Leviathan and Behemoth: A Hidden History


Gabriel Davidson, Editor

Rome and Carthage, Great Britain and France, Allies and Axis, NATO and Socialist Bloc, and now NATO and Russia. What do all these rivalries hold in common? To the untrained eye, there might not be any similitudes at all. Rome and Carthage and Great Britain and France throw the entire list into disarray, disrupting what one might assume to be conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries. Conflicts between democracy and tyranny, perhaps? Well, in their rivalry spanning hundreds of years, the English and French have both experienced their fair share of draconianism, even concurrently. On closer examination of our list, one might find themselves more confused than before. Enter tellurocracy and thalassocracy, Behemoth and Leviathan.

Behemoth, the undefeated beast of the land, is locked in constant struggle with Leviathan, the ruler of those animals of the sea. In the medieval kabbalist worldview, the history of the world was interpreted through the lens of Behemoth and Leviathan’s combat. Applying this allegory to nations, tellurocracy and thalassocracy, we observe that grand historical conflict follows a trend of land-based nations competing with maritime powers.

Beginning in the early 20th century, a slew of thinkers attached a newfound significance to the aspect of naval power, among them the U.S. Admiral Alfred Mahan, Friedrich Ratzel, and H.J. Mackinder, all descended from nations that experienced a degree of prestige and greatness: the United States, Germany, and Britain respectively. Mahan, who according to Edouard Rix emerges as one of the foremost geopoliticians of the sea, determined that the sea can act against the land, whilst the reverse is not true. Mahan found a great threat in Russia, whose land-based expansion is unrestricted due to its geographical position, a strategical advantage he suggested must be metaphorically strangled via a great alliance of maritime powers.

Following in Mahan’s footsteps is Mackinder, whose fundamental contribution lies in the Heartland, the central-Asian steppe, and her permanent antagonism with the World Island, Asia-Africa-Europe — a notion we will see in one of Dugin’s foremost works, Last War of the World-Island. Mackinder found himself concerned with the intense imperialist rivalry between the Russians and Anglo-Saxons, arising due to Russian expansion in Central Asia and Anglo-Saxon consolidation of South Asia, which culminated in tensions over dominion in Persia. Mackinder postulates, per Edouard Rix‘s summations, two “principal points”:

Russia occupies the pivotal zone inaccessible to maritime power, from which it can undertake to conquer and control the Eurasian continental mass, (2) against Russia, maritime power, starting from its bastions (Great Britain, the United States, South Africa, Australia, and Japan) that are inaccessible to terrestrial power, encircles the latter and prohibits her from freely reaching the open sea.

Mackinder considered the antagonism between capitalism and communism as well as issues arising from the Great Schism, which served as the final nail in the coffin of Christian unity, spawning officially the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, to which Russia was heir after the fall of Byzantium. A key divergence between Mackinder and Mahan is where victory lies, where for Mackinder fate lies in the favor of Eurasia, or Russia who, with the power of the railroad, is much quicker to deploy her forces than Britain with the power of her navy. It was Mackinder’s imperative that Russia is balkanized and that a Berlin-Moscow Axis never materialize, lest it poses a serious, if not a grave challenge to the thalassocracies. Mackinder speculated that Russia, thanks to technological advancement, could achieve autarky and finally cut herself off from reliance on the thalassocratic powers of the sea. The end of the age of maritime had concluded. It was now the age of the land-based empire.

To Mackinder’s chagrin, his foremost ‘successor,’ in the geopolitics of the sea and land would be Karl Haushofer, whose anti-thalassocratic geopolitical stance would not only influence the Conservative Revolutionaries, but the realpolitik of the Third Reich. Following the non-aggression pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany, Haushofer would publish an essay advocating for the alignment of Central Europe, Eurasia (the USSR), and Japan. Haushofer did not just advocate Mackinder’s dreaded Berlin-Moscow Axis, but a Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo pact, one that would finally dislodge the Anglo-Americans from their anaconda-like encirclement of the World Island.

Spykman succeeds Mackinder, his tactics insisted on controlling the maritime ring surrounding Eurasia. The United States’ containment of the Soviet Union mimicked Spykman’s advocacy for gripping the maritime regions bordering the Eurasian Heartland. Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Advisor, and a friend of Obama, brings Leviathan and Behemoth to the modern day. It is China and Russia who must be kept separate at all costs. Utilize Islamists, encircle Russia, ally the post-Soviet nations and so forth.

Who succeeds Haushofer? One might consider Dugin, a name that has become increasingly relevant and recognized in the West due to the Invasion of Ukraine. Like Haushofer, Dugin ‘rejects petty nationalism.’ Dugin’s geopolitical theories are no doubt a part of this geopolitical lineage, himself using the term Eurasia, World Island, and so forth. Dugin is an advocate of multipolarity, an enemy of globalism, the latter he considers to be no better than imperialism. Globalism, for Dugin, erases culture and replaces it with Western morality and ethics, rejecting all else as obsolete and reactionary. Dugin’s geopolitical suggestions have included the Invasion of Ukraine, reclaiming the aforementioned maritime ring, and allying with China, though annexing its northern regions due to their strategic importance and shifting the nation South.

It is without uncertainty that we can declare that this intellectual tradition has no doubt influenced modern geopolitics. Although this analysis is recent, its prevalence in history is not, spanning from Rome and Carthage to Russia and NATO. United States foreign policy has inherited this tradition just as much as Russian foreign policy. The question that remains to be answered is: who will prevail? Behemoth or Leviathan?