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The Contribution of Nicholas John Spykman to the Study of International Politics


Author(s): Edgar S. Furniss, Jr.
Source: World Politics, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Apr., 1952), pp. 382-401
Published by: Cambridge University Press
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THE CONTRIBUTION

OF

NICHOLAS JOHN SPYKMAN TO THE


STUDY OF INTERNATIONAL

POLITICS

By EDGAR S. FURNISS, Jr.

TEN yearsago Harcourt,Brace and Companypublished

America'sStrategyin World Politics. It was writtenby


of InternationalRelationsat
NicholasJohnSpykman,Professor
Yale University
from1928 until his death in 1943,and firstdirectorof the Instituteof InternationalStudiesat Yale. Critics
recognizedthat the book was important,but agreed on little
else. One reviewerhailed it as "brilliant,incisive,provocative,
and altogether
admirableas an analywell-written,
well-reasoned,
sis of Americanforeignpolicyfroma pointof view all too long
neglectedin theUnitedStates."On theotherhand,a secondreviewer bitterlyasked, "What were those eminentscholarsat
Yale thinkingabout whentheylet such an idea loose [thatthe
UnitedStatesmightneed Germanand Japanesepowerafterthe
war]? . . . Such guessing and surmisingis not objective political

science,it is not anythingbut theexpressionof mentaldiscomfortthatthelearnedgentlemanfeelsin a worldthat,despitehis


own cold-bloodedcult of politicalrealism,does not appear to
be movingin thedirectionsuggestedby his own wishfulthinking."And therewasmore,muchmore,bothproand con. Despite
a laudatory,front-page
review,completewith picture,in the
New YorkTimesBook Review,Professor
Spykmanprobably,if
thescoreweretotaled,did no betterthanbreakeven.
What was all the firingabout over one book by an author
whoseonlypreviouslypublishedvolumehad appearedeighteen
yearsearlier-a doctoraldissertationon The Social Theory of
GeorgSimmel?And whyre-examinethe recordten yearsafter
theevent?The twofoldanswerlies in therapid developmentof
thestudyof internationalpoliticssince 1942 and the contribuof the
tionwhichProfessorSpykmanmade to the methodology
field.Criticsof America'sStrategyshould not be judged too

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NICHOLAS JOHN SPYKMAN

383

harshlyforverdictswhich,a decade later,borderon the ridiculous and thenaive.When thebook and thereviewswerewritten,therewasverylittlein thewayofformbywhichto measure
scholarlypublicationsin international
politics.Furthermore,
the
themechosenby ProfessorSpykmanprobablymade more difficultthe taskof graspingthe methodof analysiswhichhe was
using. (As not a fewcriticspointedout, the orientationof the
book was toward the isolation-intervention
debate and was
selectedbeforethe Japaneseaction at Pearl Harbor forcibly
ended thecontroversy.)
However,a carefulre-reading
ofA merica's Strategy,togetherwith all of ProfessorSpykman'sarticles
and The Geographyof thePeace, whichwas publishedafterhis
death in 1944,* plus a knowledge of his undergraduate and

graduatecoursesat Yale, makeplain thestructureof thefieldof


internationalpoliticsas Spykmanenvisagedit. That structure
underliestheone whichmanyleadingscholarsnowfollow.
1
Basic to Spykman'sview of internationalaffairswas his oftreiterated
beliefthatrelationsbetweenstatesare powerrelations.
". . . Individual statesmust make the preservationand improve-

mentoftheirpowerpositiona primaryobjectiveoftheirforeign
policy," he stated in the introductionto America'sStrategy.
both for na"Force is manifestly
an indispensableinstrument
tionalsurvivaland forthe creationof a betterworld,"reads a
did not
sentencein The GeographyofthePeace. Suchstatements
verywell fitthetemperof theirtimes.Fromthedreamworldof
Americanswereslow to awake,even
abdicationofresponsibility
afterthe outbreakof World War II. The precipitationof the
* A chronological bibliography of Spykman's published work includes: The Social
Theory of Georg Simmel, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1925; "The Social
Background of Asiatic Nationalism," American Journal of Sociology, xxxii, No. 3
(November 1926), 396-412; "States' Rights and the League," Yale Review, xxiv, No. 2
(December 1934), 274-93; "Geography and Foreign Policy," American Political Science
Review, xxxii, No. 1 (February 1938), 28-51, and No. 2 (April 1938), 213-37; with
Abbie A. Rollins, "Geographic Objectives in Foreign Policy," American Political
Science Review, xxxiii, No. 3 (June 1939), 391-412,and No. 4 (August 1939), 591-615;
America's Strategy in World Politics, New York, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1942;
"Frontiers,Security,and International Organization," Geographical Review, xxxii, No. 3
(July 1942), 436-38; letter to Life Magazine, January ii, 1943, p. 2; The Geography
of the Peace, ed. by Helen R. Nicholl, New York, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1944.

