Geopolitics, Globalization and the Age of Terrorism





John T. Payne


Presented to the


Raleigh Tavern Philosophical Society





April 29, 2004






Geopolitics, Globalization and the Age of Terrorism




The attacks of September 11, 2001 on America were a resounding start to the 21st century and a wakeup call for Americans. These attacks however, dramatic as they were, are part of a continuum of violence against America stretching from our Embassies in Africa, to our military in Saudi Arabia, to our naval ships in foreign ports. Clearly, America is increasingly the target of a growing world-wide terrorism. The dawning of this Age of Terrorism calls on us to reevaluate our ideas about how we deal with the rest of the world. We need to carefully examine not only our position internationally, but also update our geopolitical theories that form the basis of our foreign policy in dealing with the world in the 21st Century. Let's begin by examining the sources of geopolitical theory itself.


Development of Geopolitical Theories



        Geopolitics is defined as a branch of geography that promises to explain the relationships between geographical realities and international affairs. The idea that such relationships exist was noted as early as the ancient Greeks (18,309-328). Although noted at this early time it was only with the discovery of the conceptual and methodological tools of modern geography that scholars became convinced they could examine the connections in something approaching scientific precision.

            The roots of modern geopolitics spring from the work of a German geographer, Professor Friedrich Ratzel in 1897 (13). It was Professor Ratzel who coined the phrase anthrogeographical, meaning a combination of anthropology, geography and politics. He believed that states have many of the characteristics of living organisms. He thought a state had to grow. It must expand or die. He also introduced the idea of "living frontiers", that borders were dynamic and subject to change.

A Swedish Professor of geography at Gothenburg University in 1900 was the first to use the term geopolitics (in Swedish "geopolitik") (10). Expanding on Ratzels' earlier thoughts Professor Rudolf Kjellen is usually regarded as the founder of the science of geopolitics.

Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, an American was early associated with the ideas of geopolitics. Admiral Mahan, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, published the first of many works on the subject in 1890. (12)  Based on a study of previous world powers, Portugal, Spain and England, the Admiral concluded that maritime commerce was essential to the economic prosperity of a great power. In his view, in order to insure the safety of a nation's maritime commerce that nation had to control the seas. Thus, the development of a strong navy was as an essential ingredient to a powerful state as  the country's location. The country with the most power would be the one whose relative location was accessible and connected with a long coastline and good harbors. A nation with naval supremacy could defeat a country that was militarily pre-eminent. It was Admiral Mahan's' ideas that led the United States to develop a powerful naval fleet, which was to lead the country into its experiment with empire in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Meanwhile a geopolitical school was developing in England. Sir Halford Mackinder proposed what would become the most widely discussed concept of geopolitical studies. Mackinder first outlined his ideas in 1904 (11) and further developed his ideas in 1919. (11). The core of Mackinder's land based power was the Eurasian "Heartland" of Russia. Eurasia and Africa constituted the "World Island". In Mackinders view, the power that could control the "Heartland" would become what we now call a superpower. Mackinder summarized his ideas in three sentences that would symbolize geopolitics for generations:

            Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland:

            Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island:

            Who rules the World-Island commands the World. (11,p.150)

It was Germany that would bring discredit on the science of geopolitics. After World War I a German geopolitical school was developing under General and Professor Karl Haushofer. Professor Haushofer combined the basic concepts of Ratzel, Kjellen and Mackinder in forming the German geopolitical school. From Ratzel came the idea of Lebensraum or space, from Kjellen came the term Autarky or national self-sufficiency and from Mackinder came the idea of the "Heartland". It was Haushofers ideas that Adolf Hitler used to give legitimacy to the German conquests before and during World War II.

As a result of Nazi Germany's association with geopolitics the whole field of study fell into disrepute after World War II. In addition to the guilt by association with the Nazis, geopolitics also was open to criticism for being to deterministic. The critics of geopolitics charged that geopolitical theory tended to ascribe a single cause to the success or failure of a country. It did not take into consideration human choice.

During World War II, in the United States another theory of geopolitics was developing. Professor Nicholas Spykman felt that Mackinder had put too much emphasis on the Heartland (15). He believed that both sea and land power were important. Spykman disagreed with Mackinder's Heartland Theory. He felt that the real potential of Eurasia was in the "inner crescent." Spykman defined this area as  Western Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Far East. This "Rimland was important because the region had access to the sea and to interior regions. The summary became:

            Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia.

            Who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world.

Professor Spykman's Rimland theory eventually served as one factor justifying the U.S. policy of containment of the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China in order to stop the spread of communism.

            As a result of the great advances made in the field of aviation during World War II, A. P de Seversky developed a geopolitical theory which incorporated aviation (14). Seversky felt that the development of air power made land battles a thing of the past. His concluded that whoever controlled the skies would be the world power. When Seversky published his ideas, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were the two most important air powers. In discussing his theory Seversky used an azimuthally equidistant map projection centered on the North Pole to show the air dominance of the two superpowers - U.S. and U.S.S.R. On this map Seversky outlined an area of intersection, which he called the "area of decision." In his theory whoever controlled this "area of decision" would become the dominant world power.

