had constituted the core of their homeland. 23 President Lazaro Cardenas sought to assimilate indigenous Mexicans in the national mainstream but made an exception in the case of the Yaqui. 24 In 1937 militant defense of their culture and territory paid off with the award of 1.2 million acres of prime agricultural land, the largest ejido or communal land holding in Mexico. Their strug- gle is not over, however. Construction of the Obregon Dam across the Yaqui River in 1952, settlement of non-Yaqui Mexican farmers on former-

Rule #1


ly Yaqui lands, and the systematic discrimination in government agricul- tural programs added to their sense of social grievance, yet failed to undermine their attachment to territory. The evidence of territoriality in modern societies is readily observable. Much of the capital in wealthy liberal democracies takes the form of residential and commercial real estate. 25 Many businesses are organized territorially. Corporate sales representatives work exclusive geographic regions, and retail franchisees are promised that they will not face com- petition from other franchisees of the same corporation in the immediate vicinity. Traditional crime syndicates are territorial because the sources of their power, including contacts with corrupt local officials, reputations for coercion, and dispute settlement among criminals, are limited to spe- cific urban neighborhoods defined by ethnicity and class. 26 Mafiosi are willing to wage bloody gang wars with one another for control of the neighborhoods where they operate in large part because they find it diffi- cult to reestablish operations in new locations. 27 The authority of subnational units of government is normally delin- eated geographically and jealously defended. State governments in the United States have waged long and costly legal battles with one another over small areas along their borders. Georgia and South Carolina dis- puted ownership over islands created by dredging in the mouth of the Savannah River in a series of court cases decided from 1928 to 1990. Many of the major cities in the United States are patchworks of large and small municipalities established to reinforce racial and class inequalities and entrench the influence of local business owners and politicians. As a result, the maps of Atlanta and St. Louis resemble China in the Warring States Period rather than the rational administrative organization of a large city. People living in cities whose neighborhoods are segregated by the combination of politics and religion or the other common markers of ethnicity are likely to seek “the comforts of entre-soi—the security and validation that come from being among one’s peers and community.” 28 Against a wealth of evidence that human territoriality is innate why do so many scholars in the humanities and social sciences insist other- wise? Much of the answer is that they have been trained in academic disciplines whose dominant paradigms make different assumptions. Constructivist international relations scholars have been instructed that international politics is the interaction between foreign policy makers who have been socialized to accept international norms, that territory is simply another international norm that has been learned, and might be unlearned. Their counterparts among historians who study nationalism have been similarly instructed that popular attachment to territory is the result of mass indoctrination, and might be responsive to disindoctrina- tion. Reinforcing these learned biases is a basic unfamiliarity with and disinterest in ethology or primatology. Knowledge is more often trans- mitted within rather than across academic disciplines. When academic


Chapter 1

disciplines are separated by methodology, the barriers to the transmis- sion of knowledge are even more difficult to penetrate. 29 Another part of the answer is that a personal commitment to a life of the mind may prevent some social scientists from recognizing the pos- sibility that some human behaviors are unresponsive either to appeals of reasoned argument or re-education in new values and norms. For some, this is a conscious decision to oppose conceptions of human nature that undermine their work in re-producing values and norms. Observations which penetrate the golden barrier are likely to be rejected because they risk “smuggling socio-biological assumptions into studies of human ac- tivity.” 30 The fallacy of arguing from adverse consequences appears espe- cially easy to commit when defending academic turf. Stuart Elden, whom readers met in the Introduction to this book, draws a line in the sand against considering the significance of innate territoriality by describing it as “too diffuse a concept” to permit “analytic purchase in targeting the specific relation between place and power that is the modern state’s sove- reignty over its territory.” 31 From there Elden denounces territorial sove- reignty itself as state terror. 32 Military historians have also traditionally resisted the idea that their subject matter is based in biology. Evolutionary biologists Margaret C. Crofoot and Richard W. Wrangham conjecture that military historians prefer social and cultural explanations for war because they worry that biological explanations might encourage war making and because prima- tologists have failed to provide them with a “coherent theory of inter- group aggression among primates.” 33 Crofoot and Wrangham leave un- stated the conclusion that military historians commit the fallacy of ar- guing from adverse consequences if they self-censor. Also left unstated is the possibility that military historians ignore what lies beyond their aca- demic discipline because they spend their professional lives communicat- ing with one another and with retired military officers rather than with anthropologists and primatologists. If humans are territorial for the same reasons as other primates, to monopolize access to scarce resources, physical safety, and opportunities for reproduction, is there anything special about human territoriality? Yes, in two respects. First, human territoriality is expressed in very different population concentrations in very different environments. Unlike the modest popu- lation concentrations of other primate species that vary little across a limited range of habitats, humans live in concentrations and locations ranging from several thousand Inuit in villages scattered across the North American Arctic to tens of millions in major urban areas like Mexi- co City and Mumbai. Both the poor and the affluent inhabit physical space other than the land surface. Thousands of Sea Gypsies in Southeast Asia make their homes on sailing boats, and thousands of middle class city dwellers in the Netherlands and the North American Pacific North-

Rule #1


west make their homes on houseboats. Perhaps a million Chinese live in the abandoned subterranean air raid shelters of Beijing, a city where housing prices have climbed “through the roof.” 34 Perhaps two thousand Australians live in the tunnels excavated by opal mining in the desert town of Coober Peely in South Australia, where the summer tempera- tures usually exceed 100 degrees. Propinquity and duration result in at- tachment to physical space whether it is to hundreds of miles of arctic tundra or to the city where a houseboat is moored. 35 Second, human territoriality is simultaneously an ontologically objec- tive fact and an epistemologically subjective fact, in that it appears both as a function of our biological nature as a social species and is claimed by individuals acting collectively as members of the same society. Using the terminology of social theorist John R. Searle, physical space is a brute fact, territoriality is a social fact, and legal-political legitimation of ownership and sovereignty is an institutional fact. 36 That layered fusion of the bio- logical, the social, and the institutional explains why humans may be territorial about places that they do not inhabit and may never visit. Although it is tempting to dismiss popular territorial nationalism as en- tirely constructed by the state and news sources, emotional attachment to even the most remote corners of what is deemed to be the national home- land is heartfelt. During the 2004 Sino-Japanese Daioyu Islands Crisis, public opinion in the Middle Kingdom was mobilized to pressure Chi- nese diplomats to adopt a hard line in negotiations with Japanese diplo- mats not by state and state-controlled news sources but by nationalist activists. 37 International politics would be less fraught with the risk of war if popular territorial nationalism could simply be turned on and off by foreign policy makers. Popular attachment is why foreign policy decision makers may find reaching compromise difficult if the territory in dispute carries intangible value as sacred space such as Jerusalem, as the site of a historical event important to national identity such as Kosovo, or as the homeland of members of the same nation such as Alsace and Lorraine. Note that ‘diffi- cult’ does not mean ‘impossible.’ In their research on territorial disputes using the Issue Correlates of War or ICOW large data sets, Paul R. Hensel and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell discovered that those involving intangible values were more likely to result in a major interstate war but were also more likely to be resolved peacefully. 38 Those involving tangible values like valuable mineral deposits were more likely to result in low-level conflict between states but less likely to be resolved peacefully.


Chapter 1


  • 1. Ascunce et al., “Global Invasion History of the Fire Ant Solenopsis invicta,”


  • 2. Wilson, Success and Dominance in Ecosystems, 3–4.

  • 3. Wilson and Hölldobler, “Eusociality: Origin and Consequences,” 13369–13370.

  • 4. Stern and Foster, “The Evolution of Sociality in Aphids,” 150–165.

  • 5. Uetz and Heiber, “Colonial Web-Building Spiders.”

  • 6. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States.

  • 7. Moffett, 114–116.

  • 8. For the parallel drawn between the behavior of nomadic army ants and the

“calamity of the Mongol invasions” see Morris, The Runes of Evolution, 168.

  • 9. Readers are free to substitute ‘species chauvinism’ for ‘species-ism.’

  • 10. Kitchen and Beehner, “Factors Affecting Individual Participation in Group-

Level Aggression among Non-Human Primates,” 1561–1562; Wallace, “Towing the

Party Line,” 271–272; Harris, “Multiple Resource Values and Fighting Ability Meas- ures Influence Intergroup Conflict in Guerezas (Cololus guereza),” 94–95.

  • 11. Schöning, “The Nature of Culture”; de Waal, Chimpanzee Politics, 18; McGrew,

“Culture in Nonhuman Primates?”

  • 12. Dugatkin, Cooperation among Animals, 132–134.

  • 13. Mitani and Watts, “Correlates of Territorial Boundary Patrol Behaviour in Wild

Chimpanzees,” 1084.

  • 14. Boesch, “Is Culture a Golden Barrier between Human and Chimpanzee?” 82;

Terborgh, Five New World Primates, 52, 157.

  • 15. Terborgh, Five New World Primates, 52, 157.

  • 16. de Waal, Good Natured, 166–167.

  • 17. Krech, The Ecological Indian, 33–36.

  • 18. Levy and Thompson, The Arc of War, 47–53.

  • 19. This transition was even used to explain the replacement of Neanderthals by

Cro-Magnons in Europe. See Gat, “Social Organization,” 429–440.

  • 20. Kaponen, “War, Famine, Pestilence in Late Precolonial Tanzania,” 648–655.

  • 21. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

  • 22. Hu-Dehart, “Development and Rural Rebellion.”

  • 23. Dwyer, The Agrarian Dispute, 133.

  • 24. Folsom, The Yaquis and the Empire, 215–216.

  • 25. Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 117, 141, 151.

  • 26. Varese, Mafias on the Move, 190–191.

  • 27. Ibid., 190–191.

  • 28. Deeb and Harb, Leisurely Islam, 181.

  • 29. The irony here is that scholars have learned to be oblivious to the limits of


  • 30. Painter, “Rethinking Territory,” 1091.

  • 31. Elden, Terror and Territory, xxvi.

  • 32. Ibid., p. xxx.

  • 33. Crofoot and Wrangham, “Intergroup Aggression in Primates and Humans,”


  • 34. Wong, “The Air-Raid-Shelter Apartments under Beijing.”

  • 35. Berezin, “Secure States,” 42.

  • 36. Searle, The Social Construction of Reality, 38–56.

  • 37. Reilly, Strong Society, Strong State, 145–147.

  • 38. Hensel and Mitchell, “Issue Indivisibility and Territorial Claims,” 280–283.


Rule #2: Expect Polities to Claim Territory Their Rulers Believe Is the Most Valuable

Until settling in permanent farming communities, the entire human pop- ulation on the planet probably numbered no more than ten million. Low numbers and migrating large game meant less intense competition for physical space than in later periods, but there was competition for the choicest hunting grounds nonetheless. Many species of large game follow migration routes, and the lands along them would have been valuable to bands of hunter-gatherers. Violence to win exclusive if temporary pos- session may have been common given their proclivities to exterminate large game and perhaps to view other humans as game. River estuaries with their rich fishing probably supported the largest pre-agricultural populations and probably the most determined efforts to assert and en- force exclusive possession. 1 Whether the shell mounds that emerged around early fishing communities reflected an intention to signal posses- sion or were simply a reflection of their relative affluence is unclear. However, we do know that later mound building and wall construction by sedentary agricultural societies was intended to do precisely that. A species highly dependent on vision and capable of abstract think- ing, humans tend to mark their territories with visual signs. The transi- tion from migrating hunting and gathering societies with small popula- tions into settled agricultural societies with larger populations in north- ern Europe is recognized in the archaeological record of burial mounds constructed to express the right to possession of land from previous gen- erations. 2 Archeological evidence of defensive works that combined wooden palisades and ditches, often constructed around the hilltops overlooking



Chapter 2

rich farming lands, are found across the planet. In pre-Columbian North America their appearance in the archaeological record in association with signs of abruptly larger population concentrations, malnourishment, and deadly violence against women and children, suggests increasingly vio- lent competition for food resources. 3 In the pre-Columbian Andes their appearance is associated with the shift from ritualized combat between individual warriors to battles between armies, which also suggests in- creasingly violent competition for food resources. 4 Increasingly intense exploitation of physical space is associated with increasingly intense marking with visual signs of exclusive possession. Massive stone structures such as city walls, temples, pyramids, aque- ducts, and canals constructed by the early states and empires were moti- vated not only by their utility but also by a desire to overawe both sub- jects and foreigners. Thus the northward expansion of the Wari Empire in the seventh century AD from its core in the coastal region of today’s southern Peru into the higher altitude valleys of the Andes was marked by the construction of canals and agricultural terraces as well as ritual structures featuring racks of trophy skulls of sacrificed captives like those at Conchopata. 5 Whatever religious or philosophical meaning may have been invested in the skull racks commonly featured in temples across the pre-Columbian Americas, they served as terrifying demonstrations of the power to turn enemy and subject persons into objects. Construction of long walls and other defensive barriers to provide defense signals not only possession of the territory but in some cases the emergence of the state. Thus the Danevirke, a defensive wall across the Danish peninsula from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea, begun by the Norse pagan King Godfrey in the early ninth century AD offered not only defense against a threatened Christian Saxon invasion from the south but also an imposing material demonstration of the authority of his recently consolidated kingdom. 6 The peninsula offered some of the best agricultu- ral land around the Baltic Sea, and when it began generating sufficient economic surplus to support a state, it was worth defending with public works. Modern walls have been constructed to prevent movement across boundaries can be seen on the borders between the United States and Mexico, Israel and Palestine, Hungary and Serbia, Greece and Turkey, Turkey and Syria, and North Korea and South Korea. Territorial claims elsewhere are more often indicated by the display of national flags, to- ponymy, official maps and history textbooks, and familiar international border-crossing rituals of checking passports, issuing visas, and customs inspections. Implicit in all of these symbol-laden performances is the co- ercive power of the modern state to exercise power over the physical space it values. The Early Modern Era is conventionally dated to have begun in 1500 with diffusion of the news that the Americas had been discovered. By

Rule #2


that moment in history modern humans had already occupied the readily habitable regions of the planet. Australia and New Guinea were settled approximately fifty thousand years ago and the Americas approximately sixteen thousand years ago. 7 The last readily habitable virgin lands of any size—New Zealand, Hawaii, and Iceland—had been settled in recent centuries. The Age of Discovery as it was once commonly called was largely a matter of Europeans locating all of the non-Europeans rather than of finding lands that had never before been explored. The handful of exceptions to this generalization included the mid-Atlantic islands like the Madeiras, the Azores, Bermuda, St. Helena, and Antarctica. Even the smallest, most remote islands dotting the South Pacific and East Pacific had already seen visits and brief habitation by intrepid Polynesian ex- plorers. The planet-spanning voyages of discovery and conquest by Western Europeans were different because nearly every inhabited region was connected for the first time in history. The Age of Discovery might be better termed the First Age of Globalization. While Western Europeans exercised little restraint in claiming territo- ry everywhere they travelled in force, they were more restrained in as- serting actual authority over the lands and peoples that they had ‘discov- ered.’ 8 Territory was often easier to claim than to rule. International law proved a flexible instrument for laying claim to the lands of indigenous peoples. The 1479 Treaty of Alcáçoves awarded the Portuguese all of the islands already discovered along with all those south of the Canaries. The subsequent 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas awarded all of the undiscovered lands west and east of 43°W respectively to Spain and Portugal. 9 The latter treaty was endorsed by the Papacy to reward the two Iberian pow- ers for their unusual success in waging war against Muslims; to reward them for geopolitically flanking the largely Muslim multi-ethnic empires in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia that threatened to encircle Latin Christendom; and for revealing new continents full of potential converts to Roman Catholicism. What Spain did with her extraordinary grant offers examples of the operation of Rule #2. Following the initial exploration of the insular Car- ibbean and the Isthmus of Panama, the Spanish were presented with opportunities for conquest anywhere from California to Patagonia. The Conquistadors tended to ignore small tribes except of course to interro- gate captives about precious metals, and instead sought to conquer the populous, wealthy empires. Conquering traditional states offered better returns than constructing new states from conquered tribes and new Eu- ropean settlements. If described by analogy to the choice between busi- ness opportunities, the conquistadors preferred hostile takeovers to launching their own startups. Tribes lacking gold and silver or living far from the coasts in inaccessible forests, mountains, or deserts might evade Spanish colonial rule for decades or centuries. Completing the conquest then became the task of the independent creole republics that assumed


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territorial rights of the Spanish empire under the international legal prin- ciple of uti possidetis de facto. What attracted the Spanish were the empires of the Mexica in Mesoa- merica and the Inca in the Andes. These initial targets fell to small armies of Spaniards equipped with steel weapons and horses because they could recruit large armies of indigenous allies. Plunder and slaughter were followed by the establishment of colonial regimes ruled by a largely ur- ban Spanish political and religious elite. Conquistadors who survived internecine struggles for the spoils grew rich from large grants of indige- nous labor and land, with approximately six hundred grants in the Vice- royalty of New Spain and five hundred in the Viceroyalty of Peru. 10 Only after consolidation of these conquests were less populous, poorer indige- nous societies targeted. Spanish America was thus created in a process of conquest that moved from indigenous imperial cores to tribal peripher- ies. Hernando Cortes conquered the Mexica capital of Tenochtitlan in 1519, but it was not until 1598 that Juan de Oñate marched north to conquer the Pueblo in what is today New Mexico. The historical development of Spanish colonial government followed the same ‘indigenous imperial core to tribal periphery’ pattern on a hemi- spheric scale. The Viceroyalty of New Spain governing Mesoamerica, the North American Gulf Coast, and Florida was established in 1535, and the Viceroyalty of Peru governing present Andean South America was estab- lished in 1542. 11 The Viceroyalty of New Granada governing present-day Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela was established in 1717, and the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata governing present-day Argentina, Uru- guay, Paraguay, and Bolivia was established in 1776. 12 Settlers sailed from Spain and followed the same pattern of conquest, initially gravitat- ing to the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru. 13 What Portugal did with her extraordinary grant under the Treaty of Tordesillas is detailed in the discussion of the development of the Brazi- lo-sphere in chapter 12. What should be noted here is that Portugal fol- lowed a different path from Spain, establishing a maritime empire run- ning from the mid-Atlantic along the coasts of Sub-Saharan Africa to the Indian Ocean and insular Southeast Asia. Rather than attempt to estab- lish colonial rule over the entire length of the coastlines along which their shipping traveled, the Portuguese seized an archipelago of ports like Mombasa and Goa and islands like Hormuz and Macau. From these strategic locations the Portuguese monopolized trade in some commod- ities and imposed locational rents on traders from other nations. In the process they took control of the trade in spice and firearms between the Middle East and insular Southeast Asia, thus aborting what might have become a period of renewed imperial expansion by the Ottoman Em- pire. 14 In the seventeenth century the Netherlands, England, and France fol- lowed Portugal’s example by establishing maritime empires. In time all

Rule #2


four empires transitioned into collections of colonies that included Euro- pean settler colonies and plantation colonies using forced labor. The military strength of indigenous societies and the prevalence of infectious disease together with the availability of tropical crops else- where blocked Western European annexations of the interior of Sub-Sa- haran Africa until the 1880s. Medical prophylaxis and repeating rifles were required before non-Africans could impose their authority over the entire continent. The Scramble for Africa was joined by Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and Belgium, or more precisely, Belgium’s monarch, Leopold II. The latter would become infamous because of the violence perpetrated by his Congo Free State’s Force Publique, which used execution and mutilation to extract quotas of rubber. Charles Goodrich’s invention of the process of vulcanizing rubber had created a new indus- try, and until the development of rubber plantations in Southeast Asia, demand for raw rubber could be satisfied only from wild rubber trees found in the Congo and the Amazon. Brazil’s acquisition of Acre from Bolivia motivated by the demand for wild rubber is a story told in chap- ter 4. Plantation agriculture, mining, and captive markets figured heavily in the other colonial projects. The possession of colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa also assuaged anxiety about international status of the newest members of the great power club, Germany and Italy. Former great pow- er Portugal could also reclaim some of its former glory by the careful delineation of the interior boundaries of its Sub-Saharan African colonies. East Asia, continental Southeast Asia, and the insular Pacific aroused the ambitions of the Western European great powers in the nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, a competition for territory eventu- ally joined by the United States and Japan. North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Mediterranean, much of it governed only in principle by a decaying Ottoman Empire, tempted some of the great powers in the same period. After both world wars of the twentieth century the victors de- voured the colonies and territorial peripheries of the defeated. The great- est value derived by the victors from their new territorial possessions was that they deprived the defeated of power resources. The last continent to be subjected to formal territorial claims, Antarcti- ca, was divided by Britain, France, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile. Territorially frustrated Nazi Germany also claimed a small region during the interbellum. Note, however, these would be neither the last formal claims to territory made nor the last large areas of territories to be claimed. Disregarding the nonannexationist international norm announced after both world wars, the great powers acquiesced in India’s annexation of Portuguese Goa and in Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights and of Jordanian and Palestinian East Jerusalem. However, the norm was ultimately enforced against Indonesia’s annexa- tion of Timor-Leste and was almost immediately enforced to undo Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait. Recent decades have seen much larger areas of the


Chapter 2

planet claimed and even larger areas that still await claiming, a story to be told in chapter 14. What makes some physical space worth claiming as territory? The answers are opportunity and motive, which are explored in the next four chapters.


  • 1. Cavalli-Sforza and Cavalli-Sforza, The Great Human Diasporas, 16.

  • 2. Oliver, Vikings, 32.

  • 3. Worne et al., “The Space of War,” 142–144; Lambert, “The Archaeology of

War,” 207–241; Maschner, “The Evolution of Northwest Coast Warfare,” 267–268;

Bamforth, “Indigenous People, Indigenous Violence,” 95–115.

  • 4. Topic and Topic, “Variation in the Practice of Prehispanic Warfare on the North

Coast of Peru,” 43.

  • 5. Tung, “Violence against Women,” 181–183.

  • 6. Oliver, Vikings, 127–128.

  • 7. Bellwood, First Migrants, 77–81, 83–84.

  • 8. A recent witty coinage is ‘Columbused,’ a past tense verb ironically describing

the discovery of something that is already known to others.

  • 9. How the Treaty of Tordesillas was modified by the 1529 Treaty of Saragossa to

recognize Portuguese sovereignty over the Moluccas is a story told by Brotton, A

History of the World in Twelve Maps, 186–217.

  • 10. J. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World, 39–41.

  • 11. Ibid., p. 124.

  • 12. Ibid., p. 354.

  • 13. Ibid., p. 52.

  • 14. Casale, The Ottoman Age of Exploration, 146–147.


