Brisk, well written, continent by continent (excluding Australia) survey of how geography is destiny, beginning with Putin going down on his knees every night to ask God why He didn’t put mountains in Ukraine. I really liked the way Marshall organized it, too. The first chapter is Russia and how so much of their actions are dictated by the eternal quest for a warm-water port, the second is China’s equally eternal quest of finding water routes unobstructed by the island archipelago likes of the Philippines and Japan, Russia and South Korea, all except Russia firm American allies, although Russia has as much interest in keeping China within bounds as the US does.
The third chapter is about good old US, and it had not previously occurred to me that geography is why we are who we are. I mean, yeah, I understand about the insulating effect of being between two oceans, but Marshall says that if someone had sat down and drawn the perfect base for world domination, they would have come up with, you guessed it, US. Partly this is because of all that wonderful farmland but it’s also partly because we’re home to the world’s longest navigable rivers, so we can get all that grain to market.
He lays out why the entire continent of Africa is becoming a Chinese colony (the first bank I saw walking into downtown Marrakesh was the Bank of China), and the chapter on India and Pakistan is a pocket history of the region and it will not cheer you to learn that, again, geography dictates that nothing is resolved there anytime soon, or ever. One Indian politician is even on record as saying they ought to just nuke Pakistan and deal with the literal and figurative fallout so India can move on without the Pakistani thorn in their sides. Jesus. Marshall is also amusingly shirty about the Arab Spring, which he pretty conclusively demonstrates was romanticized by Western writers into a transformative event that was no such thing on the ground.
Marshall is a BBC journalist who knows how to get to the meat of the story in efficient, competent prose that still makes for an enthralling read. Not a needless word anywhere. Highly recommended.
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