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306 pages, Paperback
First published July 9, 2015
1. I am a historical geographer by inclination and education, and I have taught history and geography. I have also published articles in leading scholarly journals.
2. I have read the forward and the first half of the first section concerning Russia and cannot read further.
3. Tim Marshall is an incredibly ignorant smug ass and the living avatar of the Dunning-Kruger effect. This is an opinion I formed of him while reading this book. This opinion is not one I believe any new information short of meeting him and having him explain that he wrote this book as a cruel joke can shake. I sincerely believe that this book is a confidence scheme working upon people's innocence and does real harm.
1. Marshall believes that nations are the natural political unit, and are optimally composed of a uniform ethnic identity.
1a. Marshall thinks that boundaries are real things and that ethno-nationalism would solve all this warfare thing we seem to have trouble with.
2. Marshall conflates 'history' with 'military history' and that all wars are an attempt to avoid the next war by finding natural borders.
3. Marshall is entirely unaware of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. [Thanks to Oguz for the correction]
4. Marshall is capable of phrasings like "...in order to extend their global reach around the world" (page xvi in my edition).
4a. Another howler: "The Pact was supposed to be made of iron, but with hindsight by the early 1980s was rusting, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it crumbled to dust." I defy anyone to diagram that sentence.
5. Marshall is entirely ignorant of any history that precedes 2001 except for what he can plagiarize from the Wikipedia blurb you see at the head of a Google search.
6. Marshall can't even keep his own fake history straight enough to make it through the entirely mischaracterized history of the Rus without contradicting himself endlessly (First we are told that the Urals are impassible and prevent invasions from Asia. A couple of paragraphs later the Mongols almost destroy the Rus during their invasion from Asia, across the Urals).
7. Extra Credit:See if you can find the page where Marshall writes so ineptly that he suggests that military aircraft use concrete as fuel
7a. See if you can find the page where he claims Putin thinks only about three things: God, mountains, and pizza. I would enjoy hearing Marshall explain to which of these categories belongs disrupting western democracies through a sustained campaign of social media disinformation.
8. The word 'bear' is not Russian Marshall, you stupid lazy bastard. It is Germanic in origin. Look stuff up.
9. Marshall thinks that "time zone" is a unit of measure. By that system, Antarctica is unimaginably vast. Were Russia rotated 90 degrees it would occupy many fewer time zones. Also, were Russia located along the equator but of the same area and shape, it would again occupy many fewer time zones.
10. Marshall questions Putin's assessment of the collapse of the USSR as a "major geopolitical disaster". I would argue that the postscript has borne out that opinion, largely because of its role in enabling the rise of Putin's authoritarian Russian state out of Yeltsin's equally vicious kleptocracy, let alone the resulting regional destabilization.
11. Marshall attempts a defense of Sarah Palin's "you can see Russia from Alaska" comment as though it were a sensible response to a question about her foreign policy experience. Marshall's argument is essentially that because that statement is factually true, Palin is not as incurably stupid as himself. If that premise were so, my looking at the moon qualifies me to head NASA.
12. There is a passage of absolutely insane nonsense about China slowly conquering Siberia through the clever subterfuge of Chinese restaurants. Really.
13. Marshall wants to argue that Africa is impoverished because of its 'geographic isolation'. Odd that Africa, which is so close to Europe and Asia that it is actually connected, was not too isolated that it was protected from five centuries of European resource exploitation and slaving.
14. Marshall explicitly points to the Southern Cone of South America as another region too remote from civilization to be prosperous. If that argument made any sense at all, then Colombia, Haiti, and El Salvador would be richer and more developed than Argentina and Chile.
15. Everything else Marshall wrote but I have not mentioned is equally illogical and factually incorrect. Those passages are still stupid and wrong, just less entertainingly stupid and wrong.
The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the power, politics and social development of the people that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth... The choices of those who lead the seven billion inhabitants of this planet will to some degree always be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lakes and seas that constrain us all - as they always have.