The Revenge of Geography

Part III – America’s Destiny

Chapter XV – Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy

By Robert D. Kaplan

The Revenge of Geography 3In the first instalment of this article, we looked at the base discussions of the book. Then in the second instalment, our focus was on India’s Geopolitical Dilemma in view of The Early-Twenty Century Map.

In the third part, Robert Kaplan takes up his analysis from the point of view of America’s Destiny. In Chapter XV – Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy – he has utilized Fernand Braudel’s one of the most influential works – The Mediterranean and The Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II . Barudel’s geographic compass identifies the Mediterranean as a complex of seas near a The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume 1great desert of Sahara. Braudel’s story is not really one of individual man overriding the obstacles, but rather of men and their societies subtly being moulded by impersonal and deeply structural forces. Braudel, with his writings establishes the literary mood-context for an era of scarcity and environmentally driven events in an increasingly water-starved, congested planet.

It is impossible to speculate on how geopolitics will play out over the inhuman time frame of much of Braudel’s analysis, especially given the controversy over climate change and its effect on specific regions. Precisely because Braudel places the events of humankind against the pressure of natural forces, our thinking facilitates on the longue duree (English- the long term).

Thus from the viewpoint of distant future, while US deeply focuses on Afghanistan and other parts of Greater Middle East, a massive state failure was developing right on America’s south border. It goes far beyond Eurasia, but is rooted in North American geography.

America is bordered by oceans to east and west, and to the north by Canadian Arctic. It is southwest where America is vulnerable. Much like Indian subcontinent in Northwest, it stresses civilization in the region. On much the similar the then historical perspective, the income gap between US and Mexico is largest between any two contiguous countries in the world.

Half the length of America’s southern frontier is an artificial boundary line in the desert established by the treaties following the Mexican- American war of 1846-1848.

Since 1940, Mexico’s population has risen more than five-fold. The North-Mexico’s population had more than doubled since NAFTA was signed in 1994. The irony is that Mexico registers far less in the elite imagination of the East Coast than does , Israel, China or even India. Yet Mexico could affect America’s destiny more than any other countries.

The fact that most of the drug-related homicides have occurred in only six of Mexico’s thirty-two states, mostly in North – another indicator of how North Mexico is separating out from the rest of country. The Us shares a 2000-mile border with narcotics controlled powerful multinational drug cartels.

America is a nation of Anglo-Protestant settlers and immigrants, with former providing philosophical and cultural backbone of the society. Only by adopting Anglo-Protestant culture do immigrants become American. America’s classical liberalism emerges from the very fact that it was born Protestantism. This creed might be subtly undone by and advancing Hispanic, catholic, pre-Enlightment society… While the Americans champion diversity, the current immigrant wave is actually the least diverse in America’s history.

Geography is at the forefront of all these arguments. Most of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah were part of Mexico until of 1835-36 Texan War of Independence and 1846-48 Mexican-American War. Incidentally, some these states also have a rich deposits of Shale Gas. The exploration of this shale gas has been able to convert the US from a net importer to a potential net exporter of the fossil-fuel.

Mexico is the only country that US has invaded, occupied its capital and annexed a good deal of its territory. Consequently, Mexicans arrive in US, settle in the areas of the country that were once part of their homeland, and so ‘enjoy a sense of being on their own turf’ that other immigrants do not share. Mexican Americans into their third generation maintain their competence in their native language to far greater degree than other migrants, largely because the concentration of the Hispanic communities.

America will actually emerge, in the course of 21st century a Polynesian–cum-mestizo civilization, oriented from north-to-south rather than as east-to-west, racially, lighter-skinned island in the temperate zone stretching from Atlantic to the Pacific. It will be brought closer to the rest of world not only by technology, but by the pressure of Mexican and Central America’s demography.

But this vision requires a successful Mexico, not the failed one. A stable and prosperous Mexico, working in organic concert with pro-America Columbia, could fuse together the Western Hemisphere’s largest, the third largest and fourth largest countries in terms of population.

Mexico is now at cross-road; it is either in the early phase of finally taking on cartels or it is sinking into further disorder or both. Because its future hangs in balance, what US does could be pivotal.

As Arnold J Toynbee notes[1], a border between a highly developed society and a less developed society will not attain equilibrium, but advance in favour of the backward society.

Thus, America’s economic power, cultural power, moral power, and even political and military power will be substantially affected by whether it can develop, into a cohesive, bilingual supra-state-of-sorts, with Mexico and Canada.

Finally, “Global war, as well as global peace means that all fronts and all areas are interrelated. No matter how remote they are from each other, success or failure in one will have an immediate and determining effect on the others.” This is far truer than it was in 1944 when that statement was published posthumously.[2]


[1] Arnold J Toynbee – A Study of History

[2] Nicholas John Spykman, The Geography of Peace (1944)