Transport is everything. The ability to cheaply and reliably transport goods and people long distances is the basis of any successful economic power. Diversification of diet improves a population’s health. A broader sweep of usable lands increases its size while introducing strategic depth. Varied terrain improves resource access. All of the above encourages labor specialization and raises levels of wealth.
Add it all together, and cheap, easy transport allows cultures to advance not merely economically, but technologically – and it is these technocratic cultures that develop the greatest reach by any measure you can imagine.
That includes military reach. In times past, it was the high-transport powers that boasted the skilled labor and deep pools of capital required to develop the gunport, the cannon, and compass. In the industrial age, this big military achievements were artillery, railroads, and standing armies. More modern powers have innovated aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and America’s B-2 stealth bombers (above).
There is nothing about the current age that suggests the march of technology is about to stop. Already, the marriage of information technology to pre-existing military fabrication techniques has granted the United States high-definition satellites with global eyes and micro-drones that can fly within buildings. Any locations that boast great balance between transport options and security will continue to have the constellation of factors that allow them to push ever further outward, and upward.
For more about the role of transport in determining national power –in particular American power – see Chapters 2, 3, and 4 of The Accidental Superpower.