Notify me of new HIR pieces!

HIR mailing list



Psychological warfare and political grammar




0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10





Grammatical Realism: Outline of a geopolitical approach

Historical and Investigative Research / Aug 2015 / by Francisco Gil-White

Geopolitical approaches fall into two broad traditions, classical and critical geopolitics. We situate the approach followed in this series, called grammatical realism, in the context of these two traditions in order to lay bare the methodological assumptions and its programmatic strategy. We make clear which aspects of classical geopolitics and critical geopolitics have been adopted and which discarded.


The US power-elite, as we have seen, gained extensive control over mass media and Academia after WWII in order to deploy them as tools of psychological warfare (Part 1). We have sought to describe how US psychological warfare operates (Part 2). And to what end. Evidence of US power-elite sponsorship of Nazis before WWII (Part 5), during WWII (Part 7), and immediately after (Part 6) challenges the ‘Establishment model’ of a basically well-intentioned and democratically responsive—though error-prone—US power elite, and supports an alternative model that has the US power elite as covert enemies of democracy.

Following a process that is normative in science, we have subjected the model to diagnostic tests in order to begin exploring whether it is generally explanatory and predictive (Part 7 and Part 8), and we have furnished an overarching theory, anchored in historical patterns, to support the alternative model’s plausibility (Part 9). Future installments will subject the model to further tests, to see if it can explain our contemporary geopolitical context, writ large.

Before we do so, we make a brief parenthesis here to situate grammatical realism—the approach I recommend—in the context of the academic traditions of geopolitics and international relations. A wide variety of perspectives are commonly grouped by scholars into two contrasting traditions: classical geopolitics and critical geopolitics. After describing them, I will explain how my own approach takes selectively from both, with a view to making transparent the analytic method I will employ in future articles.

Classical geopolitics

Despite mutations, the common thread in classical geopolitics, which was born as an academic field of study with the first light of the 20th c., has been that States—the proposed units of analysis—seek to expand and control ever more territory and resources and will thus of necessity come into conflict.

The ‘geo’ comes from geography—from perceived constraints, advantages, and opportunities inherent in the content (including human content), location, and contours of the terrain. Since States are assumed inexorably driven to expand power, the ambition of classical geopolitics was to treat the structure of international relations as a dependent variable—to predict it from the study of the terrain. Geography determines strategy.

This method requires an additional assumption: that decision-makers are ‘rational’ (as neoclassical economists have defined the term). As such, classical geopolitics “shares some elements of what has been called ‘realism’ in the discipline of International Relations.” Realism “imagines space as the chessboard [of]… international affairs.”[1] This is Kissinger’s realpolitik.

To assume rationality is to assume that behavior is consistent with maximization of perceived ‘self-interest’ (which here equals ‘the interests of the State’). More specifically, this means that decision-makers:

1)    have transitive preferences (for outcomes A, B, C, if A > B, and B > C, then A > C, where ‘>’ is read as ‘preferred to’);

2)    have access to good information;

3)    calculate costs and benefits; and

4)    carefully plan many steps ahead (in game theory this is called ‘backward induction’).

But such scholars have never meant simply to purvey dispassionate study from the academic sideline. From the beginning, “[classical] geopolitical theory has [had] a common theme: the production of knowledge to aid the practice of statecraft and further the power of the state.” Born as an arrow in the imperialist quiver, the classical scholar’s approach “was always a highly ideological and deeply politicized form of analysis.[2]

For those interested in WWII, the German Friedrich Ratzel—a student of Swedish pioneer Rudolf Kjellen—is especially interesting. Borrowing loosely and distorting creatively from Darwin, Ratzel

“imagined each state as a species, which needs an ecological niche that can support itself. A ‘thriving’ state will have Lebensraum, or ‘living space,’ sufficient to its needs. Indeed, it needs to grow, at the expense of other states if necessary, in order to support a dynamic and successful population.”[3] 

Through Karl Haushofer, a WWI German major general bitter over Germany’s defeat and turned academic in the interwar years, these ideas lodged themselves in the mind of Rudolf Hess, Haushofer’s wartime aide-de-camp and later his student at the University of Munich. Hess would become Deputy Leader of the Nazi party and would essentially co-author Mein Kampf with Adolf Hitler.[4]

In Britain, the pioneers were Alfred Mahan and Halford Mackinder, whose work was produced not as simple observation and analysis, but with a view to assist British imperial policy.

