The Power of Geography: A conversation with Tim Marshall

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This is a podcast episode titled, The Power of Geography: A conversation with Tim Marshall. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this episode of the Janes podcast, Tim Marshall, journalist and author of&nbsp;The Power of Geography,&nbsp;in conversation with&nbsp;Terry Pattar, examine how our politics, demographics, economies and societies are determined by geography. </p><p>Tim Marshall wrote the international best selling book Prisoners of Geography. Tim was diplomatic editor at Sky News and has also worked for the BBC and LBC/IRN radio. He has reported from 40 countries and covered conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel.</p>

Speaker 1: Welcome to the World of Intelligence, a podcast for you to discover the latest analysis of global military and security trends within the open source defense intelligence community. Now onto the episode with your host Terry Pattar.

Terry Pattar: Hi, I'm Terry Pattar, welcome to this episode of the Janes podcast. I'm joined on this episode by Tim Marshall. Tim was former diplomatic editor in foreign correspondent for Sky News, has been a journalist for over 30 years and more recently has been the author of the bestselling, Prisoners of Geography, which is a fantastic book that we're going to come on to talk about. And more recently, one of the follow up books to it, The Power of Geography, which we'll also talk to Tim about. So Tim, welcome to the podcast.

Tim Marshall: Thanks for the invitation.

Terry Pattar: Hey, it's great to have you on because... And I was really keen to talk to you because the books that you've written are the books that I probably recommend most often to people, especially people in our sector, our industry where I work with a lot of young analysts who come into their roles. Often they're asked to monitor and analyze what's going on in particular countries, particular parts of the world, where they may have no prior knowledge of those areas. And I think the books that you've written are fantastic primers on understanding how those countries have developed in the way they have, so hence why I recommend them so often. But before we go on to talk about the books, I thought maybe it would be useful to talk about your prior career in journalism and to find out a little bit more about sort of what led you to the point where you wanted to write the books and what actually initially led you into journalism, in particular being a foreign correspondent.

Tim Marshall: A bit of luck, really. Before I go into that, thanks for that lovely introduction, because I'm very aware that I'm in the presence of proper experts at Janes. Now seriously, I mean, okay, it's a mutual loving society at the moment, but I am a generalist, I am essentially a hack with a journalist's view. We're often not proper experts, so it's really heartening to hear that the books have resonated in parts of your world as well, which is great. And I think, I don't take the word primer as an insult, perhaps almost as a compliment, because I'm not-

Terry Pattar: Oh, it's definitely meant as a compliment, yeah.

Tim Marshall: Thank you, I'm not pretending to be a proper expert. Sorry to answer your question-

Terry Pattar: But yeah, just on that, I think there's a real art and a real skill to making understandable for a non- expert audience, something that is a deeply complex topic. And I think in each of the case studies that you present in your books, I think you've done that really well.

Tim Marshall: I think that takes a journalist's eye, because academics are A, often cleverer, and B, far more knowledgeable about their subject, but through no fault of their own, through the pressures of work, they're often in silos. And when you're in the silo, it's often hard to see into the other silo and certainly how it connects with various silos, whereas a journalist can do that sort of bird's eye view. I got into journalism because I always wanted to, although you don't always get what you want, just sort of to mangle the song line, because I wanted to be a journalist from when I was a kid, from when I was maybe 12. But it didn't really seem possible, or it certainly didn't seem probable because I left school at 16 with no qualifications and I worked on building sites, a painter and decorator, a very, very poor one, both financially, actually, and in the skillset. But I always had this curiosity about the world, which was forged young, despite not being academic at school. I was struck by things such as the tender age of nine, Martin Luther King's funeral on television and just thinking," Well, what's all that about?" And wanting to know more about it. Seeing the first footage of Auschwitz when I was about 12, things like that just really struck a chord with me and made curious about the world. And then through a very convoluted route, I managed to get three days work at LBC Radio, which turned into 30 years work, overall. I just managed through a bit of luck, a bit of knowing somebody that I met and worked at LBC/ IRN, who got me through that door. Yeah, and I was lucky, there's a bit of hard work there as well, but I was lucky.

Terry Pattar: That's really interesting, but then what sort of sustained you through that career? And what made you in particular want to develop into some of the directions that you went in? Because you went and covered conflicts in different places, and you would travel all around the world really within that job, and so what was the-

Tim Marshall: I got paid for it.

Terry Pattar: You got paid for it.