            During the 1960s, Dr Saul Cohen, a Professor of Geography at Boston University and visiting Professor at the Naval War College outlined a new geopolitical theory which looked beyond the nation-state and viewed the world in terms of spatial patterns not containable within national boundaries (2). Cohen divided the world into geostrategic regions. The two main regions are the Maritime Realm, which is dependent on trade, and in the Eurasian Continental Realm, which is interior in direction. Cohen gave the most powerful states within a Realm the title of first-order states. First-order states in Cohen's maritime realm were Japan, U.S. and the European Community while those in the continental realm were China and the former Soviet Union. Professor Cohen described the states that separated the realms as "shatterbelt" states. Cohen's model also contained independent states such as Pakistan, India, Thailand, and Vietnam. Gateway states were those lying between realms and regions which acted as linkages. The model also described asymmetrical states as those within a region that behaved differently than the others like Israel and North Korea located in the "shatterbelt."

            In the 1970s two significant refinements of geopolitical theory were produced. The first of these was the "World System" developed by Dr. Immanuel Wallerstein at State University of New York (17). Professor Wallerstein developed his model over the period 1974-89. Professor Wallerstein described two types of world systems: First, a "world empire" system in which there is a single political system over most of the area and second, a "world economy" system where a single political system does not exist. Wallerstein believed that the "world economy" system developed in Europe during the 16th century contained three geographic areas. Core states were advanced areas of the "world economy." These core states had strong state structures, a national culture and an integrated people. Core states were economic powers connected by trade and technology and were exploiters of the periphery. Peripheral areas were weak states. They were either colonial states or states with a low degree of autonomy. Wallerstein also outlined a third region, which was comprised of semiperpheral areas and acted as a buffer between the core and the periphery.

            Wallerstein's model contains several shortcomings. First, his world system reflects determinism. He believed that the world system had been fully developed by the 1950's, and no new country would be able to enter the system and be able to successfully compete. He also believed that those countries in the periphery would probably never be able to catch up economically to the core countries. In spite of its shortcomings Wallerstein's theory is important for its introduction of linkage between geography, politics and economics. There is also some agreement with Cohen's earlier model of geostrategic realms.

            The second significant development in the 1970s came from Dr. Ray Cline (1). Professor Cline's study was undertaken in the wake of Vietnam and the Arab oil shock. It was a period when "the U.S. finds itself in a state of markedly diminished influence and strategic confusion." (1, p3) Cline's model was an attempt to quantify the overall power of 50 nations of the world comprising 90 percent of the world population at the time. The variables measured for each nation were: population, territory, economic capability, military capability, strategic purpose and the will to pursue national strategy. Cline's conclusion was in order to contain the totalitarian threat the U.S. needed to form a limited system of core alliances patterned after the Athenian League. He then proceeded to outline the make up of this new "Oceans Alliance" based on a calculation of perceived power. If it could have been attained the "Oceans Alliance" would have contained 26 nations possessing 70 percent of the perceived power at the time, and thus, would have successfully contained the foe.

            Of course, the development of geopolitical theories did not come to a halt in the 1970s with the ideas of Professor Cline, but rather the development was radically changed by the growth of something called globalization and the end of the cold war. In order to understand the current word scene we must explore, at least briefly, how these events impacted the times.

The Globalization Phenomena

            The term globalization has come to mean many things to many people. According to one writer, globalization is the "inexorable integration of markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach round the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before" (6,p5). In truth there are just about as many definitions of globalization as there are people. And ever since the term was first used to explain large-scale changes, scholars have debated it meaning and use.

            Principle to the debate over globalism is the question -- is it something of a new era, or really nothing new at all, but rather a continuation, albeit accelerated, of a process begun in the early sixteenth century? This writer tends to favor the idea that it is a continuation of a very old process, which actually began in the late fifteenth, or early sixteenth century. This  process, however, has greatly accelerated since the late 1960s by a revolution in communications, which includes the development of the Internet and the launching of global communications satellites. This revolution in electronic communications started to transform both the ways in which we were able to relate to one another across the world and also the content of economic systems. It is these rapid advances in communication technologies which caused an exponential increase in the globalization process, which in turn brought into use the term so commonly used today.

            Once you have a network of communications satellites in place, it means you can communicate from any part of the Earth to another and, at least in principle, instantaneous global communication is possible. This ability changed an enormous amount about world society, and it changed a great deal about our personal lives as well. This communications revolution has changed world society. When you have instantaneous communication in which television and other electronic media are available on demand, you have in effect reached the "global village prophesied by Marshall McLuhan.

            Just as in geopolitics, the field of globalization has many different theories. Needless to say, this paper is not the place to try to investigate this very extensive field of academic endeavor. There are many good sources for information on this subject, but one of the best is This web site sponsored by Emory University makes every attempt to present a fair and balanced view of the subject and has several good links to other sources.

