Hello Committee to Destroy the World. You’ve got to hand it to FP Magazine for their relentless push to sell foreign policy as a chic and hip subject to a popular audience with a limited attention span. CA readers won’t be surprised to read that the suspects in this latest FP piece are the usual ones, but the magazine’s endless need for “top ten” lists (or top 24 in this case) will have you bored by the time you get to Iran (ranked #8!), and the meaningless designation of dictators as “coconuts.”
I comment on the article — their “Bad Guys” issue — because our patron saint has an article, and it’s on geography, specifically how geography is linked to countries that can’t seem to shed dictatatorial rule.
Consider Africa, where nearly half of the top 60 countries in the Failed States Index are located, in most cases south of — or at least at the southern extremity of — the Sahara. Although Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, with an area three times that of Europe, its coastline south of the Sahara is about a fifth as long and lacks many good natural harbors. Few of tropical Africa’s rivers are navigable from the ocean, dropping as they do from interior tableland to coastal plains by a series of falls and rapids. The Sahara hindered human contact with the north for too many centuries, so that Africa was little exposed to the great Mediterranean civilizations. All this has combined to afflict Africa with the burden of geographic isolation…
None of these places is doomed. Human agency can triumph over determinism. But we should not be naive either: Geography is one more strike against them.