Tim Marshall: Amazing, the fools. No, immediately I had very little interest in anything other than either football or foreign affairs, but of course you can't start a career as a foreign correspondent, you have to build up to it. And I actually started in sports. Well, I started as being the dogsbody tea boy, and then went into sports journalism, journalism on the sports desk, and then managed to get across into a bit of news. And then I leapfrogged, I went to Paris. So just packed everything in the car and moved to Paris, because LBC/ IRN didn't have a Paris correspondent. One of the jokes at the time was that people kept on going over there and saying," I'll be your freelance over there." And disappearing down the Metro, and they were never heard of again. Oh, and I should repeat my chancer story. They did say to me," You do speak French, don't you?" And I said," Well, you don't think I'd be so stupid as to go to Paris without speaking French." Which of course wasn't a lie, it was a question. Anyway, I went there and I was absolutely determined not to disappear down the Metro. And so I think I did leapfrog a little bit, because I had three years there despite not really having any solid news journalism experience, but I made a fist of it. And then when I came back I joined Sky as a junior reporter only on the home beat. But Sky was under resourced, 24 hour news, big canvas on which to paint, so every now and again you would be thrown," Oh, just turn those pictures around," on a foreign story. And I think they very quickly realized that that's where my passion, where I was putting most things into. And so it took about three years before I got my first foreign I think, but then once I had that I was up and running and got more and more foreign jobs and it all just came together.

Terry Pattar: That's fantastic. And then what led you on to deciding, to write the books? There's a certain element there of, I guess, trying to understand what's going on in the world, which was part of your career anyway, but what made the decision you to write those books?

Tim Marshall: So yeah, you alluded to what led in that direction, a number of things. One, I realized relatively early on, probably early'90s, the importance of geography in explaining the complexity of the stories I was covering. I hasten to add, not as the determining factor, I'm not a determinist, but as a determining factor that was often missing, and I injected it into most of the work I did. And I enjoyed some of the writing that I did that newspapers would ask me to do and things like that. A number of things happened, one, I wouldn't say burnout, but I was pretty exhausted. After 9/ 11 I pretty much sprinted for 12, 15 years., just nonstop travel, pretty intense places often, very long hours. I don't think I was burnt out, but I do think I was tired. I had a bit of ill health as well. So I just thought, timing is so important and I didn't want to be one of those old boars chuntering around the newsroom saying," Oh, it's not like it was in my day." Which of course is a blinding state of the obvious, because of course it wasn't, that was then, and this is now, be quiet. So I didn't want to be that guy. And I always made sure I said to the young journalists," Now is your time, now is the golden age. Don't believe... I had a golden age, the people before me said,'Oh, we had the golden age.' Well you're going to have a golden age as well, because it's a great job." So it was just time, it was time to do something else, and admit I hit lucky again. I'd written a terrific book about football chants called Dirty Northern Bastards!, which sold a few thousand. And it wasn't really about football chants, it was about Britain and its tribalism and its instincts and why we might like making fun of each other without being too unpleasant sometimes. And then I just said, this idea that we were prisoners of geography-

Terry Pattar: Was there a particular place where it hurts you actually in this country where you can very visibly see the effects of geography?

Tim Marshall: A number of things, Robert Kagan's book, Of Paradise and Power, this idea that in Europe we've created paradise. I mean, he's not foolish enough to think that it's all honey and sugar and manna from heaven, but compare it to most parts of the world we live in paradise. And the rest of the world is the world of power, and you shouldn't mix up what you can do with the rule of law and everything in the world of paradise with what you can do out there in the world of power, it had quite an influence on me. And there was The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan, again, that sort of view of the world. And another thing, and I just thought I could do this. I suppose the only real light bulb moment was just looking at Russia, just look at that map, and keep looking at it and keep looking at it, and then inject all the things you know about Russia, and how cold it is, and how warm it is, and how big it is and it's history. And I just thought," There it is right there, that is the best exact example in the world of how geography determines, to a great extent, but not entirely, what happens." And it all just flow flowed from that really. Then the challenge was, well, which areas do you pick? And I left out Australia, and I was roundly abused, nicely, by Australians for it. So I came up with this formula, a case study, which is a chapter. Start with the geography, once you've explained that, explain the connections between that and then what happened, the history and then layer on top of that, the current affairs. And when you've got that foundation, the current affairs become easier to put into context. And it is a formula that clearly worked and I've repeated it in the new book, but also in other books as well.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, I think it works really well. Well, obviously in the first book you picked out some of the, probably, the most obvious cases to look at, so Russia, China, et cetera. But was there any sort of criteria that led you to pick certain ones? Or was it just that these are the ones that are really driving what's going on globally?

