Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alaska's Proximity to Russia

Sarah Palin continues to use Alaska's proximity to Russia as a fact in support of her foreign policy expertise -- that the claim is laughably, insultingly stupid on its face does not deter her in her unblinking devotion to it:

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia--

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.
See? Russians taking the via-Alaska air route to the USA pass over Alaska.

A couple of truths about Alaska might forgivably be missing from the working mental inventory of most people in the USA and abroad. First, Alaska is enormous; here it is superimposed over the rest of the USA (source):



Not only is the state immense, but the western side of the state -- the parts nearest Russia, "nearest" being relative given the sheer size of the land mass -- are almost completely unpopulated. The state has fewer than 700,000 people, and as seen in this population density map, they are concentrated in the eastern panhandle (Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway) and central parts (Anchorage, Seward, Fairbanks) of the state:



Even if proximity to Russia did constitute meaningful foreign policy experience, which it doesn't, Sarah Palin lives far, far from it. Mankind has yet to invent a front porch big enough to allow a view of any part of Russia from any part of either Wasilla (near Anchorage) or the state capitol in Juneau.

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