Japan’s current defense policy is shaped by three principal factors: domestic politics, perceptions of external threats, and its alliance with the United States. In her new book Japan Rearmed, Sheila A Smith, a Japan expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, meticulously explores the evolution of Japan’s military policy from the beginning of the Cold War to the present.

To attempt a revisionist history of Western imperialism in just over 150 pages is, to say the least, ambitious. It has largely been an article of faith that the West “won” history. Even those whom the West presumably defeated didn’t usually take much issue with the conclusion. Seeking to turn conventional wisdom about Western global expansion on its head, Sharman argues in Empires of the Weak not only that the reasons normally given for it don’t hold up, but that this “victory” was largely illusory.

The Earth may be divided among many countries, but since there is only one Heaven, there can be but one tianxia, or “all-under-heaven”. The Chinese concept tianxia might be literally translated into English as “sky-beneath”, and it has been variously rendered as “enlightened realm”, “world-system”, or simply “the world”. To keep Chinese scholars happy, just don’t translate it as “empire”. The West had empires. China had tianxia.

Some international relations scholars and commentators are rediscovering that Eurasia is a geopolitical unit, a “supercontinent”, in the words of Bruno Maçães in his interesting new book The Dawn of Eurasia. Maçães traces the origins of the term Eurasia to Austrian geologist Eduard Suess in 1885, but the idea that Eurasia should be viewed as a single geopolitical unit is traceable to the great British geopolitical theorist Sir Halford Mackinder in a little-remembered article in 1890 entitled “The Physical Basis of Political Geography”.

The great British geopolitical theorist Halford Mackinder wrote that great statesmanship requires “geographical capacity” and “an insight into the minds of other nations.” He explained geographical capacity as a “mind which flits easily over the globe, which thinks in terms of the map, which quickly clothes the map with meaning, which correctly and intuitively places the commercial, historical, or political drama on its stage.”

The concept of “soft power”, popularized by Harvard’s Joseph Nye, has always seemed artificial. Power as wielded by nations is not neatly divisible into “hard” and “soft” categories. The great realist philosopher of power Hans Morgenthau identified the elements of national power as geography, natural resources, industrial capacity, population, military preparedness, national morale, the quality of government, and the quality of diplomacy.