The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder

In This Review

The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder
By Peter Zeihan
Twelve, 2014
384 pp. $28.00
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In the early twentieth century, theories of geopolitics—which takes geography to be a central factor in international politics—entered a golden age. But in later decades, political theorists began to focus more on economic growth, technology, and ideology. In this intriguing book, Zeihan makes the case that geography still matters. His main claim is that geography has shaped the power of states by facilitating or impeding their economic growth, and he argues that no country has benefited more from its geographic features than the United States. Blessed with the world’s most extensive natural network of waterways, more arable land than any other country, and the unparalleled protection afforded by two vast oceans, the United States could not help but become a global power. China, on the other hand, has been less lucky, with its scattered waterways, limited agricultural land, and insecure frontiers. Zeihan argues that these geographic features make China vulnerable to political fragmentation and overly dependent on a strong central state. When North America’s shale oil revolution and favorable demographic trends are added to Zeihan’s balance sheet, geography seems likely to continue to give the United States an edge for the foreseeable future.