Entries with Categories Global Affairs Book reviews .

[Geoffry Sloan, Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History. Routledge. New York, 2017. 251 p.]


review / Emili J. Blasco

Today we are witnessing a frequent use of the term geopolitics that is often devoid of content. After decades of the word being stigmatized, given the contamination it suffered in the first third of the twentieth century by elaborations such as Lebensraum, its employment It has become widespread in recent years as China and Russia have begun to take positions in the new post-unipolar world order. However, it is not uncommon to speak of geopolitics as a mere synonym for international relations, without a specific meaning.

Remembering the strict value of the concept, stripping it of trivializations or misunderstandings, is the purpose by Geoffrey Sloan, a British academic specialising in Halford Mackinder, one of the great names in geopolitics. Sloan understands this as a "tripartite construction" of geography, strategy, and history, elements that give rise to the degree scroll of his book.

The author locates the dawn of geopolitics in a "first wave" of thinkers distant in time and in their philosophical conceptions, such as Aristotle, Machiavelli and Montesquieu, but it was not until the "second wave", at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, when the discipline adopt that name and define its contours with the help of Ratzel, Mahan, Mackinder, Haushofer... After a long period of ostracism, because it was considered that some totalitarianisms had fed on the ravings of certain schools, at the beginning of the 21st century the term geopolitics resurfaces. However, in Sloan's opinion, it is affected by a triple problem: its lack of definition, the lack of bibliography and its confusion with realpolitik.

Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History

Today, people have begun to talk about geopolitics so often that it has lost its proper meaning. "The term geopolitics has enjoyed a ghostly life after death, becoming used everywhere while being drained of substantive theoretical content, and is used in so many ways that it has become meaningless, if there is no further specification," warns a statement. quotation by S. R. Gokmen.

In contrast to its generic use, assimilated to that of international politics, Sloan defends its original meaning, absolutely attached to geography. "Although all the politics of a state do not derive from its geography," say the 1938 words of Nicholas Spykman—another classic of geopolitics—that open the book, "the state cannot escape that geography. Size, shape, location, topography and climate provide conditions from which there is no escape, no matter how qualified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or how resourceful the General Staff may be."

The temporal break in geopolitical thought – Sloan notes that no book on geopolitics was published in English between 1945 and 1977 – may explain why many today have lost track of the strict geographical content of the term. But even among those who seem to want to give it a specific meaning, there is the confusion of assimilating geopolitics with the realist theory of international relations. According to Sloan, "Perhaps the most common misconception about geopolitical theory is its symbiotic relationship to the realist approach. It maintains that all thinking about international relations should begin with the recognition of the primacy of power and that geographical factors are a vital part of the evaluation of power." The author warns that in geopolitics there is also room for an idealistic approach, since it is not something tied to the administrative state nor is it exclusively identified with conservative political ideologies.

Sloan proposes a "trinitarian structure" of geopolitics, in a diagram where the relationship between geography and strategy generates geostrategy, the relationship between geography and history gives rise to historical geography, and the relationship between history and strategy derives into diplomatic history.

The approach of the work is in its first part theoretical, and then gives way to certain historical concretions, for the most part in the light of concepts elaborated by Mackinder.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

[Gabriel Tortella, Capitalism and Revolution. One essay of contemporary economic and social history. Gadir. Madrid, 2017. 550 pages]


review / Manuel Lamela Gallego

The main goal The aim of this book is to offer an extensive view of contemporary history, in order to make us able to understand the wonderful, yet overwhelming, complexity of the world in which we currently live. To accomplish this task, the work has a real approach multidisciplinary, with economic history as the focal point meeting and reference letter for the rest of the social sciences. Consequently, the book offers us an accurate economic and social analysis, but without ever forgetting the political, a factor that the author considers essential for the true understanding of past events.

With this look at the past in order to observe the near future with greater lucidity and clarity in the final chapters, Gabriel Tortella completes, improves and nourishes with a greater issue of reflections and thoughts in his previous work, "The Origins of the Twentieth Century" (2005). Economic historian of B After an academic life and internationally recognized, the author presents us with an entertaining study that will undoubtedly awaken in the reader an interest in the study of contemporary history.

To do this, the author takes us by the hand to what he calls the first World Revolution (the author actually goes back to more remote times to, in a brilliant chapter, explain the triumph of Europe and how it will lead and lead this process). This development The historical revolution is made up of the so-called Atlantic revolutions or bourgeois revolutions, led by England (17th) and Holland (16th-17th) and followed by the rest of Europe and the American continent during the last decades of the eighteenth century and almost the entire nineteenth century. Finally, the Industrial Revolution that began in the British Isles during the eighteenth century brought this First World Revolution to a close.

Already here, the author tells us sample his acuity as a historical analyst in distinguishing between the bourgeois revolution and the industrial revolution, concluding that an evolutionary process is being followed: first, a revolution of a political nature is necessary that results in advances both at the social and economic levels, as was the case in England, with an increase in maritime trade, development parliamentarism, changes in agriculture... The latter will eventually lead to an Industrial Revolution where progress and improvement will be total and will encompass all areas of human society. This reflection explains and crystallizes the status It was lived in Europe during the eighteenth century, where we found societies like the English, practically submerged in its industrialization, and at the same time societies like the French, still immersed in its bourgeois revolution.

Capitalism and Revolution. One essay of contemporary economic and social history

The author marks another turning point in the historical evolution at the end of the Belle Époque and the beginning of the First World War, in 1914. As he did previously, he will name the process, which began in the early part of the 20th century and culminated in its second half, as the Second World Revolution. When the author speaks of revolution, he is in no way referring to the Russian Revolution or Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, nor to the series of totalitarianisms that arose during the interwar period. For Gabriel Tortella, these events are nothing more than monstrous experiences destined to remain silent in the dustbin of history. When the author speaks here of revolution, he is referring to the consolidation of the social-democratic state based on the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes.

