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“God created war so that Americans would learn geography.” – Mark Twain
It is true, isn’t it? Two years ago, how many of you had heard of Kherson or Melitopol? Back then I thought It was Nikoliav, not Mykolaiv. Before October 7, who knew where Wadi as-Salqua was?
Don’t be too chagrined. I learned where Khe Sanh, Hue, and Pleiku were courtesy of the Vietnam War. My parents picked up all sorts of geography lessons during World War II. Few Americans knew where Guadalcanal, Kwajalein, and Saipan were. And my grandparents had only a shadowy idea of where the Argonne was prior to World War I.
I am a geography nut. Many years ago, I worked Mission Control as a Shuttle navigator. We had a ground track map up (a paper one, back then). During night shifts at the Nav Console we would amuse ourselves (and keep ourselves awake) by calling out an obscure spot on the map and having the other person find it. I learned where the Kerguelen Islands, the Spratleys, the Andamans, and other weird and wonderful places were. Still, even I tend to pick up new geographic knowledge via current wars.
Perhaps geographic ignorance is an indicator of peace. I suspect a lot of us will be learning more geography in the next few years, though.Published in