Revenge of Geography

Great book to follow up on Accidental Superpower, slightly more academic and much more depth. Kaplan spends more time discussing history geopolitical understanding, as well as on deeper exploration into various regions around the world.

Starting with Central Europe, he works through the rest of Europe, the Eurasian Heartland, Russia, China and neighboring seas, Japan, Southeast Asia, India and the subcontinent, and the Middle East, finishing with an analysis of the US especially in regards to Mexico.

Indian Subcontinent

I was particularly interested in the tension in between India and Pakistan (given my family origins). The subcontinent has a more complex geography than it appears at first: India is broken up by horizontal rivers on a vertically organized peninsula, and further by highlands and mountain regions. This has prevented a unified India for much of its existence, despite partial consolidation of power in the north or south at various time periods. Kaplan states that historically, control of the subcontinent has stemmed from joint control of Delhi and Lahore. The formation of Pakistan is a geographical anomaly and a curiosity in that the border between the two nuclear nations has become hyper-militarized without any sort of true “geographical logic” as grounds. The steppe from Afghanistan (another almost-failed state whose mountainous geography defies central control) to northern India has no defined demarcation. To Kaplan, Pakistan represents the history of invasion of India from the northwest, poised on the border in nation-state form.

USA/Mexico

The US-Canada border is geographically logical: there is the intra-Canadian isolation affected by the Canadian Shield, dense forestation on the border, and the Canadian climate driving the population to be pushed up against the southern fringe. The US-Mexico border is not this way. Kaplan points out that the American tactic of investment in remote conflicts in the Middle-East is trivially misguided (or at least that continued investment will be) compared to investment in assisting in the development in Mexico. Militarized borders trend economically and sociopolitically in the direction of the less developed nation: the solution is that a more developed and stable Mexico will create joint prosperity in the US. Over time, Mexican immigration into the US will see a demographics shift (especially in the southwestern states) which has already begun, an increase in Latino and Spanish-speaking peoples which will influence the culture of the country.

Kaplan emphasizes the joint importance (and long-term prevalence) of geography with the actions of “Great People” to self-determine. He has no illusions that geography is not a predetermined fate — and also no illusions about ignoring geographical lessons in the hopes of a post-geography world.

Highly recommended.

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