In the United States, Henry Kissinger, geopolitical academic turned foreign-policy decision-maker, was for a long time the dominant figure, and is emblematic, once again, of how academics in this area were traditionally in the service of power elites.

Critical geopolitics

“In the 1990s critical geopolitics grew out of the body of thought known as post-modernism and a specific reaction by geographers to reclaim geopolitics from the state.”[5] This was a reaction, in other words, against the instrumental and advisory role of classical geopolitics to power elites.

This perspective studies “language as the building blocks from which reality emerged”[6], and in so doing “shifts the attention of scholars of geopolitics from ‘how geography shapes politics’ ”—which takes geography as ‘given’ in the ‘real world’—“to ‘how politics shapes geography,’ ” that is, to how geographical reality is constructed (or fabricated, manufactured) in the minds of millions of people through political speech and its repetition in the media.[7]

“Geopolitics, then, can be understood as a discourse through which the world is made intelligible and therefore made amenable to foreign policy intervention.”[8]

Discourse is the fusion of power and authority into the content of language.”[9]  (my emphases)

The question here, then, becomes: How does the representation of a place (including the people in it) justify foreign policy?

Take an example.

US President Ronald Reagan publicly claimed that the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan mujahideen—both recipients of massive US support—were “ ‘moral equivalents of the [US] founding Fathers.’ ”[10] This claim, in context, implied another: that the US Founding Fathers were morally worthy. The point of these explicit and implied claims was to make Reagan’s support for the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan mujahideen palatable to US citizens.

That’s an example of clever use of political discourse.

To be good at it, you need to know the rules, akin to linguistic rules, that govern it. It is the ambition of critical geopolitics to study these rules as they infuse and constrain the apologetic discourses of power elites.

“Discourses are... used by people in the construction of meaning about their world and their activities. It is NOT simply speech or written statements but the rules by which verbal speech and written statements are made meaningful. ...The study of geopolitics in discursive terms, therefore, is the study of the sociocultural resources and rules by which geographies of international politics get written.[11]

Let us consider, then, the structure of our Reagan example.

The grand geopolitical worldview that the US power elite sold to US citizens in the postwar was that communism was bad: a communicable disease. It was thus imperative to oppose communism everywhere and ‘contain’ it, lest it spread from country to country like a line of falling dominos ( = the ‘Domino Theory’). Geographical contiguity to a ‘communist’ state was held to produce political ‘contagion.’ In this alarming scenario, labeling any left-leaning government ‘communist’ triggered support for hostile action against it (this is an example of a rule). And by implication (another rule), anybody opposing ‘communism’ was the ‘good guys.’

With his formidable rhetorical powers, Reagan (the ‘Great Communicator’), daily reinforced that the Soviet Union was ‘the Evil Empire.’ This made the ‘anti-communist’ Contras and the ‘anti-communist’ Afghan mujahedeen—both in fact terrorist groups—the ‘good guys.’ Not content with that, Reagan compared these groups to the US Founding Fathers, which, according to official US political discourse, were quasi-holy freedom-loving revolutionaries. With all of that symbolism recruited and articulated in a ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’ opposition, many US citizens could support action in favor of the Contras and the mujahideen.

Was Reagan consciously duping US citizens?

Critical scholars don’t want to go that far. The relationship between policy and discourse, to them, is not quite Machiavellian. To understand their view, consider the three categories they divide geopolitics into:

formal geopolitics: produced by “academics and researchers in think tanks” that exist to generate knowledge for statecraft.

practical geopolitics: “the geopolitical discourse relayed by politicians, military commanders, and others speaking from the perspective of the state.”

popular geopolitics: “the relay of geopolitical discourse through popular media, such as movies, newspapers, radio, the Internet, and so on.”[12]

Importantly, for critical scholars, worldviews do not simply trickle down from the formal and practical to the popular, because the first two are already constrained by media processes. “Popular geopolitics changes the way in which geopolitics can be considered.”[13] This is simply a restatement of the traditional observation that democratic rulers are constrained by public opinion. Or, if you will, that ordinary people, in their multifarious acts of speech, help construct the ‘discourse.’

Of course, the power elite and the media also contribute to constructing the discourse. But to critical scholars these contributions are not especially important. Rather, all of these contributions to the discourse, by the elites, by the media, by ordinary people, are marginal compared to the effect that the discourse itself has on everybody. The discourse is a kind of all-powerful prism through which everybody sees the world, enslaving everybody equally.

