The Wall of Alexander: The Quest for a Grand Strategy in the Footsteps of Alexander and Bucephalus by Daniel K. Khalessi
During the summer of 2014, as part of his participation in the Yale University Studies in Grand Strategy Seminar, Daniel K. Khalessi retraced Alexander the Great’s campaign through Greece, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and India, to understand his legacy and the region he conquered. In this essay, Mr. Khalessi offers his reflections on how past human civilizations approached the challenge of managing interdependencies over vast regions. Though two thousand years removed from Alexander’s time, many fundamental challenges of governance remain the same. In Mr. Khalessi’s judgment, a grand strategy of leadership and governance requires walls – not physical walls, but ideas and institutions that establish, maintain, and regulate the balance between (1) the center and perimeter of a polity; (2) good and evil; and (3) conquest and contribution. Drawing upon ancient and modern biographical accounts; comparisons with other ancient leaders; and observations from the summer journey in the footsteps of Alexander’s campaign, this essay analyzes Alexander through the walls he should have built. Read More...
Currently Featured Classic
The Geographical Pivot of History by Halford J. Mackinder (1904/1919)
In 1904, British geographer Halford J. Mackinder presented a landmark paper, "The Geographical Pivot of History," to the Royal Geographic Society of London. In this and subsequent writings, Mackinder argued that changes in technology—especially the revolution in land transportation brought about by the railroad, the internal combustion engine, and the construction of a modern highway and road network—had altered the relationship between sea and land power, bringing the Columbian age of dominant sea power to a close. In this new, tightly connected global system, land power would hold the advantage. The center of emerging land power was the Eurasian core area—the geographical pivot, roughly coincident with the tsarist Russian empire—that Mackinder would come to call the Heartland. This core area was inaccessible to sea power and therefore was capable of being exploited by a land power seeking to dominate the Eurasian "World-Island" from its continental fortress. Surrounding the Heartland were two crescents: first, a wholly maritime outer crescent consisting of the Americas, the British Isles, Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa; and second, an inner crescent (partly maritime, partly continental) that extended along the Eurasian littoral, including most of continental Europe west of Russia, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and continental South, Southeast, and East Asia. Most of the world’s population, and its great civilizations, inhabited this crescent.
Because of its location, Mackinder believed that the inner crescent would be a permanent zone of conflict. If a land power expanded over these marginal areas of Europe and Asia, it would obtain vast resources for building a naval fleet capable of overwhelming the outer crescent, the ring of islands and outer continents that surrounded the World Island. World empire would then be in sight. They key to world politics in the early 20th century, as Mackinder saw it, was the struggle between Russia and Germany for control of the Heartland and adjacent areas, especially Eastern Europe. For Mackinder, Eastern Europe was the gateway to and from the Heartland, which later led him to offer his famous formulation.
Who rules Eastern Europe commands the Heartland
Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island
Who rules the World-Island commands the world
An American Classic (New)
Annual Report of the US Secretary of the Navy (1889) by Benjamin F. Tracy
In March 1889, a hurricane destroyed or disabled three American warships in the Samoan harbor of Apia, where they had been deployed to support the United States in a political dispute with Britain and Germany over the status of the islands. The accident left the United States without any effective naval force in the Pacific and revealed the weaknesses of the existing fleet, as the old warships had been unable to get to sea and ride out the storm. Advocates of a more assertive American foreign policy, to be underwritten by an expanded modern navy, seized upon the incident. A perfect political storm did seem to favor their cause. The new President, Benjamin Harrison, was a big-navy advocate, and for the first time since 1875, the Republican Party enjoyed clear majorities in both Houses of Congress. U.S. Navy Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was completing his landmark book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783, and his arguments were already circulating among such influential and would-be influential figures as Theodore Roosevelt and Harrison’s Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Franklin Tracy.
Tracy, a decorated Brigadier General during the Civil War, was an able politician and administrator who laid out the blueprint for a new American Navy in his Annual Report of 1889 (excerpted below). Tracy’s official statement placed the Harrison administration squarely behind Mahan and the naval expansionist school. Although defense, not conquest, was the object of American national security and naval policy, Tracy argued that defense required a fighting force capable of engaging the fleets of potentially hostile powers. He evaluated the U.S. Navy as being inferior not only to such major powers as Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany, but also to the fleets of Holland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, China, Sweden-Norway, and Austria-Hungary.
Notable Books and Documents (New)
Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler (1943)
by Edward Mead Earle
"When war comes it dominates our lives." So Edward Mead Earle introduced Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler, first published in 1943. War had indeed come and was dominating American lives. Makers of Modern Strategy was a collection of essays based on a 1941 seminar on American foreign policy and security issues sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton University. A revised and updated volume, edited by Peter Paret, was published in 1986 to take into account new research and topics, such as unconventional warfare and nuclear strategy. The wartime context and impact of the original volume, however, merits its particular reputation as a modern classic of strategy and diplomacy.