Today’s selection — from The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan. America’s location makes it almost invulnerable to invading forces from other countries. The last best chance any country had to disrupt America’s progress was the British during the geographically pivotal battle for Fort McHenry in 1814:
“Beyond Mexico and Canada, there are no other powers that could even theoretically march on American territory. … As hard as it is to conceive of a credible military threat to the United States arising in North America, coming up with one from beyond the continent strains the imagination. The oceans serve as fantastic buffers, sharply limiting unwanted interaction with the larger populations of Europe and East Asia. … The shortest distance from Europe to the United States is over three thousand [miles].
“Considering the distances involved, the outside world missed its best chance to disrupt America’s development in the War of 1812, one of only two occasions when the Americans faced an extrahemispheric invasion (the other being the Revolutionary War). The critical battle was for Fort McHenry in September 1814.
“The British had sacked and captured Washington, D.C., just three weeks before and were moving north by land and sea toward Baltimore. At the time, Baltimore was the largest city in the region and a notorious hub for the privateers who had been raiding British shipping lines. But it was also the sole meaningful land link between the northern and southern states: With the Allegheny Mountains to the west, all roads hugged the Chesapeake Bay, which in turn led to the bay’s major city and port. As importantly, the entirety of inland America was dependent upon Baltimore. The Cumberland Narrows through the Appalachians lay just to the west, and only three years earlier the government had begun construction on a road to connect the Potomac River to the Ohio valley. Instead of a months-long sail down to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi to the Ohio, this new National Road would allow Baltimore to serve as an immediate outlet for Pittsburgh and lands beyond.
“If the British could hold Baltimore, the war’s other theaters would be rendered moot and the young America would be split into North, South, and interior. Luckily for the Americans, Major George Armistead’s heroic defense of Fort McHenry convinced British commanders that the post could not be taken with available forces. While time has eroded the details from the American mind, all Americans instantly recognize the description of the battle and its outcome as recorded by an American who watched the battle from the deck of a British vessel where he was being held prisoner: Francis Scott Key’s ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ “
The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder
Author: Peter Zeihan
Publisher: Twelve, Hachette Books
Copyright 2014 by Peter Zeihan
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