Tim Marshall: Yeah, the latter, it was the big players. And then I was conscious that, although let's say, Chad is not a big player, or indeed Namibia, it would be unfair to leave out large sections of the world. And so I did have to condense the entire content of Africa into one chapter, ditto, Latin America. So I wanted to get these big geographic air areas in Russia, China, India, Pakistan, USA, with a nod at Canada, the continent of Latin America, the continent of Africa. And just get those big players in. Whereas the new book, The Power of Geography, it goes down a level to this second tier.

Terry Pattar: And when you were writing it, I mean, was there anyone in particular you would were trying to aim it at?

Tim Marshall: No, I'm not capable. I don't have the depth of knowledge, the style, or indeed the language, because I mean people that do MAs and PhDs, they actually do have to use certain types of language, they cannot use casual phrases and I'm simply not capable of doing that. So it wasn't a sort of active of choice that I were to write a generalist book, I didn't have a choice, it was the only book I could write. And I do believe get it out there and see who wants it, and I've been gratified that there have been eminent historians at some of the top universities that have said nice things about it. Peter Frankopan's been very complimentary, for example. I know John Bew, who's now in Downing Street has perhaps skimmed a few pages, and others. And then I get letters from, well emails, from 15 year old geography students, so there's quite a spectrum there. So yeah, my generalist approach was writing in general for a general audience of wherever they come from.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, that's great. And it works really well because I think so many people take away things from it that they probably don't expect when they start reading it. Was there anything in there, in any of these books, that you sort of as you were researching and writing about that actually surprised you, and especially given you've traveled probably a lot of these places as well, and you've seen a lot of them.

Tim Marshall: On my desk I keep one of those map, which is a map of the world, and I always, at the points like this, look down at it for inspiration. Yes, I mean, obviously, you learn a lot when you're doing the research. So I mean, a number of things spring to mind. One, until I did the research I wasn't aware of the concept of Latin America as the hollow continent, and just how many people cling to this day to the rim of it and not to the interior. Again, that's in broad brush. Yeah, when I wrote the book about walls, a book called Divided, the spark for that was reading this stat that 65 countries now had walls or barriers between them and their neighbors, which is a third of all the countries in the world. And I suddenly thought," Hang on, how does that fit into globalization?" And so there's a book right there. What is happening and why is it happening? I learned something the other day, I haven't actually checked if it's true. If you are in the West Midlands, say in West Bromwich, looking Eastwards, what's the nearest mountain range? And apparently it's the Urals, in a straight line.

Terry Pattar: Wow.

Tim Marshall: I haven't checked this, because apparently if you go in a straight line across, you do go across the North European Plane, which is flat. And so if you go through that gap where the Carpathians end in Poland and you're going in that straight line, then yeah, the next proper mountain range is actually the Urals. So just little things like that always spark my attention. I'll try and give you one more example. Oh, again, just the starkness of the lack of water in Australia. I mean, it's just something I think we all know, it's just one of those things you just know, there's not a great deal of water in Australia. But when I went and actually looked into it properly about where the river systems are, which of course is exactly where the people are, 85% of them live in that arc on the right hand side of Australia, as we look at it on the map. So yeah, in each country I was learning little things, the Flags book, which isn't about flags really, it's about nationalism and identity worth dying for, just... Well, every single flag had a fantastic story to tell that most of them I didn't know, like the Ethiopian flag goes back to the alleged union, in a biblical sense, of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. And allegedly their son was the first emperor of Ethiopia, hence why, during Haile Selassie's reign, there was the Lion of Judah in the middle of the Ethiopian flag. I mean, I just love stuff like that, I'm a nerd.

Terry Pattar: Well, I think we all are. I mean, it's what we have in common, I guess. And there was, there were so many little snippets in the books as I was reading through that surprised me and some that still stand out in my mind. And one that just came to mind was when you were talking about that, the distance on maps, it was... Correct me if I'm wrong here, but inaudible had written that Beijing is actually geographically nearer to Warsaw than it is to Australia?