Next, the author makes a historical-economic review, reaching the economic recession that occurred in 2008. The author concludes by explaining the reason for the triumph of capitalism: a capitalism undoubtedly renewed and shaped by the different crises that have occurred since 1945. A conclusion that can be summed up in the almost prophetic phrase used by the author of: "Tomorrow Capitalism" (p. 498).

Tortella devotes the last pages of his book to reflecting on the present and the time to come. Taking stock of the last 250 years and far from dark futures, we sample how humanity, after several decades of a development Unprecedented, it is at its peak in terms of living standards and conditions. Despite this well-founded optimism, the author also warns us of serious problems that humanity will have to face in order to move forward in its progress. The author considers the overpopulation and lack of demographic control in third world countries to be the great problem of our time.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

[Omar Jaén Suárez, 500 years of the Pacific Basin. Towards a global history. Ediciones Doce Calles, Aranjuez 2016, 637 pages]


review / Emili J. Blasco

In just thirty years, between Columbus' arrival in America in 1492 and Elcano's return to Cadiz after his round-the-world voyage in 1522, Spain added to its domain not only a new continent, but also a new ocean. We all know about Spain's Atlantic dimension, but we often disregard its peaceful dimension. During the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the Pacific Ocean was primarily under Spanish dominion. Spain was the European power present for the longest time and with the greatest weight in the entire basin of what began to be called the South Sea. Spain was the first navy that regularly patrolled its waters - the Armada del Sur, based in El Callao, Peru - and Spain was the first trade route that periodically crossed it from side to side - the Manila galleon, between the Philippines and Mexico.

500 years of the Pacific Basin. Towards a global history

In "500 years of the Pacific Basin. Toward a global history", Panamanian diplomat and historian Omar Jaén Suárez does not limit himself to documenting that Spanish and then Hispanic presence in a vast space -one third of the Earth's sphere and half of its waters- whose eastern margin is the coast of Spanish America. As degree scroll indicates, his is a global history. But to approach the last half millennium means that it starts from the fact that the Spanish conquered the Pacific Ocean and that this is a global history. finding of the Pacific by the Spaniards and that determines the approach of the narration.

If Anglo-Saxon historiography would have perhaps used another prism, in this book the accent is placed on the development of the entire Pacific account from the arrival of the first Europeans, with Nuñez de Balboa at the head. Without forgetting the colonizing facts of other powers, the author details aspects that the Spanish do forget, such as the permanent base that Spain had in Formosa (today Taiwan), the attempts of the Crown to keep Tahiti or the voyages through Alaska in search of a sea passage to the north of America, which had as a logistic point the island of Quadra and Vancouver, the great Canadian city today known only by the second part of that name (in fact, Spain neglected to populate Oregon, more interested in the Philippines and trade with the Moluccas): quite a pioneering "turn to Asia").

Being from Panama gives Omar Jaén, who has also lived in Spain, a special sensitivity for his subject study. The Panamanian isthmus has always been the key to the South Sea for the Old World; with the construction of the canal, Panama is also a transit point between East and West.

The careful edition of this work adds an indisputable value. Almost eight hundred maps, graphs, engravings and photographs make it especially visual. The quantity of illustrations, many in full color, and the good weight of the paper make the volume thicker, in a printing that constitutes a luxury for anyone interested in the Pacific. Ediciones Doce Calles has taken great care with this first degree scroll of a new collection, Pictura Mundi, dedicated to celebrating travels, explorations and geographical discoveries.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Latin America

[Robert Kaplan, Earning the Rockies. How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World. Random House. New York, 2017. 201 pages]


REVIEW / Iñigo Bronte Barea

Despite rising powers in conventional geopolitics, the United States today remains unopposed due to geography as an overwhelming advantage for the US. As such, the country is blessed with a trifecta of comparative advantages. The country is bound by oceans on both sides, lacks any real threat from its neighbors, and contains an almost perfect river network.

Throughout the book, Author Robert D. Kaplan guides the reader as he travels the US, portraying how geography impacts the livelihood of its population, analyzes the concerns of its citizens, and studies how the country achieved its current composition from a historical lens.

The author introduces the topic by arguing that the world's security during the 20th and 21st century largely depended on the political unity and stability of the United States. Kaplan crosses the country to study how geography helped the US attain the position that they have in the world. The title of his book, "Earning the Rockies," emphasizes the importance of the fact that in order to achieve western part of nowadays US, it would be necessary to first control the East, the Midwest, and the Great American Desert.

During his travels, Kaplan brought three books to reinforce his staff experiences on the road. His first book was "The Year of Decision: 1846" from the DeVoto trilogy of the West. From this text, Kaplan learns that America's first empirical frontier was not in the Caribbean or Philippines, but earlier in the western part of the country itself. Kaplan also stresses the idea that the solitude and dangers of the old West are today very present in the common American character. In particular, he argues such values remain manifested in the extremely competitive capitalist system and the willingness of its population for military intervention. The last and most important idea that Kaplan gleans from DeVoto was that the defining feature of US greatness today is based ultimately on the country being a nation, an empire and a continent, all rolled into one.

Kaplan starts his journey in the spring of 2015 in Massachusetts. He wanted to contemplate the American continent and its international role, and the one that must be expected for it in the coming years; he wanted to discover this while hearing people talking, to discover what are their real worries.

Back on the East coast, Kaplan traces the country's origins after the independence of the thirteen colonies in 1776. Kaplan starts his eastern journey by examining the US from a historical perspective and how it grew to become a global force without equal. Primarily, Kaplan argues that the US did so by first becoming an army before the US became a nation. For the author, President Theodore Roosevelt was the one who realized that the conquest of the American West set the precedent for a foreign policy of active engagement worldwide.

Earning the Rockies. How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World.

