Skip to comments.Geography Strikes Back (Interesting Essay)
Posted on 09/08/2012 11:52:04 AM PDT by mojito
If you want to know what Russia, China or Iran will do next, don't read their newspapers or ask what our spies have dug upconsult a map. Geography can reveal as much about a government's aims as its secret councils. More than ideology or domestic politics, what fundamentally defines a state is its place on the globe. Maps capture the key facts of history, culture and natural resources. With upheaval in the Middle East and a tumultuous political transition in China, look to geography to make sense of it all.
As a way of explaining world politics, geography has supposedly been eclipsed by economics, globalization and electronic communications. It has a decidedly musty aura, like a one-room schoolhouse. Indeed, those who think of foreign policy as an opportunity to transform the world for the better tend to equate any consideration of geography with fatalism, a failure of imagination.
But this is nonsense. Elite molders of public opinion may be able to dash across oceans and continents in hours, allowing them to talk glibly of the "flat" world below. But while cyberspace and financial markets know no boundaries, the Carpathian Mountains still separate Central Europe from the Balkans, helping to create two vastly different patterns of development, and the Himalayas still stand between India and China, a towering reminder of two vastly different civilizations.
Technology has collapsed distance, but it has hardly negated geography. Rather, it has increased the preciousness of disputed territory.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
Actally I think it was better said.
Globalist ping. Any column this well-written is destined to get seven replies.
All Kaplan’s books are great but the most interesting one regarding global matter is:
Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (2010)
Publication Date: October 19, 2010
On the world maps common in America, the Indian Ocean all but disappears. The Western Hemisphere lies front and center, while the Indian Ocean region is relegated to the edges, split up along the maps outer reaches. This convention reveals the geopolitical focus of the now-departed twentieth century, for it was in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters that the great wars of that era were lost and won. Thus, many Americans are barely aware of the Indian Ocean at all.
But in the twenty-first century this will fundamentally change. In Monsoon, a pivotal examination of the Indian Ocean region and the countries known as Monsoon Asia, bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan deftly shows how crucial this dynamic area has become to American power in the twenty-first century. Like the monsoon itself, a cyclical weather system that is both destructive and essential for growth and prosperity, the rise of these countries (including India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Burma, Oman, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Tanzania) represents a shift in the global balance that cannot be ignored. The Indian Ocean area will be the true nexus of world power and conflict in the coming years. It is here that the fight for democracy, energy independence, and religious freedom will be lost or won, and it is here that American foreign policy must concentrate if America is to remain dominant in an ever-changing world.
From the Horn of Africa to the Indonesian archipelago and beyond, Monsoon explores the multilayered world behind the headlines. Kaplan offers riveting insights into the economic and naval strategies of China and India and how they will affect U.S. interests. He provides an on-the-ground perspective on the more volatile countries in the region, plagued by weak infrastructures and young populations tempted by extremism. This, in one of the most nuclearized areas of the world, is a dangerous mix.
The map of this fascinating region contains multitudes: Here lies the entire arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago, and it is here that the political future of Islam will most likely be determined. Here is where the five-hundred-year reign of Western power is slowly being replaced by the influence of indigenous nations, especially India and China, and where a tense dialogue is taking place between Islam and the United States.
With Kaplans incisive mix of policy analysis, travel reportage, sharp historical perspective, and fluid writing, Monsoon offers a thought-provoking exploration of the Indian Ocean as a strategic and demographic hub and an in-depth look at the issues that are most pressing for American interests both at home and abroad. Exposing the effects of explosive population growth, climate change, and extremist politics on this unstable regionand how they will affect our own interestsMonsoon is a brilliant, important work about an area of the world Americans can no longer afford to ignore.
The tallest building in the world sits on it’s shore surveying all that is to the east.
Political geography is the field of human geography that is concerned with the study of both the spatially uneven outcomes of political processes and the ways in which political processes are themselves affected by spatial structures. Conventionally political geography adopts a three-scale structure for the purposes of analysis with the study of the state at the centre, above this is the study of international relations (or geopolitics), and below it is the study of localities. The primary concerns of the sub-discipline can be summarised as the inter-relationships between people, state, and territory.I think the Kaplan essay could be used as an introduction to a course in political geography, though I don't pretend to have any knowledge of the subject myself. But as a math guy, I do think this field may someday become ripe for quantifying; i.e., turning it into a real science, and getting it out of the realm of the social sciences. Thanks for posting.
i too read MONSOON. very interesting as i am currently research chinese treasure ships and their voyages and keeping current on indian and chinese naval developments
ANYTHING by Kaplan I read with intense interest! I posted that remark out of sheer joy, before reading the first new word he wrote. The man is brilliant.
Geography + demography = history.
Nevertheless, the overall theme is sound and often neglected. On a smaller-scale level, if one is to have a war one must fight it somewhere, and it is a first lesson in every military primer that the terrain is the key. On a larger scale, commerce is still and always has been dictated by trade routes, themselves a function of geography. Larger still, the migration of entire peoples with the enormous cultural and political consequences is demonstrably related to the ground over which they walk and the water over which they sail.
There are, of course, other models. The spread of culture that is related to language, for one - Arabic and Latin by way of religion, English by way of technology - does not appear easily mappable to geography, nor is there any reason it should be. Economic power that is a function of the possession of raw materials - gold, oil - is directly bound to geography; economic power that is a function of manufactured goods - silk, steel - somewhat less so, economic power as a function of trade - the 17th-century Dutch, the 15th-century Italian bankers - still less so.
Lots of models, lots of room for thought. Thanks again for posting and a BTT.
Iran has 276 hydro electric plants.
Think about it.
“Because ethnic minorities in China live in specific regions, the prospect of China breaking apart is not out of the question. That is why Beijing pours Han immigrants into the big cities of Tibet and western Xinjiang province, even as it hands out small doses of autonomy to the periphery and continues to artificially stimulate the economies there.”
Sounds kinda familiar. Just substitute Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, goons, and unions, etc. being artificially stimulated, and you got the same China/Mao model here.
“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography”
— Ambrose Bierce
Elite molders of public opinion may be able to dash across oceans and continents in hours, allowing them to talk glibly of the "flat" world below. But while cyberspace and financial markets know no boundaries, the Carpathian Mountains still separate Central Europe from the Balkans, helping to create two vastly different patterns of development, and the Himalayas still stand between India and China, a towering reminder of two vastly different civilizations....both of which have been armed since time immemorial, and aware of each other. Even if geography were a barrier to fighting a war (it hasn't been in the past) or conquest (ditto), ethnic, cultural, and political boundaries are effectively the only ones which exist. The world isn't a rock hurtling through space -- the world is people.
Hmmm, what's the odds that, if some statisticians succeed in doing that, politics suddenly reduces to an exercise in technocratic despotism?
Oh, wait ..... </s>
Tell that to the GOP-e. They'll call you a dirty socon bigot and show you the door. No such thing as a political or cultural boundary to them -- not when cheap labor's involved.