Posts filed under “War/Defense”
I try to avoid getting caught up in the 9/11 retrospective hype. I’ve already had my say (A Personal Recollection From a Day of Horror (September 12th, 2001).
Meanwhile, here is the NYT’s infographic of the numbers:
Al Qaeda spent roughly half a million dollars to destroy the World Trade Center and cripple the Pentagon. What has been the cost to the United States? In a survey of estimates by The New York Times, the answer is $3.3 trillion, or about $7 million for every dollar Al Qaeda spent planning and executing the attacks. While not all of the costs have been borne by the government — and some are still to come — this total equals one-fifth of the current national debt.
Click for interactive data:
Source: 9/11 : The Reckoning
NYT, September 8, 2011
A Personal Recollection From a Day of Horror (September 12th, 2001)
Postscript (September 16th, 2001)
Feedback from around the World (September 19th, 2001)
9/11 Reflections (September 11th, 2010)
Polls Show that Americans Think We Overreacted, Overspent and Weakened Ourselves Through the War on Terror As the Brooking Institution reported yesterday, Americans that the government overreacted and overspent in reaction to 9/11: These are a summary of findings of a new poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and the Anwar…Read More
The Geopolitics of the United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire
August 25, 2011
Take a good look at the image below. You’ll see how a picture is not only worth a thousand words, but can explain the success of an entire nation. Crops to rivers, rivers to ports – the trade foundation of a country can be summarized in a single image. Sure it stirs up memories of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the Mighty Mississippi, but this is the foundation of the US as a global power and a fascinating look at the backbone of the American economy.
We all remember junior high geography (well, some of it, anyway). But somehow it didn’t cover how critical geography is in the development of a nation… and that it is, for example, the primary reason the United States became a global power. The territory of the U.S. simply comprises all the right geographic elements to make its occupants an inevitable global force. Yesterday, STRATFOR, my favorite source for geopolitical analysis of world affairs, published The Inevitable Empire, part I of a fascinating assessment of the United States. In it you’ll learn how geography shaped the nation’s behavior throughout history, and what it means for U.S. foreign policy today. It’s a perfect example of the kind of insight STRATFOR provides that you won’t find anywhere else.
>> Join STRATFOR at the special rate for OTB readers << just in time for their release of The Geopolitics of the United States, Part 2: American Identity and the Threats of Tomorrow. In addition, you’ll get a copy of The Next Decade, the New York Times bestselling book released earlier this year by STRATFOR Founder and CEO George Friedman. But check it out now, I hear this deal only lasts until Monday.
Your proud to be an American analyst,
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box
The Geopolitics of the United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire
August 24, 2011 | 1556 GMT
Editor’s Note: This installment on the United States, presented in three parts, is the 16th in a series of STRATFOR monographs on the geopolitics of countries influential in world affairs.
Related Special Topic Page
Like nearly all of the peoples of North and South America, most Americans are not originally from the territory that became the United States. They are a diverse collection of peoples primarily from a dozen different Western European states, mixed in with smaller groups from a hundred more. All of the New World entities struggled to carve a modern nation and state out of the American continents. Brazil is an excellent case of how that struggle can be a difficult one. The United States falls on the opposite end of the spectrum.
The American geography is an impressive one. The Greater Mississippi Basin together with the Intracoastal Waterway has more kilometers of navigable internal waterways than the rest of the world combined. The American Midwest is both overlaid by this waterway, and is the world’s largest contiguous piece of farmland. The U.S. Atlantic Coast possesses more major ports than the rest of the Western Hemisphere combined. Two vast oceans insulated the United States from Asian and European powers, deserts separate the United States from Mexico to the south, while lakes and forests separate the population centers in Canada from those in the United States. The United States has capital, food surpluses and physical insulation in excess of every other country in the world by an exceedingly large margin. So like the Turks, the Americans are not important because of who they are, but because of where they live.
The North American Core
North America is a triangle-shaped continent centered in the temperate portions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is of sufficient size that its northern reaches are fully Arctic and its southern reaches are fully tropical. Predominant wind currents carry moisture from west to east across the continent.
Climatically, the continent consists of a series of wide north-south precipitation bands largely shaped by the landmass’ longitudinal topography. The Rocky Mountains dominate the Western third of the northern and central parts of North America, generating a rain-shadow effect just east of the mountain range — an area known colloquially as the Great Plains. Farther east of this semiarid region are the well-watered plains of the prairie provinces of Canada and the American Midwest. This zone comprises both the most productive and the largest contiguous acreage of arable land on the planet.
East of this premier arable zone lies a second mountain chain known as the Appalachians. While this chain is far lower and thinner than the Rockies, it still constitutes a notable barrier to movement and economic development. However, the lower elevation of the mountains combined with the wide coastal plain of the East Coast does not result in the rain-shadow effect of the Great Plains. Consequently, the coastal plain of the East Coast is well-watered throughout.
In the continent’s northern and southern reaches this longitudinal pattern is not quite so clear-cut. North of the Great Lakes region lies the Canadian Shield, an area where repeated glaciation has scraped off most of the topsoil. That, combined with the area’s colder climate, means that these lands are not nearly as productive as regions farther south or west and, as such, remain largely unpopulated to the modern day. In the south — Mexico — the North American landmass narrows drastically from more than 5,000 kilometers (about 3,100 miles) wide to, at most, 2,000 kilometers, and in most locations less than 1,000 kilometers. The Mexican extension also occurs in the Rocky Mountain/Great Plains longitudinal zone, generating a wide, dry, irregular uplift that lacks the agricultural promise of the Canadian prairie provinces or American Midwest.
