In This Review

The Geography of War and Peace: From Death Camps to Diplomats
The Geography of War and Peace: From Death Camps to Diplomats
By Colin Flint
Oxford University Press, 2004, 480 pp

Geopolitics -- the view that geography creates its own enduring strategic logic that states ignore at their peril -- seems antiquated in these postcolonial days. The military importance of distance has been challenged by advances in the means of transport and communication and by the range of modern weapons. Nor does geopolitics fit well with modern academic fashion. Flint describes the "one single purpose" of this book as to debunk geopolitical theorist Nicholas Spykman's view that "geography is the most important factor in foreign policy because it is the most permanent" -- a purpose easily achieved. The many and varied essays that demonstrate how to approach the concept of "space" cover such topics as nationalism, religion, gender, peace movements, natural resources, water, and drug trafficking. The best pieces, which tend to be more focused and historical, provide real insight. The more general tend to be less satisfactory, especially after one has gotten used to the idea that "war/peace and geography are mutually constituted and socially constructed." Although from different points on the ideological spectrum, there is much here that is reminiscent of the old geopolitician's habit of allowing political prejudice to masquerade as scholarly analysis.