Kaplan continues his travels through the Great Lakes region; Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Ohio, and West Virginia. His travel is set in the context of the Presidential primary season, in which he examines the decline of the rural middle class from the staple of the American workforce to near poverty. As such, the devolution of the social process ended with the election of Donald J. Trump. Despite a legacy of success in globalization and multilateralism, America quickly became a nation enthralled with a renewed sense of nationalism and isolationism.

From his travels, Kaplan deduces several types of groups based on the founding fathers. He categorizes them as following: elites in Washington and New York were Wilsonian (who seek to promote democracy and international law), Hamiltonians (who are intellectual realists and emphasize commercial ties internationally) or Jeffersonians (who emphasize perfecting American democracy at home more than engaging abroad). Surprisingly, the huge majority of the American people were actually Jacksonians: they believe in honor, faith in God, and military institutions.

Kaplan continues his path toward the Pacific by crossing Kentucky and Indiana, where the transition zone leads him to the arid grasslands. During his voyage, Kaplan finds that the people did not really care about ISIS, the rise of China, the Iraq War or any other international issues, but instead their worries on their work, health, family, and basic economic survival. This is in fact because of their Jacksonian way of seeing life. This in turn means that Americans expect their government to keep them safe and to hunt down and kill anyone who threatens their safety. Related to this, was the fact that isolationism was an American tradition, which fits well within the current political landscape as multilateralism has lost much of its appeal to people in the heartland.

The native grasses and rich soil of the temperate zone of this part of the country, such as Illinois, promote the fertility of the land that goes on for hundreds and hundreds of miles in all directions. For Kaplan, this is ultimately what constitutes the resourceful basis of continental wealth that permits America's ambitious approach to the world.

West of Lincoln, the capital city of Nebraska, it could be said that you enter the real West, where roads, waterways and urban cities rapidly disappears. At this point, Kaplan begins to make reference to the second book that he read for this part of the journey. This time, author Welter P. Webb in "The Great Plains" explains that the history of the US relies on the history of the pioneers adapting to life in the Great American Desert. This author argues that the Great Plains stopped slavery, prompting the defeat of the Confederacy. He states so because for Webb, the Civil War was a conflict between two sides whose main difference was largely economic. The Southern system based on the plantation economy with huge, "cash" crops and slave labor. On the other hand, the Northern economic system was based on small farms, skilled labor, and a rising industrialized system. While the Great Plains were a barrier for pioneers in general, that wall was greater for the Southern economy than for the industrializing North, which could adapt to aridity unlike the farming economy of the south.

The last book that Kaplan reads while crossing the country is "Beyond the Hundredth Meridian" by Wallace Stenger. The author of this book stresses the importance of the development limitations in immense areas of the western US due to a lack of water. This desert provided a big challenge for the federal government, which manages the little resources available in that area with the construction of incredible dams, such as the Hoover Dam, and turnpike highway system. It remains quite clear that the culmination of American history has more to do with the West than with the East. Stenger is well aware of the privileged geographic position of the US, without dangerous neighbors or other inland threat. In addition, the US contains an abundance of inland waterways and natural resources that are not found on such a scale anywhere else. This characteristic, helps provide the US with geographical and political power unlike any other in modern history. As Stenger stipulates, the fact that World War II left mainland America unscathed, which inly shows how geography has blessed the US.

One of the key aspects that Kaplan realized along his trip was the incredible attachment that Americans have to their military. For Kaplan, this feeling becomes more and more romanticized as he headed westward. In Europe, despite the threats of terrorism, refugees, and Russia, the military is seen locally as merely civil servants in funny uniforms, at least according to Stenger. On the contrary, America, which faces less physical threats than Europe, still maintains a higher social status and respect for military personnel.

In summation, the radical landscape of the west provided Americans with a basis for their international ambition. After all, if they could have conquered and settled this unending vastness, they settle the rest of the world too. However, the very aridity of the western landscape that Kaplan faces at the end of his voyage, requires restraint, planning, and humility in much of what the government had to invest in order to make the west inhabitable and successful. But despite the feeling that they could conquer the world, America faces huge inequalities, real and imagined, that force US leaders to focus on domestic issues rather than foreign affairs. Therefore, elites and leaders in Washington tend to be centrist and pragmatic. In such, they do not dream about conquering the world nor opt to withdraw from it either. Instead, they maintain America's "pole position" place within its global affairs.

At the end, it could be said that American soil itself is what in fact really orients the country towards the world. Despite all the restraint and feelings for the heartland, what really matters are the politicians and business leaders that enable the new American reality: the world itself is now the final, American frontier.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance North America Book Reviews

[Javier Lesaca, Weapons of mass seduction. Ediciones Península, 2017. 312 pages]


review / Alejandro Palacios Jiménez

What is it that drives a young man to abandon his friends and family and freely give up his dreams to join the Islamic State? With this question in mind, Javier Lesaca immerses us in this narrative in which he dissects the communicative apparatus used by ISIS to gain followers and spread its ideas and influence through the virtual Caliphate.

Thanks to his extensive professional career, the author sample in Armas de seducción masiva has a high Degree of depth and analysis, which is not incompatible with an entertaining and convincing narrative. Javier Lesaca Esquiroz (Pamplona, 1981), graduate in Journalism at the University of Navarra, works as researcher at the International Observatory of programs of study on Terrorism. His extensive knowledge on topic has allowed him to work in organisations such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank development and the Government of Navarre. Education Her work experience is complemented by her participation in forums such as the United Nations (UN) Security committee or the Euro-Arab Dialogue of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

His main hypothesis is that the crisis of credibility in traditional institutions, which has been fuelled by the economic and financial crisis of 2008 and is palpable in the 15-O movement, coupled with the technological revolution of the 21st century, has allowed the Islamic State (ISIS, or Dáesh, by its Arabic nomenclature) to influence the perceptions of Western citizens, in particular millennials, in a way never seen before. Millennials, who do not feel represented by their respective state institutions, seek to feel important and to participate in a new project that helps them to make sense of their lives and to stand up every day for a cause worth fighting for. And ISIS offers them just that.

