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"Prisoners of Geography" by Tim Marshall

Tim Marshall
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
Geopolitics is one name for what used to be known as “land-grabbing“ and now is better seen as “asset-grabbing.“ The asset may be oil, minerals, metals or strategic locations. The nineteenth Century saw Africa become involved in a race for, above all, gold and diamonds. The result was a number of well stuffed bank accounts (especially King Leopold of the Netherlands), and map-imposed divisions into countries (many in the Middle East) with little or no consideration of local needs or ethnic concerns. The author cites a number of examples which reinforce his points - notably the Congo.

The author argues that geography determines the fate of many countries. Poland, on the north european plain, and sandwiched between Russia and Germany has often been subject to invasion - particularly when it proved to be the route to either Russia or Germany for invading armies. Countries on the periphery of the major land masses have one main function: to allow access to those land masses. If they have assets worth taking then that is all the better.

Political cynicism is only hinted at in the book, but there must still be questions in people's minds about Zimbabwe for example: why, when the world (well a part of it anyway) condemns the electoral system and the human rights abuses, is there no real action to correct this. The answer to the cynical has to be: no oil.

The author stresses the importance of geography in determining the condition and status of nations; the fault, if any, in this argument nowadays is the power of airlift, the reach of non-nuclear cruise missiles and air lifted smart weapons, added to the sheer bloody-mindedness of troops when faced with an obstacle considered impossible to surmount.

The book does give an historical background to many of the areas and countries it covers, which is of value. It is, by the nature of its subject and the way it is treated, merely an introduction to geopolitics and geo-strategy, but it is worth reading as a commentary on the subject, albeit brief in some cases.
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