Rule #3: Expect the Modern State to Compete for Territory

Today the modern state is ubiquitous. All of the land surface and increas- ing amounts of the water-covered surface of the planet have been claimed as the territory by modern states. Although states have been in existence for approximately five millennia—the archaeological and his- torical record of very ancient states in Mesopotamia leaves no doubt about their antiquity—they continued to encounter significant challenges from other polities into the nineteenth century. Traditional states did not emerge in every region, nor did they always survive, nor did they always prevail in conflicts over nonstate polities. Outside Mesoamerica and the Andes the Americas were stateless prior to European colonization. Large regions of Sub-Saharan Africa were state- less prior to European colonization. Melanesia, Micronesia, and, with the interesting exception of Hawaii, Polynesia were stateless before Euro- pean colonization. By contrast, the triumph of the modern state over all other forms of polity has been absolute. 1 Before exploring that part of the story, it is important to consider how competition for territory could result in larger polities by examining the historical cases of Aotearoa and Comancheria. Comparing them is useful because they present such a dramatic contrast in physical geography and traditional culture yet fol- low a similar political trajectory. New Zealand’s North Island and South Island were the largest land masses settled by Polynesians as they spread eastward across the Pacific from their probable origin on the island of New Britain. What the Polyne- sian ancestors of the Maori found when they arrived in the thirteenth century was plentiful large game, including fur seals, sea lions, and ele- phant seals, as well as thirteen species of large flightless birds called moas which were quickly hunted to extinction. 2



Chapter 3

Population growth and destruction of large game resulted in intense competition among the proto-Maori for those areas offering surviving species of game and better soils for gardens to grow taro and yams. Before Europeans arrived, that competition had already begun to compel the Maori to create larger polities controlling pa, wooden and stone forts with firing platforms and food storage pits, some capable of withstand- ing long sieges. 3 The inexorable logic of arms races required that once a clan (hapu) or tribe (iwi) had constructed such a fort, neighboring polities would need to construct them as well. 4 Without their own fort, a clan or tribe would be unable to retaliate against, and thus deter, raids by their neighbors. Success in war did more than maintain boundaries between polities. Military victory meant territorial aggrandizement. Maori con- querors sought to entirely displace the defeated, occupying their lands permanently with settlers from among their own population. 5 Contact with American whalers and British traders in the early nine- teenth century transformed Maori society because of the introduction of the potato and firearms. The result was more intense competition for territory now known as the ‘Musket Wars.’ As stored food, potatoes meant that raids by larger numbers of warriors travelling farther were possible. Firearms increased the lethality of raids. Although the resulting competition resulted in powerful paramount chiefs who united multiple tribes, the Maori lacked the time for that Darwinian process among pol- ities to produce a traditional state comparable to the Kingdom of Ha- waii. 6 Depopulation attributable to warfare with firearms, distilled alco- hol, new epidemic diseases, and cultural demoralization left the Maori ripe for conquest by a tide of British settlers. At the same moment in history that the Maori were losing most of their homeland, another people in the very different environment of the southern plains of North America come close to constructing a state. The largest tribal territory ever established in North America was Comanche- ria, the ‘empire’ of the nomadic Comanche. After acquiring horses around 1690, the tribe that was named the Komantcia by their ethnic relatives the Utes migrated from the Great Basin into the southern plains to hunt buffalo and trade with the Caddo settle- ments in Texas and with the Pueblo and Spanish settlements in New Mexico. 7 Comanches and Utes both speak Shoshonean languages, as did another people whose empire building will be described in chapter 7: the Mexica. 8 The introduction of the horse liberated the Comanche from hunting on foot and raising maize. Their new economy depended on bison hunting and horse rearing. Their chief competitor for the southern plains was a tribe that would earn a reputation for warlike ferocity com- parable to their own: the Apache. The region’s narrow river valley micro- environments provided the most valuable resources. 9 The Comanche wanted them to water and provide forage for their expanding horse herds, while the Apache wanted the river bottoms to irrigate maize

Rule #3


fields. Both wanted them for shelter from winter blizzards. Using am- bush and massacre, the more numerous and more mobile Comanche succeeded in enforcing their claim to the land. By driving the Apache westward into the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona, the Co- manche established a nomadic tribal empire encompassing much of the present day American states of New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklaho- ma, and Texas. From 1800 to 1850, they ignored as irrelevant the author- ity that five modern states claimed over their lands: Spain, France, Mexi- co, the Republic of Texas, and the United States. At the height of their power the Comanche traded large numbers of horses, extracted location- al rents on the other goods crossing their territory, and staged raids into northern Mexico. Among the ‘horse tribes’ of the American West, Co- mancheria was the sole superpower. Hegemony permitted them to as- similate the Kiowa as a subtribe and impose on the Arapahoe and Chey- enne to their north. The transformation of Spanish colonial New Mexico from a forgotten backwater of the Spanish empire to a thriving region is attributable in part to growing trade with the Comanche. What is noteworthy about this trade is that to maximize their gains, the traditionally nomadic, egalitar- ian and independent Comanche began to exhibit greater social stratifica- tion, and developed a polity which began to resemble a state. 10 The in- creasing volume of trade across their territory, their growing individual horse herds, which served as the most important measure of an individu- al warrior’s relative social status, and a tribal population growing through natural increase and slave raids all reinforced the tendency to adopt some of the political behaviors of the Spanish and later of the Mexicans, Texans, and Americans. The Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican American War, and the annexa- tion of Texas by the United States ultimately aborted the political evolu- tion of Comancheria from a tribal empire to a state. Americans were simply too numerous and aggressive in occupying the lands they had purchased from France and conquered from Mexico to be resisted. Small- pox and cholera epidemics reduced the Comanche population, and slave raiding failed to fully compensate for the decline. 11 Thinning bison herds challenged the ability of the Comanche to feed even their smaller num- bers. Indigenous peoples did not always succumb as completely to Euro- pean or European-descended settlers as the Maori and Comanche. Tradi- tional states in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa that fielded large armies equipped with gunpowder weapons, albeit often antiquated, could resist conquest. For the indigenous, being governed by a traditional state was preferable to no state in such encounters. Without the sort of demograph- ic collapse among the indigenous experienced in the Americas and Aus- tralasia, European and European-descended settlers could not become ethnic majorities. Instead, most of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia was


Chapter 3

ruled for a time by Western European great powers not as settler colonies but as plantation colonies. That was only possible because those great powers developed as the first modern states in Europe. The reason modern states are now ubiquitous is that they have been dispatching their rivals for five centuries. Western Europe was their birthplace because it was there that the competition was most intense. Modern states developed because increasing costs of warfare in High Medieval Europe encouraged the creation of ever larger feudal domains and innovations in economic development, public finance, revenue col- lection, and political representation. 12 Although tribes and chiefdoms might still be found on the peripheries of Northern Europe and Eastern Europe in the Early Medieval Period, by the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods Europe was ruled by states, albeit of different types:

multi-national empires like the Holy Roman Empire and Ottoman Em- pire, city-states like Venice and Genoa, and national kingdoms like Eng- land and France. The German-speaking lands of central Europe were characterized by ambiguous and overlapping political authority. Both the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna and the Pope in Rome relied on the willingness of the rulers of more than three hundred states to obey and enforce their decisions. Some states were large kingdoms like Saxony, Bavaria and Brandenburg. Some were small but wealthy imperial cities like Nuremberg. Many were simply microstates. So although the state was already ubiquitous in Europe, the modern state was not. The transformation of the state system in Europe might be fairly de- scribed as the result of a protracted ‘Darwinian struggle’ among states of different kinds. The predatory theory of the state attributes the emer- gence and evolution of polities to the competition among elites to rule in exchange for enhanced wealth and status. Rulers were experts at organiz- ing violence who held power only so long as they could defeat both internal and external challengers. The conquest of neighboring peoples was motivated by the temptation of greater wealth and status that could be generated from a larger domain. The cooperative theory of the state, by contrast, attributes the emergence and evolution of polities to the solu- tion of multiple collective action problems that included but did not stop with protection from neighboring peoples. Charles Tilly explains that the modern state, or ‘national state’ as he preferred to term it, prevailed because it occupied the optimal organiza- tional midpoint between the poles of the multinational empire that devel- oped only a rudimentary tribute-based extractive capacity and the mari- time city-state that depended on borrowing to pay mercenaries. 13 Mod- ern states were better at extracting more of the power resources from society necessary for waging war. More revenue could be collected using civil bureaucracies from populations willing to pay them because of iden- tification with the state. Every state used the threat of coercion and ideo- logical persuasion to collect taxes, but the modern state made more effec-

Rule #3


tive use of both to achieve compliance. 14 The precursor to this predatory theory of the state is identifiable in the work of Joseph R. Strayer, who emphasized the monopolization of legitimate violence by nascent mod- ern states for the purpose of enhancing revenue collection. 15 More recent- ly, Andreas Wimmer elaborated on the nexus between war and revenue by describing the modern state as the result of struggle not only for the state apparatus but also about its identity. 16 Modern states developed because those winning the struggle for power successfully appealed to nationalism. As the engine for the process, nationalism provided rulers with subjects more willing to exchange taxes and conscripts for more dignity, legal rights, and public goods. 17 One consequence of the interstate wars financed by regular taxation was that the size of territories ruled by European states increased as their number decreased. 18 Another was that European states and societies be- gan to resemble one another more closely. Positive feedback between growing international and colonial trade, the scientific revolution, mass literacy, urbanization, and industrialization reduced differences both within and between European states. That Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte could create new client states like the Batavian Republic and Confedera- tion of the Rhine and impose reforms like the Code Napoleon was an elaboration on the packages of modernizing reforms adopted by the pre- vious century’s ‘Enlightened Despots’ such as Frederick the Great in Prussia, Joseph II in Austria, and Gustavus III in Sweden. Not coincident- ly, each of these leaders also sought to add sovereign territory to his own realm. Additional tax revenues paid for larger, more lethal, and more loyal armed forces. Military modernization meant regular pay and rations, promotion based on merit, training as weapons specialists, and patriotic indoctrination. Traditional armies too often resembled mobs of generalist military professionals and amateurs who might be inspired by religious hatred or the promise of loot. 19 Apathy, criminality, desertion, mutiny, and betrayal were constant problems. By contrast, modern armies are bureaucratic organizations whose leaders directed action by disciplined subordinates to achieve goals. Time and again modern armies prevailed over traditional armies, their superiority unmistakable in the wildly lop- sided casualty counts from battles in the colonial conquests of the late nineteenth century, of Britain in Burma and Sudan and of France in Da- homey and Madagascar. The much quoted line in Hillaire Belloc’s 1898 epic poem ‘The Modern Traveler,’ captures the truth about those clashes:

“Whatever happens we have got the Maxim Gun, and they have not.” 20 On those few occasions when modern armies were defeated by tradition- al armies, as with the Italian loss to Ethiopia at the 1896 Battle of Adua, it was typically because they faced traditional armies equipped with mod- ern weapons supplied by rival great powers. Italy lost at Adua because


Chapter 3

France both supplied Ethiopia with modern rifles and artillery, and acted to block Italian expansion in northeast Africa. Competition from modern states in the nineteenth century compelled both traditional states and nonstate societies to adapt, at times by funda- mentally transforming themselves. Japan and Thailand withstood the Western European imperialism by modernizing. So successful was the Japanese adaptation that it joined the ranks of the great powers. In the Pacific, Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga, and Fiji also created short-lived states, “[c]omplete with public governments and public law, monarchs and tax- es, ministers and minions.” 21 Rather than living in a time of innocence punctuated by occasional skirmishes to mark tribal boundaries before modern states imposed their rule, traditional states in Sub-Saharan Africa engaged one another in struggles for power resources. Western European imperialist penetration increased the intensity of competition, compelling them to attempt mod- ernization to forestall conquest. 22 For example, in response to the threat of incorporation into the British Gold Coast, Asante elites appointed a corps of bureaucrats, modernized the army, and appealed to non-British concession hunters as counters to the British. 23 Such efforts were ulti- mately undone by a vicious cycle involving the intensification of com- modity production based on slave labor in East and Central Africa to finance the purchase of imported firearms that would be used in further slave raiding. The resulting chaos was then used to justify colonization. The now ubiquitous modern state is thus the product of intense com- petition for territory. Competition enhances the performance of winners as it eliminates losers. Zero sum competition rewards surviving competi- tors with larger shares of the winnings for adopting the advantages pio- neered by their successful rivals. The result of several centuries of compe- tition for territory is a world with fewer, larger, and more militarily and diplomatically competent states. Given such an evolutionary process, it would be surprising if modern states did not value and continue to com- pete for territory when opportunity was presented.


  • 1. Four near exceptions to the generalization include the almost territory-less but

sovereign Vatican, entirely urban but sovereign Singapore, nonsovereign Hong Kong,

and perennial failed state Somalia.

  • 2. This is consistent with the mass extinctions of other extraordinary megafauna

after the first humans appeared in the Americas and Australia. See Krech, The Ecologi-

cal Indian, 41–42.

  • 3. Belich, Making Peoples, 67–81.

  • 4. Ibid., 87–88.

Rule #3


  • 6. von Meijl, “Maori Socio-Economic Organization in Pre- and Proto-History,”


  • 7. Flores, “Bison Ecology and Bison Diplomacy,” 466.

  • 8. Blackhawk, “The Displacement of Violence,” 729.

  • 9. Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire, 31.

  • 10. Ibid., 134.

  • 11. Rivaya-Martínez, “A Different Look at Native American Depopulation,”


  • 12. Ertman, Birth of the Leviathan, 59–89, 156–171.

  • 13. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, 20–21.

  • 14. Levi, Of Rule and Revenue, 52–55.

  • 15. Strayer, On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State.

  • 16. Wimmer, Waves of War, 15.

  • 17. Ibid., 20.

  • 18. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, 45–47.

  • 19. Porch, The Conquest of Morocco, 99–101.

  • 20. Belloc, The Modern Traveler.

  • 21. Sahlins, “Poor Man, Rich Man, Big-Man, Chief,” 288.

  • 22. Idahosa and Shenton, “The Africanist’s ‘New’ Clothes,” 67–113.

  • 23. Ibid., 79.


Rule #4: Remember That Competition for Territory Between Modern States May Be Peaceful

The enormous butcher’s bills for the battles of the First World War shocked observers then and still manage to astonish us today. The Battle of Verdun alone cost the lives of 305,440 French and German soldiers, or one life lost every minute for ten months between February and Decem- ber of 1916. 1 Tragic sacrifice on such a scale was possible because war- time propaganda successfully exploited the urge to defend or expand the territory of the nation. So it is hardly surprising that in the aftermath of the conflict competition between states for territory would be associated with the tragedy of war. Popular histories of the First World War are right to describe territori- al anxiety and ambition as causes for the conflict. 2 Where popular histo- ries fail is in identifying the vector for the propagation of modern territo- rial nationalism. Popular enthusiasm for ethnonationally homogenous states encompassing all of the territory of the titular nation is historically recent. The example of French patriotism obviously inspired nationalists elsewhere, but it was burdened with the ideological baggage of the En- lightenment and resentment about Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire build- ing. The better candidate for the vector is Greek nationalism, whose pro- ponents began demanding territorial expansion to create Greater Greece only a decade after winning independence for their Little Greece from the Ottoman Empire. 3 In 1842 a member of the Greek Parliament called upon Greeks to realize the Megali Idea or ‘Great Idea’ of a Kingdom of Greece that would include, “any land associated with Greek history and the Greek Race.” 4



Chapter 4

What made this Hellenic project extraordinary was its audacity. Most ethnic Greeks lived outside of the Kingdom of Greece in diaspora com- munities that had existed for centuries. Had that project been realized, it would have included all of the islands and most of the lands around the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea. 5 The Megali Idea proved a more powerful meme than Greek nationalism. By the late nineteenth century, Serb nationalists were dreaming of a Greater Serbia that had recovered territories lost to others. German pan-nationalists imagined a Greater Germany encompassing Central and Eastern Europe. 6 Surprisingly, the experience of the Second World War and domination by the Soviet Union failed to finally extinguish such territorial ambitions. As this author wit- nessed, Romanian and Hungarian nationalists were still unfolding paper maps of a Greater Romania and a Greater Hungary in the late 1990s. Transylvania, with its checkerboard pattern of ethnic Romanian and eth- nic Hungarian communities, was included in both maps. 7 What is easy to overlook in the contemporary dismay that so many have died to achieve these nationalist projects is that they were articulat- ed in response to profound resentments about foreign political and cultu- ral domination and ethnonational discrimination. German nationalism grew out of the Romanticism of the Counter-Enlightenment and bitter- ness about the subjugation of the German states by Napoleonic France. For more than two centuries following the Peace of Westphalia, German- speaking Central Europe had been fragmented in major and minor states. Dynastic, religious, and linguistic differences reinforced the autonomy of multiple kingdoms, principalities, and free cities. Napoleon Bonaparte redrew the map of the western Germany and marched Prussia into a disastrous war with Russia as a less than willing ally. With his defeat, Prussia began the process of unifying most of the German speakers in a series of limited wars. Defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 deprived France of Alsace and Lorraine, where the linguistic affinities of many were more German than French. German nationalists characterized the transfer as a “dis-annexation” rather than an annexation, as historical restitution for the humiliations inflicted by the French over the previous two centuries, as an important step forward in the unification of Germany, and as neces- sary for Germany to survive geopolitical encirclement. 8 French national- ists bemoaned the loss of Alsace and Lorraine as an unhealed wound on the national body. The provinces were French national territory because they had been so for centuries; their Franconian-speaking residents des- tined to be assimilated into the national culture like other minorities else- where around the periphery of the French Octagon. Moreover, Stras- bourg and Metz occupied by Germany posed a strategic threat to the centers of French industry. 9 The dispute over Alsace and Lorraine was one of the causes of the First World War, and perforce the Second World War, and would be

Rule #4


exchanged several more times before the international border was finally accepted. For the duration of the First World War the German Army would occupy additional parts of Lorraine north and east of the town of Verdun. French nationalist intellectual Maurice Barres, who located the ‘soul’ of France in a familial and racial attachment to les terres, something mysteriously transmitted from mother to child, brought his rhetorical skills to bear on the problem and coined the phrase Route Sacree or ‘Sa- cred Way’ in propaganda to ennoble the road to the battlefield of Verdun down which many French troops marched to their deaths. 10 Many in the generation that experienced the war agreed that the slaughter in battles like Verdun, Somme, and Ypres would agree that they were tragic wastes of life. What they could not agree about was why. Military intellectuals saw the stalemated trench warfare as reason for the adoption of new weapons and new tactics to use them. However, they were in the minority. More common was condemnation of national terri- torial ambition expressing one of the liberal or Marxist anti-imperialisms, each a vehicle for espousing, variously, world government, free-trade, socialism, anti-colonialism, racial equality, or pacifism. 11 For example, in the May 1915 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, thus before United States entry, W.E.B. DuBois reduced the conflict to competition between the racist regimes ruling European great powers for shares of Asian and African territory. 12 Not only was territorial ambition of the Western Eu- ropean powers in Africa the primary cause of this war, he asserted, but it would also be the primary cause of future wars as well. The postwar settlement revealed the more complex geopolitical ambitions of the win- ners. The Treaty of Versailles that followed the First World War redrew borders across Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucuses, the Middle East, and Africa to the advantage of some of the winning powers, while several former European subject peoples of the German, Austrian, and Ottoman Empires won independence. Germany had planned to annex Luxembourg and parts of Belgium after victory. 13 Instead, defeated Ger- many lost Alsace and Lorraine to France. Italy took South Tyrol from Austria-Hungary. Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechoslo- vakia, and Yugoslavia emerged or reemerged. Romania received much of Bessarabia from Russia and Banat and Transylvania from Austria-Hun- gary, the latter award outraging Hungarian nationalists. The Ottoman Empire was carved up to give Rhodes to Italy, Smyrna to Greece, Trebi- zond to Armenia, and Mandates under the League of Nations over Pales- tine and Mesopotamia to Britain, and over Lebanon and Syria to France. Britain, France, and Belgium took Germany’s African colonies. Japan, Australia, and the United States took Germany’s colonies in Asia and the insular Pacific. Across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia nationalists dis- covered that the principle of self-determination used to legitimate the postwar settlement applied in practice only to Europeans.


Chapter 4

The Second World War was the result of territorial frustrations felt by revisionist states and the reluctance of the status quo powers to accomo- date them. Unhappy winners Italy, Japan, and Romania allied with un- happy losers Germany, Austria, and Hungary for a bloodier second round. Their defeat in the Second World War meant yet another round of territorial redistribution from the losers to the winners even as the win- ners piously proscribed territorial annexation. France kept Alsace and Lorraine. Russia expanded westward at the expense of Poland, which expanded westward at the expense of Germany. Germany and Korea were partitioned. Russia expanded westward at the expense of Romania. China took Taiwan. The Soviet Union wanted Libya from Italy, but Brit- ain took it instead. Britain also took Somalia from Italy. Greece received Rhodes and the rest of the Dodecanese Islands from Italy. The Japanese South Pacific was taken by the United States. What was different this time was that many colonial peoples began to either negotiate or fight their way to independence from the exhausted empires. The United Nations was established after the Second World War in large part to prevent future interstate war. Given recent history the en- tirely reasonable assumption made by most of the leaders of its member states was that territorial ambition was the major cause of such wars. Nationalist propaganda mobilizing colonial populations for postwar anticolonial struggles and wars of national liberation in the Caribbean, Middle East, Africa, and Asia emphasized the violence of European colo- nial rule. In such a charged atmosphere, to have publicly recognized that much of the territorial expansion in the previous century had been real- ized without resort to interstate war and in some cases without waging a colonial war would have drawn accusations of justifying militarism and imperialism. Yet that is what the historical record shows. W.E.B. DuBois’s thesis that great power competition for territory in Africa and Asia led to the First World War does not stand up to scrutiny. In reality, the great powers cooperated with one another as much as they competed in their imperialism. During the ‘Scramble for Africa’ of the late nineteenth century Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Ita- ly, and Spain divided the continent without firing a shot at one another. The Beira Incident was a tense moment, but European states did not deem Sub-Saharan African territory to be worth a war. 14 The seeming exception of the Second Boer War was not a war between Europeans but a struggle between great power Britain and two small European settler states that resisted annexation, Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Al- though it is true that there was some combat in Africa and Asia during the First World War, the outcome of the conflict was decided in Europe. Much of the competition for territory in the nineteenth century, be- tween European great powers, between European great powers and in- dependent former European colonies in the Americas, and between inde- pendent former European colonies in the Americas, was resolved with-

Rule #4


out resort to interstate war. Given the enormous areas over which they competed, the history of expansion during this period was surprisingly pacific. Britain, the United States, and Russia resolved their claims to the en- tire Pacific Northwest without waging an interstate war. Those territories encompass the 3,584,885 square kilometers of the American states of Alaska, Oregon, and Washington and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Yukon. That is larger than the current territory of India and more than fifteen times the current size of Britain. The most violent interaction between the three great powers over territory in the region was the risible Pig War of 1859, so named because the only casualty was a pig owned by an American settler which was shot by an agent of the Hudson Bay Company. Britain conceded sovereignty over the beautiful San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, the res of the dispute, despite its naval superiority and the greater proximity of the islands to British Vancouver. Good relations with the increasingly powerful United States and the vul- nerability of the rest of Canada gave London reasons to appease Wash- ington. Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, France, the United States, Germany, Japan, and Chile divided the remaining uncolonized lands of Southeast Asia and the Pacific without going to war with one another, at least until the Spanish-American War. Britain and the Netherlands resolved their dispute in Southeast Asia with an 1824 treaty through which a British possession in Sumatra was exchanged for a Dutch possession in the Ma- lay Peninsula. 15 Britain, Spain, and Germany resolved their rivalry over North Borneo and island of Sulu in the southern Philippines with the Anglo-Spanish-German Treaty of 1885. 16 Britain was recognized as sove- reign in the former and Spain in the latter. Germany received no territory in the agreement but avoided an interstate war and was later able to purchase the Solomon Islands from Spain. The exception to this pattern was the Spanish American War. The United States and Spain fought for the remaining Spanish possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Washington ignored Madrid’s small empire in Africa. The expansion of the United States included wars of conquest and negotiated purchase. The Battle of the Alamo, an episode in the Texas War of Independence, figures prominently in American historical con- sciousness because it was the subject of successful Hollywood films. Not so the negotiation of the international agreements for the purchase of one-half of the total land area of the United States. If most Americans are aware of the Louisiana Purchase from France and the Purchase of Alaska from Russia, few know that the United States bought Florida, the Virgin Islands, and the Gadsden Strip. Few know that the Pacific Northwest was acquired in the Oregon Treaty of 1846, that the Kingdom of Hawaii was annexed, that territory along the Canadian-American border was ceded by Britain, or that much of territory on the Gulf Coast was ceded by


Chapter 4

Spain. If these major events in the expansion of the United States had been punctuated by a heroic battle and reenacted in film, they might register more powerfully. The truth that sovereignty over immense territory outside Europe of- ten changed hands without an interstate war is important. Consider Bra- zil’s acquisition of Acre from Bolivia. Bolivia held sovereign title to the immense and thinly settled region of western Amazonia under the inter- national legal principle captured in the Latin phrase uti possidetis de facto, which means the right by possession by a successor state. Acre had been the territory of the Spanish Empire under the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas and the Real Audencia of Charcas under the 1777 Treaty of San Ildefonso. It probably would have remained Bolivian had it not been for Charles Goodyear’s 1840 discovery of the process of vulcanizing rubber. The re- sulting demand for wild rubber attracted thousands of Brazilian rubber tappers or seringueiros to Acre. 17 Rather than going to war, Bolivia struck a bargain with Brazil detailed in the March 27, 1867, Treaty of Amity, Limits, Navigation, Commerce and Extradition. The treaty transferred title to three hundred thousand square kilometers of Acre to Brazil in return for promises of access to the Atlantic along the interior waterways of Brazil for the Bolivian navy and commercial shipping. If this seems an odd bargain to strike, geopolitical anxiety about being landlocked was intense in La Paz. Bolivia and Peru had lost the 1879–1883 War of the Pacific to Chile. Where Bolivia’s ally Peru lost mineral rich provinces to victorious Chile, Bolivia lost all access to the sea. Commemoration of the Dia Del Mar or Day of the Sea in which Bolivia reasserts its claim to the sea as specified by Simón Bolívar suggests that the historical trauma is still raw. 18 Bolivian plans to hold the remaining Alto Acre, where thousands of seringueiros were tapping rubber, by attracting non-Brazilian settlers and constructing railroad lines succeeded only in arousing Brazilian geopolit- ical ambitions. On September 6, 1884, Brazil denounced provisions of the treaty allowing Bolivian naval and commercial ships access to the Atlan- tic across Brazil. In 1889 the Brazilian settlers in Acre rebelled and pro- claimed the short-lived Independent State of the Acre. 19 They were no doubt aware of the precedents of the American settler rebellions that established the briefly independent states of Texas and California. The Bolivian Army suppressed the 1889 insurrection but failed to extinguish the nationalist sentiment of the settlers or the ambition of their sponsors in Brazil. In 1902, Brazil closed the Amazon River to Bolivia. 20 When a second settler rebellion funded by the governor of the Brazilian state of Amazo- nas seized power in Alto Acre and declared the Republic of Acre, war between Bolivia and Brazil appeared imminent. 21 What happened in- stead was that Brazilian and Bolivian diplomats contrived a face-saving exchange of territories and payment of an indemnity. The Treaty of Pe-

