“The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder” by Peter Zeihan was my first introduction to Geopolitics. The first thought that comes to mind is WOW! The eye-opening concepts of how a country’s geographic location defines their status are staggering. Peter is a geopolitical strategist who covers the advantages and disadvantages that geography imposes.
The book’s beginning explains the international meeting on July 1, 1944, at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. This meeting had one of the most substantial impacts on the planet regarding world trade and politics. A gathering of 730 delegates from forty-four allied nations, the Bretton Woods agreements allowed worldwide trade between countries with reduced tariffs, customs restrictions, and clearinghouses. These agreements would be protected by the U.S. Navy, even if the work was not with the United States.
With the Bretton Woods agreements’ explanation, I understood how current policies are still affected by those agreements today. The introduction of these agreements lays the foundation for the rest of the book. Peter explains how shale oil, a product retrieved through fracking, provides a natural resource to the United States that rivals and even exceed the capability of middle eastern countries. These resources allow the United States to sit back and take its time to decide if and when they want to project power around the world. The ability to determine when they want to act provides a significant advantage to the United States.
I was initially thrown off by the amount Peter discussed shale oil. I started to believe this book would lead down a trail to try and get everyone who read it, onboard with fracking. Peter clarifies that he is objective in his writing, which becomes evident as he lays out the realistic evidence to support what he explains throughout the book. The book focuses less on shale oil’s environmental impacts and more on how the United States flourishes from its supply. The natural resource becomes essential as you realize that the United States is approaching a point where it will not require the benefits initially received from the Bretton Wood agreements.
Another portion of the book that I found intriguing was the explanation of how Eqypt grew. Peter explains that the landscape and climate protecting Egypt from outside forces for an extended period. This protection was two-sided; however, anyone inside the landscape of multiple mountains and open deserts could not leave easily. The Nile River provided the Egyptians with a river to travel between villages, reliable water, and high-fertility soil. Egypt’s location allowed it to grow without interference from outsiders while providing everything required to succeed as a community.
I firmly believe this book should be the first step in researching and understanding geopolitics. Peter explains how location, landscape, climate, and luck can affect how a country will survive in today’s world through countries like Egypt, Russia, China, and the United States. Recognizing how location can determine a country’s success, I realized how fortunate the United States is with its location in such a forgiving location.
Capt Ryan A. Blakeney is an U.S. Air Force Instructor Pilot at the RQ-4B Weapons Instructor Course. You can find more work from Ryan at his website: https://ryanblakeney.com
The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and do not reflect those of the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.