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End of the continental century

RUSI Journal, Jun 1998, Vol. 143, No. 3 By Robert Fry

It is natural at the end of the century to look back at trends and developments
over tIre last hundred years. That this process should coincide n,ith a dramatic
period of strategic change highlights the similarities between the end of this
century and the last. Looking at the changes in strategic climate, Brigadier Robert Fry here points out the increasing polarisation of maritime and continental strategies at the end of the 19th century epitomised in the works of Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Halford Mackinder. While Mahan's work was characterised by a retrospective description of already defunct maritime power, Mackinder was far more forward looking in his understanding of the increasing importance off technological developments in land warfare. Thus as one wrote the obituary to the `Columbian era', the other introduced the 'Continental Cer '. With the triumph of liberal democracy as perhaps the cro,vning development of the latter part of this century, and the attendant dominace of market economics, the strategic landscape has changed yet again to one of globalisation and interdependence, requiring expeditiory forces and secure home defences rather than the continental strategies of yesteryear. This then, Brigadier Fry concludes, is the end of the Continental Century, requiring a maritime national strategy to meet the challenges of new Columbian age.

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