Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
History and geography blend easily with economic analysis and security perspectives in this thoroughly researched but also very personal narrative, enlivened by impressions from travels across many seas and to far-away ports, from Manaus on the Amazon to Tromsø North of the Polar Circle. It is not the beauty or the warming of the oceans that inspire the author but the paradox of their pivotal role in human progress and their crucial significance as theatres of coming wars. This conflict between evolving globalization and re-energized geopolitics is examined without loading the text with trade statistics or data on military balances, or even maps, which is perhaps unfortunate. The thinking on countering the security and ecological challenges is informed more by reflections on the intensity of maritime traffic or on seaports that used to be lively pockets of cosmopolitanism but now are 'all but devoid of humanity' (p. 134). Jones ponders upon the revival of conceptualization of sea power pioneered by Alfred Mahan at the end of XIX century, but then marginalised by the continental nature of confrontation in the Cold War. China, which has grown profoundly dependent upon maritime trade, is investing massively in building a 'blue-water' Navy, and Mahan's ideas are shaping its naval strategy. The disruption of global shipping caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may be over, but the shock of this disaster has reinforced old patterns of mistrust and fear, which can 'drown out logic and cooperation' (p. 308). The image of a tsunami looms over propositions on upgrading US-led alliances and ocean sciences networks, while multiple current distractions divert political attention from our troubled oceans.