As the Art of Blogging says writing posts takes time. A couple of days ago we said we were going to have two posts linking Kevin Williamson and maps but each of them proved more time consuming than we thought.
Alert: We are heading off continent to places that might make blogging difficult. Any post could be the last one until about Christmas. End Alert.
Maps were one of our first loves. We still love them and we especially love the paper kind that we grew up with. We remember getting the state road atlas and checking for new Interstates because they were new then. We checked to find the town with the smallest population in each state. It was no surprise that we got Prisoners Of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About The World by Tim Marshall as a birthday present. Here is his website where you can buy the book. It is worth buying and reading.
Sidebar: We take expertise very seriously. Some parts of this review are a bit speculative. We will try to keep you informed. End Sidebar.
Tim has written Geo-politics 101 without the theory. Despite our love of maps we tend to see the world economically so it was worthwhile for us but we need another book to extend our education. Tim’s book will be interesting and useful to lots of folks because it is exactly about ten maps. Whoever wrote the subtitle that the maps explain everything is way overstating Tim’s case. He thinks that geography is important but just that. He uses ten maps as examples. On page 7, Tim talks about obeying and ignoring the rules of geography but the only one he seems to give is when the land is hard to defend the leaders push outwards. Then he gives Russia as the example of the rule. Rules need more than one example.
A minor quibble is the quality of the maps. They are sometimes hard to read and sometimes leave off some of Tim’s main topics. For example, the maps of Pakistan on p. 188 and p. 194 leave off Gwadar. The Chinese investment in Gwadar is a major issue in both the China map and the India and Pakistan map. Gwadar does show up in the map that opens India and Pakistan on pp. 180-181. We know the problems about the economics of publishing but better maps would help.
Here is where will will push the limits of our expertise to try and help you understand Tim’s book. We don’t want this post to be book length so we can’t be very academic. Consider Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, and Kevin Williamson as authors. Although one might try and excommunicate the others from the conservative denomination, most of us recognize all of them as very different but still conservative.
Our take is that Ann is a prosecutor. She is marshaling the evidence to try and prove her case. If there are any weaknesses in her arguments you will not hear it from her. She keeps herself on task and deals with a specific subject for a popular audience. Given her legal background her writing style is not a surprise.
Jonah is an academic at heart. The appendix in Suicide of the West is one piece of evidence. The second is that he wants to generalize but he recognizes the difficulty of generalization and so he often considers alternative arguments. He wants to write a popular book that an academic could enjoy.
Kevin loves controversy. He tweeted some things that got him fired at The Atlantic. That he went to The Atlantic in the first place tells you something about him. He has amazing insights that he thunders down upon us in wonderful prose.
Tim isn’t interested in being Jonah. He wants to be Kevin but he will have to settle to be Ann. An example of why he isn’t the other two is Tim’s discussion of Venezuela in Latin America. It is brief but it leaves out that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. That is a big part of its geography. To convince the unconvinced you must deal with the obvious problems in argument you are trying to make.
We recommend Tim’s book. It gave us much to think about and changed our perspective in some areas. If you don’t take every word as the gospel you will be better for reading it. We are.