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384

WORLD POLITICS

United States into the conflictappeared to many as a unique


event unrelated to the past, without lessons for the future. To
suggest, as Spykman did in America's Strategy,that "a sound
foreignpolicy forthe United States must accept this basic reality
of internationalsociety[the need forpower] and develop a grand
strategyfor both war and peace based on the implications of its
geographic position in the world" appeared, even to scholarly
critics,as "obsessed with Realpolitik" (Machtpolitik?),or at least
as "an excess of cynicism."Of the unpopularitywhich an emphasis on power would entail Spykmanwas well aware. ". . . Power
has a bad name, and the use of power is often condemned," he
said in America's Strategy.And, in Geography of the Peace, that
"there is a tendency,especially among certain liberals and many
who call themselvesidealists,to believe that the subject of power
in the international world should not be spoken of except in
termsof moral disapproval." Yet, he warned in the latter that
"political ideals and visions unsupported by forceappear to have
littlesurvivalvalue."
(It is quite possible that a decade later the pendulum has
swung too far the other way, that some writersin the forefront
of internationalpolitics place too great emphasis on sheer power
in being, on mobilized militarymightas an instrumentof stagecraft.Would Spykmanbe in that number? It is doubtful.
The author is fullyaware of the factthat men are motivatedby other
desiresthan the urge forpower and thatpower is not the only aspect of
internationalrelations.[Criticsseem to have skipped thissentencefrom
America's Strategy.]International as well as national affairsare influencedby love, hate, and charity,by moral indignationand the hope
of material gain, by the moods and psychologicalabnormalitiesof
rulers,and by the emotional afflictions
of peoples.

It would seem to the writerthatSpykmanwould now be warning


the "power-is-all"writersnot to overstatetheir case. But this is
conjecture.)
Spykman,then,was saying that a state's securitydepended, in
the last analysis,on its ability to use the instrumentsof national
power to maintain itselfvis-a-visother states in an international
environment in which there was no centrally controlled monopoly of the use of force.What were the factorswhich went to

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NICHOLAS JOHN SPYKMAN

385

make up thenationalpowerof a particularstate?Spykmanwas


accused of neglectingmostof themin favorof "geopolitical"
analysis.The accusationarises in part fromhastyreading of
America'sStrategy,
in partfromthe formin whichhe chose to
expresshis ideas. It takescarefulexamination,plus knowledge
of theframework
ofhis teaching,to dispel the illusion.
When Spykmandealt with the "geopolitical"aspectsof national power,he did so in full and explicitrecognitionof the
non-geographic
factorswhichwereinvolved.In the firstof two
articleson "Geographyand Foreign Policy," writtenin 1938
fortheAmericanPoliticalScienceReview,he stated:
Unfortunatelyforthe political scientistwith a fondnessfor simplification, but fortunatelyfor the statesmanstrivingto overcomethe geographichandicaps of his country,neitherdoes the entireforeignpolicy
of a countrylie in geography,nor does any part of that policy lie in
geography.The factorsthat condition [not determine]the policy of
statesare many; theyare permanentand temporary,obvious and hidden; theyinclude, apart fromthe geographicfactor,population density,the economic structureof the country,the ethnic composition
of the people, the formof government,and the complexes and pet
prejudicesof foreignministers;and it is theirsimultaneousaction and
interactionthat create the complex phenomena known as "foreign
policy."

America'sStrategy,
widelycriticizedforneglectingall factors
otherthan the geographic,containsthissentence,whosemeaning seemsclear to all who troubleto read it: "But the relative
powerofstatesdependsnot onlyon militaryforcesbut on many
otherfactors-sizeofterritory,
natureoffrontiers,
size of population,absence or presenceof raw materials,economicand technologicaldevelopment,financialstrength,
ethnichomogeneity,
effective
social integration,
politicalstability,and nationalspirit." If the foregoing
sentenceweremissed,the readerwould be
confrontedwith a lengthyanalysisin Part Two of America's
Strategyof the possibilitiesof hemisphericintegration,
which
discusses,in additionto geographicdata,social organization,
political institutions,
ideas and ideology,naturalresources,techand financialstrength.
nologicaldevelopment,
In theundergraduate
coursewhichProfessor
Spykmantaught
at Yale University,
thefactorsconditioning
nationalpowerwere