Weapons of mass seduction

But what is Dáesh? Far from historical and religious explanations, Lesaca presents us with an unprecedented answer: the Islamic State embodies what is called modern terrorism, which uses the instruments of the new generations to get its messages across. In other words, Daesh presents itself as a global social movement that uses local communication campaigns that are disseminated throughout the world and whose terrorist acts are used as a mere "performance" within a broader communication strategy. Thus, Daesh defines itself as a leaderless movement that, paradoxically, moves away from the more purely religious elements to suit the concerns of the youth audience it plans to seduce.

The fact that it is a headless movement does not imply that it is internally unorganised. On the contrary, ISIS is a terrorist group that uses social networks very effectively and whose internal structure allows it not only to influence, but also to be in possession of some of the media. Its strategy consists of both developing its own media and using what is called "earned media". reference letter The former refers to Daesh's large communication structure based on: press releases, infographics, photographic reports, magazines in different languages, the Al Amaaq news agency, Al Bayan radio, Ajnabah music productions, the Isdarat website (now closed), audiovisual production companies and offline marketing in some parts of Iraq and Syria (billboards, posters and cybercafés). The media won is measured in terms of the number of times the terrorist group has succeeded in having its actions condition the diary of the traditional media.

The use of such a multitude of communication channels with the goal to create a parallel world, which its activists call the Caliphate, and to geographically segment the audience to modify the framing of the message - all under the cover of twisted interpretations of the Koran - is what is known as transmedia terrorism. To make this strategy as effective as possible, nothing is left to chance. One example given in the book, sample , is the control that the all-powerful Syrian executive producer Abu Mohamed Adnani, a friend of the caliphate's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, exercised over his subordinates, supervising and approving the content and messages that ISIS transmitted to the public. So much so that Adnani was considered by the West to be the de facto man who exercised the real day-to-day leadership within the terrorist organisation until his death in 2016.

All of this communicative strategy is precisely described in the book thanks to the large number of concrete examples that the author provides of massacres that Dáesh has carried out since its existence and the way in which these have been transmitted. In this sense, Lesaca emphasises the effectiveness with which ISIS, making use of the new media, camouflages real executions among images of video games(Call of Duty) or fictional films(Saw, Hunger Games, Sin City) in order to blur the line between reality and fiction, creating what is called a transmedia narrative. The idea is simple: how are these images going to seem cruel to you if they are similar to the ones you see in a cinema conference room eating popcorn?

In written request, Javier Lesaca attempts to define a useful strategy for dealing with the terrorism of the future. He argues that it is unclear what tools states should equip themselves with to confront this new form of terrorism. However, a good way to do so would be to make democracy fashionable, that is, to reinforce the values that have allowed the construction of the welfare society and development the greatest period of prosperity in our history. "The Islamic State has managed to win the victory of aesthetics, which is why we must make values such as democracy, freedom and equality attractive cultural products," says Lesaca. But this is not enough, he says. In addition, "we must promote institutional strengthening by eradicating corruption and implementing policies to create a Economics capable of absorbing all the talent of the new generations and achieving an effective management of public services".

At summary, this is a book that is a must-read for all those who want to familiarise themselves with the internal organisation and Structures of the power of Daesh, its objectives and the means it uses to achieve them group . It is also an invaluable guide for the study and subsequent reaction of the West to the communication campaigns not only of the Islamic State, but also of subsequent terrorist organisations that will form part of what is already known as modern terrorism.

Categories Global Affairs: Security & Defense Middle East Book Reviews Terrorism

[Pedro Baños, Así se domina el mundo. Desvelando las claves del poder mundial. Ariel, Barcelona 2017, 468 pages]

review / Albert Vidal

The vast majority of wars fought in the world always have a vital economic background, although other motives (political or religious, for example) are often used to safeguard these economic interests. The book Así se domina el mundo, by the analyst and researcher Pedro Baños, former head of Counterintelligence and Security of the European Army Corps, with experience in various international missions (UNPROFOR, SFOR and EUFOR), states that economic interests are the ones that rule the International Office is the main thesis , illustrated with great issue of examples, an d is supported by the book Así se domina el mundo, by the analyst and Pedro Baños, former head of Counterintelligence and Security of the European Army Corps, with experience in various international missions (UNPROFOR, SFOR and EUFOR).

"The United States is still trying to dominate the world. But its big competitor is China. Especially when it comes to the economic sphere. That is why they wage economic war, and also through interposed actors in many scenarios. Everything has an economic substratum," writes Colonel Baños. China, for its part, is determined to strike a blow against the dollar. Beijing is preparing a new contract format for crude oil transactions using the yuan, which would be fully convertible into gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges. If this were to happen, it would lead to the main reference letter of the Asian oil market, and allow crude exporters to circumvent the dollar-dominated benchmarks.

Afghanistan is another example of the primacy of Economics in geopolitics. The US decided to return to Afghanistan, where, coincidentally, opium production has multiplied. This had been reduced by the Taliban to minimal levels, as they banned opium cultivation and the Afghans switched to cotton production. But then, according to Baños, a strong civil service examination arose from the US cotton producers, so that some US states rebelled because they felt that the skill of cheap Afghan cotton could ruin them. Baños points out that there are Pentagon reports recommending such intervention. Moreover, Afghanistan is extremely rich in minerals. That is why Donald Trump declared that "China is making money in Afghanistan with rare minerals while the United States makes war".

These appreciations confirm the realistic and pragmatic way in which Baños interprets the events taking place in the world. His vision of geopolitics is integrated into political realism, close to Machiavelli's interpretation. He has a Hobbesian vision of the international scenario. He defines current geopolitics as "the activity developed with the aim of influencing the affairs of the international sphere, this exercise being understood as the aspiration to influence on a global scale, while avoiding, at the same time, being influenced".

