French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and UN Climate Change Official Christiana Figueres at the Paris Climate Conference, December, 2015.
STEPHANE MAHE / REUTERS

Foreign policy experts have long been taught to see the world as a chessboard, analyzing the decisions of great powers and anticipating rival states’ reactions in a continual game of strategic advantage. Nineteenth-century British statesmen openly embraced this metaphor, calling their contest with Russia in Central Asia “the Great Game.” Today, the TV show Game of Thrones offers a particularly gory and irresistible version of geopolitics as a continual competition among contending kingdoms.

Think of a standard map of the world, showing the borders and capitals of the world’s 190-odd countries. That is the chessboard view.

Now think of

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