Tim Marshall: Yeah, but it's useful... If you bother to stop and think," Well, what does that actually mean?" Because it isn't just that in a straight line it's closer to Warsaw, when you then think it through, you get a much better idea that China's got a 360 degree view of the world. Whereas, let's be honest in Australia, of course everybody has a 360 degree view, but if you're focusing, Australia only focuses pretty much to its north, whereas someone like China has to have a 360 degree focus a lot of the time. I mean the UK, again, our focus is pretty much Southeast and East because of where we are on the map, because to the West, there's a lot of water. So little facts like that, A, they're sort of," Oh, that's interesting." And then when you go into what it means, it becomes even more interesting.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, and you mentioned your book about walls and barriers coming up between countries, this is something I've certainly noticed over the years, since I sort of started my career. And I remember being a student in the late'90s, and maybe that was a, I don't know, we've talked about golden eras already, but that felt like a bit of a golden age because you could... I spent a fair bit of time in the Middle East and it felt really easy to travel around. And it was sort of in that window, probably between the Oslo Accords and 9/ 11 happening, pretty much the only places you wouldn't go if you were a Brit, well, you weren't allowed into Libya, Algeria, I think was still going through a phase of political violence in the mid to late'90s, but the rest of the region, it was really easy to travel around. You could buy a bus ticket in Egypt that would take you all the way to Istanbul. And-

Tim Marshall: Without worrying that someone's made a phone call having seen you and up the road, someone's going to have a quiet word with you. Yeah, it was then, wasn't it? A lot-

Terry Pattar: It feels like certainly since then. Do you think 9/ 11 was the sort of big catalyst for that in terms of a lot of what's happened since then and wars coming up between countries?

Tim Marshall: It opened up the Pandora's box, it was ajar already because... I sometimes think when it comes to 9/ 11, people think it was year zero. You can make a fist of that argument, but let's face it, I think things like the USS Cole had already been attacked, and there had already been various mass slaughters in Egypt prior to that by ideologues. But yeah, let's face it, 2001 is when it really took off. And of course the invasion of Iraq, which further flamed passions all over the place. And yeah, it doesn't really show too many signs of settling down yet, but I think it's not as bad as it was four or five years ago, but it's still a volatile part of the world, sadly. There's no real starting point in history, you can make arguments that, well, I would, that the end of the Cold War, of course is a marker in history. And then flowing from it there are so many things, and I think you can even place 9/ 11 within that. That the end of the Cold War opened up all these different scenarios, and areas and conflicts that had been frozen were then allowed to simmer and then some of them boil over, and then you throw in 9/ 11 and all that. And we are still living through the post- Cold War era and how unsettled it has made us it. I'm arguing very loosely in the book and more cogently elsewhere, that I think we are heading back to a new bipolar world. I only use the phrase because it's useful to frame an idea, I'm not arguing it will be the same as the previous bipolar, nor will it be the same as the Cold War. But I think there is a form of cold war, and I think we are heading towards a bipolar world. I don't know if you've seen the latest copy of Foreign Affairs Magazine, quarterly?

Terry Pattar: I haven't actually, no.

Tim Marshall: It's very gratifying when something you've been banging on for about a year suddenly appears as the lead story in Foreign Affairs, but there's two eminent American scholars basically saying," It's a cold war now."

Terry Pattar: Interesting. I do sometimes though, feel that it's unhelpful when, for example, you hear voices in the US government frame China as a threat, when really it's a competitor. It's a competition, it's a rivalry. It's going to be going for a long time, calling them a threat I don't think it does anyone any favors.

Tim Marshall: I agree with you. No, it's one thing for someone like me to call it a cold war, which again, I think that you can make a fist of it, but it's not helpful at that level when it is taken in Beijing as a threat. Because yeah, I mean the language did change, didn't it? It went from strategic competitor to strategic threat in some circles, and that is a very, very different thing. And I'm not sure just how much of a global threat China is, I think it's a regional threat and I think it is a threat to the international ceilings in its part of the world, and I think if they are broken, that does endanger freedom of navigation everywhere. But they're not ideologues, they're not communists. They don't want everyone to think the way they do. They don't want to go and take vasts swathes of territory, they want to take a little bit of territory that they think is theirs anyway. So yeah, I mean, this is what... I mean, it's not the same as the previous cold war, but in conceptual terms to try and tell us where we're going, as long as you then go into the detail, I mean, perhaps we disagree, but I think they're useful broad- brush terms.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, true, true. I think there is that. I think it's just indicative of also people's perspectives and how they see the issue, and the language that they use to describe it. And we are going to live through, well, hopefully live through this coming era, which as you said, it's a bipolar world, because I think a lot of people are talking about it being multipolar.

Tim Marshall: Yes. No, I think it's multipolar at the moment.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, Mm-hmm(affirmative).