This book is a great opportunity to enrich our perspectives on the international scene. With simple language, Baños manages to convey complex concepts through different images. One of them, central to the book's thesis , is the comparison of the international scenario with a playground at high school: in the playground (the world), the great powers (the bullies) enjoy circumstantial allies (cowardly children who decide to join the court of sycophants); then there are outcasts (who suffer the malice of the bullies) and others who simply resist the pressure of group or decide to isolate themselves from the group of students. Hypocrisy, as the author well describes, is a constant in the International Office.

This is how the world is dominated. Uncovering the keys to world power

Geopolitical principles, geostrategies and errors

Baños presents four immutable geopolitical principles that, in essence, have always been present in history (even if there are accidental changes). They could be summarized as follows:

  1. The State is a living being, which has vital and existential needs, as well as those of development and evolution.

  2. The Economics is in charge, the backbone of conflicts and the source of tensions. These are economic interests often related to the arms industry.

  3. The determining weight of history, with repetition of the same scenarios, such as Afghanistan (its orography has been a graveyard for empires and superpowers) and Russia (with a winter that ruined the plans of Napoleon and Hitler).

  4. There are no eternal allies, but permanent interests. Interests create strange alliances, and these alliances are often ephemeral. For example, Saudi Arabia is one of the main allies of the USA, when their values, in principle, are totally contradictory.

After the description of geopolitical principles, the book reviews 27 geostrategies that have been recurrently used on the international scene. This section is very useful for understanding many of the movements or events occurring in the world. Some examples of such geo-strategies are:

-Theintimidation of a strong country towards other weak countries, using them for their own interests.

-Theencirclement and counterencirclement.

-Thekick to the ladder. Examples are the refusal of the atomic powers to allow others to join the nuclear club and the obligation that developed countries impose on underdeveloped economies to open up to the free market.

-Theweakening of the neighbor.

-The breaking point.

-Fostering divisionby sowing tares.

-Religious fervor as tool to gain followers.

-Goodism. In the Syrian war, we have seen killings by the Islamic State, but the killings by the international coalition, which in our eyes appear to be the rescuers of the Syrian people, have been systematically hidden.

¬Thecreation of the need. The need to buy weapons is based on concepts such as war on terrorism, preventive strategy, and others, which result in a fabulous business of buying and selling weapons.

-Indirect domination. Between 1946 and 2000 the White House has interfered in 81 elections in 45 countries, according to declassified CIA documents.

-Thecreation of the enemy. NATO and the USA encourage the enmity of Western countries towards Moscow, so that they become subordinate to NATO and ask it for protection and buy weapons from it,

-Themadman. This is a strategy used by North Korea, threatening catastrophic consequences to avoid being attacked.

Banos also exposes the mistakes that powers often make in their international actions. A couple of them are:

  1. Ignoring the idiosyncrasies of peoples. The Western world is composed, at most, of 900 million people. The rest of the world is home to 6.6 billion. On the other hand, globalization is basically Anglo-Saxon: not all peoples necessarily want to participate in it. And given the biased view we have of the world, we often have a wrong conception of other peoples. The sad reality is that many interventions abroad are carried out without any subject study or examination of the potential consequences on the cultures and peoples affected.

  2. Excessive self-confidence. There is no small enemy, not even an asymmetric one. With guerrilla tactics, even a group of peasants can become a real threat to the plans of a great power. In fact, history has repeatedly shown how those who have acted too confidently have been defeated by their more cautious adversaries.

Post-truth and disinformation

Pedro Baños stresses the importance of narratives. According to the author, to have one's own narrative is to win the game. The narrative makes reality mutate. And narratives become an instrument of emotional control of the population, which serves to justify what suits them.

On the other hand, it makes reference letter to the truth, which runs the risk of being reconstructed to justify national or corporate interests. The citizenry, says Colonel Baños, must be vigilant: "those who decide for us do so subtly, even resorting to the so-called 'post-truth', which is nothing but a big lie disguised as truth". As the author points out, the core topic of power is to influence a deliberately uninformed world, in which many conflicts of interest between states, individuals, companies, lobbies and powerful families are intermingled, all trying to exert as much influence as possible.

The cyber world is the new great stage for this battle. A very intense psychological and propaganda war is being waged there, led by fake news and disinformation. These two worlds (one physical and the other virtual) are connected by the human mind. That is why it is vital to be wary of attacks that, although we may not realize it, take place every day, veiled or not. The powers are in continuous action, with only one purpose, as Baños concludes: "to control the world and avoid being subjugated by another power. That is the only goal".

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews

[Michael E. O'Hanlon and James Steinberg, A Glass Half Full?: Rebalance, Reassurance, and Resolve in the US-China Strategic Relationship. The Brookings Institution Press, Washington D.C., 2017, 104 pages]


REVIEW / María Granados

This short book follows a longer book published in 2014 by the same authors, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve. In the new publication, Michael E. O'Hanlon and James Steinberg —both academics and senior policy makers— update and review the policies they suggest in order to improve the relations between China and the United States. The relationship between both countries, established in the early 1970s, has been subject to changing times, and it has suffered several crises, but it has nonetheless grown in importance in the international sphere.

The short and straight-forward strategic review of the ongoing action provides an insight into the arsenals and plans of the two powers. Moreover, through graphs and numerical tables, it depicts the current situation in terms of strength, potential threat, and the likelihood of destruction if a conflict was to arise.

It also gives an overview of the diverse security matters that need to be monitored carefully, in the realms of space, cybernetics, and nuclear proliferation. These essential matters need not to be disregarded when planning defense strategies; instead officials should cast an eye over historical tensions such as Taiwan, North Korea and the South China Sea, and remember to use the tools that have already been established in the region to prevent the use of hard power, i.e.: ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

A Glass Half Full?

