Sunday, December 18, 2005
While browsing Google Images today in the wake up my odd honor, I came across this map from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection's Cambridge Modern History Atlas, 1912
This map struck me because it reverses the standard view of China and Japan. Instead of a whole China and an expansionary Japanese Empire, it shows the Rising Sun's lands as just "Japan," while being careful to separate China from Chinese dependencies. Observe the rump China:
And the majestic Japan
A good reminder of what a Gap China was a century ago, and that Japan had built a Core with Creating.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
"The Middle East and Soviet Military Strategy," by Michael MccGwire, Middle East Report, No. 151, Mar.-Apr. 1988, pp 11-17, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0899-2851%28198803%2F04%290%3A151%3C11%3ATMEASM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D.
While working on my literature review, I stumbled on this great article by Michael MccGwire on Soviet military strategy from the late 1980s. If you have access to jstor it's definitely worth reading, but what struck me are the maps. The boys over at Coming Anarchy have been doing great work with time-series maps of Armenia, Ethiopia, Europe, and other neat places, so here is a series of maps from one moment in time, but of different regions:'
The prospect of regional war with the US in the Persian Gulf region has prompted Soviet planners to take a fresh look at the military doctrine prevailing through the 1970s. At least until recently, it is the contingency of world war that has determined the structure and posture of the Soviet armed forces and shaped their war-related requirements beyond their borders. These requirements are organized in theaters of military action (TVDs), which are constructs for planning in peacetime as well as for conducting operations in war. As the accompanying maps show, TVDs extend from inside the Soviet Union to as far beyond its borders as makes military sense.
In Soviet planning for the contingency of world war (which the Soviets absolutely want to avoid but can not afford to lose), the Western TVD is by far the most important. This encompasses NATO's central region and the southern part of Scandinavia.
The core of the Middle East lies in Moscow's Southern TVD, which looks south from the Caucasus and Turkistan out across the eastern half of Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Its western boundary cuts through the middle of Turkey and runs south between Cyprus and the Levantine coast to Egypt. In the east, the boundary is likely to follow the line of the Himalayas flanking Pakistan and then turn south to Cape Comorin at the tip of India.
The Southern TVD is, including the Persian Gulf, becomes important only in the second phase of a general war, once NATO has been defeated in Europe, because of the need for the sea-line of communications with Moscow's Fat Eastern front. The Southern TVD would have no significant role to play in the first phase of a world war, unless US forces had previously been drawn into the Gulf area, when the requirement would be to prevent them from redeploying to the European front.
The Mediterranean comes mostly within the Southwestern TVD, which includes North Africa.
In the Southwestern TVD, the immediate objective would be to pin down the NATO forces so that they cannot be deployed to reinforce NATO's central region and to secure the Turkish straights against NATO incursions. Once it was certain that operations in the Western TVD would be successful and some Soviet forces would be available for redeployment, the Soviets would then seek to force Italy out of the war and to gain physical control of both sides of the Turkish Straits. This effort would parallel political attempts to maneuver Greece and Turkey out of the war.
Read the whole thing
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Loyal tdaxp reader Catholicgauze recently attended a lecture by H. J. de Blij in Washington, DC. Dr. de Blij is the author of Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges Facing America: Climate Change, The Rise of China, and Global Terrorism.
This post is the second of a three-part series on Catholicgauze's reflection on de Blij's presentation. Part I: Climate Change was published on November 18, and Part III: Global Terrorism on the 28th.
I have only heard three complaints against Dr. de Blij speech. Two of them were from liberals who decried his refusal to solely blame humans for climate change. The other complaint, the one with validity, was that he spent more time on climate change than the other two topics combined. However, in the limited time he had left, Dr. de Blij continued to wow the crowd and myself.
China: “I never lost sleep during the Cold War. While others were going bonkers with M.A.D., the Cuban Missile Crisis, and The Day After; I knew there wasn’t going to be any real war between the Soviet Union and the United States. They liked our music and we liked their ballet. We were from the same cultural realm. We mistrusted each other but we knew each other. Similar history, religion, and the ability to realize the stupidity of total nuclear war was found in both of us.
“With China; however, all this is thrown out of the window. I fear that a grave cultural misunderstanding may lead to a war involving all the powers of South-East and Southern Asia."
This is how Dr. de Blij began his section on China. The words have been stuck in my mind since he uttered them.
