8.16.2006

The geography of terror

OK, first we have "the axis of evil" (David Frum via George Bush)

Then it was the "outposts of tyranny" (Condi)

Now we have the "central front of the war on terror."

These are all very geographical and I got to wondering if it was even possible to map these out. Sure enough, someone has done so.


Axis of evil (and beyond)--Wikipedia



Outposts of tyranny


There isn't one yet for the "central front" so the location of that is unknown. We don't normally think of the "war on terror" as having traditional fronts and coherent geographical locations so these characterizations are more than metaphors, they're part of a new map of the world.

These geographical put-downs reveal a highly geocentric perspective. An outpost, after all, is something that is far away from you, as well as out of the mainstream. On the map above, you can see the outposts are far away... from the USA (although some are perilously close to Britain supposedly the US's strongest ally on the WOT!).

Probably the most explicit new map from this perspective is the one in Barnett's book The Pentagon's New Map:


(Map by William McNulty)

As you can see if you click through to the web site or the bigger image, Barnett characterizes the world into two zones; the good or the "functioning core" and the bad or the "Non-integrating gap." This is an update on Mackinder, or Mackinder-lite you could say, and reflects the old core-periphery models of high school geography in the 1950s cold war.

Barnett is triste on the cold war; he misses it. The cold war provided a vision for the USA, one we don't have today (well, that's true!). If you examine the map you see that there is a simple logic at work; that of western-style globalization. Any country that doesn't align with this capitalist mode of production is out of it (non-integrating). If you thought Tom Friedman was keen on globalization, wait till you see what this guy says--never mind that globalization hasn't worked even in the "core" or in places such as Iraq where Barnett's military superiors are warning of civil war.

If you take the core-periphery model (and Barnett needs a new map because his non-integrating gap is visually in the core; perhaps an oblique projection would fix it?) as it was developed in the 1960s (eg., by J. Friedmann) it was part of a series of stages that led to complete spatial integration. Barnett has dusted off these old geopolitical ideas and given them a new look for the 21st century. For example, what is to say that the "core" needs a periphery in order to sustain itself and exploit disparities in income (outsourcing or immigration as labor)? What we have observed is actually an increase in the concentration of power and wealth in the "core" rather than a decrease.


"There is always a well-known solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong"
H.L. Mencken "The Divine Afflatus", in Prejudices: Second Series p.158

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