Tim Marshall: Yeah, oh no, I completely agree with that. Bipolar, unipolar, we're deep into multipolar now, but I just think that that will... Because you can argue that the previous bipolar world was a multipolar world at the same time, in that there were all these actors on each side, but they coalesced around one side or the other. And I think that that is exactly what will happen again. And I think you're seeing that already with Biden's idea of the, not the West, but the advanced democracies binding together in the various forms, but they are all binding together under the umbrella of the Americans, and the very few friends that China has are those that it has bullied into being its friends, ditto. So in what I would believe will be a bipolar world, yes, of course there's still that space underneath it dor multiple actors, but at a global level, I think it is still splitting to two.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, that's really interesting. And you talked about globalization a little bit, you touched on that bit earlier and especially with walls coming up between countries and maybe whether... I'm sure people would debate whether we're in a retreat from globalization or whether it was a myth in the first place. But in your career, sort of traveling around the world, I mean, did you find it was getting harder and harder to get access to certain places? And what did that mean for you as a journalist, perhaps? Was that ever an issue? Because I know for a lot of journalists it seems to be getting harder to find out what's going on in different parts of the world.

Tim Marshall: It wasn't really. Well, we always had trouble getting into Iran, I went three or four times. It was six, seven months work by a dedicated producer, Kelvin O'Shea who just he knew how things worked. He would go for tea at midnight. He would spend endless hours, perhaps inaudible often what it takes to get into places like that, to get your journalist visas. North Korea, I failed, I never did that. But no, I don't think it was, apart from those two, it wasn't particularly difficult to get into places and to move around. And I don't think I saw a particular hardening of attitudes until, really, I think the Arab risings that hardened a lot of people's attitudes. There's a timeline here inaudible, I think which starts in Bosnia. It's slightly a different subject, forgive me, but there is a connection. In Bosnia that was the first war where overtly journalists were targets and were seen as taking sides. And I think there's a connection there with the advent of satellite television, because we were aware in Bosnia that all three sides were watching the reports that we put out. And then later on in the Kosovo war, I remember every night when I was reporting from Belgrade or Kosovo, whatever report I did was then retransmitting on Serbian television with voiceovers, not always accurately. And you began to become seen as a player as opposed to a reporter. And then that I think has worsened and got more acute, and journalists from let's say Al Jazeera, or TRT or BBC, wherever you're from, you're increasingly inaudible, they must be spies, or they are the mouthpiece of the government, or inaudible, one or two cases is not too far from the truth. So I'm trying to connect this back.

Terry Pattar: I think that that is really interesting because you've almost sort of then given us the build up to the area that we're in now where you're starting to get the politicization of news and politicians talking about fake news and dismissing certain outlets out of hand and not willing to talk to a certain outlets, et cetera. And you think, actually, that it's probably now, that's engendered probably amongst the audience, ordinary people.

Tim Marshall: Yes. Yes, I was going... Yeah-

Terry Pattar: So this idea of,"Actually, we're not sure should we trust these people."

Tim Marshall: Yeah, you're right. Bang up to date with, I don't know, Michael Gove getting harassed in the street basically. But the reason I mentioned the Arab uprisings, which I don't call the Arab Spring, I've always hated that phrase, is that it just seemed to becomes so acute then. And what you had then was, in Syria, Arab journalists from a certain country, if they're from Egypt or they're from Saudi or they're from Qatar or whatever, are immediately seen by one faction as the enemy, irrelevant of what they're reporting and what they're doing. And it just got so much more acute. And of course that was because of the power plays that were going on throughout the Middle East by the Arab governments, and it just made things worse and worse. And then you bring it all the way up to the present and then you've got politicians like Trump egging people on and talking about fake news, which despite being a Trumpian phrase is used now by people that loathed him, that he has got inside their heads rent free and he's influenced him to go down the very road that he beat the path down, which is kind of ironic. Yeah, it's a huge problem. I think the mainstream has to have more confidence in what it does, and I think you just have to keep getting that message across, especially to a younger audience, teach critical thinking and teach people to try to say," Well, where does this news come from? And what are the checks and balances in it and all the rest of it?" And you will find nine times out of 10 that the mainstream media for all the derision that's heaped upon it is where the real action and credibility is.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, I fully agree. And I mean, teaching critical thinking to teach younger analysts, younger generations, school kids, et cetera, that's one of the drums that I've been banging for a long time, because it's one of the things that we've even found in our field where we look at mostly intelligence and working with national security and government clients around the world. But the people who are coming into those roles as analysts, finding it difficult and challenging, increasingly challenging to sift the information they're looking at and figure out, well, what do I believe? What don't I believe? What is more reliable? What is less reliable? And I think in the past, when I started doing this, probably, we were doing that type of training 10 years ago or so, people probably thought, when you talk to them about assessing reliability of your sources, a lot of people just sort of switched off and they thought," Well, that's easy, we know how to do that. That's that's not a problem." And then as we've gone on and we've gone through the last decade, it's actually become more and more challenging, and people are now sort of asking," Okay, well give us more advice on that, let's talk a bit more about that. How do we actually do that? Is there a system? Is there a way in which we can just discover the reliable information that's out there?" But I mean, it's just down to assessing every PCC. But actually, as you said, we always come back to, well, sometimes it is about just going back to those mainstream news sources if you want to find out what's going on, because they may have the more factual details crosstalk.