            Regardless of one's position on the origins of globalization, it seems evident that the subject has become an issue in a wide-ranging debate. An excellent source for data to measure the spread of globalization is This site contains measures of several variables over time and includes both graphs and maps to illustrate the data. Using data from this source let's look at a few statistics to see if globalization is a fact or simply a popular buzzword. First, let's look at trade. Figure 1 below is a graph of world trade from 1950 to 1998. Some data points from the chart are very interesting. In 1950, total world trade was $.4 trillion (U.S. dollars) and accounted for 6% of the gross world product. By 1980 it was $2.6 trillion and 11% and in 1998 $5.4 trillion and 14%. Clearly world trade has been increasing at a rapid rate    

                                   Fig. 1


Another measure of world trade is shown in Figure 2 where we see the explosive increase in the number of world regional trade agreements. In 1950 there were no regional trade agreements while by 1998 there were 129.






                                                                       Fig. 2

            In the figure below we look at foreign direct investment and its percentage of gross world product. Note again the steady increase. Also the drop a result of 9/11.

            The communications revolution is well illustrated in the figure below. Starting in January 1996, there were only 30 million Internet users in the world. By June 2002, the number had reached almost 581 million users or 9.6% of the world population. Clearly, the world is becoming more connected by the minute.

            For one last look at the numbers for globalization, let's look at world tourism. It is tourism which really brings people in contact with each other and shows how much the world is becoming more interconnected daily. The chart below is a measure of tourist arrivals in the world from 1950 to 1999. In 1950 the total world tourist flow was only 25 million people, but by 1999 it had reached 657 million. In the world today, people do not learn about others in only abstract ways. Now, more and more, we visit other places and have better first hand knowledge of other cultures than ever before.



It is clear from the above data that since the late 1960s significant changes in the scale of international interchange have taken place, significant enough to cause few to debate the fact that globalization exists.

The End of the Cold War

            In 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev rose to the leadership of the Soviet Union, who would have predicted that in just six years the geopolitics of the world as we had known it  since the end of World War II would change forever with the end of the cold war.

             It was the policies and decisions made by Premier Gorbachev, "glasnost" and "perestroika", which would lead to the unraveling of the East European block, beginning with Poland and finally the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. Many of us today remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when news of the fall of the wall, that very stark symbol of the cold war, reached our ears. And how appropriate that the news probably reached us via satellite over television, and live at that. Truly, that revolution in communications discussed earlier was evident on this very important day in history.

            Beginning in early 1990 the Soviet Republics began to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Gorbachev had inherited a country with extreme economic and foreign policy problems. The Soviet Union had been able to survive fairly well in the old industrial world, and it had built itself on hard industry. It kept up with the west fairly well in terms of growth rates until the early 1970s. The Soviet Union started to fall behind after that period because it couldn't compete in the new global electronic economy, and because its system of top down power was not compatible with softer forms of power which function more effectively in a globalized communications system.

            In the spring of 1990, Russians, alarmed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, elected Boris Yeltsin as their President. Yeltsin quit the Communist Party, supported independence for the republics and challenged Gorbachev. In July 1990, at the Paris summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), leaders signed a declaration respecting the territorial integrity of Europe, an act that signaled the end of the cold war.

            In August 1991, there was one last attempt to save the Soviet Union when a group of aging senior communist leaders detained Gorbachev and attempted a coup d etat. The coup was poorly planned and quickly failed. Gorbachev was returned to his position as head of state. Real power, however, had passed to Yeltsin and the presidents of the other republics. Yeltsin banned the Communist Party and recognized the independence of the republics.  By September, the Congress of People's Deputies voted for dissolution of the USSR. By early December a new political entity emerged, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Finally, on 25 December, Gorbachev resigned as president of the USSR and was not replaced.

            So, by December 1991 not only had the cold war ended by our archenemy of that period had ceased to exist.

Cold War Aftermath

            The cold war had shaped almost all international relationships for 45 years, and now that it was over the nation states of the world began to scramble to redefine their foreign policies. The United States and its allies had clearly won. Capitalism and democracy seemed to be pushing back Communism. The United States now stood as the sole military superpower, but what did that mean? Most people could not even remember when there was no cold war, or when there was only one military superpower.

            Americans had to reconsider their role in a changed world. Some called for a less internationalist foreign policy advocating the domestic use of this peace dividend.  Others believed the U.S. could protect itself and advance its interests only by active participation in world affairs. The Bush administration began to speak of building a new world order in which states did not threaten or use force to settle disputes, and governments embraced democracy, human rights and liberal economic policies. There were some examples of positive international developments, but violence and tensions continued to plague the system beginning with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the resulting Gulf War, extending through problems in the Balkans, humanitarian disasters in Africa and increasing tensions in Korea.

