Looking at the political map of the modern world, “you really see the revenge of geography” author Robert Kaplan said yesterday at a talk at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. He was talking specifically about Eurasia and the Middle East, where exploding populations are struggling for space and resources in a world where commercial and military technology is rapidly shrinking distances.
Speaking to that problem, Kaplan said that in a way, the future of Israel and Palestine, which are squeezed into a very small area, “presages the future of Eurasia in general, because there’s been a collapse of distance and an explosion of population everywhere.”
Military technology—particularly missile technology—has helped close the distances between adversaries, so much so that if you look at the map of Eurasia, he said, “every country from Israel to Korea with the exception of Iraq” has managed to build some kind of ballistic missile capability, and that given the constrained geographic area, these “missile ranges overlap with each other. There’s no room to breathe, there’s no room to move.”
But a bigger problem, oddly, is the solidification of formerly fragile states in the Middle East and Asia, specifically the Iranian, Pakistani and Korean militaries. After WWII, Kaplan noted, many Asian militaries were not really very good at fighting. Instead they were more a vehicle for national integration, since building a strong military was one way “to build the state to try and create a state identity.”
This was a relatively safe development from the perspective of international relations, since these armies were generally more concerned with maintaining law and order internally than being outwardly focused. By the dawn of the 21st century however, all this has changed. Many of these states have since solidified and their militaries now boast modern technologies like fighter jets and missiles, with which they can threaten their neighbors in a constrained geographic space. In other words, while the world isn’t flat, technology, globalization and the population explosion which demands more and more resources to sustain it’s lifestyle has definitely made it smaller