Tim Marshall: They have their issues, their problems, some of them have their take on things, which I don't like, but in newspapers it's more acceptable than it is in broadcasting. But even with those biases that they have, we know that the Guardian is left of center, fine. We know that the Telegraph is right of center, fine. But in both of those places, you will find a genuine attempt to get to the bottom of things and present them as they are. And a reluctant, sacred duty, you could almost argue, not to just grab wholly lies and inject them into it to prove your point. You don't get that in the mainstream media, but you do get it in many of these other forums. And that's because they are approaching it from the worldview that my view is right and needs to be promulgated, and your view is wrong and must be completely stamped on, and therefore I am justified for the greater good to put my lies front and center. There is a worrying trend, I think, in parts of mainstream journalism, that there is a world view and you must approach the story from that world view, which I don't like. And I don't like it when I see reporters without much experience saying things like," In my view." Or crosstalk.

Terry Pattar: That seems to have crept in a lot over the last few years.

Tim Marshall: Yeah, and I've shouted at telly a number of times recently when I've heard, very good journalists, but they'll say things to a politician, which is clearly their opinion, the reporter's opinion. There was one recently, and I won't name it, because there's no point in stirring up unpleasantness, but they said to the Prime Minister," You have brought shame on the party because of whatever it was." Now you might think that, and the way to do that is to say," Some people in your party have said that you have brought shame." That's all you need to do, just put that barrier, because that is true, some people had said that. But for a journalist, a broadcast journalist to say you have brought shame, I think just doesn't cross a line, it drives a tank through it.

Terry Pattar: Yeah. Yeah, and do you think that's part of a broader trend, though, where news outlets are asking their journalists to provide their take on things because they've got to differentiate themselves from their competitors?

Tim Marshall: Yes. Yeah, good point, I hadn't thought of it in those terms. I mean, I was encouraged often to put more of myself into a piece, and I usually, I tried not to. But that was more to create this personality that you know and trust, not to say," I think Das Kapital was the greatest book ever written or whatever." I think that that is a danger. I think when you get to a certain level, when you really are experienced and you are one of the top people in your field, John Simpson, perhaps might be an example. When you are an editor, I think it is acceptable to say," What's your take on this new policy by..." And as long as the journalist then doesn't say," Well, this policy is wrong and needs to be scrapped." But if they can say," Well, as I assess it and I look back at the history, you can see that this happened or..." To give a take is okay, to give an opinion about right and wrong, unless you're talking about the liberation of Auschwitz or some other extreme example, you shouldn't be going there.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, yeah. And do you find that it irritates you as well though when there's a stretched attempt sometimes to present balance on issues? crosstalk.

Tim Marshall: Yeah, that's a really difficult one though, isn't it? Because COVID skeptics, for example, or vaccination skeptics is one of the new examples, there are at least hundreds of thousands of people who are skeptical. Now, the fact that it, in my view, it is anti- science, do you give 50/50 balance to that? Do you have an hour- long program with two people who each get equal time? And if you do, I mean, do you go into the percentages," Oh well, in this country six percent of people believe this, so we'll give them six percent of the time." I mean, it's a minefield, I'm not sure you can have hard and fast rules for it. Yeah, so, I mean, you've identified the problem and I am far from having a solution to it.

Terry Pattar: Well, yeah, I don't think anyone does, but it seems like it's all... Yeah, it's certainly a current issue, I think, that more and more people are noticing. I mean, coming back to your books and thinking about geography and the role it plays, do you think actually, some of issues we've experienced recently, things like COVID, things like the supply chain issues we've seen, those have made geography a lot more real for people who maybe hadn't really paid much attention to it until then?