Rule #4


tropolis signed on November 17, 1903, transferred the 191,000 square kilometers of Alto Acre from Bolivia to Brazil in exchange for some 3,000 square kilometers of marshy land along rivers from Brazil to Bolivia and a £2,000,000 indemnity. 22 If the agreement seems unfair to the Bolivians, it should be noted that the Treaty of Petropolis may have saved the lives of many soldiers. Interstate war is as rare in South America as in North America, though still a possibility. The 1932–1935 Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay cost both the lives of several soldiers for each of the 20,000 square kilometers of the disputed desert of Chaco Boreal. There is a second anticlimax in this story. Acre’s economic importance to Brazil receded soon after its acquisition because plantation rubber pro- duced in the British Ceylon and Malaysia and in French Indochina drove down the price of rubber. Rubber trees in the plantations in Southeast Asia were more productive because they were much less burdened by disease than those in Amazonia or the Congo Delta. 23 When those South- east Asian plantations were lost to Japan during the Second World War, Brazilians hoped for another rubber boom. Instead, synthetic rubber pro- duction in the United States aborted the revival of production. 24 Note, however, that Brazil never seriously considered returning Acre back to Bolivia. As explained in the previous chapter, the power resources present in a territory may have future as well as current value for a state. Even in the early twentieth century, a period when territorial expan- sion once again typically meant bloody interstate war, states could still negotiate to transfer sovereign territory for cash. Consider the June 8, 1937, telegram sent by a financially embarrassed Chile to the United States, Britain, Germany, and Japan offering to sell Rapa Nui, a 164- square-kilometer island in the Western Pacific popularly known as Easter Island or Isla de Pascua. 25 Originally settled by Polynesians, it was first claimed by the Dutch in 1772 and then later by Spain. Had either of these powers established a functioning colonial government, the indigenous population might have been spared the depopulation caused by Peruvian slave raiders seeking labor for mining and by the exploitation of French planters. Slave raiding across the insular Pacific continued even after the British Navy began to suppress the Atlantic slave trade. Rapa Nui was especially hard hit, suf- fering depopulation and the near extermination of its elites. No function- ing government was established on the island until Chile asserted sove- reignty over the islands based on the November 9, 1888, Acta de Occupa- tion, an agreement signed by eleven Rapa Nui chiefs. 26 Whether that document represented a true ‘meeting of the minds’ is still being debat- ed. 27 Chile annexed Rapa Nui primarily for the international prestige that possessing it offered. A history of competition with Argentina for territo- ry in the southernmost part of South America, the political influence of the Chilean Navy, popular because of its military successes against Peru


Chapter 4

and Bolivia and the behavioral cue taken from the contemporaneous French annexations in Melanesia and Polynesia, made acquiring sove- reignty over the islands a rational decision. Roughly fifty years later their possession represented value of a different sort for Chile. Negotiations between Santiago and Tokyo to purchase the island be- gan just two days after the 1937 telegram was sent. 28 Although Japan was among the victorious allied powers in the First World War, repeated humiliations during the Interbellum—including rejection of a Japanese proposal for a racial equality clause in the League of Nations Covenant, concessions extracted by the Americans and British at the London Naval Conference of 1923, and passage of the Japanese Exclusion Act by the United States Congress—motivated Japanese nationalists to pursue terri- torial expansion to reinforce Japan’s great-power status. Foreign policy makers in Tokyo envisioned Rapa Nui as a civilian and military airbase linking Japan with South America. Peru was already attracting large numbers of Japanese and Chinese immigrants. If Rapa Nui seems an improbable major civilian airport today, the aircraft of the period were smaller and carried less fuel than would be true in the later twentieth century. Stopping there to refuel on flights across the Pacific made sense in the same way that stopping to refuel in the Azores once made sense for flights across the Atlantic. Negotiations between Japan and Chile ended without an agreement because the eruption of the Second Sino-Japanese War distracted Tokyo and Santiago demanded too high a price. What merits attention to this largely forgotten episode is that it is a reminder that even in a period marked of bloody interstate wars over territory, when the price was right, territory could be transferred peacefully. That the imperial powers partitioned entire continents and regions among themselves without fighting one another does not obviate the wars they waged against the indigenous inhabitants to impose colonial rule. Numerous chiefdoms, tribes, and traditional states were either de- stroyed or subjugated to establish colonies. French New Caledonia and Italian Eritrea offer representative cases worth examining. When the French launched their colonization of New Caledonia, an island approximately the size of the state of Massachusetts, the indige- nous Kanak inhabitants were governed by chiefs ruling their own inde- pendent macri or territories. 29 Political fragmentation was reinforced by continuous warfare between the chiefdoms and extreme linguistic diver- sity. 30 The chiefdoms fought over land and people, the latter serving as both subjects and food. Colonial conquest began with formal annexation in September 1853 and was completed with military campaigns against chiefdoms in three regions: the south in 1856–1859, the north in 1868–1869, and the west in 1878–1879. To suppress resistance and deter future rebellion, the French and their Kanak auxiliaries systematically burned villages and gardens. Captured Kanak leaders together with

Rule #4


some of their family members were interned on the neighboring Loyalty Islands, which had also been annexed by France. What justified all this effort for the French? Stories of a languid tropi- cal paradise whose savage inhabitants would benefit from exposure to French civilization may have persuaded some of the French public to support the project, but enhanced international prestige was probably more important. British success in Australia and New Zealand made settler colonies in the tropical Pacific another measure of great power status. French Tahiti and the Society Islands seemed picayune prizes by comparison. New Caledonia offered new economic opportunity in the form of coffee and cattle production, and eventually nickel and chro- mium mining. France would also use the island as an open-air prison for political prisoners, including several thousand captured Paris Commu- nards and handfuls of Algerian and Cameroonian anticolonial rebels. The prisoners became involuntary colonial settlers through the policy called doublage, or required residence on the island after their release for a peri- od equal to their prison sentence. Today we recognize that much about this colonial project was morally abhorrent. Kanak land was expropriated for plantations, ranches, and mines. Cultural chauvinism and racism-led colonial officials and settlers to perpetrate violence against the Kanak with impunity. Infectious disease and immigration reduced the Kanak to a minority of the island’s population. Estimated at one hundred thousand in 1853, the Kanak population was reduced to just twenty-seven thousand by 1921. 31 Cultural trauma, economic expropriation, and social discrimina- tion have rendered many of today’s Kanak poor and powerless. When it was launched, however, foreign policy makers in Paris conceived it as another splendid opportunity for France, in the words of Prime Minister Jules Ferry, to “extend her influence around the world and carry every- where possible her language, her mores, her flag, her arms, and her gen- ius.” 32 France’s civilizing mission would be fulfilled by suppressing fighting among the Kanak, which included the horror of cannibalism. That French officials were able to recruit Kanak auxiliaries for their cam- paigns suggested then, as it does now, that the order imposed by the colonial state might have been perceived by some Kanak as superior to the anarchy of rule by their chiefs. Even an unjust peace is sometimes preferable to unending war. If recognizing that the French found collaborators among the Kanak smacks too much of any apology for colonialism, consider a counterfactu- al, an alternative historical scenario, in which France did not colonize New Caledonia. Is it plausible that New Caledonia would have been left alone by the other great powers to develop without cultural contamina- tion or integration into the global markets? Surely colonization by a dif- ferent great power would have been its more likely fate. Among the most likely candidates is Germany, which bean colony hunting in the late nine-


Chapter 4

teenth century and acquired several in Sub-Saharan Africa and the insu- lar Pacific. Together with her colonies in Northwestern Papua and the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia would have given Berlin an enviably large German Pacific Empire. In the unlikely circumstance that no great power colonized New Cale- donia, would the Kanak have continued to live in an anarchic society of warring cannibal chiefdoms isolated from the rest of the world? What would have prevented traders from selling the Kanak firearms and there- by causing more intense warfare comparable to the Musket Wars in New Zealand? Consolidation into larger chiefdoms was already underway be- fore annexation by France. 33 Predicting the emergence of a Kanak state, cannibal or otherwise, is therefore reasonable. Like Germany, Italy was a recently unified state that quickly devel- oped an appetite for imperial expansion. The problem for Italian empire builders was that many of the richest and easiest opportunities for coloni- al expansion had already been seized by the other great powers or were ‘protected’ by the great powers. The United States guarded the indepen- dent republics of Latin America, and if any great power was going to aggrandize itself at their expense, it would be the United States. Britain protected the African and Asian colonial empires of the Netherlands and Portugal, and if any state was going to aggrandize itself at their expense it would be Britain. Unsurprisingly then, foreign policy makers in Rome focused on the possessions of the Ottoman Empire. Incomplete modern- ization, rebellions in the Balkans, and inconstant great-power allies had weakened Istanbul’s hold over its remaining North African and Middle Eastern territories. Writing in 1871, Giuseppe Mazzini reminded Italians that their Roman ancestors had ruled the Mediterranean Sea or ‘Mare Nostrum,’ before identifying Tunis, Tripolitania, and Cyrenaica as prom- ising targets for colonies. 34 He also warned that the French might seize them first. In the nineteenth century, Egypt was ruled by a Khedival government that ignored the authority of the nominally sovereign Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul. By the end of the century Egypt was falling into the hands of the British. That left the Egyptian-controlled Red Sea port of Massawa and its surroundings ripe for the plucking. When Italy occupied Massawa in 1885, it did so with the blessings of Britain.

The debt-ridden regime in Cairo was on the verge of collapse and the British, new masters in Egypt, were anxious not to see a power vacuum develop which could be filled by the French, their great rivals in the scramble for Africa. They helpfully explained to Italian naval com- manders exactly where the Egyptian cannon were positioned, allowing the port to be captured without loss of life. 35

Rule #4


Modern states might compete for new territory, but they can recognize both the danger of extending beyond their capacity to rule effectively and leaving some regions claimed. What did Italy want with such a forbiddingly hot, arid, mountainous and remote region? The answer is that Rome wanted enhanced interna- tional prestige, a European settler colony, and escape from geopolitical confinement. That the past glory of the Roman Empire and modern Italy’s status as the least of the great powers was much on the minds of Italian imperial- ists is evident in the decision to rename the new possession ‘Eritrea,’ for Erythraeum Mare, Latin for ‘Red Sea.’ Rome had been profoundly embar- rassed in 1881 when Paris stole a march by annexing the Kingdom of Tunis. 36 Italians comprised the bulk of the large European expatriate community in Tunis and observers had expected Italy to annex it. Eritrea was compensation for that humiliation. Like their counterparts in Germany, Italian imperialists were dis- tressed by the tens of thousands of Italians departing for the Americas annually. Rather than become Americans, Brazilians, or Argentines, the emigrants would make Italy wealthier and more secure as settlers in Italian colonies in North and East Africa. Eritrea was promoted as pos- sessing empty farm lands awaiting peasant settlers. 37 In keeping with imperial practice elsewhere the colony would also provide ascaris or Eri- trean soldiers for Italy’s further imperial ambitions. 38 From Massawa, the Italians expanded until they encompassed the northeastern Abyssinian highlands under the 1889 Treaty of Uccialli with Ethiopia. Curiously, although the signed Amhara-language translation of that treaty did not grant Italy a protectorate over Ethiopia, the unsigned Italian-language translation of the treaty did. 39 Italian expansion halted with the shock of defeat at the 1896 Battle of Adua. That humiliation was followed by the failed effort to win a ‘settlement’ in China in 1899. 40 Wounded Italian national pride was only partially healed by defeating Ottoman Turkey and the annexations of Libya in 1911 and the Dodeca- nese in 1912. As would also be true in Portugal, the transition from a liberal parlia- mentary regime to a fascist regime would result in retrenchment of impe- rialist ambition. For Benito Mussolini’s Fascist State, the geopolitical grand strategy was to free Italy from the prison of Mare Nostrum by controlling the exits to the Mediterranean. 41 In the era when aviation was still in its infancy, Italy was vulnerable as a long peninsula in the middle of a sea with only three narrow egresses. Italian naval and commercial ships could be blocked at the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, and the Dardanelles. Genoa, Naples, Palermo, and Venice are port cities that could be subjected to naval blockade and bombardment. In February 4, 1939, remarks to the Fascist Grand Council, il Duce described Italy as imprisoned in by the jail bars of Corsica (French), Tunis (French), Malta


Chapter 4

(British), Cyprus (British), and British political influence in Greece, Tur- key, and Egypt. 42 Unimpeded access to the Indian Ocean would set Italy free. The invasion of Ethiopia and the propaganda and military aid di- rected at Yemen and Iraq during the Interbellum, and the invasions of Albania and Greece and attack on Egypt from Libya during the Second World War were all intended to achieve that goal. Italy’s bid to become something other than the least of the great pow- ers ultimately failed but not before Rome poured investment capital and settlers into Eritrea. The result was that for a brief period the little colony was the most industrialized country in Sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa. Defeated Italy lost most of her colonial empire to Britain. The Soviet Union had demanded but did not get Libya at the Yalta Confer- ence. Instead, Libya went to Britain along with Italian Somalia and Eri- trea. During the British administration of Eritrea from 1945 to 1952, most of its industry and railcars were expropriated and shipped to British Kenya. Fortunately for the Eritreans, most of the transportation infra- structure built by the Italians were fixed assets. In 1952, sovereignty over Eritrea was transferred to Ethiopia under United Nations Resolution 390 A (V). 43 The problem was that after six decades of separate economic and cultural development under Italian rule, the Eritreans had developed a distinct national identity that could not be easily subsumed in an Ethiopian national identity. Two regimes in Ethiopia, the authoritarian monarchy of Emperor Haile Selassie and the one-party military Marxist regime of the Derg under Haile Mengistu, waged brutal but ultimately ineffective counterinsurgencies to keep the territory. Eritrea finally won its struggle for independence in 1991, at the high cost of an estimated three hundred thousand lives. 44 As with New Caledonia, a counterfactual may be described in which Italy did not occupy Masawa and create Eritrea. If France had occupied Massawa rather than Italy, perhaps a country would have developed there and developed a national identity distinct from that of Ethiopia, albeit under a different name and no doubt united with Djibouti. France might have encouraged capital investment and European settlers on the colony as Italy did on Eritrea, though the economic opportunities in the other French colonies make that unlikely. Italy would have encouraged investment and settlement in Italian Libya. Perhaps it would have de- voted more effort to stirring rebellion in Palestine and Iraq. Alternatively, though less probably, Ethiopia might have asserted control over Mas- sawa with the diplomatic and military support of Britain and then forced that population to assimilate into its Amhara-speaking majority. In prac- tice, however, Britain was no more interested in seeing non-European states expand than the other great powers. The point of considering counterfactuals in which a great power acted with restraint toward an indigenous people is that it would not have precluded tragedy. Instead it would only have permitted a different trag-

Rule #4


edy. If it is unlikely that we are living in the best of all possible worlds, then it is also unlikely that we are living in the worst of all possible worlds. The scholarly and popular impulse to condemn imperialism is strong for good reasons. However, that impulse should not obscure the facts that much of the competition for territory between modern states was actually peaceful and that the vast regions that they partitioned re- mained at relative peace for long periods.


  • 1. Ousby, The Road to Verdun, 7–8

  • 2. C. Clark, The Sleepwalkers, 20–25.

  • 3. Ascherson, Black Sea, 186.

  • 4. Ibid., 186.

  • 5. The Greek independence struggle that erupted in 1829 was stimulated by the

example of the bid for Romanian independence led the Phanariot Greek Alexander

Ipsilanti. See Boia, Romania, 76–76.

  • 6. C. Clark, The Sleepwalkers, 20–25.

  • 7. One of the dubious accomplishments of the ‘national communist’ dictatorship

of Nicolae Ceausescu was to encourage most of the Transylvanian Saxon minority,

resident for five centuries, to depart for Germany.

  • 8. Norman Llewellyn Hill, Claims to Territory in International Law and Relations, 88.

  • 9. Ibid., 63.

  • 10. Ousby, The Road to Verdun, 9

  • 11. Foster, “The Rediscovery of Imperialism.”

  • 12. DuBois, “The African Roots of War.”

  • 13. F. Taylor, The Downfall of Money, 23–24.

  • 14. Note the exceptions of Liberia and Ethiopia.

  • 15. Wright, “The Anglo-Spanish-German Treaty of 1885,” 64.

  • 16. Ibid., 75.

  • 17. Ganzert, “The Boundary Controversy in the Upper Amazon between Brazil,

Bolivia, and Peru, 1903–1909,” 434.

  • 18. Hickman, News from the End of the Earth: A Portrait of Chile, 36.

  • 19. Church, “The Acre Territory and the Caoutchouc Region of South-Western Am-

azonia,” 599–600.

  • 20. Ganzert, “The Boundary Controversy in the Upper Amazon between Brazil,

Bolivia, and Peru, 1903–1909,” 436.

  • 21. Tambs, “Rubber, Rebels, and Rio Branco,” 271.

  • 22. Ganzert, “The Boundary Controversy in the Upper Amazon between Brazil,

Bolivia, and Peru, 1903–1909,” 439.

  • 23. Resor, “Rubber in Brazil: Dominance and Collapse, 1876–1945,” 346.

  • 24. Ibid., 364–365.

  • 25. McCall, “Japan, Rapanui and Chile’s Uncertain Sovereignty,” 4.

  • 26. Lopez, “How Did Chile Acquire Easter Island?” 120.

  • 27. Gonschor, “Facing Land Challenges in Rapa Nui (Easter Island),” 176–177.

  • 28. McCall, “Japan, Rapanui and Chile’s Uncertain Sovereignty,” 3.

  • 29. B. Douglas, “Conflict and Alliance in a Colonial Context,” 26.

  • 30. Bensa and Goromido. “The Political Order and Corporal Coercion in Kanak

Societies of the Past,” 84–90.

  • 31. S. Roberts, History of French Colonial Policy (1870–1925), 523.

  • 32. Quoted in Chappell, “Frontier Ethnogenesis: The Case of New Caledonia,” 310.


Chapter 4

  • 34. Stephenson, A Box of Sand, 30.

  • 35. Wrong, I Didn’t Do It for You, 34.

  • 36. Choate, “The Tunisia Paradox,” 3–6.

  • 37. Wrong, I Didn’t Do It for You, 33.

  • 38. Ibid., 25.

  • 39. Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890–1902, 272.

  • 40. Ibid., 683.

  • 41. Arielli, “ “Mare Nostrum”,” 387.

  • 42. Knox, Mussolini Unleashed, 1939–1941, 39–40.

  • 43. Dias, “The Conduct of an Inter-state War and Multiple Dimensions of Territo-

ry,” 3.

  • 44. Ibid., p. 3.


Rule #5: Treat International Law and Diplomatic Rhetoric about Territory as Mere Words

Someday the behavior of states may be governed by international law. Today, however, states act in accordance with what their foreign policy makers consider to be the national interest. Although a large body of international law exists in the form of bilateral and multilateral treaties, decisions of international tribunals, and legal commentaries, something absolutely essential is missing. No global government exists to make, interpret, and enforce international law. Instead, if and when those func- tions are performed, it is by individual states. Granted, states may legiti- mate their actions through various global governance institutions such as the United Nations, International Court of Justice, or World Trade Organ- ization, but that does not mean that they are genuinely subordinate to a unified global government. As a consequence, international law may be violated with impunity by the most powerful and most audacious states. For example, the United States ignored provisions of the Geneva Conven- tions in its treatment of prisoners taken in its War on Terror. 1 Some of its allies complained about these violations, while others offered covert as- sistance in their commission. International law is simply not as ‘law-like’ as other bodies of law. Ironically, the greatest obstacle to the emergence of a global govern- ment capable of making, interpreting and enforcing international law is the core principle of international law which promises legal equality be- tween sovereign states. The development of this core principle is charted in important treaties marking three major historical moments: the Golden Bull of 1356, the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, and the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.



Chapter 5

The Golden Bull recognized the authority of the three ecclesiastical and four lay princes of the Holy Roman Empire to elect the Holy Roman Emperor and claim the revenues from mining within their own realms. In effect, the formal authority of the Holy Roman Emperor was constrained by the willingness of the Electors to enforce it. This was a temporary resolution of the increasing tension between universal and princely claims of authority that characterized Medieval politics. A century earli- er, King Philip the Fair of France refused to recognize that Pope Boniface VIII possessed temporal power over Latin Christian Europe. In an undip- lomatic exchange about this papal claim of universal authority, French ambassador Pierre de Flotte reportedly instructed Boniface VIII that the pontiff’s power was merely verbal while his king’s power was real. 2 The Peace of Augsburg ended the war between the Holy Roman Em- pire and the rebellious Lutheran principalities and free cities of the Schmalkaldic League. The equality of states was thus born in treaty lan- guage, the Latin phrase cuius regio eius religio, that allowed princes to determine whether their subjects would be Roman Catholic or Lutheran, the only choices then permitted. Subsequent treaties recognized another option: Calvinism. The Peace of Westphalia is normally described as having ended the Thirty Years War. That conflict was in reality a series of five wars, the first of which began with the Defenestration of Prague in 1618, which overlapped one another in time. 3 And the peace treaty was in reality two related international agreements: the Treaty of Osnabrück between the Holy Roman Empire, France, Sweden, and the German Lutheran princi- palities, and the Treaty of Münster between Spain and the Netherlands. 4 Although the term ‘sovereignty’ actually appeared in neither of the trea- ties comprising the Peace of Westphalia, its absence has not prevented scholars from describing 1648 as the historical moment when the concept of sovereignty gave structure to the modern international system of states. 5 They see it as marking a crucial turning point in the transition from a layered hierarchy of states with fragmented authority inherited from the Late Medieval Period to the ‘anarchy’ of legal equality between states more consistent with the economic and political ‘reality’ of the Early Modern Period. Here the term ‘anarchy’ refers to the absence of a constitutional hierarchy of states, and the term ‘reality’ refers to the great- er power resources (fiscal and military) of states to defend their autono- my from one another. Consistent with this development the territorial borders between states assumed greater importance and were more care- fully delineated. 6 Sovereignty thus became both the justifying legal ratio- nale and the material reward for those states that could successfully mo- bilize for war by consolidating administrative power and subsequently making appeals to nationalism. 7 Note that the principle that sovereign states are equal to one another under international law does not mean they are necessarily equal in mili-

Rule #5


tary strength, wealth, territory, population, or any other material respect. The states whose representatives signed the Treaty of Osnabrück and the Treaty of Münster were not equal to one another in material power, al- though they were certainly more comparable to one another in power resources than the current members of the international system. The operating assumption that sovereign states were responsible for defending their own independence through self-help—some combina- tion of war and diplomacy—was weakened, though it did not disappear altogether after the Second World War. The United Nations Treaty en- shrined the nonannexationist international norm, the Cold War froze ter- ritorial disputes in Europe, and numerous African, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Pacific countries emerged from a century or more of colonial rule. The new international system was characterized not only by many new states but also by much greater inequality between them. Spider webs of multilateral and bilateral public treaties now bound legally equal but materially inferior states to one of the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. For a sense of how extreme the discrepancy might be between the legal equality and material inequality in the relationships between super- power patrons and their client states, consider, for example, the 1979 Treaty of Friendship and Territorial Sovereignty between the United States and Kiribati. By that agreement, the United States recognized Kiri- bati as sovereign in exchange for a promise that no other state would be permitted to use three of its islands for military purposes on which the United States had previously constructed military facilities. Diplomatic convention required that the Soviet Union remain unnamed as the ‘other state.’ The year before signing the treaty, Kiribati and neighboring Tuvalu had won their independence from Britain, which had governed them jointly as the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. While Kiribati would be treated as the equal of the United States under international law, it was unequal by every important measure of relative power. Where the United States was capable of projecting military power anywhere on the planet, includ- ing conducting nuclear attacks which would destroy modern civilization, Kiribati was defended by a British trained police force. Where the United States had the largest national economy, third largest territory, and third largest population on the planet, Kiribati had a small economy depen- dent on fishing and foreign aid, a land area of only 800 square kilometers, and a population of only 60,000. The sole attribute of the country that might be described as ‘big’ is that its thirty-three islands are scattered across 3.5 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. 8 Sovereignty is a legitimating status conferred by recognition from oth- er sovereign states. States may be admitted or excluded from ‘the club of sovereign states’ by the current members. To understand the fundamen- tally arbitrary nature of such recognition, consider the status of Vatican


Chapter 5

City and Somaliland under international law. Vatican City possesses less territory than the area covered by the United States Embassy in Baghdad. That forty-four hectares in the city of Rome is little more than the head- quarters campus for the planet’s largest religious organization and is populated by fewer than a thousand permanent residents, yet Vatican City is recognized by all of the major powers except China. In marked contrast, Somaliland exercises authority over 137,600 square kilometers of territory and a population of 3.5 million, which makes it larger in area and population than a third of the member states in the United Nations. Yet it is not deemed to be a sovereign state because it lacks diplomatic recognition by other states. What these comparisons reveal is that sovereignty involves a great deal of make-believe. Kiribati is effectively powerless in its relations with the United States. Vatican City is almost a complete fiction as a sovereign state. Even though it may eventually win formal recognition as sove- reign, the plausible state of Somaliland is being made to wait. Most sove- reign states possess at least the minimum of territory, population, orga- nized state and armed force that is traditionally expected with that status, and the nonsovereign states possessing these minima are relatively few in number. Still the exceptions are numerous enough and obvious enough to reveal the discrepancy between law and reality. Why then do foreign policy makers continue to treat sovereignty as real? International relations theorist Stephen D. Krasner struggled to an- swer that question in his now classic text Sovereignty: Organized Hypocri- sy. 9 The book’s major contribution was to impose a much needed concep- tual order on ‘sovereignty’ by distinguishing its four components. Diplo- matic recognition became ‘international legal sovereignty’; exclusion of the authority of other states from sovereign territory became ‘Westphal- ian sovereignty’; authority within that territory became ‘domestic sove- reignty’; and authority over the movement across borders became ‘inter- dependence sovereignty.’ 10 His answer to the question presented by the discrepancy between law and reality was less helpful. After referencing path dependence, the observation that past decisions tend to make some future decisions more likely than others, Krasner offered the quasi-Con- structivist explanation that foreign policy makers tend to speak from familiar “cognitive scripts.” 11 Mimetic imitation thus causes them to de- link their rhetoric making from their decision making. Lack of imagina- tion or intellectual laziness results in their speaking in the same terminol- ogy as other foreign policy makers. The problem with Krasner’s account is that deceit and self-deception offer a more powerful explanation for the same behavior. Humans share not only territoriality with other primates but also the willingness to deceive. 12 Sovereignty is the lie about territory foreign policy makers tell one another, tell attentive publics, and perhaps tell themselves.