Not only does the paper carefully consider the action taken by President Obama and his predecessors, but also cautiously suggests steps ahead in the path opened by Nixon four decades ago. O'Hanlon and Steinberg use bulletpoints to give directions for further developments in the Sino-American relationship, stressing the need for transparency, mutually beneficial exchanges, cooperation, and common ends in common projects.

Some of the ideas are summarised briefly in the following paragraphs:

–True rebalance moves away from mere 'containment' and into a trustworthy alliance. Joint operations that ensure cooperation and reassurance are a key aspect of that objective.

–Confidence building in the area of communications must be reinforced in order to prevent espionage and the spread of piracy, as well as other illegal tactics to gather private information.

–The neutral trend in the broad topic of space, cybernetics and nuclearisation has to advance into a firm and close cooperation, especially in view of the threat that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea poses to the global community as a whole. Intelligence and the recent accusations of Russia's manipulation through the use of the Internet and other technological means can be a target to pursue further negotiations and the signing of international treaties such as The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.

–To abstain from any risks of escalation, the following policies must be regarded: the leveling of military budget growth, and of the development and deployment of prompt- attack capabilities, restraining modernisation, in favour of dialogue and the exchange of information, providing notice of any operation.

The authors conclude that the relationship is not free from conflict or misunderstanding; it is indeed a work in progress. However, they are positive about that progress. The overall outlook of the Sino-American relation is, as the title suggests "A Glass Half Full": there is of course work to be done, and the path has plenty of potential problems that both countries will have to face and resolve in the least damaging way to advance on the common interest; in spite of the aforementioned, half of it has already been done: both China and the US have a goal to fight for: the prevention of war, which would be short and detrimental for all international actors alike.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Asia World Order, Diplomacy and Governance Book Reviews

[Michael Reid, Forgotten Continent: A History of the New Latin America. Yale University Press, New Haven, 2017. 425 pages]


review / María F. Zambrano

The recent history of Latin America has a lot of progress, although sometimes it only transcends a few steps backwards. In addition to the important changes that have occurred since the 1980s, when the region embraced democracy, began to overcome economic protectionism and tamed the problem of inflation, there has been a more recent period of economic acceleration – the so-called golden decade, due to the commodity boom – which between 2002 and 2012 has led to a B Social impulse: 60 million people escaped poverty in those years, so that, although great inequalities still exist, at least the class average It now extends to 50% of the population. This has generated better educated societies, which have recognized the primacy of law over the paternalism of the caudillo. But the large revenues that many states earned in that golden decade also led to negative rates.

This moderate optimism about Latin America – without ignoring the difficulties, but without ignoring the progress made – is conveyed in the book Forgotten Continent: A History of the New Latin America, by Michael Reid. publisher of Latin America in The Economist, where he writes the column Bello. A correspondent for nearly 35 years in the region, where he has lived most of this time, Reid is one of the best voices in the world. knowledge about the multiple continental reality. Fruit of that experience staff it's Forgotten Continent, which Reid published in 2007 (then under the subtitle "The Battle for the Soul of Latin America") and which he now offers again in a revised and updated edition, with extensive changes from the first version.

What has happened in Latin America in the last ten years for Reid to see the need for a new presentation of your book? Although there are several elements, such as the end of the commodity boom, which has brought economic difficulties to some countries, and certain changes in political orientation (Kirschner for Macri, or Temer for Rousseff), perhaps the most notable thing is that, in democratic terms, Latin America is seen today with less hope than a decade ago. Ten years ago, the new left-wing populism might have seemed like a mere parenthesis in the progressive democratic consolidation of Latin American societies; Today, certainly, Bolivarianism has already shown signs of failure, but it may have greater continuity than expected by inserting itself with the current of populism of various kinds that emerges in many other parts of the world.

Reid notes the failed path taken by Chávez, also followed by other neighboring leaders of the same stripe: "There are lessons for the region in the catastrophic failure of Chavismo. An accident in history – the rise in the price of oil from 2001 onwards – gave for a time spurious plausibility in some places to an alternative course to which Latin Americans seemed to have turned their backs not so long ago. The 'Bolivarian alternative' was based on erroneous premises (...) In their enchantment with Bolivarianism and renewed regard for Cuba, much of the left forgot the abiding lessons of the end of the Cold War: that central planning had failed and that communism was tyranny, not liberation. In any case, the Bolivarian experience has shown that Latin America did not enter an era of assured democracy at the end of its military dictatorships, just as we now see that neither did the rest of the world with the fall of the Berlin Wall, despite the perception at the time. The risk in the region may be greater, due to the persistence of strong social differences: as Reid puts it, Chavismo is "another reminder that extreme inequality offers fertile ground for populism."

Forgotten Continent: A History of the New Latin America

Challenges ahead

In a post-Chávez and post-commodity price boom era, Latin America faces a series of challenges, which certainly go back a long way but in some cases are more urgent. Twice as muchgoal to achieve strong institutions and a development An economic and sustainable approach involves solving important challenges, among which Reid highlights several.

One of them is security. Crime and violence have become an epidemic. In 2013, eight of the ten countries and 42 of the 50 most violent cities in the world, outside of war theaters, were in the region. Reid points to the need for territorial control by the armed forces, the professionalization of police forces, closer cooperation between the police and judges, and clear accountability of these bodies to society.

Other challenge is the consolidation of the new class average. There is progress in the Education primary and secondary, but the preparation of both students and teachers lags far behind their peers in developed countries. In the report PISA in 2015, 15-year-old Latin American students were in the bottom third of the world rankings. If the status does not evolve favourably with an increase in the quality of the teaching In the public sector, Reid warns, private entities would become the first alternative of the new social stratum, which would even be subjected to indebtedness without quality guarantees. It's a phenomenon that also occurs in health care.

