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US Politicians Struggle With World Geography – Again

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People from the USA are often chided about their lack of geographic knowledge. Researchers go around this country and show people maps so the world can laugh when they make mistakes. I stand in defense of my countrymen here, because I know that hardly anybody knows much about world geography anywhere, regardless of what country they come from. I know that if I go to Guatemala, Eastern Europe, or SE Asia I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who could point out even the most basic geographic or political features on a map. This is a planet that doesn’t know geography, and that’s OK. Unless you’re a traveler, in international business, or involve in some global issue or organization, knowing where Uzbekistan, Guyana, or pretty much anywhere else is on a map simply isn’t going to get you very far. People only learn what they need to know, and most people in this world do not need to know world geography.

But when a person is running for the presidency of a country they should know a thing or two about the physical features and political layout of the planet.

Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally, Israel. – Mitt Romney, 2012 US presidential candidate

I usually stand to the lee side of all political bickering matches anywhere in the world, but when I read this I couldn’t believe it was true. This has to be a parody, right? Nope, in fact, it wasn’t even the first time this guy has said something like this.

How can someone run for president who has never heard of the Persian Gulf?

It’s called the Persian Gulf because it’s near Persia!

Obama Romney debate

“Hey, this guy doesn’t really know where Iran is.”

In fact, Iran has over 2,400 kilometers of coastline. Not only does it have a massive amount of access to the Persian Gulf, but it controls the southern crescent of the Caspian Sea and even has a stretch of coastline on the Indian Ocean (Gulf of Oman). So when this presidential hopeful said that Syria is Iran’s only access point to the sea I could not hold back a “What the fuck?” response.

To make matters even more unbelievable, Iran and Syria do not even border each other. There are two little obstacles called Iraq and Turkey which separate them.

Iran was mentioned over 50 times in the presidential debates of the past week, and this Romney guy even called this country “the greatest national security threat” facing the United States — but it’s obviously that he doesn’t even know where the fuck it is.

Shouldn’t there be some kind of test that you need to pass before you can run for president of the USA? Shouldn’t there be some kind of presidential candidate quality control filter? It’s alright if some meat packer or stock broker doesn’t know which continent is which on a map, but when someone is trying to become the commander in chief of the most powerful military on the planet — a position that imparts the power to start a war at the push of a button — they should probably know a little about where the countries are that they speak of . . . or at least have the common courtesy to look at a map before spouting off about geography.

Is this really the best my country has to offer?

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Filed under: Geography, Politics, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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