Monday 30 June 2014

Making Maps

Around the media a couple of maps caught the eye. One was from the Second World War, apparently taken from a German agent in South America which purported to show how the America's would be carved up in the event that the Third Reich achieved world domination.

The story was that Churchill made sure that Roosevelt was given it quickly and this played a part in the USA decision to go to war in Europe.  How far the map was real and how far it may have been a British Intelligence caper is another question.

The other map is said to be that of the ISIS Sunni groups engaged in the bitter struggles in Iraq and Syria.  This relates to the establishment of a new Caliphate of Islam and the lands to which it is entitled.  These are much the same as the lands held by Islamic forces in the early Middle Ages at the time of the greatest spread of the then Caliphate.

The great thing about a map is that it is visual, might need little explanation as to the meaning and can have a powerful effect; in the ISIS one the Balkans, a battleground of the ages, would revert to Islamic control.  Also, so would the Iberian Peninsula.  So much for the EU or Catalonian independence or for that matter all those British pensioners sunning themselves in retirement.

The idea that a fairly small number of men with extreme views could impose themselves on such a vast area in a short time seems highly unlikely in our highly globalised world, especially with all the talk of self determination, democracy, human rights and individualism.

One of the uncomfortable lessons of history is that it can, it has happened time and again and it always takes people by surprise.  But when you have weak and confused states or nations with inadequate defence arrangements or too many people willing to sell out or compromise with a dedicated enemy the there is the risk.

Just how many British did it take to establish The Raj and how big an area and with what size population did they take over?  Also, it was an area with great wealth, ancient established cultures and principalities and plenty of men at arms, albeit not united or equipped with the latest technology.

A hundred years ago, how many people would think that in Russian the Bolsheviks would be in power within four years and would go on to create The Soviet Empire?  Take The Netherlands, how big was their Empire eventually?  One could go on and one.

Then there was France.  A once major European state it had fallen into disarray and was to all intents and purposes weak.  Then came Napoleon with his armies and navies rampaging round the world.  This was short lived and soon collapsed but later French regimes went in for the Empire business in a big way.

One key factor in the overthrow of the old and the imposition or creation of the new is an elite who are detached and distant from their peoples, distrusted or even hated, weak militarily but rich in wealth yet deep in debt and who have gone soft and stupid.

Now where in the world are places like that?

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