Tim Marshall: Yeah, supply lines especially. I mean, a bunch of little stuff, like if last summer you were waiting for your garden furniture to arrive and then you found out that it's sitting on a dock in Shanghai in a container, because COVID A, meant the workforce weren't making them or taking them to the dock side or that the shops had shut here and we weren't ordering, all that supply chain thing. And the recent example in Felixstowe, when we, for whatever reason, did not have the HGV drivers. Yeah, I think that sparks people's awareness of geography and interconnectedness. At the geopolitical level, I also think... COVID has accelerated so many trends, I don't think it's a massive world game changer, if you're looking over the span of a century. Of course, it's hugely influential at the moment, and the ramifications will be felt for several years, but I don't think it's a historic game changer. I think it's accelerated existing trends, and one of them was already, globalization was at least slowing, and we were already becoming aware of the dangers of pretty much a single supply chain, China. A lot of people were already looking at how to diversify and Mexico and Vietnam and places were beginning to undercut China, and I think COVID has accelerated that. Other things just as an asides, to this day, I think it's 85% of global trade by volume travels by sea. And yet you do find people that say," Well, technology means that geography isn't important anymore." They are completely wrong. crosstalk.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, no, indeed. I mean, I think it's nice that it helps more people work from home, but yeah crosstalk-

Tim Marshall: Well that was already very slowly happening.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, it was, yeah.

Tim Marshall: And it's accelerated it. And it will be fascinating if you can wave a magic wand and in 12 months time, it's over. I'm making these figures up, but let's say 5% of people work from home, and now let's say it's 50% of people, I cannot believe that after my magic wand is waved, it will remain at 50%. The only question is, how close back to 5% does it go? Because I think there will be a significant move back, but even if you went back to 10%, and forgive me for just making up these ballpark figures, but the sort of point I'm trying to make is that even if it went back to 10% and you had doubled the amount of home working, that's what I mean about it accelerating an existing trend.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, that makes sense. No, definitely. You touched in The Power of Geography on issues like climate change and talking about solar energy and how that would have an impact on power relations between different countries. What do you see coming next though? Is there something you are now thinking about, your mulling over? That you maybe going to write about next? Or what's sort of the future in the short- term to medium- term?

Tim Marshall: Well there's things I'm worried about right now, not that he makes any odds whether I'm worried or not, and then there's one or two things that are coming up in the future which fascinate me. Climate change is pushing people to move, and it's pushing poverty, which is pushing people to move, and it pushes conflict, which pushes people to move. And it is a vicious circle, or the three things are interconnected. And given that the projections are that A, we won't hit our targets by 2030 or 2050, the problems are going to probably become exacerbated and therefore the pressures exacerbated and therefore the movement of people is increased, with a concurrent knock on effect on politics everywhere, whether it's Indian nationalism because of so many Bangladeshis coming over the border, Bangladeshi nationalism, because so many people from Myanmar coming over their border, or European nationalism going... Wherever it is, I just, I think that hasn't peaked and I find that very worrying. I'm well aware of our need for migration, and to sustain a population and grow it and fulfill all the jobs that are going doing in the inverted age pyramid that we have. But if we don't do it in a manageable, sustainable manner, I worry about the effect on our politics and everybody else's. You've seen what's happened in Germany, 85, what I would regard as extreme right wingers in the parliament, in AfD, ditto, places like Sweden. In fact, right across the continent, we have so far comparatively not gone down that road. You can't say that we might not, so that's the current thing that bothers me. Looking into the future, I'm filled with hope and wonder about technology. I think it's going to be fantastic, I think it's going to solve... Just as technology has solved so many of our problems already, like in this country, clean water, or inoculation against various diseases. I mean, a list as long as your arm. I just think that technology will continue to do that and continue to provide solutions to our problems. As well as bringing new challenges and hypersonic missiles or whatever. So that's the bit in the future that I'm trying to think about more and more, is technology and its effect on us, including, and perhaps, especially in space. I mean, as you know there's a chapter on space in the new book, because I view it as a geographic area, which has to be viewed just as you view geography on Earth, you need to conceptualize this space out there in geographic terms of distance. How long send a message? I mean, there's all sorts of things like in inaudible, so I'm bouncing around the ideas, but that's where I am at the moment. We've always known about comms and communications in defense, in warfare. We used to have three days to make our minds about things, and then it was a day, and then it was a telephone call, and now the decision's already made because modern technology and events have already happened here, boy.

Terry Pattar: Yeah.

