Hur­ri­cane Har­vey: A geopo­lit­i­cal force of na­ture

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

What’s hap­pen­ing to the U.S. Gulf Coast is dif­fi­cult to ex­ag­ger­ate and even more dif­fi­cult to ig­nore. Flood­wa­ters from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey have killed sev­eral peo­ple and dis­placed count­less oth­ers. Sit­u­ated higher in the Hill Coun­try, Austin has been spared the worst of what Har­vey has wrought in cities like Rock­port, Houston and Cor­pus Christi. But it is near enough to the coast that most of us who call it home know some­one af­flicted by this par­tic­u­lar nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. In a way, it has be­come per­sonal to us. Com­mu­ni­ties – and in the United States, states are ab­so­lutely com­mu­ni­ties – are funny like that.

Na­ture, of course, is in­dif­fer­ent to com­mu­ni­ties. It is ig­no­rant to the ob­jects of our study here at GPF. It doesn’t recog­nise the strate­gic im­per­a­tives of the United States any more than it recog­nises those of China, which, like Texas, is cur­rently a vic­tim of na­ture’s capri­cious power. Ty­phoon Hato, which earned a sig­nal 10 – the high­est pos­si­ble rat­ing in Hong Kong’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem – struck the re­gion on Au­gust 23. The South China Morn­ing Post de­scribed it as “the worst ty­phoon that Ma­cau has seen since 1968.” Ty­phoon Pakhar, which earned a sig­nal 8 rat­ing, hit the re­gion a few days later on Au­gust 27.

At GeoPo­lit­i­cal Fu­tures, we pre­sume to chart the course of in­ter­na­tional events be­cause, if you know where to look and how to in­ter­pret the data, the be­hav­iour of na­tions is pre­dictable. Their be­hav­iour is pre­dictable partly be­cause it is an­chored to im­per­sonal forces. The Hi­malayas, a stal­wart fixture in south­ern Asia, shape re­la­tions be­tween China and In­dia. The North Euro­pean Plain – the su­per­high­way for mil­i­tary in­va­sion – has de­fined Euro­pean pol­i­tics for cen­turies and will de­fine it for many more. Changes to th­ese kinds of fix­tures come slow, if at all.

Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters like Har­vey and Hato are un­pre­dictable. (Ad­vances in me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal tech­nol­ogy clue us in to gen­eral ar­rival times and broad be­hav­iour, sure, but even as late as last week no one could con­fi­dently say whether Har­vey would turn east or west.)

They come quickly and, com­pared to great plains and moun­tain chains, leave just as quickly. Put sim­ply, there are things that can­not be ac­counted for ahead of time. Think about Ja­pan’s bad luck at the Bat­tle of Mid­way. Re­mem­ber Gen. Robert E. Lee’s mis­cal­cu­la­tion at Get­tys­burg. Re­call Mount Tamb­ora, whose erup­tion in 1815 would de­stroy crop har­vests around the world, giv­ing the world in 1816 what would be known as the Year With­out a Sum­mer.

No mat­ter how dili­gent or rig­or­ous we may be, there are cir­cum­stances we will not be able to an­tic­i­pate, and the only an­ti­dote for that is to be quick to recog­nise when those cir­cum­stances are upon us and to cor­rect our course ac­cord­ingly.

Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, and the con­cur­rent storms of south­ern China, are se­ri­ous enough to con­sider whether they qual­ify.

Let’s con­sider, then, the geopo­lit­i­cal im­por­tance of the storms that have stricken China and the United States, the

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.