            Why, with the end of the cold war, did international tensions continue? First of all, during the cold war the stand off between the superpowers tended to act like the cork in a champagne bottle, that is, it was like a stabilizing force. Although clashes did erupt, there did develop an informal set of rules between the giants, which limited the use of force for fear of setting off "the big one." With the end of the cold war it was like pulling the cork out of the bottle, all the individual bubbles, read nation states, were free to go their own way, which is bound to create increasing conflict. As Richard Haass, in his book Intervention, points out  "Duopolies, or systems based on two poles, are simpler and easier to manage than those with multiple decision-making centers. (7,p3)

            Globalization itself contributes to instability in the post cold war era. As nations become more connected, in some instances we see a revival of nationalism and local forms of cultural identity. In some cases, movements become defined primarily by ethnicity rather than political beliefs or territorial boundaries. The Balkans is a perfect example of this ethnic based instability.

            Globalization also leads to the weakening of the nation-state. The increase of communications makes it very difficult for governments to control their states completely. Add to this the impact upon the state of regional organizations and multi- national corporations, and we see a nation state much less able to control events than in the past

            Possibly the greatest factor leading to instability is the spread of advanced conventional and unconventional military technologies. The spread of these technologies throughout the world gives even small groups the capability to inflict devastating destruction at a very cheap price. This situation leads those who have these capabilities to use them, and those who don't to either pre-empt against those who do or be ever searching to obtain the capabilities themselves.  Haass calls this a period of "international deregulation."  A period where "There are new players, new capabilities and new alignments, but as yet, no new rules."(7,p5)

            One month after the Declaration of Paris ending the cold war, the world faced the first threat to international stability when Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia. This event clearly challenged President G. H. W. Bush's calls for a stable New World Order of free nations.  We  know the story of how America put together a coalition of nations and liberated Kuwait. Evidence of the spread of communications technology was evident as we sat in our living rooms watching the air attacks on Baghdad.

            After the Gulf War Americans were quite pleased with themselves, but where was the long-range strategy for dealing with the post cold war world? This win was only one battle in the long run of things, and the nation lacked a plan for dealing with the long run. American euphoria over the Gulf War did not last. Hussein remained in power and soon internal ethnic conflicts within Iraq involved the U.S. in piecemeal measures in "no-fly" zones and the like.

            After the Gulf War, the United States, lacking a long-range plan to cope with the post cold war environment, retreated from the New World Order vision. The American people seemed reluctant to accept the dangers of involvement abroad. This reluctance was apparent when violence followed the collapse of Communist rule in Yugoslavia in 1990. In this scenario both President Bush and Clinton were reluctant to use the military option mainly because no clear national strategy had yet been established for the post cold war world. Throughout the Clinton years, this lack of a national strategy continued in spite of numerous attempts to define America's position. Without a real plan the nation stumbled through the crisis in the Balkans, Haiti, Somalia and Iraq, which continued to be a problem.

            Not only did the nation lack a solid strategy for dealing with the international situation, the Clinton Administration was cutting the budget for the military. As the budget declined troop levels decreased, bases were closed and orders for new weapons were reduced. What did not occur, however, was a reorganization of U.S. forces to reflect the changed post cold war world situation. U.S. forces remained structured to counter a cold war superpower, which no longer existed. These forces were too heavy and lacked the mobility to deal with the changed world. Meanwhile, intelligence operations faced tight budgets, low morale and public criticism.

In 1993 the increasing threat of worldwide terrorism first reached our shores when a car bomb exploded in the underground garage of the World Trade Center in New York. This was a harbinger of much worse things to come. The attack was eventually traced to followers of a radical Islamic leader from Egypt. In 1995 and 1996, terrorist bombings killed American soldiers and civilians in Saudi Arabia. In 1998, terrorist bombs killed at least 190 people and wounded 5000 at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The embassy attacks were blamed on Islamic fundamentalists funded by Osama bin Laden, and cruise missile attacks were launched on targets in Afghanistan and the Sudan. Could this be called part of a strategy, or was it simply a knee jerk reaction? In October 2000 the U.S.S. Cole was attacked by terrorist bombers while in the harbor of Aden, Yemen and 17 U.S. sailors' lives were lost and the ship almost sank.

Campaigning for the presidency in 2000 George W. Bush clearly outlined his plans for correcting the drift of our national strategy. When addressing defense, Bush laid out three goals: First, renew the bond between the president and the military; second, defend the American Homeland; and third, create the military of the future. Concerning foreign policy Bush promised to pursue a policy of more than the management of crisis. He outlined his guiding goal to be turning American influence into generations of democratic peace. He expected to accomplish this by concentrating on enduring national interests and by resisting the temptation to withdraw from the world. He believed it vitally important to set priorities and outline a national security strategy to deal with the post cold war world.