In the fight against social inequality, many governments have promoted various formulas of Conditional Transfer of Resources (TCR), which are programs of attendance They seek to raise standards of attitudes, such as the enrolment of children in school, in exchange for subsidies. A number of programmes have rightly contributed to the development But in many cases they transfer resources without achieving long-term progress, as well as becoming in certain countries a clear cultivation of a captive vote. By having two parallel social security systems, the government is taxing the formal sector, while subsidizing the informal sector.


To overcome these challenges, Forgotten Continent raises the need to advance regional integration, the diversification of the Economics and overcoming political dogmatism. Thus, true regional integration would allow for a skill that would stimulate economies of scale and regional supply chains. To overcome, at least in part, the natural barriers to such integration, real investment in infrastructure beyond the current 3% of GDP is needed.

Commodities will continue to be an important economic driver of the region, but they should not be the only one. Agricultural production should provide a added value, derived from the application of innovative technologies, such as the advances that are being made in Argentina and Brazil with "direct seeding" and "precision agriculture". This requires an increase in investment in research and development, which today is only 0.5% of GDP. Latin America also has multiple natural resources that are conducive to the development of the development tourism, or the expansion of manufacturing industries.

The author proposes to break with the discussion between the unfettered free market and protectionism, and stop feeding the corporatist culture of seeing power as a heritage staff. "To get there requires a new subject In the face of the polarization and confrontation offered by populists (and sometimes by their opponents), Latin America needs consensus-building, where the state, the private sector, and civil society work together to set medium-term goals and hold the government accountable for their fulfillment."

These propositional elements of Reid come at the end of a book that is above all a description of the soul of Latin America. This is a continent that has not been poor enough, dangerous enough, or economic enough to attract international attention. Hence the degree scroll of the book. It begins by exposing the structural, geographical and cultural difficulties that the region has had to face in its attempt to establish lasting democracies and overcome its imbalances. It continues with an analysis of political and economic cycles, from independence to the last dictatorships. And finally it concludes with a diagnosis. Although Latin America's problems were already well diagnosed in the first edition, ten years ago, it is in this final part of the book that the author has turned the most pages. His conclusion doesn't vary much, but the tone is slightly more somber; however, Reid prefers to end the story with the same quotation Argentinian liberal Bautista Alberdi: "Nations, like men, do not have wings; They make their journeys on foot, step by step."

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Latin America

[Riordan Roett, Guadalupe Paz (Eds.). Latin America and the Asian Giants: Evolving Ties with China and India. Brookings Institution Press, 2016, 336 pages]


review / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

Trade between Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region has grown over the last decade at a dizzying rate of 21% per year[1]. However, China's prominence has overshadowed and concentrated the vast majority of academic analyses, leaving other relevant actors such as India in the background.  This book by Riordan Roett, Guadalupe Paz and other collaborators from different parts of the world offers an interesting comparison between the two "Asian giants" in their relations with Latin American countries in a new global context. This review, will focus on India's rise in the region, although references to China are inescapable.

Historical ties between Latin America and India, though weak, have existed since the colonial period. Today, one million people[2] descendants of Indian migrants live in the Caribbean, a fact that can be considered an opportunity to generate channels of dialogue, however the magnitude of the Indian diaspora eliminates any trace of exceptionality. Another interesting element directly links India and Brazil, two countries that share to some extent the bequest They have been champions of South-South cooperation to this day, an approach shared by Lula and Dilma as well as Modi.  In the section historically, India's relevance is much greater than that of China, which lacks relevant references partner-cultural activities in the region.

The growing economic presence of the two Asian giants in Latin America has not gone unnoticed in the discussion politician. Historically, left-wing sectors have been more supportive of increasing trade relations with China, considering it a way to achieve the continent's emancipation and independence from the United States.  The right, on the other hand, has been reluctant to have a greater presence of China, aligning itself in the case of the countries of the Pacific Alliance with the TPP, which until the arrival of Trump was intended to be a free trade agreement aimed at increasing the presence of the American continent in the Asia-Pacific outside of China[3].  In the authors' opinion, Latin America lacks a cohesive narrative and strategy on China, thus drastically reducing its negotiating capacity and influence over the Asian country. The case of India is different, as the volume of trade is still a tenth that of China, being a democratic country, an ally of the US and with a better image on the continent.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of Latin American exports to Asia are made up of commodities and imports are made up of manufactured products, there are subtle differences that explain India's better image in the region. First, Chinese imports are much more diversified than Indian imports, generating a general perception of destruction of the industrial fabric and local jobs due to greater competitiveness due to economies of scale and the distortion of the yuan.  Likewise, what India exports to Latin America are socially valued products (such as generic drugs, which have reduced the price of medicines) and cheap vehicles, while Indian businessmen set up information companies, which have generated 20,000 jobs in the region.

In terms of imports, both India and China concentrate their purchases on natural products. profile India's most energetic and China's most mining. Both countries concentrate a huge demand for soybeans, a product that agreement with Riordan Roett it will gradually become increasingly important due to its versatility as a feed, feed and biofuel source. It is important to note that Latin America is one of the keys to the energy and food security of these countries, which are facing this enormous challenge The size of its population is derived differently: India is betting on private investment and China on long-term purchase agreements for its state-owned companies. A possible collision between the two Asian giants for access to these markets cannot be ruled out, with the geopolitical implications that this entails.

In terms of India's financial positioning in Latin America, the reality of the sample an almost testimonial presence compared to that of China. However, it should be noted that Indian investment and loans are viewed much better than Chinese ones. Overall, India acts as a partner This is not the case with China, whose actors are more accustomed to dealing with a complex bureaucracy than with a democratic system. Likewise, Chinese loans, increasingly present in certain economies such as Venezuela or Ecuador, have proven to be less advantageous than those of international organizations such as the IMF or IDB as they have higher interest rates and are linked to strict conditions for the purchase of goods.  All of this makes India a partner friendlier to the public: a challenge that it will have to face as its presence in the region increases and with it its true way of acting abroad can be appreciated, still an unknown.