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386

WORLD POLITICS

schematically
presentedas follows:geographic,demographic,
racial, ethnic,economic,social,political,ideological,and personal.
ofeachfactor
Withinthetimelimitsofthecourse,theimplications
were exploredand theirinterrelationship
developed.This the
couldnotbe expectedtoknow,forin
criticsofAmerica'sStrategy
thatworkProfessor
Spykmanchoseto use theword"geopolitics"
to describehis methodof approach."Geopolitics"had unfortuin theUnitedStates,whereAmericanswerejust
nateconnotations
learningabout a man called Haushoferwho was somehowinvolved in the megalomaniaof Adolf Hitler and in Germany's
plans forworldconquest."Geopolitics"had a worsecolor than
"powerpolitics";it wasstranger;it wasforeign;itwas Germanic.
The decade since 1942 has enabled the studyof international
of analypoliticsto developothertermsto describeframeworks
were
when
Few
of
them
available
America's
sis.
Strategyappeared.Professor
Spykmanthuswas askinghis readersto accept
as he used it, not to read mysticalmeanderingsof
terminology
Haushoferiandialectic (derived and refinedfrom Friedrich
Ratzel, Rudolph Kjellen, HalfordMackinder,et al.). "As the
word[Geopolitik]indicates,theadherentsare not onlyengaged
in a studyofthegeographicconditioning
ofpoliticalphenomena;
theyare also engaged in advocatingpolicy,which is hardlya
scientificendeavor,"ProfessorSpykmanstated.Too few cared
to makethedistinction.
His choiceof theword"geopolitics"was clear indicationthat
as themostbasic factorconditionSpykmanregardedgeography
a
ing state'sforeignpolicy.He wrotein "Geographyand Foreign
Policy":
War was an instrumentof national policy in his [Napoleon's] time and
still is today,and in a worldwheregroupsstruggleforpower by means
of war,policybecomesa high strategy.In such a world,the geographic
area of the state is the territorialbase fromwhich it operates in time
of war and the strategicposition which it occupies during the temporaryarmisticecalled peace. [This repeated insistencethat it was conflictwhichwas normal,peace whichwas abnormal,horrifiedAmerican
critics.]It is the most fundamentallyconditioningfactorin the formulation of national policy,because it is the mostpermanent.Because
the geographiccharacteristics
of states are relativelyunchangingand
unchangeable,the geographicdemands of those stateswill remain the

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NICHOLAS JOHN SPYKMAN

387

same for centuriesand because the world has not yet reached that
happy statewherethe wantsof no man conflictwith those of another,
thosedemands will cause friction.Thus at the door of geographymay
be laid the blame for many of the age-longstruggleswhich run persistentlythrough historywhile governmentsand dynastiesrise and
fall.

In moresuccinctform,thesame thoughtis foundin America's


Strategy:
A sound foreignpolicymustnot onlybe geared to the realitiesof power
politics,it must also be adjusted to the specificposition which a state
occupies in the world. It is the geographiclocation of a countryand
its relation to centersof militarypower that define its problem of
security.
The heavy emphasis on geography was accompanied by a warning:
It should be emphasized,however,that geographyhas been described
as a conditioningfactor,rather than as a determiningfactor. The
word was chosen advisedly.It was not meant to implythat geographic
causal role in foreignpolicy. The
characteristics
play a deterministic,
geographicaldeterminismwhich explains by geographyall thingsfrom
the fourthsymphonyto the fourthdimension paints as distorteda
picture as does an explanation of policy with no referenceto geography.

Spykman,it now becomes clear, had selected the term "geopolitics" to indicate the close relationshipbetween the geographic,economic,and politicalfactorsas conditioningelements
environment.
of statebehaviorin the international
Beforeproceedingto examinesome of the ideas and proposiled him,however,it would
tionsto whichSpykman'sframework
be well to completean expositionof his conceptof the studyof
internationalpolitics. In addition to factorsconditioningnationalpower,Spykmanadded theobjectiveswhichstatespursue,
The objectives,he beand thetoolsand techniquesofstatecraft.
divided into categoriesparallellieved,could be schematically
ing the conditioning factors: geographic, racial, ethnic, economic, social, political, and ideological. The tools and techniques, the methods, of statecraft followed "the three basic
processes of cooperation, accommodation, and opposition" and

includedpersuasion,barter,coercion,and subversion.

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WORLD POLITICS

In partsof the studydealing with factorsother than those conditioning national power, Spykman's choice of concentration
was again geographic. With his researchassistantAbbie A. Rollins, he wrote two articles for the American Political Science
Review in 1939 entitled "Geographic Objectives in Foreign
Policy." Therein the authorsdiscussed the importanceof various
typesof frontiers,ranging fromthe mountain area to the buffer
state, the various types of geographic expansionism in which
national stateshad historicallyindulged-toward a riveror ocean,
up and down stream,circumferential,and so forth-and, finally,
the resultant conflict patterns between states which emerged
fromtheiropposition on the geographic level. The authors concluded:
of theseexpansionforms
to theconstantreappearance
Historytestifies
conflict
and theever-recurring
patterns
thatresult,and thereseemsto
be no reasonto assumeor expectthatthesebehaviorpatterns
of states
willsuddenlychangeor disappearin thenearfuture.An awareness
of
and inevitability
shouldtherefore
theiruniversality
providea useful
and validbasisforanalysisofanyand all conflict
situations,
actualand
wherestatesfaceeach otheracrossriversand seas.Countless
potential,
will complicateand varyeach specificcase,but thebasic
otherfactors
patternagainstwhichthesefactorsmustbe viewedgivespromiseof
remaining
constant.
It would appear that the concentrationon geographic objectives
of stateswas more closelyrelated to the field of militarystrategy
than to an understandingof general conflictsin the international
field. However, as will be pointed out later, conclusions could
be drawn from such a systemof analysis which are applicable
to the bipolar conflictwhich Professor Spykman did not live
to see.
II
Spykman's systemof analysis led him to three broad, related
conclusions. They were: that American isolation was no longer
a practical means of attaining security; that continued political participation in world affairsacross the Atlantic and the
Pacific Oceans should have as its primary objective the creation and maintenance of a balance of power; and that international governmentcould be no acceptable substitute for such a