Dr. Blij pointed out how China is already an empire. While the vast majority of Chinese are descendants of Han Chinese, the vast expanses of land to the northeast and west are not “brothers or even cousins" of the Han Chinese. An interesting thing mentioned (which I ask all bloggers to try to find more information on and report back) is that on average there are “thousands of acts of ‘rebellion and insurrection’ against Beijing a year." Dr. de Blij most of these are incidents are in the minority areas of China like Manchuria, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjian (It would be interesting to read Dr. de Blij book to find out what exactly is an act of “rebellion and insurrection’).
Dr. de Blij went on to show that China is not satisfied with its current empire. To demonstrate this he told us a story about his previous geography book Human Geography: Culture, Society, and Space. This textbook has been sold the world over but the publisher was unable to get an acceptable contract with China. However, one day a package from East China Normal University’s Geography Department came asking for Dr. de Blij to sign the book. Dr. de Blij, “being a good sport," signed the book without looking it over. Then, he started receiving angry letters from fellow Asian geographers asking why he was so pro-Chinese. He obtained another copy of the Chinese edition and saw something that disturbed him. The book talked about “lost lands" that included, but not limited to, portions of Eastern Russia, all of Mongolia, Taiwan, parts of India, Nepal, Burma, huge swaths of Indochina, both Koreas, and a good deal of Kazakhstan. He showed us a copy of the map that looked a lot like this
During question-and-answer time Dr. de Blij had to put up with what I call “lack-of-knowledge" or what most would call stupidity. The most LOK question was “Isn’t calling China an empire going to be sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. They haven’t been aggressive in the past." Dr. de Blij responded with a strong “NO." He pointed out China openly engaged US and UN forces in the past in Korea, openly talks about Nuclear War with its neighbors and the US, massacres its own citizens, and has an educational program which teaches aggressive foreign policy.
The main point of this section was political geographic knowledge. Dr. Blij compared the average Chinese classroom, where knowledge of the world around them is strong and schools teach how to succeed in the world, compared to the average American classroom, which all agree do not have a decent geography program and fail to give many children the skills needed to survive in the global market. Adding on to this point is a recent survey from National Geographic which showed 50% of 18-25 year-olds cannot immediately locate Texas on a map of the United States and 20% cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map of the world!
tdaxp's Comment: As before, thanks to Catholicgauze for his excellent post.
Several posts in the blogosphere help illuminate Catholicgauze's points. In particular, Curzon remembers Imperial Asia, Tom Barnett's sanguin, Publius looks at Chinese riots, Bill Rice looks at Chinese expansion into Latin America, John Robb sees China desperate for energy, Mark Safranski worries about Chinese corruption, Simon hopes for a China without Communism and updates on repression in Taishi, and tdaxp got censored.
Update: Coming Anarchy and Sun Bin both look at Chinese "expanionism" through maps. CA's more hawkish.
Friday, October 21, 2005
"Geography in Exile," by Briant Berry, Foreign Policy, No. 124, May-June 2001, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0015-7228%28200105%2F06%290%3A124%3C6%3AGIE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-S.
Amid another angle on the ignorance and blindness of the modern university:
Those of us who have spent time in the Cambridge environment are well aware that insularity breeds arrogance; competence is perceived to decline sharply at the banks of the Charles River. If there are "Prisoners of Geography," it is those who, confined to their tight academic island, make claims of discovery because they are separated from the larger intellectual enterprise by screens of self-congratulatory misperception.
A letter writer to Foreign Policy magazine relates Harvard's hostility to geography (this should get Catholicgauze riled up!)
Ricardo Hausmann claims that development specialists have neglected geography because the discipline fell into disfavor as was excised from Harvard University in the 1950s ("Prisoners of Geography", January/February 2001). He also asserts that a new group of Harvard economists have "rediscovered" economic geography and reversed decades of neglect, a peculiar view of intellectual history.
Economic geography has grown and thrived in the last half century, not withered. Geography was forced out of Harvard not for intellectual reasons, but for a series of interpersonal conflicts and embarrassments among faculty and administrators. The "new economic geographers" of Harvard find novelty only because of their insularity: They quote mostly each other, and rarely (if at all) the scholars on whose contributions they rely.
When I held a chair at Harvard, the then dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government told me there was no room for geography or geographers." The time has come for that to be corrected. As Hausmann properly notes, economic geography should be at the forefront of the development debate. I would only add that it should be the real thing.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
"The Ground Without Foundation? Terrirtory as a Social Construct," by Tuomas Forsberg, Geopolitics, Vol 8 No 2 (Summer 2003), pp 7-24, http://taylorandfrancis.metapress.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&issn=1465-0045&volume=8&issue=2&spage=7.
This article joins the growing series of readings and writings (presumably) leading up to International Law as a Social Cognitive Battlespace. Also fascinating because of the emphasis on Geography, maps, and other fun stuff.