Friday, November 21, 2008

American geopolitics

Given that over a fifth of 18-24 year old Americans are unable to locate the Pacific Ocean on a map, and that only a third of Americans are taught geography in school (!!!) it's easy to question the geographic literacy in Washington. After the complete cock-up of the Iraq war I had been wondering if anyone in the US was aware of the importance of place, culture and nation vs. state. A "political map" of the world in which countries are neatly delineated doesn't reflect the reality of life in a lot of countries: look at this map of Somalia for instance, where the 'government' controls less than 1/3 of the country.

All is not lost! The National Intelligence Council has published a comprehensive, detailed and nuanced document analysing geographic trends to the year 2025. I've been dipping into it this morning and am pleased to note an acknowledgement of the differences between Sunni and Shi'a populations in Iraq, the potential conflict between North and South in India (driven by religion and culture) and the emergence of an Islamic discourse in European politics. Well, I'm not happy to read about that but it's good that it hasn't escaped people's attention anyway.

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