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NICHOLAS JOHN SPYKMAN

389

balance-indeed, thatany enduringsystemof internationalorganizationcould only growout of a delicate,dynamicbalance


betweennation-states.
Each of theseconclusionswas complete
withdetailedprognostications
and predictions,manyof which
will be mentionedin the courseof discussingthe threeinterrelatedideas.
All three general conclusionswere embodied in America's
critics
Strategyin World Politics. Of the three,contemporary
wereforthemostpartpreparedto acceptonlythefirst,
although
not its consequencesor the reasoningthatled Spykmanto it.
The secondand thirdconclusionsappearedto manyoutlandish,
mistaken,cynical,and/orsinful-notnecessarilyin thatorder.
The systemof nationalstateinteraction,
said Spykman,had
ceasedin the twentieth
centuryto be a European phenomenon.
All theworldwas involvedin thepercussionsand repercussions
attendantupon statebehaviorin theinternational
environment.
Only statesmenwho can do their political and strategicthinkingin
warfarecan save their
termsof a round earth and a three-dimensional
countriesfrombeing outmaneuveredon distantflanks.With air power
supplementingsea powerand mobilityagain the essenceof warfare,no
region of the globe is too distant to be withoutstrategicsignificance,
too remoteto be neglectedin the calculationsof power politics.

It followedthat,whethertheUnitedStatesrealizedit or not,this
countrywas involvedin worldaffairstakingplace thousandsof
miles fromits own shores.A conditionof potentialdouble-encirclementhad been created,Spykmanwrotein America'sStratof the Old World by the New or of the New
egy-encirclement
by the Old.
If the New World can be united or organized in such a manner that
large masses of unbalanced force are available for action across the
ocean, it can influencethe politicsof Europe and Asia. And if the Old
World remains divided and balanced, that external force can play a
determiningrole in its political life. If, on the other hand, the Old
World can be united and organizedin such a mannerthat large masses
of unbalanced power become available for action across the oceans,
the New World will be encircledand, depending on its powers of resistance,may have to submitto the dictatesof the Old.

It was to this proposition,and how best to presentit froma


cartographicpoint of view, that The Geographyof the Peace

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WORLD POLITICS

was dedicated-a large,slimbook withmanymapsand diagrams,


publishedin 1944undertheeditorshipofHelen R. Nicholl,after
Professor
Spykman'suntimelydeath.
Encirclementcould not be avoided by a policyof isolation
withinthe WesternHemisphere.In America'sStrategySpykman consideredat lengththe resourcesat the disposal of the
United Stateswithinthe hemisphereand the degree of unity
attainedforthepurposeofmakingthema monopolyunderthe
directionofthiscountry's
foreignpolicy.His conclusion,reached
beforetheattackon Pearl Harbor,was thatAmericanisolationists could offerno acceptable alternativeto participationin
extra-hemispheric
affairs.Naturally,all reviewersof the book
were in agreementon thispoint.The United Stateswas, after
all, at war; isolationwas at an end. Why,therefore,
seek to destroyan argumentthat world eventshad alreadydemolished?
The author'sresponseto this anticipatedcriticism,as seen in
the additionsmade here and therethroughoutthe book after
the manuscripthad been concludedand beforethe work appeared in print,was that the isolationistargumentwas one
which would recur afterthe end of the war, if he had read
Americanhistory
aright,and thatthecorollaryto thedestruction
of the isolationistthesiswas the continuedinvolvementof the
forthepurposeof
UnitedStatesin Europeanand Asiaticaffairs
Readers
maintaininga balanceofpoweron thesetwocontinents.
of the dailypress,listenersto thespeechesof formerPresidents
and would-bePresidentsmustbe inclinedto feelthatSpykman
had read Americanhistorycorrectly,
thatthe idea of American
isolationism
is frequently
discredited
butneverutterly
destroyed.
What about the corollarythat few criticswere willing to
accept:thatthepurposeofAmericanparticipationin European
and Asiaticaffairs
mustbe theestablishment
and maintenanceof
a balance ofpower?In writingofthe"GeographicObjectivesin
ForeignPolicy,"Spykmanhad warned:
Whenever. . . pressures
becomeunequal,boundarieswill move.The
problemof collectivesecurity
is theproblemof equalizingthesepressures; and as long as that problemremainsunsolved,the phenomenon
of expansion as such will continue to appear.