Only eight months into his term of office, President Bush and the nation were faced with a tragedy on a scale not seen since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. In the early morning hours of September 11, 2001 small groups of men linked to Osama bin Laden hijacked four passenger jets soon after takeoff and aimed them at targets in New York City and Washington, D.C. To stunned Americans, the attacks were a shocking revelation of their nation's vulnerability.

In the aftermath of the attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a war on terrorism around the world. U.S. forces were deployed to Afghanistan to drive the ruling group, the Taliban, which had sheltered bin Laden and his organization Al-Qaeda, from power. This turnover of power in Afghanistan was fairly quickly successful, but this was simply a short-term reaction. What about the long-term development of a National Security Strategy? To understand the development of a new strategy we need first to review the status of globalization, as it existed in 2001.

Globalization in 2001

            To review the subject of globalization in 2001, data compiled by the Foreign Policy magazine will be used in this paper. In the year 1998, Foreign Policy began compiling a Globalization Index, which is a matrix of data to measure this thing called globalization. The data collected is for 62 countries of the world, which represent 85 percent of the world's population. (for 2001 data see figure next two pages)





The data in this figure is arranged by country from most to least globalized.  There are four primary areas of measurement for each country with sub areas as follows:

            Political Engagement

                        Foreign embassies hosted by the country

                        Number of memberships in international organizations

                        U.N. Security Council missions in which the country participates

            Personal Contact

                        International telephone traffic (calls out + in/population)

                        Money transfers (in + out/GDP)

                        Travel (number of tourist arrivals)

            Economic Integration

                        Total trade (goods,import+export+service,credits+debits/GDP)

                        Foreign Direct Investment (in+out/GDP)

                        Portfolio (inflows+outflows/GDP)

                        Income payments and receipts as a share of GDP


                        Internet users as a share of total population

                        Internet hosts per capita

                        Secure servers per capita

What does the data tell us? First, as in previous iterations of the Globalization index, small trading nations tend to rank ahead of larger economies in 2001. Western Europe as a region was the only one to see its index scores decline from 2000 levels due to the aftershocks of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center which caused FDI and portfolio investments to fall, still the region remained overall in the top 30% of the list.

In 2001, Southeast Asia continued to claim the title of the world's most economically integrated region among emerging markets  with Singapore and Malaysia ranking among the top 10 most economically integrated nations. Singapore is the most globalized Asian nation in the index.

East European countries continued to do well in the index. All of Russia's former satellite countries covered in the index scored higher than Russia itself. The Czech Republic was the most globalized nation in Eastern Europe, The Czech Republic has proved attractive to foreign investors, especially auto manufactures, thanks to its geographic location at the center of Europe and competitive advantage in terms of lower cost yet highly skilled workers.

In Latin America, Panama ranked as the most globalized nation for the second year in a row. Several special conditions help Panama maintain this position including the Colon Free Zone; the fact that Panama holds the world's largest shipping registry and the country is Latin America's largest international banking center. Venezuela ranked last in Latin America due mainly to a drop in oil prices caused by the turbulence surrounding President Hugo Chavez.

Africa, for 2001, remains the world region least integrated into the global economy. Botswana was the most globalized nation on the dark continent, while Kenya was the least connected.

In the Arab world, Morocco was the most globalized country due to several high profile deals in the recently liberalized telecom sector. Saudi Arabia remained at the bottom of the region and second to the bottom for the index as a whole. Foreign Policy calls Saudi the poster child for why the Middle East as a whole remains marginalized by globalization. Economic growth throughout the Arab world is stagnated. A recent report by the World Economic Forum blames Arab governments for pursuing a one-dimensional growth strategy based upon the accumulation of capital. "The export structure of the region as a whole is still primarily based either on its absolute advantage in petroleum products, as in the case of the major oil-producing countries like Kuwait and Qatar, or on its comparative advantage in labor intensive manufactures, as in the case of Morocco and Tunisia."  The United Nations Development Program has noted that Arab countries have one of the lowest IT access rates in the world: Only 1.2 percent of Arabs can access computers, and only half that number use the internet. Also large-scale illiteracy and deficiencies in the educational system contribute to a capability gap throughout the Arab world.

A New Geopolitical Theory for the Age of Terrorism

            Beginning in the late 1990s,  Dr.Thomas P.M. Barnett, a professor at the Naval War College, began studying the post cold war situation in which the U.S. found itself as the only superpower. Barnett was looking to develop an operating theory of the world in order to develop a military strategy to accompany it. In his studies, Barnett began to look at the globalization phenomena and its impact on individual nation-states. His studies pointed to a problem with most discussions of the subject in that experts tend to treat the subject as either great and sweeping the planet, or as horrid and failing humanity everywhere. He came to the conclusion that neither view is accurate since globalization is simply too big and too complex for such summary judgments. In Barnett's view, the key to defining the world today is to look to where globalization has truly taken root and where it has not.

            Barnett divides the world into three areas, the core, the seam and the gap states, based on their level of globalization. See fig. 3 below.