The continent’s final geographic piece is an isthmus of varying width, known as Central America, that is too wet and rugged to develop into anything more than a series of isolated city-states, much less a single country that would have an impact on continental affairs. Due to a series of swamps and mountains where the two American continents join, there still is no road network linking them, and the two Americas only indirectly affect each other’s development.
The most distinctive and important feature of North America is the river network in the middle third of the continent. While its components are larger in both volume and length than most of the world’s rivers, this is not what sets the network apart. Very few of its tributaries begin at high elevations, making vast tracts of these rivers easily navigable. In the case of the Mississippi, the head of navigation — just north of Minneapolis — is 3,000 kilometers inland.
The network consists of six distinct river systems: the Missouri, Arkansas, Red, Ohio, Tennessee and, of course, the Mississippi. The unified nature of this system greatly enhances the region’s usefulness and potential economic and political power. First, shipping goods via water is an order of magnitude cheaper than shipping them via land. The specific ratio varies greatly based on technological era and local topography, but in the petroleum age in the United States, the cost of transport via water is roughly 10 to 30 times cheaper than overland. This simple fact makes countries with robust maritime transport options extremely capital-rich when compared to countries limited to land-only options. This factor is the primary reason why the major economic powers of the past half-millennia have been Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Second, the watershed of the Greater Mississippi Basin largely overlays North America’s arable lands. Normally, agricultural areas as large as the American Midwest are underutilized as the cost of shipping their output to more densely populated regions cuts deeply into the economics of agriculture. The Eurasian steppe is an excellent example. Even in modern times it is very common for Russian and Kazakh crops to occasionally rot before they can reach market. Massive artificial transport networks must be constructed and maintained in order for the land to reach its full potential. Not so in the case of the Greater Mississippi Basin. The vast bulk of the prime agricultural lands are within 200 kilometers of a stretch of navigable river. Road and rail are still used for collection, but nearly omnipresent river ports allow for the entirety of the basin’s farmers to easily and cheaply ship their products to markets not just in North America but all over the world.
Third, the river network’s unity greatly eases the issue of political integration. All of the peoples of the basin are part of the same economic system, ensuring constant contact and common interests. Regional proclivities obviously still arise, but this is not Northern Europe, where a variety of separate river systems have given rise to multiple national identities.
It is worth briefly explaining why STRATFOR fixates on navigable rivers as opposed to coastlines. First, navigable rivers by definition service twice the land area of a coastline (rivers have two banks, coasts only one). Second, rivers are not subject to tidal forces, greatly easing the construction and maintenance of supporting infrastructure. Third, storm surges often accompany oceanic storms, which force the evacuation of oceanic ports. None of this eliminates the usefulness of coastal ports, but in terms of the capacity to generate capital, coastal regions are a poor second compared to lands with navigable rivers.
There are three other features — all maritime in nature — that further leverage the raw power that the Greater Mississippi Basin provides. First are the severe indentations of North America’s coastline, granting the region a wealth of sheltered bays and natural, deep-water ports. The more obvious examples include the Gulf of St. Lawrence, San Francisco Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Galveston Bay and Long Island Sound/New York Bay.
Second, there are the Great Lakes. Unlike the Greater Mississippi Basin, the Great Lakes are not naturally navigable due to winter freezes and obstacles such as Niagara Falls. However, over the past 200 years extensive hydrological engineering has been completed — mostly by Canada — to allow for full navigation on the lakes. Since 1960, penetrating halfway through the continent, the Great Lakes have provided a secondary water transport system that has opened up even more lands for productive use and provided even greater capacity for North American capital generation. The benefits of this system are reaped mainly by the warmer lands of the United States rather than the colder lands of Canada, but since the Great Lakes constitute Canada’s only maritime transport option for reaching the interior, most of the engineering was paid for by Canadians rather than Americans.
Third and most important are the lines of barrier islands that parallel the continent’s East and Gulf coasts. These islands allow riverine Mississippi traffic to travel in a protected intracoastal waterway all the way south to the Rio Grande and all the way north to the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to serving as a sort of oceanic river, the island chain’s proximity to the Mississippi delta creates an extension of sorts for all Mississippi shipping, in essence extending the political and economic unifying tendencies of the Mississippi Basin to the eastern coastal plain.
Thus, the Greater Mississippi Basin is the continent’s core, and whoever controls that core not only is certain to dominate the East Coast and Great Lakes regions but will also have the agricultural, transport, trade and political unification capacity to be a world power — even without having to interact with the rest of the global system.
Qaddafi, Bernanke & Stock Markets David R. Kotok August 21, 2011 ~~~ News reports continue to show the progressive demise of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. Rebel forces have apparently taken more of the country’s oil refining (Zawiya) and processing infrastructure (Brega). Most observers give the Qaddafi regime limited time before a full regime change…Read More
Budget Buster: Pentagon Unable to Account for “Trillions,” Glain Says
Daily Ticker August 12 2011
The Arab Spring is widely known as a Twitter rebellion, but underground hip-hop artists also played a very important role, says Robin Wright, author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.” WSJ: In November 2010, a young Tunisian rapper who called himself El General posted a song on his Facebook page…Read More
Co-Chair of 9/11 Inquiry: American Government Covered Up State Assistance to Hijackers It’s front page news today that: Journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s now-shuttered News of the World paper tried to access the mobile phones of 9/11 victims, a former New York City police officer claimed on Monday. It’s also front page news today that the…Read More