The linguistic analogy is again useful. All English speakers, in their daily practice, affect the evolution of English grammar and meanings, but these are marginal effects that pale next to the effect that the structure of English, at any given time, has on them, forcing them to speak in a certain way.

By this analogy, Reagan, no more and no less than ordinary people, is ‘trapped,’ as it were, in the discourse, which determines how he sees the world, how he talks about the world, and therefore the policy decisions he makes. Thus, we might say, because the discourse identified communists as irredeemably antiliberal and ‘evil,’ anybody who fought communists became for Reagan, by grammatical implication, a ‘good freedom fighter,’ and deserving of US support.

Fig. 1. The arrows indicate influence. The power elite, the media / Academia, and the citizens all influence the discourse, and each other, but none of these influences are decisive, and they pale next to the influence that the discourse itself has on everybody.

Grammatical realism

My own perspective, which I call ‘grammatical realism,’ takes from both classical and critical geopolitics. But it takes selectively, as it also criticizes both.

The rational-actor model, I believe, has found in State-level decision-makers—as opposed to ordinary human beings—its best possible case. For power elites (and their retainers) marshal enormous resources with which to gather information and calculate costs and benefits with exquisite precision in their (perforce) relatively long-term planning. ‘Grammatical realism’ thus adopts the rationality assumption in classical geopolitics/realism.

But I point out two important differences.

First, I reject the axiomatic status of the organic metaphor where decision-makers, as the ‘head’ of the ‘body politic,’ supposedly feel themselves responsible for that body, and hence their ‘self-interest’ must be considered as one and the same as the interests of ‘the State’ (meaning the interests of everybody in the State). Perhaps power elites behave this way. But perhaps they don’t. If we are not to prejudge the issue, power elites—and not States!—must function as the relevant actors and units of analysis (Part 4).

The empirical data, I believe, support the view that the US power elite, within existing constraints, initiate policy with the aim to aggrandize and/or preserve their own power at the expense of ordinary people, including ordinary people in their own State (Part 3); their statements to the contrary I interpret as grammatically obligated dissimulations (Part 2).

Second, I take the rational-actor model quite seriously—unlike scholars of classical geopolitics. For these latter dispense with the rational-actor model whenever policy outcomes radically contradict democratic values, at which point they rush to weaken the assumptions of good information and proper calculation of costs and benefits in order to claim some species of ‘error.’ I find this flippant (Part 4). And, fatally, it abrogates method and forsakes explanatory power, for the ‘error-prone’ model makes no clear predictions.

I shan’t deny that power elites make mistakes (we all do). But they also try hard to learn (for learning serves their self-interest). And they are better equipped to learn than anybody. So I assume that power elites will not shoot themselves in the foot twice. That is, they will not (or not typically) spend billions of dollars a second time to make mistakes of the same magnitude and kind as the first. Much less a third time.

My approach thus forces a dogged method that may be stated as three broad principles:

1)    Seek patterns. If a strong outcome-pattern is available, one must allow it to imply intentions (if these appear antidemocratic, so be it).

2)    Trust patterns. Whenever a detail seems discrepant to the pattern, try first to think around it. Assume intelligence in the power elite, and find a clever fit.

3)    Resist the ‘error hypothesis.’ This is the refuge of last resort. It is the position we reluctantly back into when all our best efforts to fit a particular event into an outcome-pattern have failed.

This method makes relatively clear predictions, because future policy is expected to be consistent—qualitatively—with historically established outcome-patterns—it won’t be ‘just one damn thing after another.’

My other main disagreement with classical geopolitics is that I don’t believe power elites are inexorably drawn to push against each other in an (ultimately) zero-sum game. Sometimes they do that. But sometimes they get wise and create syndicates in order better to join, corporately, against ordinary people everywhere. This does not eliminate conflict between power elites but does considerably reduce and constrain it.[13a]

As for critical geopolitics, I applaud their announced goal “to reclaim geopolitics from the State,” that is, to do geopolitics as an academic activity independent and autonomous of the power-elite’s demand for intellectual work that will assist their projection of power. And I approve of the attention they pay to the rules that make policy-relevant speech—‘political discourse’—meaningful, and how that discourse constrains political behavior.

However, I prefer to break up ‘political discourse’ into two analytical components: political grammar and constructed reality.