Core states are those thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows and collective security. States in this category feature stable governments, rising standards of living and more deaths by suicide than murder. Core states include North America, much of South America, the European Union, Russia, Japan, and Asia's emerging economies (most notably China and India), Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Gap states are those where globalization is thinning or absent, plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder and most important - the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. Seam states are those, lying between the Core and Gap, which are in transition to being fully globalized. Seam states include: Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

            As part of his study Dr. Barnett mapped out U.S. military responses since the end of the cold war and plotted them on a map (see fig. 4 and 5 next 2 pages)

The results of these efforts show an overwhelming concentration of activity in the regions of the world excluded from globalization's growing core. These areas are the Caribbean Rim, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, Southwest Asia and much of Southeast Asia. Most of the nations in this area have demographics skewed very young and most are labeled, "low income" or "low middle income" by the World Bank (i.e., less than $3,000 annual per capita).

            Drawing a line around the majority of these military interventions, we can basically map the Non-Integrating Gap. Of course there are exceptions to this very simple approach, such as Israel isolated in the Gap, North Korea in the Core, or the Philippines straddling the line. It is interesting to note, if we compare the countries in Dr. Barnett's model with those found in Foreign Policy 2001 data, we find an amazing correlation. Generally the countries in the Foreign Policy data, which fall in the Core, are the top 35 (from Ireland through Japan). If we compare these with Dr. Barnett's Core states we find a 90% correlation. The Gap states in the Foreign Policy data fall from 36 down (Uganda through Iran). If we compare these with Barnett's Gap (excluding Seam States), we have a 73% correlation. Thus, it would appear there is a tight, although not exact, correlation between Gap states, Globalization and international instability.

            Looking at the data, Barnett concludes that if a country is either losing out in the globalization race, or rejecting the concept entirely, there is a very good chance it will be the scene of some form of disturbance. On the other hand, if a country is largely functioning within the environment of globalization, it stands a good chance of being a stable state.

            Barnett points out that  since World War II, the U.S. has assumed the real threats to its security came from great powers like itself. During the cold war the other great power was  the Soviet Union. The assumption was always made that if we could handle problems with another great power we could always work the issues of the "lesser states".  With the end of the cold war, however, the playing field has changed. Throughout the 1990s, we struggled trying to handle international problems more or less without a real strategy. It seems, unconsciously, we continued to look for that other power against which to match ourselves.

            It was the events of September 11, 2001 which woke us up. We were not attacked by a great power, or a nation, or even an army, but by a group whose bases of operation were located deep in the gap areas of the world. It was the attacks of 9/11 that reordered the national -security thinking of the United States. Military planners were forced to pull back from planning high-tech wars against "near peers" and to start thinking about operations in those "lesser" parts of the world which seem to be to spawning ground for current international tensions.

            Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda sprang to life in Sudan and Afghanistan, which by any standards are two of the most disconnected countries in the world. A look at other places where U.S. Special Forces have recently been deployed includes northwestern Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen which all fall in the same category. Dr. Barnett's message is: "A country's potential to warrant a U.S. military response is inversely related to its globalization connectivity." (35) From a strategic point of view, we should concentrate on the gap states in the near term. For long-range strategy, we should look very closely to the seam states, which lie along the gaps boundaries, because it is along this seam that the bad things entering the core must pass.

            What are the recommendations for U.S. national-security strategy as a result of Dr. Barnett's study?

1.      Increase the Core's immune system capabilities for responding to September 11-like perturbations.

2.      Work the seam states to firewall the Core from the Gap's worst exports, such as terror, drugs and pandemics

3.      Shrink the Gap (The most important)

Dr. Barnett believes that one of the most important factors that will help shrink the gap for the U.S. is to supply security and stability in selected areas within the gap, the Middle East being a perfect place to start. Connectivity of states in this region with the core simply will not take place as long as the principal sources of insecurity lie within the states themselves. He points out that what is most wrong about the Middle East is the lack of personal freedom and how that translates into dead-end lives for most of the population - especially the young. In Barnett's view, several states in the region are ripe for a leap into the modern world, but fear of reprisals prevent this from happening. The U.S. is the only nation in the world capable of exporting security in a sustained fashion, and this is where we can contribute the most toward shrinking the gap. We can provide the umbrella under which local groups can grow and weave those important connections with the core states of the world. Of course more than just security will be necessary. Africa for example will need a great deal of aid in order to make the move, but nothing can occur without an overreaching security.

Aftermath of 9/11 -  The War on Terrorism

            The message of the September 11, attacks was clearly one from the gap against the core and against the whole concept of globalization. Al Qaeda struck from Afghanistan (the Gap), using icons of international connectivity as weapons (United and American Airlines) to reek destruction on our financial and military nerve centers (symbols of globalization).

