WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING ABOUT THE ACCIDENTAL SUPERPOWER?
“Geopolitics, the influence of geography on nations, made the United States great and will keep it there, writes the author of this ingenious, optimistic overview of America’s superpower status. Zeihan, founder of Zeihan on Geopolitics, adds that America hit the jackpot, geopolitically speaking, inheriting “…the best lands in the world for a very low price in terms of blood, treasure, and time.” He downplays the claim that American power is declining, pointing out that in 1945, we produced one quarter of the world’s gross domestic product and spent as much on the military and controlled as much naval tonnage at the rest of the world combined. The change in 2014: zero. But some things are changing. Resources are diminishing, energy prices are rising, and demographics are inverting. Baby boomers are now retiring to collect benefits paid for by a shrinking number of younger, working taxpayers. The majority of industrialized nations face financial disaster, except America, which faces only inconvenience. Thanks to fracking, oil and gas production are skyrocketing, and America could be energy independent in five years. Thanks to immigration and vast numbers of child-friendly single-family houses, Americans remain younger than nearly every major culture. Within 30 years, Zeihan predicts, some nations (Greece, Libya, Yemen) will collapse, others (Brazil, India, Canada) will shrink, some (Britain, France, Sweden) will muddle through, and a few (Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey) will become aggressive. Self-sufficient in food and energy, America will turn inward, reverting to the role it played before World War II: a global power without global interests. Historical prognostication has a dismal record, but readers will find it difficult to put down this fascinating addition to the “rise and fall of nations” genre.”
“More by luck than by design, America will prosper in the coming decades while the world goes to hell, according to this eye-opening, contrarian survey of geopolitics. Geopolitical analyst Zeihan bases his predictions on “accidental” factors of the U.S.’s terrain (navigable rivers and rich farmland), resources (abundant shale gas and oil), demography (a relatively young, vigorous population), location (oceans that guard against invasion), and economics (vast consumer markets and cheap capital). The rest of the globe, he argues, will suffer from aging populations, dwindling resources, and the lack of a stable modern-day equivalent to the post-WWII Bretton Woods regime, which fostered free trade, protected sea lanes, and served the world’s export market; the collapse of the international order will include the collapse of China, the breakup of Canada, and war in Europe. Zeihan’s freewheeling, very readable analyses draw on historical examples, from ancient Egypt to modern Denmark, and a wealth of statistics, packaged with interesting maps and graphs. His generalizations can seem oversimplified, and his prognostications eccentric, such as the prediction that a “wave of young Uzbeks will wash asunder all foolish enough to stand in their way.” Still, Zeihan’s provocative take on how land, climate, energy, and population determine wealth and power makes for a stimulating challenge to conventional wisdom.”
“In the early twentieth century, theories of geopolitics—which takes geography to be a central factor in international politics—entered a golden age. But in later decades, political theorists began to focus more on economic growth, technology, and ideology. In this intriguing book, Zeihan makes the case that geography still matters. His main claim is that geography has shaped the power of states by facilitating or impeding their economic growth, and he argues that no country has benefited more from its geographic features than the United States. Blessed with the world’s most extensive natural network of waterways, more arable land than any other country, and the unparalleled protection afforded by two vast oceans, the United States could not help but become a global power. China, on the other hand, has been less lucky, with its scattered waterways, limited agricultural land, and insecure frontiers. Zeihan argues that these geographic features make China vulnerable to political fragmentation and overly dependent on a strong central state. When North America’s shale oil revolution and favorable demographic trends are added to Zeihan’s balance sheet, geography seems likely to continue to give the United States an edge for the foreseeable future.”