In final, India's role in the region is promising but still limited in scope. The annual growth of trade between that country and Latin America was 140% between 2009-2014[4] and India has already signed the first free trade agreements (with MERCOSUR and Chile), although of small magnitude. It should be noted that this is mainly an inter-industrial trade, in which Latin American countries export primary products and manufactures based on natural resources and import manufactures of different technological intensities, which limits the potential for deeper economic relations between the two regions[5] and condemns them to fluctuations in commodity prices. The fact that it takes between 45 and 60 days for a freighter to arrive from the Chilean coast to Indian ports is a real barrier to trade, however there are many reasons to expect India to have a greater regional presence, such as its excellent relations with Brazil, the expectations of annual growth of more than 7% of its GDP and the inescapable importance of Latin America in guaranteeing the energy and food security of the region. the growing population of the Asian country.


[1] CELAC: International Trade and Regional Division DATA.

[2] NRIOL: Non Residents Indian Online DATA

[3] Wilson, J. D. (2015). Mega-regional trade deals in the Asia-Pacific: Choosing between the TPP and RCEP?. Journal of Contemporary Asia.

[4] ECLAC, N. (2016). Strengthening the relationship between India and Latin America and the Caribbean.

[5] ECLAC, N. (2012). India and Latin America and the Caribbean: Opportunities and Challenges in Their Trade and Investment Relations.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Economics, Trade & Technology Book Reviews Latin America

[Enrique Serrano, ¿Por qué fracasa Colombia? Delirios de una nación que se desconoce a sí misma, Planeta, Bogotá 2016, 273 pages].


review / María Oliveros [English version].

Colombia's history has often been classified as one of the most violent. The long chapter of FARC terrorism or the confrontation of drug cartels are well present, but before that there were violent events in Colombia such as the Revolt of the Comuneros, the Thousand Days War or the Banana Plantation Massacre. A succession of events that has led most Colombians to believe that violence has characterized the country's history and that perhaps they can do little to avoid it.

That belief is challenged by Colombian communicator, philosopher and writer Enrique Serrano in ¿Por qué fracasa Colombia? Delusions of a nation that does not know itself. The book's purpose is to analyze why Colombia has not prospered more as a country. To answer that question, Serrano reviews in short chapters the Colombian mentality since the beginnings of the nation; there he finds reasons why Colombia is a country that has had a hard time getting ahead, growing in progress and being able to develop to its full potential.

Why is Colombia failing?

¿Por qué fracasa Colombia? is a risky book, which combats thoughts that have long remained in the minds of Colombians. Against that central belief that violence has characterized the country's history, Serrano warns from the very first pages: "It is also presumed that this is a nation plagued by the most vicious violence, from its beginnings to the present day. However, it has been more peaceful than violent, at least during most of its slow training and that although the importance of violence cannot be denied, it is episodic, recent, similar to that of other peoples in transition".

Serrano tries to expose the history of a country that does not begin in 1810 with the independence, but its origins go much further back, to the moment when the Spaniards arrived in America and settled in Colombia. All this in order to show the reader that during the three hundred years that followed the arrival of the first conquistadors, Colombia was a peaceful and measured nation.

Serrano's main premise is that those who arrived in Colombia were mostly new Christians, descendants of Arabs and Jews, coming from southern Spain, who were looking for a place provisional to settle and avoid the religious conflicts that were occurring in Spain at that time. The newcomers settled in small urbanizations, some far from others, not only because that was what the country's geography allowed, but also because the last thing they wanted was to come into conflict with other settlers, both European and indigenous, according to Serrano.

In fact, it is questionable whether the new settlers were dominated by a refractory private religious approach or whether the search for refuge for their consciences motivated, in most cases, their departure to America. It seems that the author adjusts the starting point thinking of those later aspects that he wants to explain.

The author also defends the thesis that in Colombia there was a racial miscegenation, but not a cultural miscegenation, because the indigenous culture was very weak, which contributed to the assumption of the religion brought by the Spaniards. In the culture that the Spaniards transmitted to the new generations were ideas such as provisionality or even getting used to failure: "They also had to react in a peaceful, non-violent way when events were unfavorable and they could not fulfill their desires. Therefore, a relative tolerance and awareness that the frustration of the achievement of desires is something probable, is in the old patterns of upbringing of the Colombian nation".

Serrano suggests that this mentality that originated centuries ago is still present in Colombia: the idea of not making the maximum effort, of not taking too many risks for fear of failure, of doing things half-heartedly so as not to lose too much in case they go wrong. Probably this mentality that was created over the years explains why urbanization projects in the country do not progress properly, why the subway project in the Colombian capital has not been able to materialize, or why it has cost the country so much to exploit its resources to the maximum.

Although the book touches on other aspects such as language, body hygiene and social classes, history is undoubtedly the fundamental component. Referring to historical events of the Colombian past, Serrano proposes a vision of national history far from the usual one. Thus, as has been said, his story does not begin with the cry for independence of 1810, but explains the Spanish society of the 15th and 16th centuries, in order to understand the mentality of the first men, women and families who arrived in America. It is an optimistic vision that seeks to share the idea that not everything has been suffering in Colombian history. 

It is a fact that the country's history is not lived or remembered with much encouragement by Colombians. Remembering the past is for many a way of recalling the violence, wars and national polarization that began with the training of the two major parties, Liberals and Conservatives, in the mid-nineteenth century. Knowing the past well, in any case, is paramount for progress; that is what the new law decreed on January 1, 2018, which obliges all schools in the country to teach class Colombian History, seeks to do. 

The book concludes with a series of suggestions about the present and the future. That last chapter, graduate Where can such a nation go? tries to transmit a feeling of hope, while at the same time it is a call to a high level of responsibility. According to the author, knowing the past and not running away from it, but accepting it in order to improve mentalities and habits, is what will give the country the basis for not failing. 

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Latin America