Rule #5


So what purpose is served by the make-believe of international law? The ugly reality of international politics may need it as a disguise. Com- petition between states has not been entirely replaced by cooperation; relative power measured in territory, population, wealth, and military still largely determines which states win and lose. International law may reduce some of the risks of that competition and might mitigate some of its negative consequences, but it is ultimately written to legitimize the results. As such, it is little more than what states do based on the national interests perceived by foreign policy makers and not on what ought to be done to fulfill moral imperatives. If the legitimizing function of interna- tional law deceives few foreign policy makers and few of the journalists who cover foreign affairs, less attentive members of news audiences may be deceived. Official foreign policy narratives couched in the high- minded language of international law and justified by assessments of the national interest that can be expressed publicly without arousing too much moral indignation tend to end up reflected in public opinion. The historical development of international law on the acquisition of territory helps to make the case that international law functions to pro- vide post hoc political legitimation of conflict outcomes rather than to restrain the behavior of states. When the Early Modern Period legal theo- rists sought some basis in Roman law to legitimate the new territorial claims made by the Western European gunpowder powers, they were dismayed to discover that it was silent on the acquisition of territory not previously owned by states. All that had to offer was a theory of property law. Practical Roman judges held that legal title to land that was agri rudes or deserti, wild or deserted land, should be awarded to those who cleared and cultivated it because that would produce taxes. 13 The legal theorists therefore argued by analogy that discoverers could claim land in the name of their country based on the assertion that was it uncultivat- ed. 14 In the influential 1758 treatise The Law of Nations, Swiss jurist Emme- rich de Vattel identified possession, occupation, and cultivation as the crucial criteria for determining territorial sovereignty, a formula used to justify Western European appropriation of the Americas and Australasia from their indigenous inhabitants who were characterized as nomadic and therefore unable to meet the criteria of occupation and cultivation. 15 Note that the modern era was two and half centuries old when Vattel put pen to paper to offer a post hoc justification for the conquests that had created the overseas empires of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, and French. The conquests in the Americas that he sought to legitimate were already complete or well advanced. Despite the make-believe and fraud, international law has its ardent scholarly defenders. Isabel V. Hull’s 2014 Constructivist history of the First World War, A Scrap of Paper, concludes by criticizing both the legal Realists of Imperial Germany and contemporary Realists for daring to understand international politics from a perspective contrary to that of


Chapter 5

the victorious Allies. 16 She assigns moral responsibility for causing the war primarily to Germany and largely relieves Britain and France of any responsibility by describing them as having acted in proper accordance with international norms, including respect for international law and the balance of power in Europe. Hull is simply wrong about the influence of international law on foreign policy making. Britain and France did not go to war with Germany in 1914 to enforce international law. British and French foreign policy makers acted in pursuit of what they understood to be their geopolitical interests as status quo great powers. Interpretations of international law merely provided them with post hoc justifications. In the absence of a global government capable of making, interpret- ing, and enforcing international law, foreign policy makers will violate international law when they believe it to be consistent with important national interests. Their decisions will be consistent with international law when that poses no risk to the survival of the state and the regime and imposes little obstacle to achieving other national interests.


  • 1. Hickman, Selling Guantánamo, 126–129.

  • 2. Elden, The Birth of Territory, 181.

  • 3. The image of two Holy Roman imperial officials and their secretary surviving

ejection from a window by deputies of the Bohemia Estates after falling sixty feet into

a pile of refuse remains a perennial favorite of world history students.

  • 4. By this time the Holy Roman Empire had undergone a clumsy rebranding as

the ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’ to appeal to nascent German nation- alism.

  • 5. Croxton, “The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and the Origins of Sovereignty,”


  • 6. Popescu, Bordering and Ordering the Twenty-first Century, 34–38.

  • 7. De Visscher, Theory and Reality in Public International Law, 22–23.

  • 8. As the discussion of exotic territory in chapter 14 will explain, Kiribati’s claim

to EEZs under UNCLOS around its islands may translate into power resources in the future.

  • 9. Krasner, Sovereignty.

  • 10. Ibid., 3–4.

  • 11. Ibid., 60–67.

  • 12. Trivers, “Deceit and Self-Deception,” 382–384.

  • 13. Levy, West Roman Vulgar Law, 194–197.

  • 14. Cavell and Noakes, Acts of Occupation, 64.

  • 15. Ibid., 64–65.

  • 16. Hull, A Scrap of Paper, 328–331.


Rule #6: Expect Territory to Provide Both Present and Future Power Resources

The survival of the state is its own ultimate excuse. Although the author- ity that the state exercises over a territory and its population is invariably justified by ideas more uplifting than the necessity to solve the two most fundamental collective action problems—security and order—those jus- tifications often change from regime to regime, leaving only the persis- tence of the state itself as the important constant. Regimes survive by identifying themselves with their states and by acting consistent with the survival of the state as its own ultimate excuse. What evidence supports this proposition? The most probative evi- dence is the tendency for foreign policy makers in new regimes to defend all of the territory inherited from the previous regime. Even when the rulers of the previous regime have been exiled or executed, their succes- sors tend to treat the territory they inherited as sacrosanct. As the follow- ing examples of Okinawa and the Sinai Peninsula reveal, that is true whether the state reemerges from a relatively brief period of military occupation or emerges from a long period of colonial rule. In 1609, the Ryukyan Kingdom, a realm consisting of Okinawa and a collection of even smaller islands, ceased to be a tributary state of Ming Dynasty China and became a tributary state of Japan. 1 The Tokugawa Shogunate, a dynastic military dictatorship ruling in the name of a hid- den and powerless emperor, had recently unified Japan but lost a major war to China when it attempted to annex Korea. Annexing the Ryukyuan Kingdom was a consolation prize for failing to conquer Korea and a signal that Japan itself would not be rejoining the China-centered interna- tional order. 2 Under the shogunate, the approximately 250 han or prov-



Chapter 6

inces of Japan were ruled by hereditary warlords called daimyos. When Okinawa became a Japanese tributary state, it was subordinated to the daimyo of Satsuma, with which it would thereafter conduct much of its trade. 3 The shock of the arrival of a fleet of advanced warships from the United States in 1853 led to the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate because it could no longer guarantee the sakoku or ‘closed country’ policy on which its political legitimacy rested. The successor regime established in the Meiji Restoration undertook a rapid, successful modernization of the country. Old provinces were reorganized as prefectures. Despite a diplomatic protest from Beijing, the Ryukyuan Kingdom was formally dissolved and redesignated as the Okinawa Prefecture. 4 The new regime also settled former samurai on the northern island of Hokkaido, a name which is translated as ‘Northern Territory.’ Meiji Japan’s empire builders would also take Formosa/Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria from Qing Dynasty China. In two generations Japan had emerged from profound isolation to become a great power. After brief experimentation with liberal democracy in Japan, a nation- alist military regime took power and launched the Second Sino-Japanese War to conquer China in 1937. Despite a succession of battlefield victo- ries, Japan was unable to finally defeat China because of the latter’s stra- tegic depth and military assistance from the United States and Soviet Union. Suffering from industrial raw material shortages because of eco- nomic sanctions imposed by the United States, Britain, and the Nether- lands, Tokyo gambled by launching an even larger war to drive its rivals out of the Pacific and conquer Southeast Asia and Australasia. The gam- ble lost. Defeated Japan was stripped of its overseas empire, and most of the Japanese home islands were militarily occupied by the United States. The Soviet Union claimed small four islands to the north of Hokkaido:

Kunashiri, Etorofu, Habomai, and Shikotare. Russia still occupies them. With the exception of Okinawa, the American Occupation that began in September 1945 formally ended in April 1952 following the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the United States-Japan Security Trea- ty. During that period a new liberal democratic regime was established with a Peace Constitution categorically renouncing war. The United States continued to occupy Okinawa until 1972, which thereafter re- mained the location for the most important of American military bases in Japan. What did Japan gain from the restoration of Okinawa? Japanese na- tionalists focused on recovering the territory rather than on the popula- tion. They saw symbolic value in the island as part of the larger realm that had been lost while considering the Okinawans themselves as a less than Japanese ethnic minority. More cynical Japanese foreign policy mak- ers saw Okinawa as a better location for the largest United States military

Rule #6


bases than in the Japanese home islands. They wanted the military pro- tection offered by Washington without having to endure the politically unpopular presence of foreign military personnel on the four large is- lands where most Japanese live. Although governing a society heavily dependent on food resources from the oceans, Japanese foreign policy makers probably did not antici- pate the potential for claiming the area around Okinawa as EEZs under UNCLOS. Had they not claimed the Ryukyuan Kingdom in the seven- teenth century or if they had ceded Okinawa permanently to the United States in the twentieth century, Japan would have lost exclusive posses- sion of those resources. The determination with which successive regimes in Egypt have sought to possess the Sinai Peninsula is a story similar to that of the Japanese regimes and Okinawa. Populated by Bedouin with only tenu- ous cultural and kinship connections to Egypt or to other Egyptians, Sinai seems a more appropriate territory of Palestine than of Egypt. Yet Sinai became an Egyptian possession simply because Cairo’s claim to sove- reignty was the least cloudy among the possible claimants. In the mid- nineteenth century, the northwestern corner of Sinai from a line running between Suez on Gulf of Suez to Rafah on the Mediterranean had been awarded to the Khedive of Egypt by the Ottoman Sultan as a privileged territory. 5 By the first decades of the nineteenth century the Ottoman Empire exercised only nominal authority over Egypt. Real power on the Nile was exercised by the Khedive or Sultan’s Viceroy Muhammad Ali Pasha and his dynastic successors until 1882, when Britain established a protectorate. The dynasty reigned rather ruled from then until indepen- dence in 1948 and then ruled again only until 1952, when a military coup d’état by the Free Officers produced a republican regime. The remainder of Sinai was at least notionally the sovereign territory of the Ottoman Empire. Following a confrontation between British Egyptian and Otto- man officials, and a demonstration of British gunboat diplomacy to the Gulf of Aqaba, negotiations produced the Taba Agreement of 1906. By establishing the unpoetically named Separating Administrative Boun- dary from Rafah to Taba on the Gulf of Aqaba, the entirety of the penin- sula was left under the effective control of British Egyptian authorities. 6 Although the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne would have given London a legal rationale for claiming Sinai as its own, the British declined the op- portunity and instead continued to treat it as the territory of Egypt. The Separating Administrative Boundary was treated as the border between Egypt as a British Protectorate and Palestine as a British League of Na- tions Mandate, and in time served as most of the international border between an independent Egypt and an independent Israel. Still, the possibility that London could have claimed Sinai under the Treaty of Lausanne inspired the ambition of Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. In his diary, Ben-Gurion reports telling French Prime Minis-


Chapter 6

ter Guy Mollet the following in 1957: “I told him about the discovery of oil in southern and eastern Sinai, and that it would be good to tear this peninsula from Egypt because it did not belong to her; rather it was the English who stole it from the Turks when they believed that Egypt was in their pocket.” 7 Note that Ben-Gurion was not suggesting that France and Israel help to return the purloined peninsula to Turkey. Even more uncertain was the question of sovereignty over Gaza, where some two hundred thousand Palestinians refugees had either fled or been forced to find refuge during the 1948 naqba. Egyptian armed forces were stationed in Gaza, but beginning in 1955 Cairo declined to consider it part of Egypt and instead treated it as part of Palestine. 8 When Sinai was lost to Israeli occupation after the 1967 Six Day War, Egyptian presidents Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat made recov- ering it a priority in negotiations distinct from the fate of other Arab territories occupied by Israel, including the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. 9 The Golan Heights were Syrian, the West Band and East Jerusalem were Jordanian, and Gaza was Palestinian. What was most important was that Sinai was Egyptian. Part of the moti- vation for Sadat’s government to liberalize parts of the Egyptian econo- my and conduct a semblance of democratic elections was that these moves persuaded the United States to secure the return of Sinai in what would become the Camp David Peace Accords. 10 Pan-Arab nationalism and solidarity with the Palestinians clearly meant less to Cairo than Egyptian territorial sovereignty. What did Egypt gain by recovering the Sinai? First, it has small depos- its of oil, something the most populous Arab state otherwise lacks. Sec- ond, it offers geographic distance from the greatest national security threat: Israel. Egypt’s survival as a state was in jeopardy while the Israeli armed forces were entrenched for six years on the east side of the Suez Canal after the 1967 Six Day War. Third, and most importantly, the recov- ery of Sinai restored some of Egypt’s lost international prestige. Although the undoubted cultural center of the Arab world, Egypt lacks the military and economic wherewithal to act as its core state. Sinai’s return assuaged some of that frustration. That modern states exhibit such determined territoriality is a puzzle that vexes some international relations scholars. The articles in the 2001 essay collection Right-Sizing the State edited by Brendan O’Leary and his colleagues leave little doubt that the authors think there is something fundamentally irrational about the determination of Russia to annex Cri- mea and the Donbass; of Morocco to annex Western Sahara; of India, Pakistan, and China to hold onto their fragments of Kashmir; and of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq to insist on sovereignty over their fragments of Kurdistan. 11 Implicit in many of the articles is the notion that it is more rational for states to voluntarily concede sovereignty over territories whose populations are distinct from those of the nation that gives the

Rule #6


state its identity. One of the editors dismisses previous scholarly work focused on territorial expansion rather than territorial contraction as a “theoretical prejudice.” 12 Tellingly, only two cases of such voluntary ter- ritorial right-sizing are identified in the book: Ancient Rome’s withdraw- al from Roman Britain and Jordan’s relinquishment of sovereignty over the West Bank. Neither is very compelling. Roman Britain was left to its own devices more than one thousand years before the first day of the Modern Era. Giving up the West Bank was a decision by Jordan to cease the make-believe of territorial sovereignty after decades of Israeli occupa- tion endorsed by the acquiescence of the United States, the great power patron of both Israel and Jordan. Some international relations scholars answer that the refusal of states to withdraw from territory lacking immediate value is that doing so might draw challenges from other states over more important interests. 13 Thus territory of no immediate value is defended simply to protect inter- national reputation. Ron E. Hassner offers a more intriguing but still flawed explanation for the seemingly irrational determination of states to hold onto territory of no immediate value. In an article analyzing the intractability of territorial disputes, he argues that they are less likely to be resolved over time regardless of the actual value of the territory at issue because of its social construction through entrenchment. In other words, foreign policy makers and citizens begin to see the territory as valuable as material, functional, and symbolic linkages are created to the homeland. 14 The flaw in the analysis is that the assumption of irrational- ity masks the normative judgment that territorial disputes ought to be resolved. What Hassner failed to explore was the possibility that the status quo of an unresolved territorial dispute might yield greater utility than would any alternative condition. The mistake is in treating territory as having a fixed value rather than a variable value for the states in the dispute. This is evident from Hassner’s own case study of the Israeli-Syrian dispute over the Golan Heights, which shows that states are capable of changing the material value of the occupied territory. Israel made the Golan Heights more valuable by developing its potential. Just as improvements to real property may increase its value for both the current owners and future buyers, investments in infrastructure increase the value of territo- ry to whichever state possesses it in the future. If territorial disputes are indeed increasingly intractable, perhaps it is because states anticipate that technological advances or changing security environments could make the territories more valuable in the future. There is a better question than asking why foreign policy makers irra- tionally refuse to cede territory which lacks any immediate value. Why do they want territory in the first place? The answer is suggested in the research of Paul R. Hensel and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, discussed at the end of chapter 1. 15 Recall that their seemingly paradoxical finding


Chapter 6

was that disputes over territory with intangible values such as sacred space like religious pilgrimage sites were more likely both to result in major interstate war and to be resolved peacefully. Disputes over territo- ry with tangible values such as valuable mineral deposits were more likely to result in low-level conflict but less likely to be resolved peaceful- ly. What this suggests is that the symbolic may be sacrificed more easily than the material. Foreign policy makers may want to keep territory with symbolic importance; they must keep territory important for the survival of the state and regime. The solution to the puzzle that territorial disputes are intractable is that territory is the container of power resources, material power re- sources in particular, which might prove crucial in the future. States are relatively long-lived entities, and the value of territory for their survival may be revealed only later. Foreign policy makers who take the long view, something that characterizes thinking about territory, know that they and their successors might discover unexpected value in what seems worthless in the present. Adding any increment of territory comes at some near-term cost, but that increment nearly always means additional power resources, even if unrecognized at the moment of expansion. The value of territory may be its natural resources like minerals or crops, captive markets for manufactured goods, military manpower or civilian labor, new land for settlement by a growing or restive population, assets that can be taxed or collateralized, strategic military positions, strategic depth (distance from enemies), empty or thinly populated physical space in which to undertake novel civil and military engineering projects, and of course international prestige. As the examples of Indonesia in Papua and Iraq in Kuwait will show, these advantages do not occur in isolation. Modern Indonesian territorial expansion was born from the early- nineteenth-century project of the Liberal government in the Netherlands to impose ‘order and peace’ on all of the islands claimed by the Dutch East Indies. 16 After more than a century of direct rule over the islands of Java, Banda, and Amboina and indirect rule verging on indifference over the rest of the islands of the Dutch East Indies, The Hague launched a program of policing, development, and settlement. Java was the core of the Dutch East Indies as it had been for the Kingdom of Majapahit, an empire that extended over parts of Sumatra, Borneo, the Moluccas, and the Celebes in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 17 The power of Hindu Majapahit receded with the arrival of Gujarati traders who propa- gated their Sunni Islam and Portuguese maritime empire builders who propagated their Roman Catholicism. 18 Sunni Islam proved the more successful of the missionary faiths, and today a majority of Indonesians are at least nominally Muslim, while Christianity and Hinduism are mi- nority religions. Where the Portuguese sought to both build a maritime empire and convert its inhabitants to Roman Catholicism, the Dutch were more intent on building a maritime empire than converting its inhabi-

Rule #6


tants to Protestantism. Like Majapahit and the Portuguese, the Dutch found that power over their new empire grew thinner as they moved from its core on Java to the periphery of the outer islands. 19 Subsequent Dutch expansion across their island empire was moti- vated by a desire to defend it from other interested great powers, particu- larly the British but also the French, Germans, and Americans. By the mid-nineteenth century the Netherlands had repeated the experience of the Portuguese by losing much of its maritime empire: Northern Brazil had been reclaimed by the Portuguese; Formosa/Taiwan had been re- claimed by the Chinese; and both Cape Colony and Ceylon/Sri Lanka were taken by the British. Like Portugal, the Netherlands would be per- mitted to keep some of its colonial possessions as a subordinate ally of Britain: Dutch Guiana, the Lesser Antilles and Saint Maarten, and most importantly, the Dutch East Indies. Military defeat and occupation by Japan in the Second World War meant that the days of colonial rule in the Dutch East Indies were num- bered. The Japanese military had swept across Southeast Asia in a series of brilliant campaigns that brushed aside the white colonial powers. These conquests were motivated by geopolitical desperation. Bogged down in a long war in China and facing industrial raw material shortages because of economic sanctions due to the embargoes imposed by the United States and its allies, Tokyo gambled by launching a larger war to gain access to the natural resources—especially oil, tin, and rubber—of Southeast Asia. 20 The nationalist rebellions that followed Japanese surrender in 1945 coupled with the insistence on decolonization by the United States made continued Dutch colonial rule untenable. Indonesian nationalism was awakened by the exciting spectacle of Asians humiliating Europeans dur- ing the Japanese occupation. From the ranks of those who collaborated with the Japanese emerged a cohort of nationalist leaders. When a Dutch colonial government was reinstalled by British troops in Batavia, Indone- sian nationalists launched an anticolonial insurgency. 21 Despite support from large populations of European settlers and Eurasians in Java, The Hague was compelled to hand over all of the Dutch East Indies, with one exception the size of France, to the rebels in 1949. The exception was western Papua, which Dutch foreign policy makers justified by arguing that its small Melanesian population would suffer if ruled by a Javanese-dominated Indonesian government. That the non- Muslim and non-Malayan peoples of the outer islands were subject to Javanese racial contempt and religious intolerance was no secret. 22 Ranked even lower in the minds of many Javanese, the seven hundred thousand Papuans were likely to feel the full force of their frustration and prejudice. Dutch officials also envisioned Papua as an ideal location for resettling Dutch settlers and Eurasians fleeing Java. The example of the Nationalist Chinese withdrawal to Formosa/Taiwan may have been on


Chapter 6

their minds. Migration from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies had surged in the early twentieth century, transforming it from a plantation colony to a settler colony. Perhaps spite also motivated the Dutch to deny the Indonesians a complete victory. The idea of continued Dutch rule in Papua also found support among Australian strategists, who recognized the value of a large buffer state between their territory and that of the most populous state in Southeast Asia. 23 Newly independent Indonesia demanded Papua with the reasonable argument that they were the heirs to all of the former Dutch territories in Southeast Asia. To the extent that the Netherlands had governed Papua, it had been as part of the Dutch East Indies rather than as a separate colony. Thus there was no parallel to the colonial and postcolonial rela- tionships between India and Ceylon/Sri Lanka. Ceylon, today’s Sri Lan- ka, had been ruled as a British Crown Colony while India had been ruled as the British Indian Empire. Union between postcolonial Sri Lanka and postcolonial India was never in the cards. Some Indonesian nationalists wanted even more and envisioned a territorial state that would include all of Nusantara or Greater Indonesia and stretch from Madagascar to Luzon and to include all of the islands that had been ever settled by ethnic Malays. 24 At independence Indone- sia was already one of the most populous countries on the planet. Realiz- ing Nusantara as a nationalist project would have created a state that might today have a population of more than four hundred million. Official Djakarta appears to have been intent on eventually annexing British-ruled Malaya, Singapore, the Malaysian Peninsula, and the rest of Borneo, as well as then Portuguese-ruled Timor-Leste. However, in the late 1950s the objective was to recover the ‘lost territory’ in Papua that would be designated Irian Jaya. Today the territory is divided into the separate provinces of Papua and Papua Barat. Frustrated by the inaction of the United Nations General Assembly but supported by military aid from the Soviet Union, Indonesia announced full mobilization for war and began landing infiltrators on the Papua. That was enough to compel the Netherlands to cede sovereignty over the territory. 25 What Indonesia gained was a frontier rich in natural resources and offering land for sev- eral hundred thousand settlers from the rest of the country. Although its other islands are also rich in raw materials, many are also crowded. Java supports some of the highest population densities on the planet. Predic- tions that the Papuans would suffer under Indonesian rule have proven correct, but the extent of the harm and number of casualties have not been precisely quantified. 26 As with Chinese migration to Tibet and Xinji- ang, Indonesian migration threatens to make Papuans a minority in their own homeland. 27 After taking Papau, Djakarta unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia. That effort was thwarted by Britain, the departing colonial power. Djakarta acted more forcefully by

Rule #6


invading Timor-Leste at the moment it won independence from Portugal in 1975. Insurgency and international condemnation ultimately com- pelled it to withdraw in 1999. Today, Indonesia possesses only the territo- ries that it inherited from the Dutch East Indies. Nationalist dreams of Nusantara have faded, though they could be revived. Madagascar seems an unlikely objective for future annexation, but it takes less imagination to describe scenarios in which all of Papua, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Timor-Leste, and Mindanao in the Philippines are absorbed into the In- donesian colossus. Where Indonesia owes its claim to Papua to a nineteenth-century Dutch imperialist project, Iraq’s claim to Kuwait might be dated to the beginnings of recorded history and at the very latest to the sixteenth- century decision of the Ottoman Empire to rule the territory later desig- nated by the British as Kuwait as part of the larger southern Mesopota- mian province or vilayet of Basra. Istanbul ruled the rest of Mesopotamia as the provinces of Mosul and Baghdad. Britain and France began carving up the remaining Middle Eastern possessions of the Ottoman Empire in the middle of the First World War. Under the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, France got Lebanon and Syria, while Britain got Palestine and Mesopotamia. Their awards were subse- quently ratified as League of Nations Mandates which charged Paris and London to prepare their new possessions for independence. London also promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine and detached Kuwait from Iraq. British empire builders had been cultivating relationships with sheikdoms around the Persian Gulf since the mid-eighteenth century, and the temptation to recognize the Sabah Dynasty sheiks as emirs of an autonomous Kuwait was simply too strong to resist. 28 From a British geopolitical perspective creating an autonomous, later independent, Kuwait was a stroke of strategic genius. 29 The British Navy was completing the transition from coal to oil as fuel, with the bulk of the oil purchased at discount prices from the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The little pro-British sheikdom/emirate of Kuwait dramatically narrowed access to the Persian Gulf of a future independent Iraq to a small stretch of land on either side of the Shatt al-Arab. The British decision to impose a Hashemite Dynasty monarch on the Iraqis via a fraudulent referendum had angered Iraqis, and being able to close the crucial waterway gave London leverage over Baghdad. From an Iraqi geopolitical perspective, the British creation of Kuwait was a calamity, a view held by the foreign policy makers in multiple Iraqi regimes. In 1937, Iraqi King Ghazi exhorted Kuwaitis to overthrow their Sabah Dynasty rulers and return to the national fold. 30 King Ghazi stopped being a problem for London after dying in a suspicious car crash in 1939. When Britain recognized Kuwait as a sovereign state in 1961, the Iraqi nationalist and populist regime of Abd al-Karim Qasim publicly de-


Chapter 6

nounced the decision and insisted that Kuwait was part of the Iraqi prov- ince of Basra. 31 Kuwait was in no real danger of reunification with Iraq because the Iraqi Army was busy fighting in the north and British troops were deployed to Kuwait. 32 The situation was different in 1990 when the Baathist or pan-Arab nationalist regime of Saddam Hussein demanded that Kuwait and the other Arab monarchies forgive Iraq’s large wartime debts. 33 Baghdad had borrowed enormous sums from the oil rich Arab monarchies to wage the long and bloody Iran-Iraq War, a struggle that Hussein believed had saved all of the Arab states in the region from the threat of radical Islam- ism. That Iraq was responsible for starting the war by invading Iran and had failed to win the war was not emphasized in the appeal for loan forgiveness. Saudi Arabia was agreeable to Iraq’s request, but Kuwait was not. To add fuel to the fire, Baghdad was also convinced that Kuwait City was pumping oil in excess of the quota set by the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) to drive down world oil prices and thereby exacerbate Iraqi economic distress. 34 That Kuwait possessed proven oil deposits approaching in amount those of Iraq and yet the revenues from its oil exports were being distributed among a population only one-twen- tieth as large outraged Iraqis. 35 The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was meant to assuage anger at Kuwaiti ingratitude, to put the other wealthy Arab monarchies in the Persian Gulf on notice that they were vulnerable if they failed to be gen- erous with their poorer Arab brethren, to signal Arab displeasure over Israeli annexations, and to ‘restore’ Iraqi sovereignty over its missing territory. Annexing Kuwait would give Iraq more secure access to the Persian Gulf and nearly double the amount of its proven oil reserves and oil revenues. As will be described in chapter 8, the United States is heir to much of Britain’s geopolitical grand strategy. Thus it was primarily the United States with a coalition of thirty allies that expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. Following battlefield victories the United States did not occupy Iraq and topple the government of Saddam Hussein. Instead Iraq was sub- jected to a decade of economic sanctions and aerial attacks before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The lesson to be drawn from comparison of Indonesia in Papua and Iraq in Kuwait is that the same geopolitical strategy may motivate a succession of different regimes governing the same state. Papua was tak- en by the pro-Beijing populist regime of Sukarno, but neither the succes- sor pro-Washington military regime of Suharto nor today’s liberal demo- cratic Indonesia considered handing sovereignty over to the Papuans. After Kuwait was lost to Britain, the royalist regime of King Ghazi and the Iraqi nationalist and populist regime of Gen. Qasim demanded its

Rule #6


return before it was seized by the pan-Arab nationalist regime of Sad- dam.