Western political grammar consists of:

1) our axioms, born in the Enlightenment and established in 1848; and

2) the rules, derived from those axioms, for how certain statements become socially forbidden or else obligatory, and for how statements may be combined, in specific contexts, making certain policies appear either thinkable or unthinkable, either imperative or beyond the pale (Part 2).

Constructed reality, for its part, provides the context and background against which particular statements and/or beliefs, and their implications, are evaluated.

Political grammar and constructed reality are both ‘discourse,’ but there is a big payoff in keeping them analytically separate. Why? Because, where the first is concerned, critical scholars are right that we are all equally enslaved by it. But they are wrong about the second: the power elite is not constrained by constructed reality. Why? Because they construct it—to constrain us.

Christopher Simpson and others have documented how the US power elite appropriated the media and domesticated Academia after WWII. In their hands, media and Academia became tools of psychological warfare (Part 1). They are used, consciously, to create false realities for ordinary people to inhabit.

The power elite could try, with their clandestine control of meaning-making institutions, to modify the political grammar, but this is arduous and risky for them. Why? Because a lot of blood was shed to construct the modern, post-revolutionary democratic West. People won’t switch their fundamental grounding of right and wrong lightly or overnight (Part 2), and they will become violently suspicious if they detect attempts to transform their core values.

More commonly, therefore, a meaning-making power elite will let the political grammar be and will seek to modify instead—through media and academic messages—the perception of reality. As in the Reagan example, the game is like this: defend the values of the Enlightenment—e.g. freedom—but then lie to the citizens about who fights for those values. The citizens will then take sides and demand precisely those policies that the undemocratic power elite desire (Part 2).

In the following diagram I represent the general structure:

Fig. 2. The arrows should be read as “constrains.” Hence, the manner in which citizen perceptions constrain the grammar, and in which this grammar in turn constrains the power elite—this is not easily changed. And when it does change, it changes slowly. But the power elite constrains media and academic knowledge production, which in turn constrains citizen perceptions, which constrain the perception of reality, which, in turn, constrains the power elite’s freedom of action. The power elite gains freedom of action mostly by manipulating the construction of reality, and the more such freedom it gains, the more it can influence media and Academia, in positive feedback.

If US power-elite influence over media and academic production is as decisive as one might expect from the investment made (Part 1), then we should expect that, in discussions of geopolitics, a proper examination of US foreign policy is almost impossible. Is this the case?

It is a matter of historical record that the academic discipline of geography was “mangled”—inextricably mixed up—with the State in what Barnes & Farish (2006) call the “military-industrial-academic complex.” It should really be called the military-industrial-intelligence-academic complex, since communication research emerged from WWII intelligence work (Part 1), and, as Barnes & Farish themselves explain, so did postwar geography (as indeed did some other postwar sciences).[14]

What is the consequence for public understanding?

We have seen above that classical geopolitics—or at least the portion of it that citizens can publicly read and examine—does not take rational action seriously and fails to investigate power-elite intentions, backing into the ‘error-prone’ model that in fact makes no useful predictions (Part 4). The media, moreover, is treated as a source of information rather than investigated as an organ of elite power.

For its part, critical geopolitics, though it is interested in describing the rules of ‘discourse,’ also does not investigate the media as a tool of power. This is because the critical approach—following Michel Foucault (who originated the concept of ‘discourse’)—does not separate the political grammar and constructed reality aspects of ‘discourse,’ and thus sees power as lying diffusely everywhere, concentrated nowhere, so that the media, power elites, and even academics are themselves all equally ‘victims’ of discourse, every bit as much as the ordinary citizen.[15] The result is that critical scholars likewise back into the error-prone hypothesis, alleging that the US power elite routinely makes costly mistakes because enslavement to the discourse mars power-elite understanding of other countries and regions.[16]

Both major traditions of geopolitics, it turns out, interpret any policy outcome that conspicuously deviates from a pro-democracy orientation as ‘error.’ I find that interesting. (And revealing.)

Moreover, a strong tradition in both media and Academia interprets any hypothesis of Machiavellian design for undemocratic policy outcomes as ‘conspiracy theory,’ which inevitably carries connotations of paranoid lunacy and unscientific orientation. This, too, is interesting and revealing.

As for geography, I believe it is quite important. But one must be able to distinguish between real geographic opportunities and constraints—which power elites must take into account in their decision-making—and geographical ‘reality’ as discursively represented by power elites for public consumption, to make their foreign policy adventures grammatically palatable.

