Prisoners of Geography

Marshall, Tim

If the population were to be given a free vote, the unity of the Han might begin to crack or, more likely, the countryside and urban areas would come into conflict. That in turn would embolden the people of the buffer zones, further weakening China. It is only a century since the most recent humiliation of the rape of China by foreign powers; for Beijing, unity and economic progress are priorities well ahead of democratic principles.

I was treated to a stern lecture about how the full imposition of “what you call human rights” in China would lead to widespread violence and death and was then asked, “Why do you think your values would work in a culture you don’t understand?”

As some of the richer Arab nations came to realize, you cannot buy an efficient military off the shelf.

In the autumn of 1940, the British desperately needed more warships. The Americans had fifty to spare and so, with what was called the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, the British swapped their ability to be a global power for help in remaining in the war. Almost every British naval base in the Western Hemisphere was handed over.

Americans care about Europe, they care about NATO, and they will sometimes act (if it is in the American interest), but Russia is now, for the Americans, mostly a European problem,

The close relationship with Israel may cool, albeit slowly, as the demographics of the United States change. The children of the Hispanic and Asian immigrants now arriving in the United States will be more interested in Latin America and the Far East than in a tiny country on the edge of a region no longer vital to American interests.

Europe’s major rivers do not meet (unless you count the Sava, which drains into the Danube in Belgrade). This partly explains why there are so many countries in what is a relatively small space. Because they do not connect, most of the rivers act, at some point, as boundaries, and each is a sphere of economic influence in its own right; this gave rise to at least one major urban development on the banks of each river, some of which in turn became capital cities.