  • 1. In a May 2013 article in People’s Daily, two Chinese scholars played provocateur

by publishing an article challenging Japanese sovereignty. See McCurry, “China Lays

Claim to Okinawa as Territory Dispute with Japan Escalates.”

  • 2. Swope, A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail, 292–293.

  • 3. Wiley, Yankees in the Land of the Gods, 172–173.

  • 4. Totman, A History of Japan, 320.

  • 5. Warburg, “The Sinai Peninsula Borders, 1906–47,” 680.

  • 6. Ibid., 673–683.

  • 7. Shlaim, The Iron Wall, 186.

  • 8. Filiu, Gaza, 89.

  • 9. Bradley, Inside Egypt, 104.


Arafat, Hosni Mubarak and the Future of Democracy in Egypt, 11–12.


O’Leary et al., Right-sizing the State.


Lustick, “Thresholds of Opportunity and Barriers to Change in the Right-Sizing

of States,” 76–78.


Hensel, “Theory and Evidence on Geography and Conflict,” 59–60; Huth, “Why

Are Territorial Disputes between States a Central Cause of International Conflict?” 96,



Hassner, “The Path to Intractability: Time and the Entrenchment of Territorial

Disputes,” 107–138.


Hensel and Mitchell, “Issue Indivisibility and Territorial Claims,” 280–283.


Vlekke, Nusantara: A History of Indonesia, 315–316.


Ibid., 68–70.


Ibid., 80–106.


Ibid., 164–165.


Barnhart, Japan Prepares for Total War, 165–166.


Spector, In the Ruins of Empire, 170.


Friend, Indonesian Destinies, 480–481.


S. Browne, Irian Jaya, 1.


Hindley, “Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia: A Search for Motives,” 905;

Gordon, “The Potential for Indonesian Expansionism,” 380–381.


Bunnell, “Guided Democracy Foreign Policy,” 46–50.


McGibbon, “Pitfalls of Papua,” 95–96.


Anderson, Papua’s Insecurity, 39.


Johnson, The Iran-Iraq War, 15–16.


DeFronzo, The Iraq War, 12–13.


Ibid., 23.


Ibid., 57.


Johnson, The Iran-Iraq War, 16.


DeFronzo, The Iraq War, 100–101.




Ibid., 101–102.


Rule #7: Expect Geopolitical Grand Strategies to Be Sticky

Geopolitical grand strategies tend to be ‘sticky,’ meaning that states and their regimes execute them over long periods of time. To explain why, it is helpful to first disassemble the phrase ‘geopolitical grand strategy.’ ‘Geopolitical’ refers to calculation of advantage and disadvantage, gain or loss in the relative power of a state, informed by geography. ‘Grand’ refers to the scale of physical space and length of time encompassed by the calculation. ‘Strategy’ refers to the selection of foreign policy to real- ize advantage and avoid disadvantage. A useful approach is to conceive of strategy as the choice between foreign policies on a spectrum of coer- cion marked by accommodation, defense, or expansion. 1 At the least co- ercive end of the spectrum, accommodationist strategies depend upon tools such as diplomacy, economic sanctions, and alliance building. These are strategies for states too weak to defend themselves militarily or for states existing in a region where international borders are, for the moment, treated as sacrosanct. In the middle of the spectrum, defensive strategies depend on maintaining static defenses while eschewing the destruction or annexation of the territory of other states. At the most coercive end of the spectrum, expansionist strategies depend on offensive military force to destroy other states and annex their territory. Strategies anywhere along the spectrum of coercion may be selected by foreign policy makers in the real world. What is crucial to recognize is that geopolitical grand strategy is about the rationality of means and not ends. Foreign policy makers may choose means that are undeniably rational, but geography and history largely dictate their ends. The physical geography and political geography that inform foreign policy making are fundamentally arbitrary. Physical geography in the



Chapter 7

form of climate, natural resources, and natural barriers confer bundles of advantages and disadvantages on states which may be improved by pub- lic works. Political geography in the form of proximity to states that are powerful or weak, wealthy or poor, or that have shared or different cul- tures confer bundles of advantages and disadvantages which may be improved by territorial expansion. The political history informing foreign policy making is also funda- mentally arbitrary. National identities are formed from emotionally pow- erful narratives of essential difference, existential conflict, and metaphys- ical purpose. Previous foreign policies leave residues that make some foreign policy choices more likely than others. Armed forces, diplomatic corps, secret services, and propaganda bureaus are all organized to fulfill institutional missions that assume the existence of particular threats. Ter- ritory annexed to the homeland, colonies, and client states are commit- ments that are difficult to abandon without losing international prestige and may provide valuable power resources. Politicians, diplomats, sol- diers, and journalists with expertise in particular foreign policy problems or particular foreign regions typically lobby for continuing attention to those problems and regions. When a favored foreign policy succeeds, they argue for doing more of the same. When a favored foreign policy fails, they argue for doing more of the same using the spent costs fallacy. Success in their careers depends on being in demand as experts. Great powers may suffer more from the principal-agent problem of politicians, diplomats, soldiers, and journalists lobbying for foreign poli- cies dealing with ‘their’ problem or region because they possess sufficient power resources to waste some of them without encountering an imme- diate existential threat. Attributing the stickiness of geopolitical grand strategy simply to the principal-agent problem is tempting, but the deep- er cause lies in national identity and the resulting international mission of the state. 2 This point is illustrated in the following cases of four states with impressive martial traditions: the Eastern Roman Empire, the Mexi- ca, Switzerland, and Vietnam. The Eastern Roman Empire and the Mexi- ca show how the advantages of geography and identity ultimately limit- ed the ability of these traditional states to respond to external threats. Switzerland and Vietnam show how geography and identity permitted formerly traditional states to become modern states. While the Sack of Rome by the Visigoths led by Alaric in AD 410 signaled the end of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Em- pire survived for more than one thousand years until Constantinople fell to the besieging Osmali or Ottoman Turks led by Mehmet II in AD 1453. Future scholars would call the empire ‘Byzantium,’ after the fortress where Emperor Constantine decided to build a new city to bear his name in AD 330, and would call its people ‘Byzantines.’ The Greek-speaking majority of the imperial population referred to themselves as ‘romaioi’ or ‘Romans’ in Greek, and saw themselves as citizens of the universal Chris-

Rule #7


tian commonwealth bequeathed by the Emperor Constantine. The East- ern Roman Empire’s foreign policy makers shared that identity and understood the international mission of the empire as a responsibility to defend an overwhelmingly Greek-speaking and Orthodox Christian world. What is surprising is how long the Eastern Roman Empire survived problems that had broken the Western Roman Empire: repeated incur- sions by barbarians migrating from Eurasia and the cultural conservatism accompanying Christianization. Where the former strained the manpow- er and fiscal resources of the state, the latter undermined much of the scientific and engineering advantage which had built the empire. 3 The Eastern Roman Empire also survived wars with the powerful Persian Empire, bore the full brunt of attacks by adherents of Islam, being sacked

in 1204 by Franks and Venetians in the Fourth Crusade, and the eruption of bubonic plague in the following century. The Roman millennium between the Sack of Rome and the Fall of Constantinople were largely characterized by territorial retreat rather than expansion. Constantinople had inherited the Balkans, the islands of the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea, Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Even a casual examination of a map of these regions suggests the extraordinary difficulty of defending such a legacy. Security in the imperial core around the cities of Constantinople and Thessalonica, Eastern Anatolia and the Black Sea coast around Trebi- zond, and the islands of the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea, de- pended on the loyalty of Greek-speaking populations and either natural or constructed barriers to raiding and invasion. The rest of the empire was profoundly vulnerable. Although in the mid-sixth century the empire expanded to incorpo- rate the Italian peninsula and lands in the western Mediterranean, suc- ceeding centuries saw it contract to its core region. By the ninth century, the empire was threatened from the north by the Slavs, Bulgars, Magyars, Goths, and Khazars and from the east by the Abbasid Capliphate. 4 An-



of expansion began in the mid-tenth century as Cilicia was reclaimed, Aleppo sacked, and Armenia annexed. 5 In the eleventh century the Bul- gars were conquered and both Balkans and Crimea reclaimed. 6 Despite successful reconquests, Constantinople’s foreign policy makers largely sought to defend its core region through diplomacy devoted to buying off or playing off potential enemies against one another, religious mis- sions, hiring mercenaries, and constructing massive walls around its most important cities. 7 Barbarians were transformed “from hostile foes into useful satellites and eventually grateful members of the imperial family of nations” using this repertoire. 8 In the end, neither diplomacy nor engineering could fully compensate for the loss of territory and the power resources it held. When the Otto-


Chapter 7

man Turks under Mehmed II took eastern Anatolia, they deprived the empire of the manpower and revenues it needed to survive as a power to be feared. The capital city itself, Thessalonica, Morea (Peloponnesian Pe- ninsula), and a handful of islands in the Aegean were all that remained of the empire in the twilight years. Having lost nearly all of the lands popu- lated by Orthodox Christians around the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, there was simply nothing left to the international mission of the state but defending Constantinople as the heart of Christian Orthodoxy. For the last Romans, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire was both ‘New Rome’ and ‘New Jerusalem,’ sacred space and the repository of holy relics that were credited with miraculous powers. Surely possessing “the True Cross and the Holy Nails, Christ’s sandals, scarlet robe, crown of thorns, and shroud, the remnants of fish and bread from the feeding of the five thousand, the entire head of John the Baptist with hair and beard, and the sweat smelling garments of the Virgin Mary” would guarantee a miracle to save the city. 9 For those less inclined to belief in miracles there was still diplomacy. A last ditch effort to save Constantinople by agreeing to union with Latin Christendom in 1452 failed because of popular outrage among the Ortho- dox clergy and faithful at the apostasy. 10 Over the centuries, the volatile masses of Constantinople, fired by religious, dynastic, and other contro- versies rallied to or rebelled against emperors and patriarchs. 11 Protest commonly descended into riot; riot sometimes developed into insurrec- tion. Having lost nearly all of the territory of the empire and with scant hope of recovering it, their Orthodox Christian identity meant more than anything else to fifteenth century Romans. The story does not end with the fall of Constantinople. Subsequent Ottoman conquests would engross most of the territory that had com- prised the Eastern Roman Empire at its height. The Ottoman Greek popu- lation fragmented into different subordinate Greek subethnicities. Among these were the Phanariot or Alexandrian Greeks who helped to administer the empire and even became imperial subcontractors ruling Wallachia. The Ottoman Empire later underwent a protracted territorial contraction like that of the Eastern Roman Empire. During the nineteenth century Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia won their independence, while the Western European great powers began consuming the Arab Middle East. In the death throes of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, the Greek Army occupied Smyrna in eastern Anatolia and then launched a campaign to destroy the Turkish Army in central Anatolia. Foreign policy makers in Athens were inspired to take that gamble by the Megali Idea, the restoration of the Eastern Roman Empire that was described in chapter 4. The defeat of the Greek Army was a disaster for the three Greek sub- ethnicities living in Anatolia. Most would join the ethnic Turks living in

Rule #7


the Balkans in tragic population transfers, mutual ethnic cleansings nego- tiated and enforced by the states. The result is that today’s Greece and Turkey are more ethnically homogenous, perhaps also culturally impov- erished, than either was during five centuries of Ottoman rule. Sixty-seven years separates the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, from the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, today’s Mex- ico City. Like Constantinople, Tenochtitlan was the heart of an empire built on religion and war. Unlike Constantinople, Tenochtitlan fell at the height of its imperial glory. Tenochtitlan was the product of a long history of pre-Columbian Me- soamerican city-state and empire building. Across the region encompass- ing contemporary Mexico and Guatemala, city-states ruled by warrior- priest aristocracies, usually comprising no more than 5 percent of their total populations, fought to dominate one another. 12 The collapse of the Toltec Empire with its capital in Tula de Allende around AD 1150 sparked a protracted struggle, comparable to the Warring States Period in China and the Peloponnesian War in Greece, among the city-states in the Valley of Mexico. Tenochtitlan won its freedom from domination by the neighboring Tepenacs in 1421 and then launched wars of conquest to become what would later be called the Aztec Empire. Despite its as- sumed antiquity, the word ‘Aztec’ was actually coined in the early nine- teenth century by Mexican intellectuals to sever the identity of modern Mexico from its pre-Columbian past, and was derived from the name of the mythic natal region of the Mexica called Aztlán located somewhere in the American Southeast. 13 The Mexica advantage in empire building was that Tenochtitlan had been constructed on an island in Lake Texcoco, which made it more secure than the other city-states because it could be easily defended by massing warriors on the causeways from the main- land. Motivated by their responsibility to defend Tenochtitlan from the oth- er city-states and their religious duty to sacrifice masses of captives taken in war in its sacred precincts dictated a grand strategy of territorial ex- pansion. The other Mesoamerican city-states also sacrificed captives in religious-political spectacles, but the numbers sacrificed in Tenochtitlan were larger, much larger. The resulting demand for captives resulted in almost hyperactive war-making. Conquered city-states might provide the Mexica with captives, but city-states that submitted offered valuable resources or strategic advan- tage. 14 Coyoacan was annexed for its abundant fresh water. Dominated city-states might be allowed to keep their rulers, though they were subor- dinated to provincial calpixque, high-ranking Mexica tribute collectors. 15 In the absence of a currency, the exactions took the form of valuable goods, conscripted labor to build public works, and detachments of war- riors borrowed for further conquests. 16 When the conquest of a city-state proved too difficult in the near term, the Mexica were content to conquer


Chapter 7

all of the territory surrounding it while extracting tribute levies of human sacrifices, as in the case of Tlaxcala. 17 Against their most serious threat, the Tarascan Empire with its capital of Tzintzuntzan, the Mexica adopted four strategies. First, city-states like Toluca were annexed to prevent them from allying with the Tarsacan Empire. Second, city-states along the Pacific Coast like Zacatula were annexed to block Tarsacan expansion. 18 Third, imperial control over the territory of potentially disloyal city-states on the border with the Taras- can Empire like Alahuiztlan was secured by slaughtering the inhabitants and resettling the cities with Mexica and colonists from closely allied city- states. 19 Fourth, the Mexica also constructed and garrisoned new fortress- es along the border such as the one at Oztoma. 20 As the British discovered in both South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa in the nineteenth century, the Mexica found that conquests sometimes necessitated further conquests. 21 After taking Tehuantepec, the Mexica continued expanding southward because of new threats from the other Mayan city-states. Those new conquests also brought the Mexica closer to sources of goods valued as indications of high status in pre-Columbian Meso-America, including quetzal feathers, blue cotinga feathers, and co- coa. 22 Given another century of isolation from the other hemisphere, per- haps the Mexica would have conquered all of Mesoamerica and ex- panded northward into today’s American Southwest. Larger territory and its power resources might have permitted them to better absorb the shock of first contact. Instead, an army from a modern state exogenous to the universe of Mesoamerica conquered Tenochtitlán in 1521. The Span- ish conquistadors were wildly successful despite their very small num- bers because they enjoyed multiple advantages, including out-of-context surprise, new epidemic diseases, modern steel weapons and horses, relig- ious fanaticism, audacity, ruthlessness, and the simmering resentments of other city-states subordinated by the Mexica. The invaders were able to raise large armies of local allies. 23 Tenochtitlán was vulnerable in the encounter for some of the reasons that it had grown strong. New Spain, the colonial state that Spain established in Mesoamerica, was the larger empire that the Mexica might have completed if they had enjoyed that additional century of isolation. Although the marked differences in physical geography and identity between Switzerland and Vietnam make them seem utterly dissimilar, they share the experience of having survived the transition from tradi- tional states to modern states. That success is attributable to the determi- nation with which they pursued their geopolitical strategies. Switzerland’s international mission of preserving its autonomy as a multi-ethnic republic, the autonomy of its cantons, and the liberty of its citizens is the product of seven centuries of uneasy alliances and periodic wars between the Swiss republics, today’s Swiss cantons. 24 Switzerland

Rule #7


developed from an alliance of the forest republics of Uri, Schwyz, and Interwalden, the 1291 Ruetli Compact, to resist the Holy Roman Empire. The powerful city-state of Berne joined the alliance in 1353. 25 Over the next two centuries Alpine republics and city-states continued to join the confederation. Switzerland remained independent of its powerful neigh- bors largely because of the success of Swiss arms. Swiss militia not only protected the confederation from the armies of the great powers, but companies of Swiss mercenaries were hired by those same great powers to fight their wars. The age of the mercenary gradually came to an end because of Swiss popular revulsion and because the nature of warfare began to change with the advent of patriotic national armies. Although poor Swiss would continue to find themselves in the armies and servants quarters of neighboring countries into the nineteenth century, the tradi- tion of serving in mercenary companies declined because of widespread dismay at the high number of Swiss casualties in the Battle of Marignano in 1515. 26 That year was also the first time that Swiss foreign policy makers formally declared the country to be neutral, a declaration that they repeated in 1647. The great powers formally endorsed the neutrality of Switzerland with the March 20, 1815, Declaration of Vienna. “The French Revolution and Napoleon gave the coup de grace to the mercen- ary system by raising huge, effective armies chiefly from France’s own expanding territories.” 27 Switzerland’s physical geography of imposing natural barriers and political history of armed local autonomy and abandonment of the mer- cenary system made possible the nation’s international mission of auton- omy and neutrality. That international mission is realized in a modest geopolitical grand strategy of robust defense and international humani- tarianism to dissuade neighboring great powers from invading Swiss territory as prohibitively expensive while appearing both unthreatening and even useful as a neutral state. 28 That liberal democratic Switzerland survived the Second World War without joining the Axis Alliance or being annexed by Nazi Germany is a testament to the success of its geopolitical grand strategy. What makes that remarkable is that in 1940 Switzerland was surrounded by the Ger- many, Italy, German-Occupied France, and Vichy France; that the major- ity of Swiss were German speakers and some of them identified with Nazi Germany; and that many other smaller states succumbed. Germany did not invade because Swiss foreign policy makers ordered mass mobil- ization and threatened to destroy the St. Gotthard and Lötschberg-Sim- plon rail tunnels through which Germany supplied Italy with 12 million tons of coal annually, fuel Italy needed to remain in the war. 29 In addition to holding rail traffic hostage, Switzerland made itself useful to Germany by extending bank loans and selling machinery and armaments. 30 Even while insisting on neutrality, Switzerland continued to accumulate inter- national good will by acting on behalf of the millions of prisoner and


Chapter 7

refugee noncombatants produced by the war. The International Red Cross (IRC) established by Geneva’s own Henri Dunant and the Geneva Conventions sponsored by the government of Switzerland have contrib- uted much to lessening the horrors of war. 31 Today Switzerland is once again surrounded by states committed to the unification of Europe under German leadership. European Union member states are liberal and democratic, but Switzerland has main- tained its distance autonomy from that project as well. That distance is reflected in both disciplined preparation for military defense and refusal to join the Eurozone. Although located in the geographic center of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Switzerland is not part of the Euro-sphere as it is described in chapter 13. Another example of the stickiness of a geopolitical grand strategy that helped a state to survive the transition from traditional to modern is the behavior of a millennium of regimes that created and expanded the terri- tory of Vietnam. The territorial expansion of China from its heartland around the Yellow Sea in what scholars have called “China’s march to the tropics” resulted in the assimilation into the Han Chinese population of some of the peoples in its path and the migration of others. 32 The Yue, a people who lived in what is today southeastern China, did both. Those who remained were assimilated and are the ancestors of the contempo- rary Yue or Cantonese-speaking ethnic minority in Guangxi and Guang- dong provinces, in Hong Kong and comprise much of the Chinese Dias- pora. 33 The Yue who migrated southward consolidated their control over the Red River Delta, establishing a polity that was initially a protectorate of China and later an independent state that would claim equality with China by the late tenth century AD. Some Vietnamese historians assert that the origins of their nation lie millennia earlier in the same region, but that claim is little more than a primordialist reconstruction reflecting dis- comfort with a Chinese nascence. 34 A better account is that the descen- dants of the Yue migrants assimilated the local population as well as migrants fleeing southward from war and disorder in the Chinese em- pire. 35 Over the last millennium, the Vietnamese moved southward from their heartland in the Red River Delta in what scholars have termed the Nam Tiên or Southward Advance. In an example of Rule #2 they first sought to settle the lowlands along the Gulf of Tonkin and South China Sea, lands similar to the Red River Delta. When that north-south corridor was blocked, they expanded westward into the highlands. During the same millennium Thais and Burmese also moved southward into fertile lowlands along parallel geographic corridors in Southeast Asia. Conquest was also important to the expansion of Vietnam. Central Vietnam or Annam and the Mekong River Delta or Cochinchina were absorbed in a series of wars against the rival, culturally Indianized states

Rule #7


of the ethnic Cham and Khmer. Those conquests were then consolidated with the establishment of villages by Vietnamese peasant settlers and the cultural assimilation of many of the Cham and Khmer. In what Frances FitzGerald likened to “amoebic reproduction,” parent Vietnamese vil- lages in the densely populated north sponsored young and landless peas- ants who established charter villages on the frontier in the south. 36 Many of the landless southbound migrants were ‘non-citizens outsiders’ denied the rights of ‘citizen insiders’ in the parent villages. 37 As with the experi- ence of the Yue ancestors of the Vietnamese in the path of Han Chinese expansion, some of the Cham and Khmer were assimilated into the ad- vancing Vietnamese while others fled. 38 The Cham no longer have a state of their own and instead survive as a small Muslim minority in both Vietnam and Cambodia. The Khmer still have their own state, Cambodia, but people living in southern Vietnam are members of the largely assimi- lated Khmer Krom minority. That Cambodia exists as a state is largely attributable to French imperialism. If France had not colonized all of Indochina, Cambodia might have disappeared entirely as Vietnam ex- panded from the Mekong River Delta westward and Thailand expanded eastward to absorb more of the territory of the ancient Angkoria Empire. Crucially, Vietnam consistently expanded southward rather than at- tempt northward expansion to reclaim ancient Yue territory from China. That geopolitical grand strategy was pursued for eight centuries by the Đi CVit Dynasty, Lý or Đi Vit Dynasty, Trn Dynasty, Lê Dynasty, and Vit Nam Dynasty. 39 Even when Vietnam was divided by the wall constructed across the Gates of Annam at the 18 th parallel during the Lê Dynasty, a partition that created a Confucian northern Vietnam ruled by the Trinh clan and a Buddhist southern Vietnam ruled by the Nguyen Lords, Vietnamese expansion by colonization continued. The settling of the southern frontier also continued while Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos were ruled as French Indochina. Among the settlers were former Vietnamese contract laborers who had helped to relieve the labor shortages in French factories during the First World War. 40 In 1949 the French Colonial Administration and puppet government of Emperor Bao Dai jointly agreed to economically develop the highlands, most espe- cially Darlac Province, which was thought to be particularly promising for the commercial production of rubber and coffee. 41 Vietnamese settlement continued after the country was partitioned in 1954 between the Republic of Vietnam in the south and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north. Beginning in 1957, President Ngo Dinh Diem’s conservative authoritarian regime in the Republic of Vietnam began settling anticommunist refugees from the north in the highlands in 225 Land Redevelopment Centers. 42 In the following year it began moving eighty-eight thousand highlanders onto reservations under the Highlander Relocation Program to accelerate cultural assimilation and economic development. 43 The communist Democratic Republic of Viet-


Chapter 7

nam responded by adopting a “clearing the wilderness” program to set- tle the highlands and border areas, with the ostensibly socialist purpose of reducing differences between regions. 44 That goal was reiterated at the Fourth Vietnamese Party Congress in 1976, a year after the reunification of Vietnam. 45 Demobilized soldiers and political prisoners in rural reedu- cation camps spearheaded the drive to settle the remaining frontier. 46 Whether the Vietnamese regime was monarchist or republican, Con- fucian, Buddhist, anticommunist, or communist, it pursued roughly the same geopolitical grand strategy of southward expansion by colonization and conquest. Whether the settlers were landless peasants, tenants of large landowners, refugees, slaves, criminal prisoners, political prisoners, or demobilized military colonists, what mattered for each Vietnamese regime was that they were ethnic Vietnamese or could be assimilated as Vietnamese, and that the land they occupied became permanently part of Vietnam. The story does not end with the Vietnamese populating the Mekong River Delta. Centuries of territorial expansion at the expense of the Khmer generated intense antipathy that could erupt into violence. In the early nineteenth century the Nguyen Lords faced an armed rebellion after they began forcing Khmer to work on excavating the Vinh Te Canal from Chau Phu to the Gulf of Siam. 47 In the chaos that engulfed Cambo- dia in the 1970s, Khmer resentment against the Vietnamese minority erupted into brutal atrocities first under the anticommunist regime of Gen. Lon Nol and later under the communist regime of the Khmer Rouge. Although the ideological rationales were different, the victims, perpetrators, and locations were much the same. The Khmer Rouge were driven from power in 1979 but only after provoking a war with their former communist allies in Vietnam in a territorial dispute over the is- land of Phú Quóc. Why did Switzerland and Vietnam survive into the present as modern states while the Eastern Roman Empire and the Mexica are history? Fo- cusing attention on whether they adopted accommodationist, defensive, or expansionist foreign policies may offer satisfying explanations when the cases are considered separately, but that focus is unconvincing when they are compared. Where the geopolitical grand strategies of the Eastern Roman Empire and Switzerland occupy positions on the spectrum of coercion between the accommodationist and the defensive, those of Mexica and Vietnam occu- py positions somewhere between the defensive and the expansionist. Only the latter state in each dyad is still with us. The better explanation for why Switzerland and Vietnam survived the transition but the Eastern Roman Empire and the Mexica failed to survive is found in the differences between their relative geographic advantages and disadvantages and the content of their international missions.