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NICHOLAS JOHN SPYKMAN

391

He went on, in A merica's Strategy,to state that post-World


War II would findthe world in much the same condition as had
existed in the interwarperiod.
fromtheold,and international
Basically,theneworderwill notdiffer
powerpatsocietywillcontinueto operatewiththesamefundamental
of the
terns.It willbe a worldof powerpoliticsin whichtheinterests
of a balance
UnitedStateswill continueto demandthe preservation
ofpowerin Europeand Asia.
The concluding paragraph of The Geography of the Peace carries the same theme. One sentence reads, "Balanced power on
the Eurasian Continent is one of the objectives forwhich we are
fightingand the establishmentof such an equilibrium and its
preservationwill be our objective when the fightis won."
One of the reasonsforthe coldnessof criticstowardthe balance
of power as an objective of American statecraftwas that it
offeredno easy surcease fromforeign-policywoes. Here was no
utopia, no brave new world, no era of enduring peace. Here was
more of the same mixture as before, a mixture which had not
preservedpeace in the past and showed little likelihood of being
able to do so in the future.As Spykmanhimselfrecognized, the
basic element in the balance of power was instability.The balance alwaystended to deviate fromequilibrium because the components of the balance, the statesthemselves,did not know with
any degree of certaintyjust how much power was in the other
scale and thereforedesired,not a balance, but a surplus of power.
Uncertainty,lack of yardsticksfor measurement, strivingsfor
increasesin relative power, all jarred the scales. The balance was
upset; war was the consequence. The best that ProfessorSpykman could say for the objective which he wished his country
to pursue was contained in three sentences at the end of Ameri-

ca's Strategy:
An equilibriumof forcesinherently
always
unstable,alwaysshifting,
is certainly
not an ideal powerpatternforan international
changing,
we shalldo well to
society.But whilewe can deploreitsshortcomings,
remember
elementforan international
order
thatit is an indispensable
based on independent
states.It encouragescooperation,
conciliation,
peaceand maintain
and thegrowth
oflaw and is morelikelytopreserve
justicethananyothertypeofpowerdistribution.

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WORLD POLITICS

This best was farfromsatisfactory


to mostcritics.They opened
fireon Spykman with all available pens flying.On two counts
Spykmanwas attacked. First,the balance of power was obsolete.
Second, American democratic government did not know and
should not attemptto learn how to operate such a system. (Spykman was in agreement with the firstpart of the second indictment,but argued that ignorance was dangerous and a prelude to defeat.) "Spykman's realism is the realism of past
centuries," said one reviewer. Others were less restrained. ".
The 'balance' policy cannot recommend itselfto the intelligence
or to the conscience of an America which is determined that the
war cycle must be broken. The utter, fatal bankruptcyof such
a policy is convincinglydemonstrated,albeit without design, by
the author." "The balance of power may well land us all in a
crematory."
Not only was the systemproposed by Spykman bad, but it
could not be followed by a democracy. ". . . Democratic govern-

ment is not adapted to pursuing a foreign policy of balancing


powers."

". .

. One should consider whether any democracy so

responsivein its sentiments,any countryso much affectedby its


racial and sectional politics as the United States could effectively
follow througha policy requiring the ruthlessand precise calculations of the balance of power." Another reviewerwas prone to
blame Germanic influences for Spykman's theory: "Accepting
as he does a power politics that originated in the philosophy of
Prussian militarism,it not surprisingtoo that ProfessorSpykman
failsto examine the theoryin relation to democraticgovernment.
Much of the talk about democracy doubtless wearies him as
vague, platitudinous, and sentimental." And so on down the
list of most reviewersof America's Strategy.
Irritation at Spykman's prescription for postwar American
foreignpolicy even led a few criticsto label it a prescriptionfor
aggressiveimperialism. They were therebyaccepting the thesis
thatthe United Statescould not ignore what was going on in the
rest of the world, but adding quickly that this country should
not participate too much in European or Asiatic affairs.Their
attitudeapproached ambivalence. "Spykman'sargumentspresage

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NICHOLAS JOHN SPYKMAN

393

If
an unblushingUnited StatesImperialism,"wroteone. ".
thisbrandof geopolitical'realism'wins,the United Statesis in
for a militaristicfutureunder which democracywill become
in contentfromthe political systemsof the
indistinguishable
totalitarianpowers,"predicteda second."Thus, whatProfessor
Spykman'sdescriptionfor America amountsto is permanent
war,"complaineda third,somewhatawkwardly.
Did the criticshave somethingbetterto offerthanan admittedlydangerous,oneroussearchfora balance of power?Many
thoughttheyhad in a systemrejected by Spykman-interna"At the end of the war the only choice we
tionalgovernment.
mayfaceis thatbetweena morestableorganizationand the end
of all organization,betweensome sort of order and complete
anarchy.""If Americaninterestsinclude democracy,political
stability,and welfareeconomics,then our wiseststrategyin
world politicsis to promote,preferablyby consent[otherwise
thistime
by force?],theage-oldprocessof politicalintegration,
Spykman'sbook
on a worldscale." "The wholelogicofProfessor
leads to internationalgovernment;but he ends with a nonsequitur.So faras his conclusionsgo, thereis not realism,but
onlydefeatism."The attitudeof these"learnedgentlemen,"to
borrowa phrasefromone ofthem,wasa previewofthatadopted
enthusiastsimmediatelyafterthe end of
by worldgovernment
simplyhad to comeabout in a hurry
thewar.Worldgovernment
was
rapidlygoingto hell in a basket.From
because the world
contemplatingthe horriblealternative,theywere reachinga
conclusionforscholarlyauthoritiesin the fieldof insurprising
ternationalpolitics."Wishingwill makeit so," theyweresaying
in effect.
Spykmanemphaticallydid not believe that wishingwould
makeit so. This did notmeanhe was againstworldgovernment,
or cooperationbetweenstates.In an
international
organization,
articlewrittenin 1934 for the Yale Review, entitled"States'
Rightsand the League," he was hopefulforthe futureof that
organizationbecause statesmenwere finallyrecognizingits imof nationalpowerand therebywere
portanceas an instrument
into the
theLeague fromtherealmofmake-believe
transferring

