Chapter 4 - Alfred Mahan "Sea Power"

4.1 Sea Power

American Alfred Mahan (1840 1914), unlike Ratzel, Challen and Mackinder, was not a scientist, but a military man. He did not use the term “geopolitics”, but the methodology of its analysis and the main conclusions exactly correspond to the purely geopolitical approach.

An American Union Navy officer, he taught Navy History at Naval War College in New Port, Road Island, from 1885. In 1890, he published his first book, which almost immediately became a classic text on military strategy. "Sea Forces in History (166- 1783)" (17). Further, with a small interval, other works follow: “The Influence of the Sea Force on the French Revolution and the Empire (1793-1812)” (18), “America's Interest in the Sea Force in the Present and in the Future” (19), “The Problem of Asia and its Impact on the International politics" (20) and "Sea Power and its relation to war" (21).

Almost all books were devoted to one topic, the theme of "Sea Power ". Mahan's name has become synonymous with this term.

Mahan was not only a theoretician of military strategy, but actively participated in politics. In particular, he had a strong influence on politicians such as Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt. Moreover, if we look retrospectively on American military strategy throughout the 20th century, we will see that it is being built in direct accordance with Mahan's ideas. Moreover, if in the First World War this strategy did not bring tangible success to the United States, then in the Second World War the effect was significant, and the victory in the Cold War with the USSR finally consolidated the success of the Sea Force strategy.

4.2 Marine civilization = commercial civilization

For Mahan, the main policy tool is trade. Military operations should only provide the most favorable conditions for the creation of a planetary commercial civilization. Mahan considers the business cycle in three ways:

  1. Production (exchange of goods and services through waterways)

  2. Navigation (which implements this exchange)

  3. Colonies (which circulate commodity exchange at the world level) (22).

Mahan believes that the analysis of the position and geopolitical status of the state should be based on 6 criteria.

  1. The geographical position of the State, its openness to the seas, the possibility of maritime communications with other countries. The length of land borders, the ability to control strategically important regions. The ability to threaten enemy fleets with their fleet.

  2. The "physical configuration" of the State, i.e. The configuration of the sea coast and the number of ports located on them. The prosperity of trade and strategic security depend on this.

  3. The length of the territory. It is equal to the length of the coastline.

  4. The statistical population. It is important for assessing the ability of the State to build ships and maintain them.

  5. National character. The ability of the people to engage in trade, since sea power is based on peaceful and wide trade.

  6. The political nature of government. The reorientation of the best natural and human resources to the creation of powerful sea power depends on this. (23)

Already from this listing it is clear that Mahan is building his geopolitical theory based solely on the "Sea Force" and its interests. For Mahan, the model of Sea Power was ancient Carthage, and historically England of the 17th and 19th centuries is closer to us.

he concept of "Sea Power" is based for him on the freedom of "sea trade", and the navy serves only as a guarantee of this trade . Mahan goes even further, considering the "Sea Force" a special type of civilization (anticipating the ideas of Karl Schmitt) the best and most effective, and therefore intended for world domination.

4.3 Conquering the US world manifest destiny

Mahan's ideas were accepted worldwide and influenced many European strategists. Even land and continental Germany in the person of Admiral Tirpitz accepted at his own expense theses of Mahan and began to actively develop its fleet. In 1940 and 1941, two Mahan books were published in the USSR.

But they were intended primarily for America and the Americans. Mahan was an ardent supporter of the doctrine of President Monroe (1758 1831), who in 1823 declared the principle of mutual non-interference of the countries of America and Europe, and also made the growth of US power dependent on territorial expansion to nearby territories. Mahan believed that America had a " sea ​​fate ", and that this "Manifest Destiny" ("Manifest Destiny") (24) lies at the first stage in the strategic integration of the entire American continent, and then in the establishment of world domination.

We must pay tribute to Mahan's almost prophetic vision. In his time, the United States had not yet become one of the leading world powers, and moreover, even their “marine civilization type” was not obvious. Back in 1905, Mackinder, in an article entitled “The Geographical Axis of History,” referred the United States to the “land powers” ​​that make up the “outer crescent” only as a semi-colonial strategic continuation of maritime England. Mackinder wrote:

The United States has just become the eastern power. They do not directly influence the balance of power in Europe, but through Russia (25).

But already 10 years before the appearance of Mackinder’s text, Admiral Mahan predicted America’s planetary fate, becoming a leading sea power that directly affects the fate of the world.

In the book "America's Interest in the Sea Force," Mahan argued that in order for America to become a world power, it must fulfill the following points:

  1. Actively cooperate with the British maritime power;

  2. Discourage German maritime claims;

  3. Vigilantly monitor and oppose Japan's expansion in the Pacific Ocean;

  4. Coordinate together with Europeans joint actions against the peoples of Asia (26).

Mahan saw the fate of the United States not to passively participate in the general context of the peripheral states of the "external crescent", but to take a leading position in economic, strategic and even ideological relations.

Regardless of Mackinder, Mahan came to the same conclusions regarding the main danger to "marine civilization." This danger is the continental states of Eurasia, primarily Russia and China, and secondly Germany. The struggle with Russia, with this "continuous continental mass of the Russian Empire, stretching from western Asia Minor to the Japanese meridian in the East", was the main long-term strategic task for the Sea Force.

Mahan carried to the planetary level the principle of "anacondas", applied by the American General McClellan in the North American Civil War of 1861 1865. This principle consists in blocking enemy territories from the sea and along coastlines, which gradually leads to strategic exhaustion of the enemy. Since Mahan believed that the state’s power is determined by its potential for becoming the Sea Force, in case of confrontation, strategic number one task is to prevent this formation in the enemy’s camp. Consequently, the task of the historical confrontation of America is to strengthen its positions on 6 main points (listed above) and weaken the enemy on the same points. Your coastal spaces should be in control,and the corresponding zones of the enemy should be tried by any means to tear off the continental mass. And further: since the Monroe doctrine (in its part of territorial integration) strengthens the power of the state, the creation of similar integration formations in the enemy should not be allowed. On the contrary, the opponent or rival in the case of Mahan, the Eurasian powers (Russia, China, Germany) should strangle the continental mass in the rings of the "anaconda", squeezing it at the expense of the coastal zones removed from its control and blocking, if possible, access to the sea.

In World War I, this strategy was implemented in support of the Entente to the white movement on the periphery of Eurasia (as a response to the conclusion by the Bolsheviks of peace with Germany), in World War II it was also turned against Central Europe, and in particular through naval operations against the Axis and Japan. But it is especially clearly visible in the era of the Cold War, when the confrontation between the USA and the USSR reached those global planetary proportions with which, at the theoretical level, geopolitics operated since the end of the 19th century.

In fact, the main lines of NATO’s strategy, as well as of other blocks aimed at deterring the USSR (the concept of “containment” is identical to the strategic and geopolitical concept of “anaconda”) ASEAN, ANZUS, CENTO are a direct development of the main theses of Admiral Mahan, which on this basis can be called the intellectual father of all modern Atlantism.