Rule #7


Where the foreign policy makers of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Mexica were trapped in protecting vulnerable core areas and distant periphery by the relative poverty of natural barriers and the ferocity of powerful rivals, their counterparts in Switzerland and Vietnam could expand to encompass most of the territory resembling their core areas without arousing powerful rivals. Where religiously inspired international missions compelled the foreign policy makers of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Mexica to wage war unceasingly, secular international missions permitted the foreign policy makers of Switzerland and Vietnam to wage war intermit- tently. Today Switzerland and Vietnam are governed by recognizably autochthonous regimes. By contrast little remains of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Mexica. Greek is spoken in Greece and Christian Ortho- doxy practiced in the Balkans and Crimea; but across the rest of the territory that once comprised the Eastern Roman Empire, collective iden- tities are expressed in Turkish or Arabic, and Islam is the dominant relig- ion. Nahuatl is still being spoken by a minority in Mexico due to the efforts of intellectuals to save indigenous language culture, but the relig- ion of the Mexica is reflected only faintly in folklore.


  • 1. Johnston, Cultural Realism, 112–113.

  • 2. Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy? 3–8, 13.

  • 3. Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind, 316–322.

  • 4. Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, 281–1081, 30.

  • 5. Garrood, “The Byzantine Conquest of Cilicia and the Hamdanids of Aleppo,

959–965,” 137.

  • 6. Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, 284–1081, 38.

  • 7. Luttwak, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, 67–77, 137–176; Cimbala,

“Byzantine War and Strategy,” 6; Bartusis, The Late Byzantine Army: Arms and Society,

1204–1453, 112–117.

  • 8. Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion, 333.

  • 9. Cliff, The Last Crusade, 94.

  • 10. Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and His Times, 79–80.

  • 11. Kaldellis, The Byzantine Republic: People and Power in New Rome, 119–138.

  • 12. M. Smith, “Aztec City-States,” 586.

  • 13. Shorris, The Life and Times of Mexico, 8, 25.

  • 14. Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexica, 106–107.

  • 15. Ibid., 103, 109.

  • 16. Conrad and Demarest, Religion and Empire, 49.

  • 17. Davies, The Aztec Empire, 92.

  • 18. Ibid., 83.

  • 19. Silverstein, “Aztec Imperialism at Oztuma, Guerrero,” 44.

  • 20. Davies, The Aztec Empire, 175.

  • 21. Multiple victories in war were preludes to future wars against the Burmese and

the Xhosa.


Chapter 7

  • 22. Davies, The Aztec Empire, 88–89, 208–209.

  • 23. Thompson, “The Military Superiority Thesis and the Ascendency of Western

Eurasia in the World System,” 150.

  • 24. Bendix, “National Sentiment in the Enactment and Discourse of Swiss Political

Ritual,” 772.

  • 25. T. Scott, The City-State in Europe, 100–1600, 179–186.

  • 26. Fischer, “Invulnerability without Threat,” 220.

  • 27. Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, 83.

  • 28. Reginbogin, Faces of Neutrality, 23.

  • 29. Wylie, Britain, Switzerland, and the Second World War, 31.

  • 30. Reginbogin, Faces of Neutrality, 54–55, 83–86.

  • 31. Schorske, “Introduction,” 9.

  • 32. Eastman, Family, Fields, and Ancestors, 8–9.

  • 33. Meacham, “Defining the Hundred Yue,” 96.

  • 34. Pelley, Writing Revolution: The New History in Post-Colonial Vietnam, 186.

  • 35. Churchman, “Before Chinese and Vietnamese in the Red River Plain,” 33.

  • 36. FitzGerald, Fire in the Lake, 45.

  • 37. Popkin, The Rational Peasant, 88–90.

  • 38. Cotter, “Towards a Social History of the Vietnamese Southward Movement,”


  • 39. Shiro, “The Vietnamese Empire and Its Expansion, c.980–1840,” 145–147.

  • 40. Hardy, Red Hills, 49.

  • 41. Hickey, Some Recommendations Affecting the Prospective Role of Vietnamese High-

landers in Economic Development, 23–24.

  • 42. Ibid., 26.

  • 43. Ibid., 27.

  • 44. Ibid., 243.

  • 45. Ibid.

  • 46. De Koninck, “The Peasantry as the Territorial Spearhead of the State in South-

east Asia: The Case of Vietnam,” 231–258.

  • 47. Chandler, “An Anti-Vietnamese Rebellion in Early Nineteenth Century Cambo-

dia: Pre-Colonial Imperialism and a Pre-Nationalist Response,” 17.

Part II

Anglo-sphere and Sino-sphere in the Twenty-first Century

Anglo-sphere and Sino-sphere in the Twenty-first Century

Russo-sphere and Indo-sphere in the Twenty-first Century

Russo-sphere and Indo-sphere in the Twenty-first Century

Euro-sphere and Brazilo-sphere in the Twenty-first Century

Euro-sphere and Brazilo-sphere in the Twenty-first Century

Examples of Valuable Regions on the Moon

Examples of Valuable Regions on the Moon



In early March 2015, New Zealand Green Party leader Russell Norman inadvertently described the structure of the Anglo-sphere when he criti- cized the electronic eavesdropping conducted by his country’s Govern- ment Communications Security Bureau on small Pacific island states, in- cluding Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. “We’ve got our little part of the world that we’ve got to collect data on, which is the southwest Pacific, and then we feed that data into the giant NSA data base. It really means we don’t have an independent foreign policy.” 1 His complaint was about New Zealand’s membership in the Five Eyes Alliance, also called “the club,” the permanent grouping of five Anglo-Saxon states led by the United States which share the intelligence they gather freely because there is assumed to be little difference in their fundamental national interests. Norman’s assessment was correct if somewhat hyperbolic that New Zealand’s foreign policy is not indepen- dent. A more realistic assessment would be that it is interwoven with that of the four larger states of the Anglo-sphere. Together, the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, perhaps Ireland, the many small English-speaking island states of the Caribbean and Pacific, and the millions across Africa and South Asia who speak English as their first language, comprise the sphere of affinity with the largest economy, greatest military might, and largest, most diverse territory. When combined with the exotic territories claimed by its mem- bers as Exclusive Economic Zones and Antarctic Territories, the total territory of the Anglo-sphere dwarfs that of the other spheres of affinity. What the Anglo-sphere does not possess is the largest population. Both the Sino-sphere and Indo-sphere have larger populations. Like the Brazilo-sphere, the history of the Anglo-sphere is marked by a transition between core states. The United States gradually assumed



Chapter 8

that role from Britain over the course of more than a century in which they were international rivals, but never one another’s principal interna- tional rival. 2


England emerged from successive conquests by Celtiberians, Romans, Saxons, the Norse, and finally the Normans. With the last of these con- quests in the eleventh century, England served as the base from which French-speaking Angevin Dynasty monarchs sought to conquer the rest of the British Isles while expanding or at least holding onto possessions in France. The first major step in the unification of the islands was Edward I’s conquest of Wales, which was recognized with the Treaty of Abercon- wy in 1277. 3 Stone castles like those at Flint, Caernarvon, and Conway were constructed across Wales to secure the English conquest. Powerful physical statements about political and military power, the fortresses at- tracted English and Welsh settlers who became the founding populations of new towns. Colonizing projects like those in Wales, involving castle building and the establishment of new towns, were underway during the same time period east of the Elbe River, in Iberia, and in the Middle East. The subsequent conquests of Celtic Scotland and Ireland took several more centuries. English military might was crucial in both cases, but the linguistic dominance of English and the economic dominance of England made them permanent parts of the Anglo-sphere. Medieval English geographic imagination was largely fixed on Eu- rope, North Africa, and the Middle East. An overwhelmingly Latin Chris- tian perspective meant that Jerusalem was located at the center of Mappa- mundi or Medieval European maps of the world. 4 Lands beyond the Mid- dle East and North Africa were thought to be populated with impossibly strange peoples, and somewhere in their midst was rumored to be the Christian empire of Prester John. Despite the tendency to look eastward, English adventurers took part in the quickening of interest among West- ern Europeans in exploring the Atlantic in the fifteenth century. In 1481, two ships from Bristol sought to locate the ‘island of Brazil’ named in Irish myth. 5 English cod fishers are suspected of having sighted the coastline of North America from the Grand Banks a decade before Chris- topher Columbus made his first voyage to the Caribbean. 6 What they saw may have impelled England’s King Henry VI to sponsor John Ca- bot’s voyages of discovery.


Whatever public excitement was caused by news of Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland in 1497, it would be another two generations, in the reign



of Queen Elizabeth I, before England would stake territorial claims and establish colonies in the Americas. 7 What motivated the revived interest? Part of the answer was trade. Englishmen wanted access to goods from Asia. That was the reason for the annual trading voyages into the Euro- pean Arctic and around Scandinavia to reach northern Russia via the White Sea that began in 1553. 8 Part of the answer was geopolitical anxiety. England’s Protestant foreign policy makers were alarmed by the prospect of encirclement by the Roman Catholic Spain. Continental Europe seemed destined to be ruled by Spain because of the military victories of the Duke of Parma in the Low Countries. The same was true of the Americas, Africa, and Asia after the union of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the 1580s. In escaping from their own encirclement by the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the Christian Orthodox Russian Empire, Spain and Portugal aroused a comparable geopolitical anxiety in England. That appears to have been the impetus for Martin Frobisher’s three voyages of discovery between 1576 and 1578 to search for the Northwest Passage to China. 9 Early justifications for English territorial claims to newly discovered lands in the Americas provide amusing examples of Rule #5 that interna- tional law and rhetoric about territory should not be taken too seriously. Some in the Tudor Court opined that a rumored colony in North America established long ago by King Arthur gave England sufficient territorial claim. 10 That the colony was as mythical as King Arthur himself hardly mattered. Elizabeth I’s chief alchemist and fortune-teller John Dee offered the even more fanciful legal theory that the crown held rights to North America based on their discovery by the Welch King Madog and subse- quently bequeathed to King Arthur. 11 The notion of a lost Welsh colony evolved into a tale of ‘Welsh Indians’ that continues to provide fodder for crypto-archaeologists. Ideological justification was also found in what became the Black Legend, a narrative of Spanish cruelty, treachery, and greed combined with Protestant anti-popery. 12 How else to explain the brutal enslavement and torture of Indians and the slaughter of an entire Huguenot (French Calvinist) settlement in Florida? 13 Geopolitics and ideology were brought together in Richard Hakluyt’s 1584 “Discourses of Western Planting.” 14 Weaving together the ancient discoveries of King Madog, the horror of Spanish cruelty in the Americas, the confiscation of English shipping in the Mediterranean by Muslim rulers, the threat of crime and rebellion posed by “many thousands of idle persons” in the realm, and the threatened loss of the opportunity to other European states, Hakluyt concluded that England should colonize all of the lands between Newfoundland and Florida. English settler colonization of the Atlantic coast of North America faced major obstacles. First, as the experience of the Munster Plantation in Ireland suggested, many Englishmen resisted the idea of becoming settlers. “From the government’s point of view the advantages of coloni-


Chapter 8

zation were obvious: control would be achieved in the most tangible manner, strategic security thereby strengthened, the Anglicization pro- gramme inexorably accelerated, England’s supposed surplus population accommodated, and eventually the transformed and newly prosperous region financially benefitting the Crown.” 15 Persuading English farmers to voluntarily settle just across the Irish Sea required incentives in the form of generous land grants to enterprising lords, reduced rents to ten- ants, and the right to export grain to England free of customs duties. Second, although it seems counterintuitive now, ambitious English- men in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were more attracted by trade in distant parts of Old World via chartered companies (monopolies established by the crown) such as the Muscovy Company, Eastland Com- pany, Levant Company, and the British East India Company. 16 For Brit- ons in the early seventeenth century, commerce or service as a mercenary in one of the Muslim states around the Mediterranean was often more lucrative than adventures in the moneyless wilderness around Chesa- peake Bay. “Muslim North Africa was a place from which Britons had to be lured back with pardons; Virginia was a place to which unwanted Britons were to be sent.” 17 Until the Reformation inspired the Great Mi- gration of the 1630s to 1660s, Britons in North America were perishing or returning to England in numbers too large to sustain vigorous coloniza- tion. When Englishmen settled in the Americas before the Great Migration, it was more likely on Caribbean islands like Barbados, Jamaica, and St. Christopher than colonies on the coast of continental North America like Massachusetts, Virginia, and Maryland. And they continued to sail to the Caribbean during and after the Great Migration, though the total num- bers are disputed. By one account, 380,000 English migrated to the New World between 1630 and 1699. 18 By another, some 202,000 migrated to the New World between 1650 and 1700, with 93,000 going to the Carib- bean compared with 109,000 going to North America. 19 Many of those who would later settle in the Carolinas were actually the descendants of an earlier generation of settlers in the Caribbean colonies. The fervor of the English Reformation and the political uncertainty of the English Civil War provided the crucial motivation for hundreds of thousands of Brit- ons, including whole families, to settle in the continental colonies. 20 That Britain would emerge as a maritime power rather than resume its earlier role as a continental power was not a forgone conclusion. In 1657, Swedish King Charles X offered most of Jutland and East Friesland to Lord Protector of England Oliver Cromwell in return for a military alliance whose goal was the partition of Denmark. 21 The diplomatic bait was not taken, but if it had, Britain would have found it more difficult to play the role of ‘offshore balancer’ in future centuries. The effort English- men devoted to building a global empire might have been spent defend- ing a much smaller though certainly more proximate realm in Northern



Europe. English foreign policy makers with more parochial perspectives might well have thought that to be the better geopolitical grand strategy. The Great Migration saw significant change in the entities responsible for colonization. Before then the chartered company served as the pri- mary organization form to establish and govern new colonies. Fusing private and public interests, a chartered company was a joint stock firm that had been granted a royal monopoly. Well-known examples include the East India Company, Hudson’s Bay Company, Virginia Company, and Massachusetts Bay Company. Less well known are the Newfound- land Company, Northwest Passage Company, Somers Island Company, Guiana Company, and the Providence Island Company. Established in 1630, when the Great Migration began, the Providence Island Company was the last of its kind to be chartered for thirty-two years. 22 Most of the companies were replaced by colonial governments, but not before they had performed the essential and difficult work of establishing initial set- tlements. Interestingly, the unification of the English and Scottish crowns in 1707 occurred after rather than before the first permanent English-speak- ing settlements in the Americas. The English had already established colonies in Massachusetts and Virginia, while the Scots had already es- tablished a colony in Nova Scotia and spectacularly failed to colonize Darien in Panama. Indeed, the financial crisis precipitated by the latter debacle contributed to the unification of England and Scotland. What would become the United States of America in the late eight- eenth century was the product of English, Dutch, and Swedish colonial settlement of the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River, Hudson River, and New England in the seventeenth century. 23 Puritan religious dissidents first settled Massachusetts, their descendants settling the rest of New England. Dutch and Germans who had accumulated in Dutch cities pop- ulated New Amsterdam, later renamed New York. English Roman Cath- olics settled Maryland. Swedes and Finns settled Delaware. Rootless young men and vagrant children in the custody of Elizabethan author- ities became the founding European population of Virginia and the Caro- linas. English debtors and Scots Highlanders settled Georgia. West Africans were enslaved from New Amsterdam to Georgia. Advancing westward from these colonies the Americans waged a series of small wars to exterminate and displace the indigenous inhabitants. 24 The American Revolution fragmented the Anglo-sphere for much of the nineteenth century, leaving Britain the leading maritime power and the new United States a rising continental power. The loss of her valuable settler colonies along the Atlantic coast of North America was a painful but not mortal wound to Britain. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand soon replaced them as settler colonies. All of South Asia save Portuguese Goa was British and in time so too would much of Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Even shorn of most of its colonies along the North


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America Atlantic coast, Britain would rule the largest, most extensive empire in history. Two goals dominated the geopolitical grand strategy of the United States following the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. The first was to maintain independence from Britain. With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, France retreated as a plausible threat. Spain possessed adjacent continental territories, but they were still thinly settled or yet to be settled by Europeans. With a rapidly growing population the territorial expan- sion of the United States seemed inevitable to observers. 25 So it was Brit- ain that remained the chief danger. The same factors that Washington recognized as threats to survival, London recognized as opportunity to reabsorb the rebellious colonies: doubts about the viability of the new republic, the Royal Navy, and the vulnerability of Canada. Unsurprising- ly then, the second goal of American geopolitical grand strategy was to weaken Britain by annexing Canada. For James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, taking Canada would deprive potentially hostile Native American tribes on the frontier of essential British military assistance such as firearms and deprive Britain of raw materials such as ship timber for waging war. 26 Their simple geopolitical calculation was that a weak- ened Britain would mean a strengthened United States. Fortunately for both a more fluid arrangement was negotiated. Rather than fight a third and ruinous Anglo-American War, Washing- ton and London developed a wary modus vivendi. Despite the bitterness inspired by the previous wars and the emerging territorial competition for the valuable American Northwest, shared affinities of language, relig- ion, family, and trade characteristic of spheres of affinity permitted Lon- don to make diplomatic overtures to Washington based on their shared geopolitical interests in the future of Latin America. In August 1823, Brit- ish Foreign Secretary George Canning proposed an alliance to prevent any other great power or alliance of great powers—the Holy Alliance of Russia, Prussia, and Austria was perceived as a likely threat—from ex- ploiting ongoing popular rebellions against Spanish colonial rule in the Americas. 27 The administration of James Monroe responded with an elaboration on the original United States foreign policy of “armed neu- trality” would come to be called the Monroe Doctrine in December 1823. Renewed European colonization in the Americas was henceforth forbid- den. If the threat seems implausible today, it is helpful to remember France’s imposition of a Hapsburg monarch on Mexico while the United States was distracted during its 1860–1865 Civil War and Germany’s gun- boat diplomacy during the Venezuelan Crisis of 1902–1903. The quid pro quo for the Anglo-American alliance was that in return for the British Navy supporting the United States Navy in shielding the hemisphere from any renewed colony hunting by the other great powers, Canada and the British Caribbean would remain safe from annexation by the United States. Britain would also join the United States in recognizing the inde-



pendence of the former Spanish colonies, which would become subordi- nate trading partners for both of the Anglo-Saxon powers. Alliance with the emerging Anglo-Saxon colossus in the Western Hemisphere meant that Britain could continue to pursue its long-stand- ing maritime geopolitical grand strategy without deploying a standing army to defend Canada. In what is surely the best example of Rule #6, Britain’s immense and diverse imperial territories held the power re- sources necessary to play the role of “offshore balancer” preventing any other major power from achieving lasting hegemony over continental Europe. 28 Europe was where the great powers were clustered and thus where the major threats to Britain would emerge. In one sense Britain possessed little strategic depth; the British Isles have a total land territory roughly that of the American state of Oregon. The only obvious geopoliti- cal advantage it possessed was the barrier represented by the English Channel. In another sense, however, Britain possessed immense strategic depth as a maritime power. Colonies and client states stretching around the planet gave Britain the wherewithal to weather the exclusion from continental European markets by Napoleon Bonaparte’s Continental Sys- tem and allowed it to limit French imperial expansion to continental Europe. 29 “The British government waged the Napoleonic Wars virtually free from foreign debt, thanks to the enforced tribute levied upon India— and this alone allowed for a six fold increase in public spending between 1792 and 1815.” 30 Those monies permitted London to spend massively on the British Navy compared with its major rival, which in turn created the economic demand for capital goods that was crucial for industrializa- tion. 31 The relationship between the two Anglo-Saxon powers was not al- ways problem free. British interest in the Bay of Honduras, dormant since the seventeenth century, was reawakened in the mid-nineteenth century because of political instability in Central America and filibustering by Americans. 32 Filibustering was the nineteenth-century term that named unauthorized or at least unofficial empire building by American and Brit- ish adventurers. Among the most audacious, perhaps sociopathic, of its practitioners was the American William Walker, who briefly established himself as the dictator of Nicaragua and reestablished slavery. Modern states typically insist upon their rights, however tenuous, to even very minor territories. Thus despite the Monroe Doctrine and Anglo- American Clay-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, which stipulated that neither country would occupy, fortify, or colonize Central America, but consis- tent with Rule #5 that international law and diplomatic rhetoric about territory should be treated as mere words, London insisted upon its rights to the Bay Islands and the Mosquito Protectorate on the eastern coast of Nicaragua. Initially aggressive posturing by London and Wash- ington eventually deescalated with face-saving gestures that left the Nic- araguan status quo intact, sans the infamous Walker.