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394

WORLD POLITICS

realmofrealityin international
politics.Spykmanwas quick to
warn,as he did in laterwritings,
thatan international
organizationwasnota substitute
forpowerpolitics,but rathera different
and moredesirableformthereof."The creationof international
orderis not a matterof the abolitionof force,"he wrotein the
Yale Review,"but a changefromthe use of forceas an instrumentof nationalpolicyto the organizationof the use of force
bythecommunity."
the League had been unable to effectthis
Unfortunately,
transference
of force,and had ultimatelygone down beforenationallyemployedmilitarypower in internationalaggression.
There was no reasonto be optimisticthatanypostwarorganization could suddenlysucceed where the League had failed.
Dreamersof a new orderspringingsuddenly,full-blown,
from
the wreckageof war were preciselythat-dreamers."Plans for
far-reaching
changesin the characterof internationalsociety
are an intellectualby-product
of all greatwars,but,whenfighta return
ing ceases,theactualpeace structure
usuallyrepresents
to balanced power," Spykmanassertedin America'sStrategy.
Moreover,thedreamersmightnotwelcomehavingtheirvisions
transformed
precipitously
intoreality.
is stillfaroff.This is perhapsjustas wellbecausethe
Worldfederation
wouldprobablybe a greatdisappointment
world-state
to itsadvocates
fromwhat theyhad anticipated.Brotherly
and verydifferent
love
would not automatically
and the struggleforpower
replaceconflict,
would continue.Diplomacywould becomelobbyingand log-rolling,
warswouldbecomecivilwarsand insurrections,
and international
but
man would continueto fightforwhat he thoughtworthwhile,
and
violencewouldnot disappearfromtheearth.

orSpykmanfeltthatthebestassuranceof bothinternational
ganizationand thedevelopmentofa worldcommunity
was their
foundationon a European and Asiaticbalance of power,which
could onlybe establishedby Americanparticipation.In a letter
to Life on January11, 1943, Spykmanmildlyobjected to that
ofhimselfas an exponentof"cold-blooded
magazine'sdescription
powerpolitics."
in a balanceof power[Spykman
My interest
wrote]is not merelyinspiredby a concernforour powerposition,but also by myconviction
thatonlyin a systemof approximately
balancedpoweris collective

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395

securityworkable. Only under such conditions can common action


createoverwhelmingpower on behalf of the internationalcommunity.
If thereis no possibilityof balancing power, thereis no possibilityof
restraint,and the less power required to checkmateaggression,the
more likelyare statesto make good on theirguarantees.I am in favor
of a balance of power in Europe and Asia because only under such
circumstancescan the United States,which is far away, participateeffectivelyin the preservationof internationalorderand undertakepositive commitmentsto preservethe territorialintegrityof small states
across the oceans. Justiceis most likely to prevail among statesof approximatelyequal strength,and democracycan be safe only in a world
prevented.
in whichthe growthof unbalanced power can be effectively

One reviewerofAmerica's Strategy,writinga yearafterthe apat variance


statement
pearanceof thebook,foundthe foregoing
with the ideas presentedin the volume itself.To the present
writerit appearsas an elaborationof basic conceptsdeveloped
in America's Strategy,an elaborationwhichSpykman,perhaps
did not feelcalled upon to make earlier.Probaunfortunately,
himselfwith
explicitlyto classify
blyhe consideredit unnecessary
theangelsand againstsin. Probablyhe hoped his readerswould
credithim withmoralprinciplesin any event.Such a hope, if
entertained,
provedto be exaggerated.
a collectivesecuritysystemshould,Spykman
To be successful,
believed,be organizedon a soundregionalbase. In itsfailureto
followthisprinciplelay one of the difficulties
of the League of
Nations, because, Spykmanwrote in 1934, only within a limited

securityarea were stateswillingto give advance guaranteesto


one anotherthatwouldbe honoredwhena testcame.Four years
later,in "Geographyand ForeignPolicy,"Spykmanreturnedto
thesamepoint.There shouldbe in anyregionalsystemat least
and a numequal strength
threelargepowersof approximately
at least two of the
ber of smallerstatesin whose preservation
large powerswere interested.Here was clear expositionof a
system,and Spykmanwas still followingit in
multiple-balance
emerg1942. He envisagedat least threeregionalorganizations
ingafterWorldWar II-in Europe,Asia,and theWesternHemof the typeof balance
isphere.For each area the construction
whichwould enable even limitedcollectivesecurityto operate
difficult.
wouldbe extremely

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396

WORLD POLITICS

The ideal of units of approximateequality in militarystrengthand


power potential is, however,not likely to be fullyrealized [Spykman
wrote concerningEurope]. But even if it were, it would not permit
the United Statesto withdrawfromEurope. Third partystrengthwill
continueto be needed to neutralizedifferentials,
and a balance of power
is essentiallyan unstableequilibriumthatneeds constantattentionand
adjustment.