            The Bush administration's response to the attack of September 11 was to declare a war on terror on 12 September, and that war began in earnest on 8 October with an air bombardment of Afghanistan by U.S. and British forces. Also on 8 October, the president established the Office of Homeland Security to deal with the threat of terrorism at home. America's responses to the threat of terrorism were both swift and decisive. In his first State of the Union address to Congress, President Bush described an "Axis of Evil" extending from Iraq through Iran on to North Korea. This axis of evil contains rogue states, which sponsor terrorism and seek weapons of mass destruction. In June 2002 the axis was expanded to include Cuba, Libya and Syria as sponsors of state terrorism. If one draws a line through these rogue states from Cuba to North Korea it's easy to see it passes through the heart of Dr. Bennett's "Gap states". Also, in June 2002, the president announced his Roadmap Plan for Peace in the Middle East, which was clearly designed to lessen the isolation of Palestinian elements in the Middle East, a move designed to shrink the gap.

One year after the September 11 attacks on the United States the Bush administration published a new National Security Strategy for the country. This new National Security Strategy is patterned to deal with the post cold war world and follows very closely the principals outlined by Dr. Barnett. In the introduction to this new Strategy, the president described the current situation by saying, "Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us." In pointing out the differences of the current world from the cold war era, he said, "Today, the world's great powers find themselves on the same side - united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos." In emphasizing the problems of the gap the president said, "The events of September 11, 2001 taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murders. Yet poverty, weak institutions and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders."

The new National Security Strategy sets out 8 goals which all fit very nicely into the geopolitical theory outlined by Dr. Barnett to address the Core, Gap and Seam states of a globalized world. The 8 goals of the strategy are:

1.      Champion aspirations for human dignity.

2.      Strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends.

3.      Work with others to defuse regional conflicts.

4.      Prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies and our friends with weapons of mass destruction.

5.      Ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade.

6.      Expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy.

7.      Develop agendas for cooperative action with the other main centers of global power

8.      Transform America's national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

The March 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces not only marked the Bush administration's first application of its controversial preemption strategy, it also marked the moment when the U.S. took ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.     Saddam Hussein's regime was a classic example of one dangerously disconnected from the globalizing word, from its rule sets, its norms, and all the ties that bind countries together in mutually assured interdependence. Iraq was a gap state of the first magnitude. Even if we put the subject of weapons of mass destruction aside, the invasion can be seen in the light of an attempt to bring security to the region and lesson the isolation of an important gap state.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield set about restructuring our cold war oriented military to perform in the age of terrorism. First the Secretary formed an Office of Force Transformation to which Dr. Barnett was named as a member. Changes in the U.S. force structure have been significant in many areas, but none more significant than the area of command and control. In order to respond more rapidly to the fluid world situation, the Secretary directed that that the Special Operations Command be the global commander and take the lead in the fight against terrorism. This change supercedes the decades old structure of theater commanders and has not yet been fully implemented, as there is much resistance from those local commanders.

As an indication of the emphasis on the gap, the U.S. Special Operations Command has established a Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa in Djibouti. The mission of this unit is counterterriorism and training to begin to roll up the human networks that have roamed freely in East Africa for years. The operations of this new unit cover seven countries in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. According to the Pentagon this unit is an example of the make up of the force in the years to come for the war on terrorism. No longer will hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops be stationed in the safe, family-friendly bases in Western Europe and Asia built during the Cold War. Instead, troops will be pushed out to spartan bases, far from families, in remote locations like Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria and Djibouti. The goal is to better position the U.S. to fight a war with no end in sight, and it means U.S. troops will be everywhere.

The military deployment plan is one of "defend forward" which means moving troops and equipment into these areas in order to respond more rapidly to global crises and to pre-empt attacks by an elusive foe that can move easily through ungoverned deserts and teeming cities. Planners are looking at countries like Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and even Sierra Leone to build bases of operations. These bases would be used as training grounds for U.S. forces on six-month rotations, hubs for intelligence gathering and marshalling yards when the need to surge troops into an area arise.

The aim is to avoid a repeat of the lead-up to the war in Afghanistan, when we had to scramble to secure basing rights and develop intelligence about a region, which had been largely ignored for a decade. New bases would mean new listening posts in parts of the world where the U.S. has had difficulty gathering intelligence in the past. The military's mission thus becomes far more nuanced and more difficult: bringing regions like the Horn of Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East into what Rumsfeld's advisor Dr. Barnett calls the functioning core of globalized nations.

In light of our recent experiences in Iraq the Pentagon is even looking at creating military forces that would be dedicated to peacekeeping and reconstruction after future conflicts. Several different options are being explored using from 5,000 to 30,000 such troops. Rumsfeld has even broached the idea of the U.S. contributing to some kind of standing international peacekeeping force. The idea is that the new stabilization and reconstruction force would serve as a kind of bridge between the end of major combat operations and the point at which a civilian led, nation-building effort is up and running.

