Thursday, July 30, 2009

If Americans cannot find a place on a map, does it matter?

"If Americans cannot find a place on a map, does it matter?" That is the question The American Conservative asks as it links to Juan Cole's piece on why the United States should not care about Afghanistan and Pakistan's woes. He sees them as "the tribal struggle for control of obscure villages in the foothills of the Himalayas."

Catholicgauze retorts that the above is a stupid question. According to My Wonderful World, only 37% of American teens can find Iraq on a map. Meanwhile only 19% only have a map. (And only half can find New York on an American map!)

Besides that point there is real geopolitics that matters in the Stans. The Taliban were a product of an ever enlarging world connectivity. The student movement was first aided by the transport mafia who wanted to freely trade within an Afghanistan lacking warlord tolls. Next Pakistan backed the Taliban to be the advanced guard of a Pashtun-style Islamic movement. Finally, the Taliban began to affect the United States and the first first with opium (which they at first profited from before banning), then oil pipelines meant to bypass Russia, and finally terrorism.

In the globalized, connected world countries have interests beyond their own borders. This is not to justify imperialism or any military expedition. However, in a connected yet fragile world people must realize that if a tribe launches raids against the government-owned pipeline then the price of oil goes up followed by gas prices and the web is finalized with an increase in food for not just us but also people barely getting by around the world.

Instead of saying "it does not matter we cannot find it on a map" we should be teaching ourselves and others to grab a map, find it, and figure out the spatial relationships.

1 comment:

Darren said...

Hear, Hear!