Was the United States,then,to supersedeBritainas the holder


of a European multiplebalance of power?It would seem that
Spykman'sideas tended in that direction."It is to be hoped
thatthisEuropeanpowerzone can be organizedin the formof
a regionalLeague ofNationswiththe UnitedStatesas an extraregionalmember."Similarmultipowersystems
ofregionalsecuritywere to be the objective of American policy in Asia and the

WesternHemisphere,althoughin both areas theirattainment


wouldbe evenmoredifficult
thanin Europe.
The differences
between Spykman'sconceptionin 1942 of
whatthepostwarworldwould look like and what the worldof
1952 has finallycome around to are more apparentthan real.
The regionalapproach to internationalorganizationhad importantadvocatesin the United Statesduring the war. It lay
behind the originalstudiesmade by the Departmentof State
under SumnerWelles. As describedin Sherwood'sRoosevelt
and Hopkins,theproposalswhichPresidentRooseveltpresented
at Teheran to Churchilland Stalinstrikingly
parallelSpykman's
ideas.Nowherein America'sStrategy
does Spykmanspell out in
anydetail the typeof all-inclusiveorganizationhe had in mind
to linkand transcend
theregionalgroupings.He does state,however, that such an organizationwould depend for its success
on cooperationamongthegreatnationsand on theestablishment
of a balance of power. Since 1947, when it became apparent

thattherecould be no cooperationwiththeSovietUnion except


on itsown terms,whenit becameequallyclear thatthebalance
ofpowerwasdangerously
in favoroftheaggressive
forcesofCommunism,the United States has been hard at work building
regionalsecuritysystems
whichcan enlargethearea and increase
the depthof cooperationamongtheirindividualmembersand
at thesame timehelp to restorethe typeof equilibriumwhich

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will deter the Soviet Union fromfurtherexternal effortsat territorial aggrandizement.


III
If the critics in 1942 were for the most part unwilling to accept the premise that effectiveprotection of American interests
demanded a European and Asiatic balance of power, theywere
even more hostile to certain of Spykman'scorollariesdrawn from
that premise. There was little disposition to quarrel with the
statementin The Geographyof the Peace that
... the closestcooperationbetweenBritainand the UnitedStatesis
of theBritishIsles as a base for
The effectiveness
absolutely
necessary.
or in cooperation
withit has been amply
actionagainstthecontinent
and theyarean indispensable
provedbyhistory,
adjunctto anyattempt
of securityin the
by thiscountryto take part in the establishment
world.
It would be quite awhile after 1945, however, before AngloAmerican cooperation reached the point advocated by Spykman.
On the other hand, Spykman'sstatementsof what, beyond cooperation with Great Britain, was involved in a European and
Asiatic balance of power aroused much shock and anger. "A
Russian state from the Urals to the North Sea," he wrote in
America's Strategy,"can be no great improvementover a German state from the North Sea to the Urals." This was bad because it seemed to impugn the purityof the motivesof our great
Soviet ally. But worse was yet to come: "The present war effort
is undoubtedly directedagainst the destructionof Hitler and the
National Socialist Party,but this does not necessarilyimply that
it is directed at the destructionof Germanyas a militarypower."
One critic labeled this "one of the most astonishingconclusions
that could well be imagined."
As for the Far East, there also ProfessorSpykman had some
heretical ideas, which appear in an entirelydifferentlight a decade later. In this area Spykman found the contemporarydanger, Japan, and the contemporaryally, China, capable of quick
reversalafterthe war.
A modern,vitalized,and militarized
China of 450 millionpeople is
notonlyto Japan,but also to thepositionof the
goingto be a threat,

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WORLD POLITICS

Western Powers in the Asiatic Mediterranean.China will be a continentalpower of huge dimensionsin controlof a large section of the
littoralof that middle sea. Her geographicposition will be similar to
that of the United States in regard to the American Mediterranean.
When China becomesstrong,her presenteconomicpenetrationin that
regionwill undoubtedlytake on political overtones.

To preservethe balance of power in Asia, Spykmansuggested,


the United Statesmightfinditselfforcedto shiftits support from
ex-ally to ex-enemy. ("One of the charms of power politics," he
wrylyremarked earlier in the same book, "is that it offersno
opportunityto grow weary of one's friends." This was just the
typeof aside thataroused the criticsto cry"cynic," "cold-blooded
realist," and the like.) With regard to Japan, Spykmanwrote:
we have cometo theaid of GreatBritainin
Twice in one generation
islandmightnot have to face a single
orderthatthe smalloff-shore
giganticmilitary
statein controloftheoppositecoastof themainland.
If thebalanceofpowerin theFar East is to be preserved
in thefuture
theUnitedStateswillhaveto adopta similar
as wellas in thepresent,
protective
policytowardJapan.
As for the entire balance of power in Asia, Americans must
recognize, said Spykman, that possibilities for direct Western
influencewere constantlydiminishing.This was a theme he had
developed as early as 1996 in discussing"The Social Background
of Asiatic Nationalism." Western imperialism carried with it
the seeds of its own destruction.Sixteen years later the process
of Western exclusion was still continuing and would continue
afterthe defeatof Japan's effortsat domination of an East Asian
Co-ProsperitySphere.
The powerbalancein theOrientrests,in thefirstplace,on therelaof thestateswithinthearea and,in thesecondplace,on
tivestrength
whichthe WesternStatescan makeeffective
in the rethe pressures
gion [said Spykmanin America's Strategy].Since the turn of the
of thesetwosetsof factorshas shiftedmore
the significance
century,
and morein favorof thelocal forces.
It thereforebehooved the United States,as a power farremoved
fromAsia, to make use of those forcesexisting in the area itself
which could establish and preserve a balance of power. Among
such forceswas Japan.
A word, finally,needs to be said about ProfessorSpykman's

