Monday, November 28, 2005
The Geographers New Map, Part III: Global Terrorism
Catholicgauze concludes his three part summary of a recent speech by Dr. Harm J. de Blij. Part I: Climate Change and Part II: China are also available, as is information about Dr. de Blij's new book, Why Geography Matters.
This is the last installment of my rundown of Why Geography Matters by Dr. de Blij. The final part of his speech was spent on global terrorism. The most disappointing thing about his discussion on part three was that he only had a total of five minutes left to communicate his ideas about terrorism.
Terrorism: A main point made by Dr. Blij is that the terrorism of today is unlike the anarchists terrorist of the turn of the last century. Those were unorganized trouble-makers with a penchant for killing heads of state. Terrorists of today are the tip of a well organized effort spanning continents. They rely on failed-states and geographic isolation to thrive.
Pakistan and the former Afghanistan provide a great example of Dr. de Blij's point. In the tribal areas communication is difficult so local control is a necessity. However, if the locals are crazies (in the words of Bishop Catholicgauze and not Dr. de Blij), it becomes a lot easier for a terrorist group like al Qaeda to set up shop.
A strong state which wishes to grow and connects into globalization would resist a reactionary group like al Qaeda and their ilk. It is then easier to understand why the same group that attacked the World Trade Center (al Qaeda) is actively trying to topple allies of the United States (the Republic of Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) and America itself. They need failed states so they grow like a cancer and then spread to other countries and if strong countries resist and retaliate, the cancer dies.
An example which concerns Dr. de Blij is Ethiopia. Ethiopia borders the troubled Eritrea, the three Somalias, and Sudan.
Ethiopia also is a gateway into Kenya and southern Africa with minimal interference from the Sahara Desert. Islamic terrorists have been slowly dragging Ethiopia into turmoil hoping to turn the whole horn of Africa into a giant center for operations. He citied the increase of Caucasian Chechens (who in a variety of reports I have learned are the most fanatical and “crazy” of all Jihadists) in not only Ethiopia, Iraq, and other hot spots but also those caught trying to bomb targets in South Africa. If a strong country like Ethiopia were to fall to the jackals of terrorism, nothing could stop them in the Horn of Africa.
As an aside Dr. Blij talked about the recent pirate raid on a cruise ship 100 miles off the coast of Somalia. He pointed out it would take a organized group with technology and intelligence to try to ambush a lone ship in the open ocean.
To wrap up his speech Dr. Blij stressed the importance of geography in planning. He blamed the current “mess” in Iraq to planners who knew nothing about the cultural geography of the country and pointed out how the position of Geographer has been empty at the State Department for years and has been vacant through many administrations. (Catholicgauze wishes to give a shout-out to anyone in the State Department and he offers nominates himself to the position of Head Geographer!)
Dr. Blij then wrapped up his speech by taking questions on China and Climate Change and went outside to sign books. I had other pressing affairs and had to skip out on the book signing. But I must stress he is correct in the assertion that the United States of America needs more geography education.
In the seven core areas of No Child Left Behind only one receives no geography funding. About half of the US school-attending population cannot locate Texas immediately on a map of the country and about a quarter of school-attending children cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map of the world (source: the latest NGS PSA). If our future leadership generations are more attuned to popular culture and illiterate when it comes to global affairs, apathy and false ideals like fascism or communism can easily led society astray down the tubes. It happened before to the British Empire and it can happen again. We need to stress a true liberal education with math, science, history, geography, and the arts. A well balanced citizenry will be better able to handle the problems that face us in the twenty-first century and beyond.
Great series, Catholicgauze!
>>"About half of the US school-attending population cannot locate Texas immediately on a map of the country and about a quarter of school-attending children cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map of the world (source: the latest NGS PSA)."
The thing I always find interesting about these statistics is that they always seem wildly exaggerated. And it makes me wonder if instead of being ignorant, the kids are just apathetic liars.
I remember having to take surveys and tests that didn't matter in school. And to illustrate my point, here is an exchange from my favorite comic strip:
Calvin: "I'm filling out a survey for 'Chewing' magazine."
"See, they asked how much money I spend on gum each week, so I wrote, '$500.' For my age, I put '43,' and when they asked what my favorite flavor is, I wrote 'garlic/curry'."
Hobbes: "This magazine should have some amusing ads soon."
Calvin: "I love messing with data."
[credit: /Bill Watterson]
Posted by: biz | Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Remeber what "immediately" locating a map would imply -- having a photographic memory of the states.
I don't think ignorance and liers are the only two option. Schools punish students (typically through social pressure) for making mistakes. After several years of public education, students finally learn that their job is to shut up -- not ask questions -- and only hold a position if they are absolutely sure it is correct and that they will not be punished for holding it.
Students who act smart get punished. Students who act dumb get rewarded. Students are smart, so they act dumb.
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Posted by: 62394 | Wednesday, November 12, 2008