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When the American Civil War presented Britain with the perfect op- portunity to prevent or at least delay the emergence of the United States as a rival great power by intervening with France to support the Confed- erate States of America, it did not do so. 33 Instead, Britain chose to coop- erate with the other great power in the English-speaking world. Al- though observers might have missed the signs, this marks the beginning of the transition in the Anglo-sphere as the role of core state began to shift from Britain to the United States. What is remarkable is that for all the appearance of diplomatic fric- tion, London gave way to Washington with remarkable grace. That can be seen in British acquiescence in the rise of the United States as a naval power. In 1889 London adopted the Two Power Standard, which re- quired that the British Navy must be superior to the combined might of the second and third ranked navies everywhere on the planet. Thus the British Navy was expected to maintain fleets capable of defeating combi- nations such as the German navy and Russian Navy or the French Navy and Italian Navy. The reality was that with this new policy Britain ceded dominance in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to the United States Navy and East Asian Pacific to the Japanese Navy. British naval superior- ity would be maintained only in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; an armed force appropriate for an offshore balancer in Europe and one that London could reasonably afford to deploy. In 1904 Sir Halford Mackinder offered a political geographic theory consistent with the strategic and fiscal constraints that had compelled Britain to concede the Western Hemisphere to the United States and im- plement the Two Power Standard. 34 Adopting a global perspective, Mackinder understood Eurasia as the ‘world island’ that contained the bulk of the planet’s natural resources and population, which at the begin- ning of the twentieth century were being mobilized as power resources by the construction of railroads. Any great power ruling the Eurasian heartland or ‘Pivot Area’ of Russia and Persia would also rule the ‘Outer Crescent’ that included Europe, the Middle East, India, and China. With all of the power resources of Eurasia that great power could then domi- nate the ‘Outer or Insular Crescent’ of Britain, the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australasia, and Japan. 35 Mackinder’s global perspective was in keeping with a century of British diplomatic and military efforts to pre- vent the Russian Navy from escaping the confines of the Black Sea by taking control of Istanbul and the passage to the Mediterranean Sea called the Dardanelles. In the years after the Napoleonic Wars, London had sought to prevent Moscow from buying the island of Minorca from Madrid in return for the transfer of Russian warships. 36 Among Mack- inder’s most important observations was that the great power powers were now confined to what he termed a “closed political system,” by which he meant zero sum competition in and for finite geographic space. 37 Contemporary historians have tended to avoid discussing that



important insight about international politics and instead indulged in disapproval by contextualization. Mackinder is thus reduced to little bet- ter than a product or apologist for British imperialism, social Darwinism, and scientific racism. 38 An unmistakably successful maritime global geopolitical grand strate- gy did not prevent Britain from pursuing less successful regional geopo- litical strategies. One of the best examples of Rule #7 that geopolitical grand strategy may be sticky is Britain’s experience in Afghanistan. Although Afghanistan offered little potential for raw materials ex- ports and too small a market for imported manufactured goods to tempt colonizers, British expansion in South Asia and Russian expansion in Central Asia made it important for strategists in London and Moscow. Captured and popularized in Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim as the Great Game for Central Asia, Anglo-Russian competition resulted directly in the three Anglo-Afghanistan Wars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and indirectly in the longer and bloodier Russian-Afghanistan War in the late twentieth century and the American-Afghanistan War of the early twenty-first century. The First Anglo-Afghan War was the result of a British attempt to re- install an unpopular royal client as Amir in Kabul. The British had little reason to favor claimants representing either the Sadozai clan or the Ba- rakzai clan of the Durrani Dynasty, but choosing a side was believed to be the best way to protect India, Britain’s most valuable colonial posses- sion. British strategists were worried about India because Russian continen- tal expansion rivalled British maritime expansion in its rapidity and breadth. Siberia and Kazakhstan were already Russian possessions in the early nineteenth century. Victories in the 1827–1828 Russo-Persian War and 1828–1829 Russo-Turkish War removed obstacles to the conquest of the vulnerable khanates of Central Asia. 39 Russian expansion into Central Asia had multiple motivations, including the protection of Russian set- tlers on the steppe, a sense of civilizational mission, international prestige in an age of empire building, and possibly even gaining additional lever- age over Britain by seeming to threaten India. 40 British strategists worried about a Russian Army marching down from Central Asia across the traditional invasion route from southern Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass through the Hindu Kush Mountains and into the flat terrain and rich farm lands of Punjab. India’s prehistory and history can be told as a narrative of invasions from the Northwest that began around the tenth century BC with the arrival of Indo-Euro- pean-speaking Aryan warriors described in the Hindu holy texts and contined until a Timurid or Turco-Mongol prince named Babur led an army from Kabul into northern India in 1519 to establish an empire. The British East India Company appeared less than a century later, but it would take them another century to begin absorbing the fragments of


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that decomposing Moghul Empire. Unlike their predecessors, the British conquered India advancing from the east and the south, leaving the prob- lem of securing the northwest to the end. Thus they arrived in Northwest India at roughly the same historical moment that the Russians arrived in Central Asia. If an invading Russian Army stopped after taking Punjab and Sind to its south, Moscow would still have won a warm water port and naval base that could not be easily blockaded. Britannia ruled the waves in the nineteenth century in great part because its great power rivals lacked a comparable global archipelago of ports and naval bases. British strategists also worried about an invasion of India by Russian and Persian armies marching from Persia. Britain had lost credibility with Persia after failing to fulfill promises to come to its aid in the 1827–1828 Russo-Persian War. A new pro-Russian Persian ruler, Moham- mad Shah, had taken the throne in 1834. 41 An alliance with Russia might permit Persia to recover its lost territory of Herat. Closer to India, the Sikh Empire had grown from its heartland around the city of Amritsar by taking territories from Afghanistan to engross all of Punjab and neighbor- ing territories in Kashmir. 42 A sophisticated bureaucracy extracted wealth from the rich agriculture of these regions sufficient to modernize the Sikh army. The Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh, called the Napoleon of the Sikhs, was so confident of his power that he crowned himself Maharaja of Punjab. Despite the 1809 Treaty of Sutlej recognizing the boundary be- tween the British India and the Sikh Empire, the possibility of an alliance between the Russians and the Sikhs was another reason to worry. 43 To be sure, geopolitical anxiety about Russia might have served as the pretext to disguise the true objectives of British geopolitical grand strate- gy: destroying the Sikh Empire and engrossing Punjab and Kashmir. 44 What is certain is that the British East India Company Army, which occu- pied Kabul and installed their Sadozai clan choice as Amir, was first besieged and then utterly destroyed in a harrowing retreat in late 1841 and early 1842. The British garrison in Kabul and their puppet ruler were too vulnerable not to evict in the name of honor and Islam. 45 The Afghan throne belonged to the Barakzai clan. What is also certain is that the British East India Company successful- ly annexed Punjab and Kashmir in 1849. If the story had ended there, then the argument that British policy toward Afghanistan was motivated primarily by anxiety about the more proximate Sikh Empire and not by distant Russia would be compelling. However, the story did not end there. Subsequent Russian expansion in Central Asia brought Russian ar- mies closer to the northern borders of Afghanistan. Russian strategists envisioned the Trans-Caspian railroad running to Herat. 46 When Russian diplomats appeared in Kabul in 1878, Britain was pulled back into Af- ghanistan by a geopolitical strategy that dictated opposing Moscow.



Another British army marched into Afghanistan. Defeated at the Bat- tle of Maiwand and once again besieged in Kabul, the British turned the siege into a victory before proceeding to conquer Kandahar. Although these military victories no doubt satisfied British honor, they did not translate into lasting political victory. Concluding that governing Af- ghanistan directly was ultimately not worth the price, London decided that establishing a protectorate over the country ruled by a Barakzai clan Amir would protect India. The Second Anglo-Afghan War ended with an orderly British military withdrawal, British annexation of several territo- ries along the border, and a well-subsidized British client on the Afghan throne. 47 Their client, Amir Abdur Rahman, undertook nation building by resettling rebellious fellow Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan in northern Afghanistan on lands seized from the Uzbeks. Nor were the Uzbeks the only minority to suffer. Hazaras remember him for his ex- treme brutality. From the British perspective, Rahman was an excellent client, even agreeing to the Durand Line as the border between Afghani- stan and India. However, the story did not end there either. In a bid to exploit Brit- ain’s exhaustion after the First World War, Amir Amanullah, grandson of Rahman, launched to end Afghanistan’s status as a protectorate and claim territory south of the Durand Line. 48 Although the British had suc- ceeded in keeping Afghanistan neutral during the First World War, anti- British resentment smoldered. 49 The Third Anglo-Afghan of 1919 ended in another British military victory and the reaffirmation of the Durand Line. However, it did free Kabul from British supervision of its foreign policy as a protectorate. Nor did the story end there. More than a century and a half after London first began to worry about the prospect, a Russian-speaking army marched into Afghanistan to support a favored client. Granted, it was the Soviet Red Army and the client was a communist party chief, but the feared event had finally come to pass. Geopolitical anxieties about Russian expansion from the last century were heard again. Were Pakistan and India now vulnerable to attack? Would the Soviet Union acquire a warm water port and naval base? This time it was not Britain but the United States that responded to the threat. Rather than send in the United States Army, Washington armed and financed a guerrilla war by Sunni Islamists which succeeded in forcing a Soviet military withdrawal in 1989 and liquidated Moscow’s surprisingly durable client in 1992. What better evidence could there be for the stickiness of geopolitical grand strategy described in Rule #7 than that late-twentieth-century foreign policy mak- ers in United States found themselves executing a British geopolitical grand strategy articulated in the early nineteenth century? Unfortunately, this long tragedy has yet to end. Having prevented Afghanistan from falling into the hands of the Soviet Union, the United States largely ignored events there until the terrorist attacks of September


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11, 2001. The authors of the attack had been given a safe haven by the Taliban Emirate that had ruled the country since 1994. That regime was toppled in 2002 by the United States and its Afghan allies, but Washing- ton found it as difficult to win the peace as Britain had in the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Afghanistan could never be more than a sideshow in global politics, a poor country that mattered more as a battleground than anything else to the great powers. The fate of the world has been decided elsewhere, in continental Europe and East Asia. In the First World War, Britain’s geo- political grand strategy of playing the offshore balancer to prevent the emergence of hegemonic power in Europe while guarding the maritime empire that gave it such extraordinary strategic depth dictated alliance with France and Russia in the Entente against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. Britain sought to prevent Ger- many from dominating continental Europe, to protect its many imperial possessions, and to participate in the postwar division of the Middle East. 50 London achieved all of these geopolitical goals and more, because it could draw on the power resources of its own extensive overseas terri- tories and because of the timely intervention of the other Anglo-Saxon great power: the United States. Germany had defeated Russia and, al- though weakened, was close to defeating France and Britain before the Yanks arrived on the Western Front. The decision of the United States to abandon neutrality in the First World War marked a sharp break with its long-standing geopolitical grand strategy. Mischaracterized as an unsuccessful attempt to withdraw from all international relations, isolationism was actually a successful foreign policy premised on exercising an inexpensive regional hegemony in the Western Hemisphere while avoiding the expense of deploying the armed forces necessary to participate in great power politics in the East- ern Hemisphere. The imposing physical barriers of the Atlantic and Pa- cific Oceans defended by an increasingly formidable United States Navy combined with a massive economy, enormous strategic depth, a friendly continental neighbor in Canada, and a politically unstable, militarily weak continental neighbor in Mexico meant that the United States was free to involve itself as much or as little as it wished in great power politics. Unsurprisingly, American public opinion was generally isola- tionist, and intensely so in the Midwest and West. Southerners and the United States Army officer corps were opposed to military alliances out- side the Western Hemisphere. Anti-British and pro-German feeling was strong among the two largest immigrant groups: Irish-Americans and German-Americans. Anti-Russian feeling simmered among Jewish- Americans. Christian pacifists, agrarian populists, socialists, and an- archists viewed war itself as immoral. Defying this formidable though fragmented opposition, a privileged Anglophile Eastern Establishment took the United States to war against Germany. 51 Cultural affinity among



foreign policy makers proved more powerful than public sentiment. The United States thus assumed Britain’s role of offshore balancer among the great powers. Although the British Navy’s economic blockade of Germa- ny was essential to winning the war, it was the fresh troops of the American Expeditionary Force that tipped the balance against Germany. Although the United States prevented Germany from becoming the hegemonic power in continental Europe, it failed to achieve the much trumpeted war aim of crafting a postwar peace that would prevent future interstate war. Instead, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, 1919 Treaty of St. Germain, 1921 Four Power Pacific Treaty, 1922 Five Power Treaties (Washington Naval Conference), 1922 Nine Power Treaties, 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and 1925 Locarno Treaties engendered intense revisionist sentiment among both losers and winners that festered into the even bloodier Second World War. A postwar settlement less punitive to Ger- many, more generous to Italy, more respectful to Japan, and more accom- modating to China might have reduced the frequency and scale of the interstate and intrastate wars waged later in the century. British war fighting strategy during the Second World War reflected the limitations that had been recognized in the Two Power Standard by clearly prioritizing the security of the British Isles, naval dominance in the Atlantic Ocean, and the security of British imperial possessions in the eastern Mediterranean over the security of those in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The government of Prime Min- ister Winston Churchill prioritized the defense of its diminutive colonies in the Mediterranean, client states, Middle East protectorates, and League of Nations Mandates—Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, Palestine, and Iraq—over defending the much larger Asian and Sub-Saharan African possessions that had made it so extraordinarily wealthy and powerful. British reinforcements that might have been sent to defend Hong Kong, Malaya, and Singapore from the Japanese Army were instead deployed to prevent the Italian Army from driving the Brit- ish out of Egypt and Palestine. 52 Merchant shipping that might have helped relieve famine-stricken Bengal in 1943 was diverted to Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa. 53 What should be noted is that although British possessions in the Med- iterranean Sea and Middle East did provide some power resources— naval bases, the Suez Canal, Iranian oil, and the international prestige of governing Jerusalem—the rest of the British Empire provided much more. The British Commonwealth supplied Britain with the food, indus- trial raw materials, manpower, and strategic depth to keep fighting. Over two million Indians served in British uniform in the Second World War. What would Britain have done without units like the Fifth Indian Divi- sion, which was deployed against the Italian Army in Sudan, against the German Army in Libya, occupied Iraqi oilfields, fought the Japanese Army on the Bengal Front, and disarmed the Japanese Army in Java? 54


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What would Britain have done without the open skies of Canada, where aircrews from across the Commonwealth were trained? In the event that Germany occupied Britain, as seemed possible in the early months of the war, the British royal family and government in exile, together with their Dutch and Norwegian counterparts, would have decamped to Canada. 55 Why did London treat the fate of the Mediterranean and Middle East as more important than the rest of the empire in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Pacific? This question is not answered by simply asserting that choices had to be made because of finite military assets. Why were India and Hong Kong treated as means to ends while Cyprus and Palestine were treated as ends in themselves? The puzzle is only partially solved by recognizing that prioritizing the Mediterranean and the Middle East compelled Washington to assume most of London’s re- sponsibilities in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. As much as face-saving allowed, Britain shifted responsibility for the defense of the Dominions to the United States. 56 If Britain had fallen, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand would have had to rely on the willingness of the United States to come to their assistance. That the United States was willing to assume that responsibility signals the strength of the ties uniting foreign policy makers in the Anglo-sphere. More of the puzzle is solved by recognizing that among British foreign policy makers, distance and racism colored assessments of the value of its various imperial possessions and that there was profound pessimism about the ability of Britain to hold onto its possessions in Asia in the face of postwar anticolonial nationalism. Cyprus might be smaller than India, but it was west of the Suez Canal, its population European, and its nationalists less powerful. Finally, some British foreign policy makers were still heirs to the pre- aviation belief that the Middle East was valuable because it occupied a position between Europe, Asia, and Africa. Like Medieval English elites who viewed Jerusalem theologically as the center of the universe, some mid-twentieth-century British foreign policy makers conceived the Mid- dle East to be the geographic lynchpin connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa. 57 The Soviet Union must have looked even more like the threaten- ing great power ruling the Eurasian Heartland than the Russian Empire of the Romanovs. So it no doubt seemed crucial for Britain to prevent or at least delay its expansion through the Middle East across Africa and tropical Asia. That Akrotiri in Cyprus is still a British naval base is evi- dence that such thinking lives on. Just as in the First World War, the United States abandoned neutrality and allied with Britain against Germany late in the Second World War. Isolationism resurged during the Interbellum period, and this time it was better organized as the America First lobby. As late as 1940 Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall argued for a strategy of defending only the Western Hemisphere. 58 Although it would require the successful Japa-



nese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent German declaration of war, the Anglophile Eastern Establishment had accomplished much to prepare the country, short of abandoning neutrality, for what they be- lieved was an inevitable war. Foreign policy makers in Washington and London viewed with understandable horror the prospect of a postwar devised by the revision- ist great powers of the Axis: a Greater Germany dominating continental Europe north of Alps together with most of Africa, a new Roman Empire dominating the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, and a Japanese Empire dominating the Pacific Rim. Even a military alliance with the Soviet Union seemed worth the price to prevent such a new international order. Although Britain and France strained mightily to perform the roles of great powers following the Second World War, the postwar international system was organized around the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Characterizing that competition as ideological proved effective in rallying public support in the United States for un- precedentedly high levels of military spending during peacetime, but came at the price of creeping conceptual blindness. Foreign policy mak- ers in Washington lost sight of the truth that the struggle with their counterparts in Moscow was that two ‘superpowers’ had emerged from the Second World War. Any international system organized around two superpowers probably would have seen them compete even if both were ruled by the same type of regime. Official Washington never completely lost sight of differences in the importance of regions and countries in protecting the national security of the United States during the Cold War, but the rivalry produced military alliances covering most of the planet. 59


American belief in international liberal idealism experienced a resur- gence beginning in the 1970s as authoritarian regimes began to fall to liberal democratic mass movements. This ‘Third Wave’ of democratiza- tion began in Iberia and the Eastern Mediterranean, swept across Latin America, and later appeared in East Asia and Southeast Asia. 60 With the end of apartheid in South Africa and the collapse of communist regimes across Eastern Europe, many previously sober-minded foreign policy makers succumbed to wild optimism. The Kantian Peace, a universal liberal and democratic international order, was being born. To be sure, not everyone was content to celebrate. The opportunities presented by the end of the Cold War also inspired darker thinking. While serving as Secretary of Defense in the George H. W. Bush adminis- tration, Richard B. ‘Dick’ Cheney reportedly argued for fragmenting Rus- sia territorially in its moment of weakness. 61 What Cheney voiced was


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the echo of geopolitical plotting by French foreign policy makers, includ- ing the Duc de Richelieu, Georges Clemenceau, and Charles de Gaulle, against Germany. One obvious problem was that the wave of democratization swept around rather than across the Middle East. So neoconservative activist- intellectuals in Washington, London, Ottawa, and Canberra argued for the use of armed force to topple several of the more threatening authori- tarian regimes in the region to speed the birth process. The United States had begun to shift military operations from Europe to the Middle East since the two oil crises of the 1970s while developing closer ties to Israel and the oil-rich authoritarian monarchies in the region. Step by step the United States was drawn into ‘policing’ the region. Exploiting the belli- cose public mood in the United States following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and ignoring international opposition that included Canada, the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq to establish what was anticipated to become a stable liberal democratic regime that would provide a model for the region. The result was disaster for the peoples of Iraq and Syria, including sectarian civil war, refugee flight, and massive corruption. “[C]ostly, wasteful, and self-defeating” is how Barry R. Posen accurately characterizes the post-September 11, 2001, shift in the geopolitical grand strategy of the United States, which he labeled ‘Liberal Hegemony.’ 62 Neoconservative blundering may also have helped to abort the democratic revolution that finally arrived in the Mid- dle East in the form of the Arab Spring. The Obama administration’s attempt to complete a strategic ‘pivot’ to Asia provides another example of the stickiness of geopolitical grand strategy identified in Rule #7. For the legions of foreign policy makers and experts in Washington who have devoted their careers to policing the Middle East—elected and appointed officials, diplomats, military and intelligence officers, journalists and think tank intellectuals—the idea that the United States should focus on the challenge posed by China is un- thinkable. 63 Some overestimate the strategic value of the Middle East in much the same manner as their British counterparts during and after the Second World War. That allied governments in the region have strong lobbies in Washington reinforces the geopolitical myopia. Against argu- ments that confronting China is simply more important than the Middle East to the future national security of the United States, the Middle East experts commonly seek to exploit the emotional tug of the spent costs fallacy. Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said during a May 19, 2015, segment of MSNBC’s Morning Joe television news program that “you don’t walk away from the people you’ve counted as your friends and allies.” 64 This noble sentiment and its inclu- sive interpretation of “friends and allies” notwithstanding, great powers do what is in their own national interest and consider next the interests of those with whom they have the greatest cultural affinity.



The problem with a geopolitical grand strategy focused on the Middle East is not simply that the United States and its true friends and allies in the Anglo-sphere have tended to underestimate the emerging challenge of China but also that they have ignored what made them the most pow- erful of contemporary spheres of affinity. The security, wealth, and liber- ty enjoyed by citizens of the Anglo-sphere are primarily the result of centuries of territorial expansion in what Mackinder termed the ‘Outer or Insular Crescent’ that included the Americas and Australasia. The conti- nental great powers were left to fight one another for the territory of the ‘world island.’ For the United States to focus its foreign policy ‘inward’ on the Middle East rather than ‘outward’ on the Americas, Australasia, and exotic territories is as mistaken in the twenty-first century as it would have been for England to do so in the seventeenth and eighteenth centu- ries.


  • 1. Gulliver and Field, “GCSB Committing Crimes against Whole Countries—


  • 2. Colaresi et al., Strategic Rivalries in World Politics, 78.

  • 3. Bogdanor, Devolution in the United Kingdom, 6–7.

  • 4. Brotton, A History of the World in Twelve Maps, 89; Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel,

13 -20.

  • 5. Porter, Atlas of British Overseas Expansion, 1.

  • 6. Ibid.

  • 7. Brigden, New Worlds, Lost Worlds, 274–275.

  • 8. Evans, Tudor Adventurers, 56–60.

  • 9. Parry, The Arch-Conjuror of England, 143, 152.

  • 10. Ibid, 152.

  • 11. Bridgen, New Worlds, Lost Worlds, 274–278.

  • 12. Maltby, The Black Legend in England, 63.

  • 13. Ibid., 67–71.

  • 14. Hakluyt, “Discourses of Western Planting.”

  • 15. Maccarthy-Morrough, The Munster Plantation, 30.

  • 16. Ibid., 14–22.

  • 17. Matar, Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, 87–88.

  • 18. Houston, The Population History of Britain and Ireland, 1500–1750, 53.

  • 19. Porter, Atlas of British Overseas Expansion, 35.

  • 20. Ibid., 34.

  • 21. M. Roberts, Essays in Swedish History, 162; Woolrych, Britain in Revolution,

1625–1660, 682.

  • 22. Rabb, “Investment in English Overseas Enterprise, 1575–1630,” 72.

  • 23. Bailyn, The Barbarous Years.

  • 24. Although the Dutch settled the Cape Colony and, much later, Java with Euro-

peans, they did not displace the native inhabitants with the same thoroughness of the

English in North America and Australasia.

  • 25. Hoffer, The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr, 142–143.

  • 26. Daughan, 1812: The Navy’s War, 36–37.

  • 27. Chace and Carr, America Invulnerable, 69.


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  • 29. Lieven, Russia against Napoleon, 97.

  • 30. Amrith, Crossing the Bay of Bengal, 67.

  • 31. Ibid.

  • 32. May, Manifest Destiny’s Underworld, 240–241.

  • 33. Note the critique of the Neo-realist account in Little, “British Neutrality versus

Offshore Balancing in the American Civil War,” 68–95.

  • 34. Mackinder, “The Geographic Pivot of History,” 434–437.

  • 35. Ibid., 435.

  • 36. Zamoyski, Phantom Terror, 143.

  • 37. Mackinder, “The Geographic Pivot of History,” 422.

  • 38. Kearns, Geopolitics and Empire, 230–233.

  • 39. James, Raj, 84–85.

  • 40. MacKenzie, Imperial Dreams Harsh Realities, 91–92.

  • 41. Meyer and Brysac, Tournament of Shadows, 66–67.

  • 42. Singh, The Sikhs, 86.

  • 43. Ibid., 107.

  • 44. Hopkins, The Making of Modern Afghanistan, 51.

  • 45. Ibid., 65–70.

  • 46. Marvin, The Russian Advance towards India, 127–128.

  • 47. Robson, Crisis on the Frontier, 4.

  • 48. Ibid., 5.

  • 49. Hopkirk, Like Hidden Fire, 127.

  • 50. Iraq as a British League of Nations Mandate made sense as a way to better

protect the British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf and as a rather farsighted goal of

controlling its oil deposits as a way to spread the risk of the British Navy’s dependence on Iranian oil. The British League of Nations Mandate for Palestine perhaps made Egypt and the Suez Canal more secure, but probably had as much to do with the international prestige attached to possessing Jerusalem for the Abrahamic religions and to the value of Palestine as the preferred location for realizing the Zionist project.

  • 51. Olson, Those Angry Days, 140–142.

  • 52. Lee, Britain and the Sino-Japanese War, 109.

  • 53. Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War, 110.

  • 54. Bambery, The Second World War, 231.

  • 55. Birmingham Mail. “Secret War Plans for Royal Family to Be Evacuated to

Worcester.” Had the Windsor Dynasty escaped to Canada, it would have been a

replay of the Braganza Dynasty’s escape to Brazil in the early nineteenth century, which is discussed in chapter 12.

  • 56. Farrell, The Basis and Making of British Grand Strategy, 1940–1943, 76–78.

  • 57. Brotton, A History of the World in Twelve Maps, 89.

  • 58. Olson, Those Angry Days, 201.

  • 59. Irwin, Gordian Knot, 81.

  • 60. Described in Huntington, The Third Wave.

  • 61. Gates, Duty, 97.

  • 62. Posen, Restraint, 6–7, 65–66.

  • 63. The attention of the United States Congress on East Asia generally and on the

challenge from China specifically recedes as its attention is drawn to the Middle East.

See Sutter, United States-Chinese Relations, 113.

  • 64. Gass, “Bob Gates: U.S. Has No Middle East Strategy ‘At All,’” May 19, 2015.