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399

conclusionsregardingUnitedStatesrelationswithintheWestern
Hemisphere,a subjectto whicha largepartof America'sStratsceptiegywas devoted.Spykmanwas generallyand specifically
cal concerningNorth American-LatinAmericancooperation,
friendship,and understanding.". . . The factremains,that,not-

ofunityand solidarity,
theconstantreiteration
the
withstanding
New World has preservedas much internationalanarchyand
achievedno more politicalintegrationthan despisedEurope,"
he wrote.And,also,
throughthe Union of AmericanRepublics, the New World has made
some halting steps toward political integration,but it has not moved
much beyond platonic resolutionson the beauty of solidarity.It has
also failed to create the political frameworkfor a systemof common
defenseagainst threatsfromacrossthe ocean.

At least one critictookSpykmanto taskforunderestimating


the degree of practicalcooperationwhich had been achieved.
And rightlyso. One of the difficulties
appearsto be thatSpykmannowheremadeclearwhetherhis criterionwas thedegreeof
unitynecessaryfor the survivalof a WesternHemisphereencircledbya unitedEurope and Asia hostileto theUnitedStates,
or the degree of cooperationnecessaryto enable the United
todefeatGermanand Japanese
effort
Statesto mounta successful
attemptsat forcibleunityof Europe and Asia. (It should be
waswrittenbeforetheentrance
thatthemanuscript
remembered
of the United Statesinto World War II, but appeared a short
and addiwhileafterPearl Harborwithonlya fewamendments
tions.)
Overly pessimisticas he was, however,ProfessorSpykman
came up withat leastthreeconcreteconclusionswhicha decade
the relater should still be borne in mind, notwithstanding
markablegrowthof the inter-American
systemsince 1945. One
resolutionsand thedanger
concernedtheweaknessofconference
of confusingthemwithactual policies.
Resolutions,particularlyPan Americanresolutions,are usually melodious in tone and indicativeof a fineappreciationof literarystyle.Collected together,theymake a charmingexhibit and show what artistic
resultscan flowfromcooperationbetweenlegal and poetic minds.

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WORLD POLITICS

The second had to do with United States-Argentinerelations,


with regard to which Spykman warned that social, economic,
and political forces combined with geographic remoteness to
make Argentina a natural opponent of the United States and a
determined resistantto United States-sponsoredeffortsat interAmerican cooperation, whatever the surface appearance of harmony might be at any given moment. His third and most importantconclusion reflectedon the true nature of United StatesLatin American relations.
The WesternHemisphere
containsone greatstatesurrounded
byweak
let alone others.
countriescompletely
unable to defendthemselves,
The possibility
of truereciprocity
is, therefore,
excluded,and any
multilateral
would be in contreatycontaining
reciprocalguarantees
flictwith the powerrealities.The Americasmust,therefore,
necessarilyoperateon thebasisof bilateralagreements
betweentheUnited
in
Statesand herneighbors
and, becauseof theenormousdiscrepancy
powerbetweenthe partiesin such agreements,
theymustinevitably
remainone-sidedand assumemore the characterof provisionsfor
and buffer
zonesthanof alliancesbetween
thedefenseofprotectorates
equals.
And a statementto be memorizedby all scholarswho have talked
glibly about "multilateralizing" the Monroe Doctrine: "Hemisphere defense will continue to rest, as in the past, not on the
of the American republics, but on the armed forces
united efforts
of the United States." In 1952, as in 1942, there exists in the
inter-Americansystemthe same nexus of multilateral,bilateral,
and unilateral arrangements,with the more general depending
for their success ultimatelyon the most specific.
The study of internationalpolitics in a systematicfashion is
relativelynew in the United States. Not until the middle thirties
were serious effortsdevoted to the formulationof a methodology
which would enable scholarsto analyze phenomena, classifydata,
and predict the probable results of alternate courses of policy.
To this work Professor Spykman devoted the tragically short
period granted to him. The present writer does not believe it
an exaggeration to state that the frameworkfor the study of
internationalpolitics at which he arrived placed him in the very
forefrontof the field and led him to conclusions which are for

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401

themostpartas valid todayas theywerea decade ago. Perhaps


the truerecognitionof the importanceof Spykman'sworklies
in thefactthatit has servedas thefoundationformorecomprewhich contain many elaborahensivetheoreticalframeworks,
suchas he himselfwould have made had
tionsand modifications
he livedto continuehis studies.

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