Tim Marshall: In the future we're going to have to sort of think about things like," Well, you're up near Mars and that's..." I don't know what it is, let's say it's seven minutes away, and they're up near Mars as well, and there's been a bit of," I'm afraid our two spaceships have bumped into each other, and I've got seven minutes to get my message back and tell you about it. And another seven minutes before you... So I've got to wait 14 minutes." Just little things like that, I'm really enjoying exploring, because I do see it very, very much in geopolitical or rather now astropolitical terms. And I just think it's an exciting area for people that do, more what you do, specialists in defense, to be looking.

Terry Pattar: Oh well, I mean, you've hit on what is pretty much one of the major growth areas, if not the major growth area, I think, in defense and security at the moment, which is looking at space and understanding how things will work and what the dynamics will be and what the technology will allow us to do, what... As you described, the challenges around the world.

Tim Marshall: And the treaties, which I argue we don't have, they don't exist. People say they exist, but if they're not ratified, which they weren't, they don't really exist.

Terry Pattar: Yeah. No, indeed, indeed. Well, a lot for us to ponder and think about.

Tim Marshall: But I'm optimistic about most things, and I really got to say that we... No seriously, would you rather live 400 years ago, or now? 200 years ago, or now? A hundred years ago, or now? Now, and probably, if you ask that same question in 400 years, it'll still be now as in 400 years time.

Terry Pattar: Yeah, and I'm sure if anyone remembers the UK in the'70s, probably says now as well.

Tim Marshall: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It is a much better place for all the many things that I could list with what's wrong with it.

Terry Pattar: But what's also slightly interesting is you touched on your book about football chants, and I was thinking about the takeover of Newcastle United, recently we've seen. And the influence of foreign money that's coming into the game in the UK. And again, it's almost like your books are sort of neatly intersecting in that you're getting the geopolitics coming into the football. But I imagine you crosstalk-

Tim Marshall: We have foreign money in my club, Leeds, Italian. And we love our owner, he is absolutely building it the way a club should be built. But our manager, the Saint Marcelo, as we call him, I agree with him, we need to find a way of actually getting money, reducing the money in the game. It'll make the game better, putting more and more money into it does not make it better.

Terry Pattar: No, that's true, yeah. But interesting as well to see, how some of these geopolitical rivalries might play out, I think, as we go forward through this season into next season,

Tim Marshall: Yeah, I've watched the New Castle Spurs game. I mean, I knew in advance that there would be several hundred Geordies dressed up as Arabs. And I knew that the Spurs fans would sing things like they did such as Halalah lads, and many other chant jokes, the Saudi boys instead of the Geordie boys, et cetera, et cetera. Most of it goodhearted. It's problematic, isn't it? It really is problematic. Look, my club went to Myanmar on a preseason tour about three years ago, they should never have done that.

Terry Pattar: Right, yeah. Well, it's been fascinating talking to you, this has been a really interesting sort of journey around the work that you've produced and some of the things that you've written about. And to get your thoughts on it has been really interesting, and to find out a little bit about what's driven that. And I think-

Tim Marshall: Thanks. And I hope, inaudible, I hope the real experts aren't shouting too much at their podcast advice.

Terry Pattar: NO, I think that I'd hope, like me, well, I wouldn't necessarily cast myself an expert, but I'd hope like me anyone who's working in this space and people listening would appreciate the work you produce because it really helps, I think, get an understanding across the people who... As I mentioned, we often find you'll have analysts who have to rotate every couple of years around different desks that they monitor and that they have to work on. And they may know nothing previous to that about that particular topic, that country, et cetera. And so, yeah, these are always ones that I sort of recommend to people and say," Well, this will give you a very quick way of getting up to speed on all the key points, and then you can sort of delve into the depth from there really."

Tim Marshall: Oh, well, thank you. Thank you very much.

Terry Pattar: No, thanks for your time, it's been great. And yeah, thanks for joining us, and I'm sure the audience will have appreciated it.

Speaker 1: Thanks for joining us this week on the World of Intelligence. Make sure to visit our website, janes. com/ podcast, where you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode.


In this episode of the Janes podcast, Tim Marshall, journalist and author of The Power of Geography, in conversation with Terry Pattar, examine how our politics, demographics, economies and societies are determined by geography.

Tim Marshall wrote the international best selling book Prisoners of Geography. Tim was diplomatic editor at Sky News and has also worked for the BBC and LBC/IRN radio. He has reported from 40 countries and covered conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

Today's Host

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Harry Kemsley

|President of Government & National Security, Janes

Today's Guests

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Tim Marshall

|Author, The Power of Geography