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Unchanging Statecraft

It appears that statecraft, the art of governing nations, has changed little through the millennia. Charles de Gaulle reputedly said: France has no friends, only interests. Here he was clearly referring, in the context of his conversation, not to France alone, but to all nation-states.

The frequently quoted saying: Geography is History, expresses the same concept in different words. Why? How are geography and history related? An anonymous internet contributor offers the following well-reasoned answer. Key concepts of geography, such as location, place, and region are tied inseparably to major ideas of history such as time, period, and events. Geography and history in tandem enable learners to understand how events and places have affected each other across time. It is worthwhile remembering the enduring truth of the foregoing in connection with Russia’s recent actions in the Ukraine.

Seen in this context, Putin’s reaction to a potentially less friendly regime in the underbelly of Russia is consistent with China’s reaction to Taiwanese or Tibetan independence, or with the United States to Cuba. In 1854, John Quincy Adams talked of annexing Cuba, which was then governed by Spain, saying “But there are laws of political as well as of physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which by the same law of nature cannot cast her off from its bosom.”

Larry Willmore, in a recent post on his blog thought_du_jour@yahoogroups.co.uk cites an article by journalist Patrick Smith that nicely tempers the current geopolity with the reminder that history does not need to repeat itself. “The first thing to know is that in one form or another spheres of influence have been around as long as there have been human communities. Second, among the primary tasks of our time is to outgrow them. The third thing to know is that we have not yet done so.”

It appears that the world of today is still firmly embedded in phase 1 of Patrick Smith’s 3-stage progress of geopolitical development. The world needs statesmen of courage and vision to move the world to phases 2 and 3.

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