Here, much can be accomplished by simple omission. For example, a secret study conducted by the Pentagon in 1967, at the close of the Six Day War, determined that if Israel ever allowed its enemies to control the territories of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza it would be destroyed. Just a few years later, the US government began agitating to force Israel to give those territories to its enemies (Part 8). The public didn’t learn about the 1967 study because it was kept secret. And though it was declassified in the 1980s, it is still mostly unknown because it has not appeared on the front page of the New York Times, and primetime CNN, and elsewhere, as part of a saturation campaign, which is the only way that the public really learns anything.

In what follows I will continue applying the grammatical realism method and subject the model developed here to tests of generality. I will seek to find out just how much contemporary US foreign policy can be made meaningful when viewed through the model’s lens. As a first exercise, we will consider the history of US foreign policy toward Iran, and will seek to show just how consistent present developments are with historical outcome-patterns and with strategic geographical considerations.

Stay tuned. 


Footnotes and Further Reading

[1] Dittmer J. 2014. Introduction to Part One. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 630-631)

[2] Ó Tuathail G, Agnew J. 2014. Geopolitics and Discourse: Practical Geopolitical Reasoning in American Foreign Policy. Political Geography 11: 190-204 (p.192).

[3] Dittmer, J. & Sharp, J. 2014. General Introduction. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 359-361)

[4] Dittmer, J. 2014. Introduction to Part One. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 674-696).

[5] Flint C. 2011. Geopolitics: An Introduction. New York & London: Routledge. (from the introduction)

[6] Dittmer J. 2014. Introduction to Part One. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 394-395)

[7] Dittmer, J. 2014. Introduction to Part Two. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). (loc. 2976-2977)

[8] Dittmer, J. & Sharp, J. 2014. General Introduction. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 394-395)

[9] Flint C. 2011. Geopolitics: An Introduction. New York & London: Routledge. (from the introduction)

[10] Ó Tuathail G, Agnew J. 2014. Geopolitics and Discourse: Practical Geopolitical Reasoning in American Foreign Policy. Political Geography 11: 190-204 (p.196).

Sharp, J. 2014. Introduction to Part Three. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 5290-5293)

[11] Ó Tuathail G, Agnew J. 2014. Geopolitics and Discourse: Practical Geopolitical Reasoning in American Foreign Policy. Political Geography 11: 190-204 (pp.192-93).

[12] Dittmer, J. & Sharp, J. 2014. General Introduction. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 412-459)

[13] Dittmer, J. 2014. Introduction to Part Two. In Geopolitics: An Introductory Reader (Kindle ed.). London & New York: Routledge. (loc. 3017-3018).

[13a]  In Part 3 we discussed an example of top-level collusion within a State. But this can also happen internationally, at different levels of scale. Examples can be found in classical Greece and Rome, in early modern Europe, in the Western arrangements that led to WWII, in the erstwhile Soviet bloc, and, I believe, in the current US-dominated world order.

[14] Geographers Trevor Barnes and Matthew Farish have given an overview of the process that transformed American geography during and after WWII, a process directly parallel to what happened with communication research (see Part 1), and indeed with other sciences.

“The traditional notion of science held by geographers arrived from natural history, which was field-based, descriptive, rested on scrupulously recorded observations of a lone scholar, and tended toward classification, even the encyclopedic. Regions were portrayed correspondingly. During the SecondWorldWar and afterward, however, a different model of science emerged, one produced in the crucible of war, both hot and cold, and forged through interaction among scientists, the military, industry, and the state. This science happened at the lab bench or at the writing desk, involved large sums of money and a team of researchers (‘big science’), was theoretically abstract, mathematical, often model- and machine-based, and geared toward meeting specific ends. We argue that this conception of science made its way, albeit haltingly, into postwar American human geography. Accordingly, it produced a very different idea of region, conceived now as explanatory, theoretical, and instrumental, a tool to achieve functional objectives.” (p.807)

“... the hitherto relatively distinct entities of the military and science were during the SecondWorldWar forced to engage one another, resulting in what Pickering calls ‘mangling.’ Mangling is the dynamic, mutual transformation of entities as they interact. In this case, science and the military were mangled. Their very practices changed substantially as they worked together, became quite different, and never returned to their respective original forms.” (p.809)

“...Mangling for Pickering provides a means for understanding the changing form of science and social science during the War. In order to meet military purposes, he argues, both became mission-focused, team-based and interdisciplinary, hierarchically organized, state-funded, machine-oriented, and, owing to reduced interest in pure theory and more interest in application, model-based.” (p.809)

“...a novel model of research—often dubbed “big science”— in which enormous commitments of money and resources allowed a diverse range of personnel and expertise, along with heterogeneous materials, to work on a common problem , whether it was the construction of an atomic weapon or the provision of military intelligence (see Galison and Hevly 1992).”

