The tenth anniversary of the 11 September attacks provides an opportunity to reflect on how the geopolitical landscape has changed since the fateful events that sparked an American-led ‘War on Terror’. Some flash-points of this conflict are easily identifiable in the on-going Afghan and Iraq wars. However, like the Cold War, the War on Terror is much more nuanced than media outlets might suggest. On their own, reports concerning clandestine detentions, intelligence operations, communications monitoring or assets-freezing may seem isolated from one another, lost in a maze of daily stories, gossip and local events. But such operations are so-called ‘peacock marks’ – distinguishing marks of a truly global terrorism- and counterterrorism conflict geography where national borders matter less than cultural differences, and local laws take a backseat to transnational alliances. The War on Terror has not fundamentally redrawn the standard world map, but it has certainly added a new and complex layer.
Derek Gregory, in the September 2011 issue of The Geographical Journal, explores this geography’s characteristics and growth. At first, Gregory highlights the War on Terror geography within the domestic sphere, playing off Tom Engelhardt’s 2010 assertion that Washington is ‘a war capital, that the United States is a war state’. Turning his attention to the international sphere, Gregory highlights a list – incomplete, he admits – of nations and cities physically and culturally disparate from each other: Iran, Somalia, Chechnya, the Philippines, Casablanca, London, Moscow and Mumbai. All have become conflict zones in the War on Terror. Where are the borders in this geographical space? What are the localised effects? Gregory seeks to identify these points through defined shadowlands, ‘Spaces that enter European and American imaginaries in phantasmatic [sic] form, barely known but vividly imagined’. Further, he argues, these spaces are present at the very edges of traditional geographical logic (pp. 238—40).
Gregory, Derek, ‘The Everywhere War’, The Geographical Journal 177.3 (September, 2011): 238—50.
Bono, Giovanna, ed., The Impact of 9/11 on European Foreign and Security Policy (Brussels: Brussels University Press for the Institute for European Studies, 2008).
Engelhardt, Tom, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars became Obama’s (New York: Haymarket Books, 2010).
Gardner, Hall, American Global Strategy and the “War on Terrorism” (Aldershot, Great Britain: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2005).