No matter how much George Bush may come in for criticism on his approach to the war on terrorism one thing seems to be clear, he has left little doubt in anyones mind as to the nature of his intentions. It seems clear that he accepts at least the principles outlined by Dr. Barnett. Through creation of the Department of Homeland Security and other actions he is increasing the Core's immune system capabilities to respond to 9/11 type attacks. Clearly, he is working with many of the seam states to firewall the Core from the evil exports of the gap and through military and diplomatic actions to shrink the Gap.

By leaving no doubt as to our intentions in the worldwide war on terrorism, we avoid the problem of declaring something outside our sphere of influence as occurred in Korea in the 1950s. Perhaps the events of the fall of 2003 are beginning to bear out the effectiveness of the Bush War on Terror. We see Libya making many overtures to re-enter the world community, and perhaps this will lead to that country passing from the gap to at least the seam stage and possibly in the future to a core nation. We have also seen moves by both Iran and, at China's urging, North Korea to make moves which might get them off the axis of evil. Movement towards liberalization is even occurring in Syria. No matter what the outcome I believe history will bear us out that a clearly enunciated foreign policy and national strategy will, more often than not, prevent ones foes from a miscalculation.


            The age of terrorism presents the United States with many unique challenges. The absence of a bi-polar world combined with a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has given individual terrorists enormous ability to wreak destruction on an unprecedented scale. The phenomenon of globalization has increasingly tightened the connectivity of nations in the core regions of the world while at the same time widening the gulf between the core and the gap nations. This division between the core and gap must be narrowed if we ever expect to win the war on terrorism and make our nation safe again.





1. Cline, Ray S. World Power Assessment: A Calculus of Strategic Drift. Washington,D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1975

2. Cohen, Saul. Geography and Politics in a World Divided. New York: Random House, 1963.

3. Cox, Kevin ed. Spaces of Globalization. New York: Guliford, 1997

4. Ferguson, Yale H. and R.J. Barry Jones, eds. Political Space: Frontiers of Change and Governance in a Globalizing World. Albany: SUNY Press, 2002.

5. Friedman, Thomas L. Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.

6. ________________ The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.

7. Haass, Richard N. Intervention: The Use of American Military Force in the Post-Cold War World. Rev. Ed. Washington, D.C: The Brookings Institution, 1999.

8. Herod, Tuathail, and Susan Roberts, eds. An Unruly World?: Globalization, Governance and Geography. London: Routledge, 1998.

9. Hopkins, Terencek, et. al.The Age of Transition: Trajectory of the World System 1945-2045. New York: Random House, 1996.

10. Kjellen, Rudolf. Introduction to Swedish Geography. Gothenburg: Gothenburg Press, 1900.

11. Mackinder, Halford J. Democratic Ideals and Reality. New York: Norton and Co., 1962.

12. Mahan, Alfred Thayer. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783. New York: Sagamore Press, 1957.

13. Ratzel, Friedrich. Politische Geographie. Muenchen,1897.

14. Seversky, A.P. de. Air Power: Key to Survival. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950.

15. Spykman, N.J. The Geography of Peace. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1944.

16. Tuathail, Gearoid and Simon Dalby, eds. Rethinking Geopolitics. London: Routledge, 2002.

17. Wallerstein, Immanuel. The Modern World System. New York: Academic Press, 1974.

18. _________________ The Capitalist World-Economy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.


19. Anderson, Ewan. "Geopolitics: International Boundaries as Fighting Places." The Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 125-136.

20. Cohen, S.B. "A New Map of Global Geopolitical Equilibrium: A Developmental Approach." Political Geography Quarterly 1 (1981): 223-241.

21._________ "Geopolitical Realities and United States Foreign Policy." Political Geography 22 (2003): 1-33.

22. Gray, Colin S. "Inescapable Geography." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 161-177.

23. Herwig, Holger H. "Geopolitic: Haushofer, Hitler and Lebensraum." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 218-241.

24. Lambeth, Benjamin S. "Airpower, Space Power and Geography." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 63-82.

25. Lonsdale, David J. "Information Power: Strategy, Geopolitics and the Fifth Dimension." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 137-157.

26. Murray, Williamson. "Some Thoughts on War and Geography." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 201-217.

27. Sloan, Geoffrey. "Sir Halford Mackinder: The Heartland Theory Then and Now." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 15-37.

28 Spencer, Donald S. "A Short History of Geopolitics." Journal of Geography Mar-Apr 1988 42-46.

29. Sprout, H. and Margret Sprout. "Environmental Factors in the Study of International Politics." Journal of Conflict Resolution 1 (1980):309-328.

30.Sumida, Jon. "Alfred Thayer Mahan." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 39-61.

31. Tuathail, Gearoid O. "Understanding Critical Geopolitics: Geopolitics and Risk Society." Journal of Strategic Studies 22.2-3 (1999): 107-124.




33. International Studies Abroad


34. Department of Defense Office of Force Transformation


35. Naval War College


36. Foreign Policy Magazine


37. Center for Strategic and International Studies


38. The International Institute for Strategic Studies


39. Political Geography   


40. Globalization


41. State Sponsored Terrorism