Haushofer and the Pacific

The Future in Retrospect

Courtesy Reuters


ONE of the methods which Karl Haushofer uses to hammer his ideas into the minds of his readers is the constant repetition of simple truths. He likes, for instance, to quote a remark by the English geographer and statesman, Sir Thomas Holdich, about "the absolutely immeasurable cost of geographical ignorance." And he never tires of citing Ovid's "fas est ab hoste doceri" (it is right to learn from the enemy), and Disraeli's "at last the best informed one wins."

These three simple maxims help also to explain the American public's sudden and amazing interest in German geopolitics and its master. Not so long ago our geographical education was insufficient and uninspired. Then all at once the man in the street and the political leader alike became aware that we might have to pay a high price for our ignorance. In the hour of danger we were ready at last "to learn from the enemy." The magic word "geopolitics" and the mysterious personality of its prophet kindled the interest of a broad public, and the interest was intensified by the manner in which this "secret weapon" of Hitler's was first presented. German geopolitics invaded the United States as some sort of super-science. We were given an exciting lesson on "the thousand scientists behind Hitler;" we were told that Haushofer and his followers dominated the thinking of Hitler and that it was Haushofer who directed the German General Staff's plans for world dominion.

Even if one turned from such journalistic approaches to recognized authorities in the field of international politics, one came upon remarks like the one by Colonel Beukema of West Point that history will rate Karl Haushofer as more important than Adolf Hitler because Haushofer's studies made possible Hitler's victories both in power politics and in war. No wonder, then, that everywhere "geopolitics" became the political catchword of the day, that the highest eulogy a political writer could earn was to be

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