What is the geopolitical geography of the modern world? The geo-politician strategists of the late 1800s like Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Halford Mackinder wrote about what they suggested were the guiding principles for geographic control of the world for the 20th century. Mahan’s point of view was that whoever controls the world’s oceans controls the world’s ports and thereby the world’s continents. This theory was a riposte to a slightly earlier one by Mackinder, who posited that whoever controlled the heartland of Eurasia controlled the world continent and thereby the world. Hitler’s policies were influenced by Mackinder’s theories and he tried to capture the heartland of Poland and the USSR but was defeated eventually by the United States who sought to control the world’s oceans. In hindsight it appears obvious that whoever controlled the air controlled both the ground and the sea. The United States has invested heavily in that policy ever since the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese defeat at Midway demonstrated control of the air was essential. All of this has changed in the public’s mind, but has it changed in the facts of the always ongoing world power struggle.
What is it that the controllers of power are seeking? These people are not like you and me in some of their basic motivations. Those who have the power to annihilate humanity within their grasp, and who know that if they make certain kinds of mistakes that eventuality may come to pass, must be different in some fundamental way. Or are they? Probably they are not very different, and the difference is primarily in placing a portion of their attention on issues which most of us never have to think about. Most of us live within the laws of the land, and therefore treat each other reasonably well. We can do that because if other people seriously violate our rights we have legal protections which we can turn to for security. The heads of state of major countries have no one they can turn to when they and their countries’ rights are violated. Thus what these leaders must do is strive with all their power and cunning to maintain their office and to preserve the nation and its institutions which they preside over.
So what they must control is a vast mixture of complex issues which confer control and stability. These things are always fluctuating and sometimes even normal fluctuations of various common things can combine to form a super-event. Let me approach this on a time scale for heads of state:
What a leader needs to control, based on a time scale.
- Control one’s self in the present at all times!
- Identify and keep loyal a few competent people.
- Do presentations which inspire groups of people to the cause.
- Identify the key points which must be controlled.
- Secure these and prevent others from approaching them.
Mahan and Mackinder both sought to control the surface of the Earth and the people upon it, and they were accurate in their assessments in a world dominated by trains and steamships for moving quantities of men and materials great distances. By mid-century those were still the way to move things, but they could be destroyed from the air and so control devolved to where one could place airplanes with range enough to dominate. Thus the U.S. spent huge amounts of cash building a fleet of aircraft carriers and bombers capable of going anywhere in the world. Then came the ability to launch space missiles with ultimate weapons, which are held back for MAD missions. Mutually Assured Destruction. These can’t be used so nations are forced to use conventional weapons to exert power.
What a nation needs to control, based on a time scale.
- Its people’s sense of identity.
- Its people’s lives.
- Its borders from aggressors.
- Its food and water supply.
- Its natural resources.
What needs to be controlled in the modern world.
- The means of information distribution.
- The money supply.
- Natural resources. Oil, coal, gas.
- The creation of new technology.
This is a very short list of critical things in the most general possible words, but without which there is no control. In the modern world, for a short while, the unusual thing to be controlled is the creation of new technology. If something comes up which is a game changer, whoever develops it first will be in control of the world. There are far more scientists and engineers working on things now than ever before, and we know how many times a new technology changed the world. This year it appears to be the cell phone, social networking and Craig Venter’s creation of new forms for creating life. Each of these could be world-changing.
Life is always exciting, but this time it is technology which is controlling the future.