Posted by: hobbesonafob | May 4, 2009

Defining the State – the Revenge of Geography

Robert Kaplan’s recent article in Foreign Policy  ( compliments my undergrad thesis. Particularly his idea that that

The ability of states to control events will be diluted, in some cases destroyed. Artificial borders will crumble and become more fissiparous, leaving only rivers, deserts, mountains, and other enduring facts of geography. Indeed, the physical features of the landscape may be the only reliable guides left to understanding the shape of future conflict. Like rifts in the Earth’s crust that produce physical instability, there are areas in Eurasia that are more prone to conflict than others. These “shatter zones” threaten to implode, explode, or maintain a fragile equilibrium. And not surprisingly, they fall within that unstable inner core of Eurasia: the greater Middle East, the vast way station between the Mediterranean world and the Indian subcontinent that registers all the primary shifts in global power politics.


Kaplan is highlighting the idea that many of the fragile and “failed” states in the world do not reflect the actual borders that are drawn on a map. This idea is noted in his book The Coming Anarchy:

Political maps are the products of tired conventional wisdom…Imagine cartography in three dimensions, as if in a hologram. In this hologram would be overlapping sediments of groups and other identities atop the merely two-dimensional color marking of city-states and the remaining nations, themselves confused in places by shadowy tentacles…Instead of borders, there would be moving centers of power, as in the Middle Ages” (1).
This quote, I would argue is reflected in the Foreign Policy’s “Failed State Index”:

According to this index, of the 192 polities the United Nations recognizes, only 15% of the U.N.’s members are considered “stable” or “most stable” states. In other words, the modern state is the not the norm. This has implications for development and security policies (these policies will be examined in the course of this blog). 
  Works Cited
1. Robert D. Kaplan, The Coming Anarchy (New York: Random House, 2000), 10 or 51. 




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