Extraordinary antiquity and long periods of unified rule characterize the Sino-sphere, nearly all of which is encompassed within the People’s Re- public of China. The most isolated and at times the weakest of the great powers, China has emerged as the chief great power rival of the United States. 1 The core state of the Sino-sphere presents the largest national population, second largest economy, and fourth largest national territory on the planet. The remainder of the Sino-sphere consists of Taiwan, Sin- gapore—which have ethnic Chinese majorities, large ethnic Chinese mi- norities in Malaysia, Brunei, Peru and Thailand—and smaller ethnic Chi- nese minorities living in almost every country on the planet. People of full or partial Chinese descent represent 30 percent of the population of Malaysia, 25 percent of the population of Brunei, 15 percent of the popu- lation of Peru and 10 percent of the population of Thailand. 2 Cultural affinity based on language and descent make the Overseas Chinese im- portant as a power resource for Beijing. Unfortunately for Beijing, the same cannot be said of cultural affinity based on religion and philosophy. Being the ancient source of high cul- ture for the non-Chinese Confucian societies of East Asia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and Vietnam, may be a source of pride for the Chi- nese, but it gives Beijing little if any additional political influence in To- kyo, Seoul, Pyongyang, and Hanoi. Decades of high economic growth and export-focused economic de- velopment have made China the planet’s largest manufacturer, overtak- ing Japan in 2006 and the United States in 2011. That extraordinary growth means that the competitive economic and technological advan- tages still enjoyed by American, Japanese, and European industries are likely to be challenged. China’s armed forces have been reconstructed and continue to be developed to reflect her wealth. As the chief global



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rival of the United States, China is geopolitically constrained as a conti- nental power comfortably ‘back to back’ with Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia along its eastern and northern and borders but threatened by a crescent of potentially hostile states on its long southern borders and along another comparable crescent of insular states along its eastern mar- itime periphery. Beijing is also frustrated by the incomplete influence, and in the case of Taiwan negligible influence, over the rest of the Sino- sphere. China is an increasingly wealthy and increasingly powerful revision- ist power whose foreign policy makers seek to escape from geopolitical encirclement. Beijing’s determination to expand territorially is evident and advancing along the path of least resistance, which means at the expense of states along her eastern maritime periphery and the global commons.


Chinese are justified in boasting of both developing and sustaining a high civilization for over two and half millennia, and not coincidently of hav- ing been governed as a unified state under autochthonous regimes for most of that history. 3 Nothing comparable may be claimed by the nations living on the sites of the other ancient civilizations in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Peru. Compared with China the other great powers of the twenty- first century are recently minted. The kernel of the future China appears in the eleventh century BC in the fortified villages in the great bend of the Yellow River. Millet cultiva- tion in the fertile loess hills gave state builders the economic wherewithal to dominate one another before turning toward territorial expansion. The first Han Chinese states of the Shang and Zhou dynasties soon became adept at managing the nonethnic Han peoples until they could be assimi- lated. 4 To that end military garrisons defended by inner and outer walls and moats were constructed in conquered territory that eventually grew into the towns and cities. 5 Over the centuries, Chinese expansion was southward toward the rice padi lands in what scholars have termed “China’s march to the tropics” rather than toward the northern steppe lands populated by nomadic herders. 6 This is consistent with Rule #2, which anticipates that polities claim more valuable territories first. South was the direction of better land for raising crops, while north was the direction for herding live- stock. Agricultural surpluses from grain are more easily taxed by the state than those from livestock because the wealth of farmers is a fixed asset while the wealth of herders is a liquid asset. Chinese historians have tended to describe southward expansion not as ‘conquest’ but as ‘unification,’ and to assume that once colonized the



land would remain forever Chinese. 7 Framing it that way can be ex- plained both as cultural chauvinism, both that of the authors and their audiences, and by awareness of the periods of territorial expansion and contraction that accompanied the dynastic cycle in China. From the Han heartland around the Yellow River the Chinese Empire engrossed the land and peoples of the Yangzi and Pearl river basins, forcing any who refused assimilation to migrate to Southeast Asia. 8 The northern agricultural system of the conquerors based on millet, cattle, sheep, and mulberry was joined to the southern agricultural system of the conquered based on rice, water buffalo, and bamboo. 9 This was cou- pled with road and canal building along the north-south axis to link the three major east-west river systems. The extraordinary productivity of wet rice agriculture would mean that in subsequent centuries a majority of Chinese would live in the southern provinces that had once been fron- tiers of settlement. 10 Land hunger played a role in frontier settlement, but so too did the determination of the central government to establish control over militar- ily and commercially valuable locations. Beginning as early as the third century BC, convicts and exiles were used to settle land on the frontier. 11 More than a millennium would pass before the British, French, and Rus- sians began settling their frontiers with convicts and exiles. Frontier set- tlement continued even after the collapse of the Han Dynasty in AD 220 and political fragmentation into the rival kingdoms of Wei in the north and Shi and Wu in the south. The islands of Formosa and Hainan were settled by the atypically maritime Kingdom of Wu. 12 By the tenth century AD, China had a population of more than one hundred million, larger than any other state on the planet. Conquests on the Sichuan frontier gave the Northern Song Dynasty large amounts of new land on which it constructed garrisons and settled both ethnic Han and compliant indigenes willing to serve in the militia and pay rent. 13 As they had two millennia earlier during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the frontier garrisons of the Northern Song Dynasty grew into towns and cities that locked in control over natural resources, secured transport routes, and provided a deeper buffer against external threats. 14 Real property ownership is one of the ways that China presents a precocious modernity and may have been introduced as a way to settle the frontier. The promise of permanent tenure on the land, which may have appeared in the Southern Song Dynasty in the twelfth century AD and is unmistakable by the Yuan Dynasty in the thirteenth century AD, provided a crucial incentive to attract large numbers of Han to settle on the frontier. 15 Although military might, wealth, and cultural sophistication made assimilation attractive to many of the peoples in the path of the Han wave, some of the Australasian- and Austronesian-speaking peoples chose migration into continental and insular Southeast Asia. There they


Chapter 9

encountered traders sailing from ports in South Asian and were exposed to Indian civilization. The result was an eruption of state building in- spired by ideas of Hindu kingship that produced the glories of Angkor, Pagan, and Borobudur. Southeast Asia would become a shatter belt of cultural influences from East Asia and South Asia, and also the future home to the largest part of the Chinese diaspora described as the Over- seas Chinese.


The ‘stickiness’ of geopolitical grand strategy is evident in the three dy- nastic cycles of the Late Medieval and Early Modern. In 1260 the Mongol prince Kubilai established the Yüan Dynasty after conquering China with an army of Mongols, Khitan, Jurchen, Koreans, and disaffected Chinese. The dynasty remained vulnerable during its eighty years because the Mongols were simply too few in number to govern more than superficial- ly. As descendants of horse-riding barbarians from the steppe they had neglected defense by failing to maintain city walls. 16 That proved fatal to the regime when they faced a popular rebellion by the Red Turbans, an ethnic Han Chinese political and religious movement inspired a combi- nation of Mahāyāna Buddhism and Manichaeism. The Ming Dynasty was established in 1368 after seventeen years of civil war. Unsurprisingly, the new Han Chinese regime’s foreign policy makers sought not only to reclaim all territory occupied by their fellow Han Chinese but to invest massively in public works to defend it against barbarians arriving on horseback from the steppe lands. Their efforts can still be seen in the Great Wall of China. Begun millennia earlier as a series of long walls, the Great Wall of the Ming served as an efficient force multiplier and an awe-inspiring demonstration of the power of the state. 17 Far from exercising the sort of accommodationist ‘strategic pa- tience’ foreign policy praised by scholars who are more familiar with Confucian-Mencian moral philosophy than China’s military history, the Ming Dynasty waged war against foreign and domestic security threats with the frequency and scale expected of a large and wealthy state. 18 The Confucian-Mencian preference for less coercive methods was an ideal that did not reflect actual practice any more than Christian nonviolence characterized the behavior of the Western European great powers. 19 Population growth produced by the introduction of two new staple crops from the Western Hemisphere, maize and potatoes, and the coloni- zation policy of the Ming Dynasty resulted in settlement across the arid regions of contemporary southwestern, western, and northwestern Chi- na. 20 Some 150,000 households of landless tenants were settled in north- ern Anhwei Province, birthplace of the founder of the Ming Dynasty. 21



Nearly seventy thousand Chinese and Mongol households were resettled to secure the border north of Beijing. 22 In 1644 the Ming Dynasty lost power to the last ‘foreign’ invaders to establish a dynasty, a partially Sinicized barbarian people living west of the Korean peninsula called the Jurchen. The second emperor of the new dynasty, Hong Taiji, renamed it the Qing Dynasty, and rebranded his people as the Manchu and their homeland as Manchuria. The foreign policy makers of the Qing Dynasty drew lessons from the experience of both of the previous dynasties. Henceforth, the empire’s geopolitical grand strategy combined the territorial expansion of the Yüan Dynasty while maintaining the defenses constructed by the Ming Dynasty. To that end the Qing Dynasty maintained both Manchu banner armies for mobile warfare and ethnic Han Chinese Green Standard armies for defense. Chi- na encompassed more territory under the Qing Dynasty than any previ- ous moment in history, and the Chinese continued their march to the tropics through settlement. Pushed by population pressure and economic necessity poor Han Chinese farmed more of the red clay soils of the Yangtze highlands in a migration comparable to the settling of the Moun- tain South in the United States. 23 Qing Dynasty officials followed their Ming Dynasty predecessors by counting and categorizing minority popu- lations on the frontier with the ultimate goal of ‘transmission through submission’ or gui hua, meaning cultural Sinicization. 24 At the apex of the dynasty’s power in the eighteenth century, Qing Emperors would justify imperial rule by conceiving of themselves as both the rulers of the Han Chinese and as the overlords of a universal state made up of many peo- ples. 25 Although China was the preeminent power in East Asia and South- east Asia for two millennia, it was not until the twentieth century that it began to play a role in global affairs commensurate with its power. Geo- graphic isolation behind the natural barriers of the Eurasian desert and steppe lands and the Himalayas limited interaction with any but the handful of subordinate tributary states that looked to China as the source of high culture and trade goods. Sinocentrism predisposed Chinese foreign policy makers to ignore the Western European great powers even after the latter colonized insular Southeast Asia. That refusal to engage, to remain a ‘sleeping dragon’ in the eyes of the rest of the world, could serve as a successful foreign policy only so long as China had the military power to exclude the barbarian menace. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Qing Dynasty was reeling from the same sorts of crises that had brought down previous dynasties: fa- mine, rebellion, and invasion. However the challenges confronting the dynasty were crucially different from those that destroyed their prede- cessors. First, the most important rebellions were the product of encoun- ters with ideas from the West. The Taiping Rebellion was caused by the eruption of a heterodox Christian millennial mass movement bent on


Chapter 9

destroying the Manchus. The Qing Dynasty was saved in large part be- cause the other great powers preferred to see it decay in power rather than be replaced by a new, more vigorous regime. If China was going to be dismembered piecemeal, then it was better that it be misruled by a despised ‘foreign’ dynasty. The ostensibly pro-Qing Dynasty Boxer Re- bellion was an eruption of xenophobia against Christian missionaries. In reality that rebellion undermined the ability of Beijing to pursue an ac- comodationist foreign policy by appeasing the other great powers. Second, the most important threats of invasion no longer came from partially Sinicized barbarian cavalries but instead from Western Euro- pean and Japanese navies. During the Opium War, the British Navy com- manded the coasts and rivers of China while a British and allied army marched inland in a punitive expedition still remembered for looting and burning the Summer Palace. Victorious Britain took Hong Kong as a territorial prize. The Qing Dynasty was too politically insecure to under- take a thoroughgoing modernization of the armed forces because that would have created a cohort of ethnic Han Chinese professional military officers capable of overthrowing it with popular support. Delayed mili- tary modernization came at the cost of defeat in battle and lost territory. In the First Sino-Japanese War the officers commanding Chinese units in the Korean Peninsula failed to support one another, and lack of gunnery practice and confusion in the battle orders for the Chinese Beiyang Fleet left it vulnerable to Japanese naval attack. 26 Victorious Japan took Korea and Formosa/Taiwan as its territorial prizes. Humiliating defeats in war exposed the Qing Dynasty’s vulnerability and made China a tempting target for further great power bullying. Al- though Chinese had been cognizant of their collective identity since an- cient times, modern Chinese nationalism was largely the result of popu- lar outrage that territory was being lost to the great powers. By 1905, Portugal, Britain, Japan, France, Russia, Germany, and even Austria- Hungary had taken control of thirty-six colonies, leases, or concessions in China. Russian leases of Manchurian territory to construct railroad lines presaged loss of the Manchu homeland. Further dispossessions were in the offing. London wanted to expand the authority of British India to control Tibet and laid claim to the entire Yangste Valley. 27 Paris wanted to expand from French Indochina to control Yunnan Province. Given such designs, it is little wonder then that the Japanese were tempted to attempt the conquest of all of China beginning in 1937. Ironically, it was Russia’s construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway and the South Manchuria Railway in the late 1890s that finally secured Manchuria for China. Declared off limits to Chinese settlement until the last decades of the Qing Dynasty, Manchuria attracted twenty-five mil- lion newcomers from the provinces of Shandong and Hebei, one of the largest migrations in history. And they largely arrived as passengers on the Russian-built railroads. 28 Ignoring that history of recent settlement,



Chinese nationalists would come to view Manchuria as inextricably part of the body of China and made its liberation from Japan a rallying cry. 29 Where the colonies, leases, and concessions of the other great powers were seen as places where Chinese culture was being undermined, the loss of Manchuria to Japan seemed to threaten a complete dismember- ment of China. 30 When it emerged, modern Chinese nationalism drew on many of the same ideas that inspired nationalists elsewhere. Sun Yat-sen’s Three Prin- ciples of the People offered a developmental nationalism that assumed a Darwinian struggle for survival among nations that punished defeat with cultural and even racial extinction. The implications were clear. Chinese must overthrow the anachronistic Qing Dynasty and establish a modern state fully capable of defending sovereign territory. 31 The Open Door Policy of the United States, which offered free trade in China to the other great powers as a substitute for territorial annexations, helped delay a possible ‘scramble for China.’ What ultimately saved China, however, was its large territory and vast population, which made it an impossible-to-conquer whole, at least by just one foreign aggressor. Strategic depth proved crucial to the survi- val of the Chinese state during the 1937–1945 Second Sino-Japanese War. Although the Japanese Army occupied most of northern and coastal Chi- na, the Nationalist Party government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek withdrew together with units of the Chinese Army to the mountainous southeastern provinces of Hunan and Szechuan. 32 That proved a viable strategy in part because of Chiang Kai-shek’s 1936 decision to begin in- dustrializing Hunan and Szechuan with the aim of continuing war pro- duction should the Japanese attack. 33 Before that, industry was concen- trated in cities along the coast and therefore vulnerable. The Generalissi- mo’s stroke of genius meant that one-sixth of Chinese-owned industry was relocated to the southeast and out of the reach of the invaders. 34 Hunan was also important because of its rice production, military man- power, and mineral deposits. 35 The tungsten mined there was used for weapons production outside China and gave Chiang additional leverage with his great power allies. The country’s long coastline and land borders meant that lines of communication and supply also remained open. Japa- nese reluctance to attack Britain until 1941 meant that supplies could be imported through Hong Kong, while Japanese reluctance to attack the Soviet Union allowed China to import supplies overland throughout the war. 36 Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist Party regime lost China not to Japan but to Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party at the end of the 1945–1949 Civil War. The vanquished retreated from the mainland to Formosa/Taiwan, which Beijing still views as a province in rebellion and which Washington still protects with the might of the United States Navy.


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Unsurprisingly, the Chinese experience of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Second World War led Mao Zedong to make exploiting strategic depth the core of his geopolitical grand strategy. A ‘People’s War’ would exploit China’s large territory and vast population to ‘trade space for time’ by weakening any invading foreign army with guerrilla attacks before destroying it in conventional battles. 37 Mao Zedong claimed that this strategy would succeed even if the Middle Kingdom’s cities and military bases were destroyed in a nuclear bombardment. Whether he actually believed that China could sustain such an attack, it was all that he had to offer as a strategy until China developed and deployed its own nuclear weapons as a deterrent. The observation that new regimes seek to hold onto much of the terri- tory of the previous regime is illustrated by the resemblance between the territorial borders of China under the regimes of Qing Emperor Qian- long, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, or paramount leader Mao Zedong. Beijing’s diplomats delivered furious condemnations of foreign imperial- ism even as the People’s Liberation Army rolled into Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Manchuria. 38 In 1959, China also annexed two Bhuta- nese exclaves near Mt. Kailash in Tibet of about 320 square kilometers. 39 Imperialist Britain was permitted to keep Hong Kong, and imperialist Portugal was permitted to keep Macau for another half century only because they served Beijing’s commercial and espionage needs. Taiwan/ Formosa remained safe from such liberation because the peculiarly named People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) could neither battle with the United States Navy nor conduct amphibious landings capable of overwhelming the island’s defenders. Beijing began promoting ethnic Han Chinese settlement of provinces on its northern and western frontiers as early as 1951. 40 The first priority was to secure the thinly populated provinces of Inner Mongolia, Kansu, and Ninghsia because of their proximity to the Soviet Union and its client Mongolia. Han Chinese settlers began farming the windswept steppe lands. Their pioneering was heroic though sometimes environmentally destructive. Settlers in Inner Mongolia removed sand dunes and created topsoil where it had never existed. 41 The next priority was to secure the more distant provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. Xinjiang, which means ‘New Frontier,’ is the renamed East Turkestan and the homeland of the Uighurs and several other non-Han Chinese Muslim minorities. When Beijing began settling the province with convicts and political exiles to raise cotton in the 1960s, ethnic Han Chinese were a small fraction of the population. Today they are the over- whelming majority. Because of its high elevation and low air pressure Tibet was nearly an exotic territory for ethnic Han Chinese settlers, many of whom arrived as government officials, police officers, and soldiers. Today they outnumber the Tibetans.



Sympathy for the victims of these projects is entirely warranted. Ui- ghurs and Tibetans are oppressed by the Chinese just as the Kanak in New Caledonia are oppressed by the French and Palestinians in the West Bank are oppressed by the Israeli government. Yet sympathy for the vic- tims should not be allowed to obscure recognition of their geopolitical purpose. Beijing’s goal was to consolidate control over territory and not oppress indigenous inhabitants.


China enjoys security along its northern and western peripheries but a worrying encirclement of its southern land and eastern maritime periph- eries. Security in the north and west is a function of several factors, in- cluding friendly relations with Russia and thus the Russo-sphere, the economic and military dependence of North Korea, and the ability to exercise authority over four provinces recently settled by Han Chinese:

Inner Mongolia, Kansu, Ninghsia, and Xinjiang. Immense but thinly pop- ulated Mongolia is surrounded by Russia and China, and thus poses no threat. China also enjoys friendly relations with three former Soviet Cen- tral Asian states which are part of the Russo-sphere: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz- stan, and Tajikistan. China’s southern periphery is markedly less secure despite its moun- tainous geography. Fearing Uighur nationalism in Xinjiang, the Chinese watch the short border with Afghanistan and the longer border with Pakistan to prevent the infiltration of insurgents. China has forged a strong patron-client relationship with Pakistan. If Pakistani and Chinese foreign policy makers share little culturally or ideologically, antipathy toward India provides sufficient reason for alliance. A militarily compe- tent Pakistan serving as counterweight to India is all that China really wants. As Andrew Small puts it, Beijing does not need Islamabad “to do anything vastly different from what it intends to do anyway.” 42 What Islamabad wants is for Beijing to be less demanding than Washington as a great power patron. Sino-Indian relations are contentious because of territorial disputes in the Himalayas, Indian support for Tibetan exiles, Chinese support for Maoist rebels in Nepal and eastern India, and most recently the military and political alliance between India and the United States. China’s con- struction of dual-use commercial and naval bases in the Indian Ocean as part of a counterencirclement strategy is a further irritant. If there is a relatively secure section of China’s southern periphery, it lies along the border with Myanmar. Friendly relations between the two countries are based on their shared history of humiliation at the hands of the British, interest in maintaining territorial sovereignty over lands occu- pied by minorities living on both sides of their common border, and


Chapter 9

shared interest in conducting trade unrestrained by liberal international institutions or norms. China’s relations with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam vary from suspicious to hostile, making its densely populat- ed eastern coastal provinces and southeastern provinces insecure. North Korea complicates its relationship with South Korea, Japan, and the Unit- ed States. Maritime territorial disputes complicate its relationships with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, each of which is either formally or informally allied with the United States. American military bases in Japan, South Korea, and the Western Pacific give those commitments real teeth. 43 Washington may have forgotten, but Beijing is keenly aware that the United States was deeply engaged as a great power in East Asia and the Western Pacific even when its foreign policy was still Isolationist. Maritime territorial disputes involve nearly all of the countries in Asia with coastlines. The Paracel Islands lie closer to Vietnam than China, but China and Taiwan also claim them. The Spratly Islands lie closer to the Philippines, but China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei claim them. China also claims nearly all of the South China Sea, a position rejected by many of the other states in Southeast and East Asia as well as by the United States and Australia. Japan demands that Russia return the Southern Kuriles. China, Taiwan, and Japan dispute sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. South Korea and Japan dispute sovereignty over the Liancourt Rocks/Dokdo/Takeshima. North Korea and South Korea dis- pute sovereignty over five small islands close to the coast of North Korea. Myanmar and Thailand dispute sovereignty over Ginga Island/Ko Lam, Ko Khan Island, and Ko Ki Nu. Myanmar and Bangladesh also dispute the boundary line between their respective EEZs. That China is increas- ingly aggressive about pursuing its claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea is attributable to its growing wealth and military power and of its partial geopolitical encirclement. As will be explained in chap- ter 14, it also reflects competition for exotic territory. The prospect that China might surpass the United States economically and militarily in the twenty-first century has generated a lively commen- tary. 44 Those expressing optimism about the future of Sino-American relations are described by their opposite numbers as ‘Friends of China,’ ‘Sinophiles,’ or more pejoratively, as ‘panda huggers.’ Those who are pessimistic have been labeled ‘Critics of China,’ ‘Sinophobes,’ or ‘panda bashers.’ 45 The following survey of published work by thinkers in both camps reveals a reluctance on the part of the friends of China to discuss geopolitical grand strategy and a downplaying of the significance of terri- tory vis-à-vis other foreign policy issues, including trade, intellectual property, the environment, democracy, and human rights. The critics of China are by contrast clearly determined and perhaps delighted to talk about the ‘dragon in the room.’




The Mandate of Heaven figures prominently in Bates Gill’s 2007 Rising Star: China’s New Security Diplomacy. Attributed to the Confucian political philosopher Mencius, the concept expresses a traditional Chinese under- standing of legitimacy that judged dynasties on their success in ensuring domestic order and protecting the heartland from foreign encroach- ment. 46 By that measure the People’s Republic of China may claim the Mandate of Heaven. Publishing before the eruption of the maritime terri- torial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea and before Beijing quashed the pro-democracy in Hong Kong, Gill claimed to detect a weakening of Beijing’s insistence on territorial sovereignty, as evi- denced by its willingness to accept the ‘one nation, two systems’ regime for Hong Kong. 47 Publishing their China’s Foreign Political and Economic Relations: An Unconventional Global Power in 2014, after the eruption of the territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea and after the skillful suppression of liberal democratic protests in Hong Kong, Sebastian Heil- mann and Dirk H. Schmidt are understandably less hopeful than Gill, yet they too believe that the twenty-first century is giving birth to a new international environment which will elicit cautious international behav- ior from Beijing. 48 They base their mild millennialism on a version of the belief that states are being superseded by various “transnational nonstate agents,” which make it difficult or impossible to differentiate allies from enemies. 49 The happy consequence of that distorted perception is accep- tance of interdependency in which “cascading vulnerabilities” inhibit ag- gression. 50 What Heilmann and Schmidt offered then was another itera- tion of the decline-of-the-state thesis. The flaw in all versions of the thesis was mooted in the Introduction to Space Is Power: the state is simply not being superseded. The “transnational nonstate agents” they have pinned their hopes on have existed for a long time and are destined to exist alongside rather than replace the state. That is why Beijing may safely ignore or dismiss criticism from any quarter when it deploys its armed forces or police against any perceived challenge to its territorial sove- reignty. Consistent with the decline-of-the-state thesis, Heilmann and Schmidt attempt to devalue territory itself when they write that Beijing views Taiwan as “not merely a territorial problem” but rather as a highly sym- bolic issue that is a matter of national destiny and the political mission of Chinese leaders. 51 The apology implicit in that rhetorical gesture fails because it is based on a distinction without a difference. National territo- rial unification is national destiny from the perspective of Beijing. Hugh White’s 2012 The China Choice discounts the possibility that mar- itime territorial disputes will lead to war between the United States and China, “in the absence of deeper factors,” a qualification that refers to


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national security and relative international status. 52 Reaching that happy conclusion required both the careful selection of cases and the deploy- ment of soft language. White chose to isolate or perhaps disregard “the special case of Taiwan” from the class of territorial disputes. 53 He also rhetorically reduced China’s assertion of sovereignty over the entire South China Sea to “pressing its claims” to “disputed islands and wa- ters.” 54 Robert G. Sutter’s 2013 United States-Chinese Relations: Perilous Past, Pragmatic Present adopts a position that is closer to the friends than the critics of China, and concludes that armed conflict between China and the United States in the future is unlikely. He identifies the territorial dis- putes over Taiwan, the East China Sea, and South China Sea as the most worrisome aspect of relations between the two countries, but describes Beijing’s assertiveness as a deviation from an otherwise pragmatic ap- proach evident in other foreign policy domains such as trade, energy, and the environment. 55 He predicts that the United State will not be displaced as the leading power in East and Southeast Asia because it provides the other states in the region with security and because China is fundamentally mistrusted because of its territorial aggression. 56 The as- sumption is that the military alliances between the United States and other states in the region will restrain China. Missing from Sutter’s analy- sis is the possibility that the status quo might not survive recognition in Tokyo, Taipei, Manila, and Hanoi that Beijing mig