This model became the template for carrying out research after the war. Government and, increasingly, private funding brought together large teams of varied researchers to work on specific problems most directly connected to national security and military interests. Perhaps the best example is the RAND Corporation, based in Santa Monica, California.” (p.810)

“…Initially, the social sciences were also overwhelmingly funded by the state , with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) particularly important in the early postwar years (in 1949 the ONR funded 40 percent of the pure and academic research in the United States; Mirowski 2002, 200). Later, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations were increasingly active.” (p.811)

“...The knowledge created out of the Second World War’s destruction and the Cold War’s proxy conflicts and modernization projects was not innocent, but was shaped within a peculiar institutional permutation—the military-industrial-academic complex—that directly or indirectly promoted an American geopolitical agenda.” (p.811)

“...In September 1941, [geographer] Richard Hartshorne was called to Washington, D.C., to form a geography branch within the two-month-old Office of the Co-ordinator of Information (OCI). In June 1942 the name was changed to Office of Strategic Services (Martin 1994, 488), and this was the forerunner of the CIA. That Office reported directly to the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Its founding charter was “to collect and analyze all information and data which may bear upon national security” (quoted in Troy 1981, 423). The subsequent importance of the OSS was immense. According to Andrew Kirby (1994, 306), it “created many of the blue prints for post-war US economic and military hegemony … [as well as] presiding over the emergence of essentially new conceptions of academic labor.” There were also smaller, more localized effects, one of which was the beginning of a new conception of region, propelling academic geography along a new intellectual arc.” (p.813)

“...R&A was the key site within OSS, its “heart and soul” (Winks 1987, 114), responsible for collecting and analyzing data and information on every theater of the conflict.” (p.814)

“...That R&A staff was extraordinary. That staff was extraordinary. It consisted of three main groups: midcareer American professors including Langer and Hartshorne, typically conservative, but vigorously anti-fascist; young scholars, often graduate students, who included Walter Rostow, Carl Schorske, Charles Kindelberger, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and even the Marxist Paul Sweezy , who collectively would later reshape the postwar humanities and social sciences...” (p.814)

SOURCE: Barnes TJ, Farish M. 2006. Between Regions: Science, Militarism, and American Geography from World War to Cold War. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 96: 807-26

[15] Critical geopolitics emerges from a body of intellectual work known as postmodernism. There is some controversy as to whether Michel Foucault—the father of ‘discourse’ as a tool of analysis—should himself be considered a postmodernist. But there is no question that Foucault has been terribly important to postmodernists, and that his view of power has become dominant among them. In a book on the history of science, two scholars comment as follows:

“...postmodernists reject the Enlightenment ideal of progress and human perfectibility. Skeptical in the extreme, they repudiate all large-scale interpretations of culture and history. The human condition is held hostage by vague, universal forces called power relations… But ‘unlike the old notion of entrenched power that can be attacked, removed, or replaced, postmodernists envisage forms of power that have no central, single, fixed, discernible, controllable locus. This kind of power is everywhere but concentrated nowhere.’ ” [Compare to fig. 1.]

SOURCE: Pyenson L, Sheets-Pyenson S. 1999. Servants of Nature: A History of Scientific Institutions, Enterprises, and Sensibilities. New York & London: WW Norton & Company. (p.17)

[16] Notice what Tuathail and Agnew, easily the most influential critical geopolitics scholars, write:

“The irony of practica1 geopolitical representations of place is that, in order to succeed, they actually necessitate the abrogation of genuine geographical knowledge about the diversity and complexity of places as social entities. Describing the USSR then (or Iraq today) as Orientalist, is a work of geographical abstractionism. A complex, diverse and heterogeneous social mosaic of places is hypostatized into a singular, overdetermined and predictable actor. As a consequence, therefore, the United States was put in the ironic situation of being simultaneously tremendously geographically ignorant of the USSR (and today Iraq) yet fetishistically preoccupied with that state and its influence in world politics.”

