Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Emerging Primacy of Information

The Emerging Primacy of Information

Thanks to cyberspace-which may be understood as the sum of the globe’s communications links and computational nodes—any piece of data can show up anywhere almost instantly.

Will cyberspace kill geography? Colin Gray’s excellent article argues, and correctly so, that the answer is no, that we are not at liberty to disregard the geographical setting for international political power. But is this the right question? Could the geography of national security be so transformed as to be unrecognizable? If so, how?

As long as mankind uses instruments bound to its slow media-such as ground or sea transportation-much of what we know about geography and geopolitics will still apply. Yet with each new medium comes a new geographical logic; as the importance of new media grows, their logics will not only dominate those of old media but transform them as well. With the invention of aircraft, for instance, Great Britain could be attacked directly from Europe, regardless of the British fleet. The same instrument dominated the U.S. campaign against Japan: each island was sought for its successively closer air approach to Japan. When ballistic missiles made space a medium of conflict, that permitted the United States and the Soviet Union to hold each other directly at risk. And that factor, in turn, governed the superpower confrontation across central Europe.

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