Geography Made America Great. Has Globalization Undone Its Influence?

In News, SOP News, Art of Travel News by Prof

NY Times: Just over half of America, having voted for Hillary Clinton, awoke the next morning to a country that seems not only unfamiliar but upside-down. Populists embrace a celebrity billionaire, evangelicals welcome a foul-mouthed Lothario, conservatives accept an opportunist whose only ideological commitment is to himself. The Republican establishment proves helpless against the hijacking of the party, the mainstream media prove ineffectual against the tide of fake news and the political system proves vulnerable to the machinations of a sinister foreign government. Longstanding global alliances are questioned, longstanding political norms are trashed — and then the candidate with the three-million-vote plurality loses. In what alternative universe does this make any sense? As Karl Marx said, in a very different context: All that is solid melts into air.

Or maybe not. Maybe the political air is turbulent but the country’s tectonic fundamentals remain solid. Maybe American politics and geopolitics rest on a foundation as immovable as the rivers and plains of the country itself. For those who feel disoriented, and also (perhaps especially) for those who feel triumphant, Robert D. Kaplan’s small but magisterial new book, “Earning the Rockies,” is a tonic, because it brings fundamentals back into view.

With only 180 uncrowded pages of text, this is a book that can be read on a coast-to-coast flight, but fully digesting it will take much longer. Every page brings a fresh insight, a telling aperçu, a bracing reality check. If you do read the book at 30,000 feet, it will make you yearn to be down below. To understand the country, Kaplan posits, one must still “earn the Rockies,” reaching them on terra firma as our ancestors did. “To fly to California and set your clock back three hours is not to know the ground you have covered, because you haven’t seen all the different mornings and evenings along the way.” Read more.