SOURCE: Ó Tuathail G, Agnew J. 2014. Geopolitics and Discourse: Practical Geopolitical Reasoning in American Foreign Policy. Political Geography 11: 190-204 (pp.202).





0. Introduction

The present series of articles amounts to a primer. It contains strategic historical knowledge minimally sufficient to abandon the ‘Establishment model’ of geopolitical processes and to begin constructing an alternative model that will explain and predict the world of international relations. The alternative model agrees with the Establishment model that the Middle East ‘Peace Process’ is important, but disagrees about almost everything else. In the alternative model, the US-Iran nuclear deal makes perfect sense. It may or may not agree with you, but it will no longer surprise you.

1. Psychological warfare, communication research, and the media

PSYOPs originally refers to psychological warfare operations conducted by the military against the enemy. But PSYOPs have domestic applications as well. We review here historian Christopher Simpson’s documentation of how social science was corrupted in the United States so that power elites could bend ‘democracy’ to their will using psychological warfare.

2. Political grammar : ¿How does psychological warfare work?

Psychological warfare is governed by grammatical rules. Power elites with a good command of such rules can deploy psychological warfare to manipulate citizens into doing things they otherwise wouldn’t—even into destroying their own liberties. We here explain the basic operation of Western political grammar, created in 1848, and how it may be manipulated.

3. Principal-Agent Theory (PAT), the citizen, and the State

Principal-agent theory (PAT) examines how ‘principals’ can manipulate ‘agents’ to do their bidding. It has been applied to political behavior but, perhaps not too surprisingly, in such a manner that it will not challenge the perception that Western States are functioning democracies whose governments are duly responsive to the citizenries. Here we explore an alternative picture that takes into account what power elites can do through psychological (or political) warfare.

4. Is US geopolitics meant to strengthen or weaken democracy?

The study of geopolitics is meant to account for the foreign policy behaviors of the various States. However, geopolitical scholars have certain taboos about which kinds of hypotheses may or may not be entertained. In particular, the prevailing political grammar in the Western media and academic system appears to rigorously forbid that anybody question the purity of intention of those making foreign policy decisions in Western states. Why?

5. The goals of the US power elite in historical perspective

The US power elite’s most important players were responsible for setting up the US psychological warfare regime after World War II (Part 1). These same players had a major hand in precipitating the onset of World War II. This information is of some importance in evaluating the probable aims of US power-elite geopolitics today. But it is next to impossible to pursue this analysis because the US power elite role in causing World War II has been almost completely expunged from historical education..

6. US postwar policy toward Nazi war criminals

Few people are aware that the US government recruited Nazis after WWII. And most of the aware believe this was just a handful of Nazi scientists employed in rocket development (Operation Paperclip). In fact, the US government shielded from justice a giant multitude of Nazis—including many war criminals who had bathed themselves in innocent blood—and used them to create the postwar US intelligence infrastructure. This affected both domestic and foreign policy. The self-imposed silence of the Western media on this topic is diagnostic of the psychological warfare regime that dominates.

7. The aims of the US power elite in WWII

Certain important events surrounding the causes and aftermath of World War II may be recruited to defend a model of the US power elite as pro-Nazi. This model naturally needs to provide satisfactory special reasons for important behaviors of the same power elite that appear anti-Nazi. But the same applies to the Establishment model: it must provide satisfactory special reasons to explain why, if the US power elite has been anti-Nazi, it involved itself so intensely with sponsorship and then recruitment of Nazis. We examine these issues here.

8. US foreign policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict

Given US power elite’s sponsorship of the eugenics movement, which became German Nazism, and the same US power elite’s creation of the postwar psychological warfare regime, it is reasonable to ask whether US postwar foreign policy has been consistent with the aims of the eugenicists and the German Nazis, namely, to destroy democracy and to kill Jews. That is the question we ask here.

9. Why do enemies of democracy attack the Jews?

Shoa (‘the Holocaust’) was a horrific slaughter and a Crime Against Humanity, but it was not an historical aberration. As Western historical processes go, the mass-killing of Jews may be the most recurrent and stable. Those who killed the Jews in World War II were enemies of human liberty. This, too, is not new. In the history of the West, whenever the Jews are under attack, everybody’s liberties are in danger. What explains this? One simple fact: for 2500 years, Jewish thought has been the engine of Western political liberation, and Western enemies of liberty have always understood this.