For better or worse, phrases such "the Cold War" and "the clash of civilizations" matter. In a similar way, so do maps. The right map can stimulate foresight by providing a spatial view of critical trends in world politics. Understanding the map of Europe was essential to understanding the twentieth century. Although recent technological advances and economic integration have encouraged global thinking, some places continue to count more than others. And in some of those, such as Iraq and Pakistan, two countries with inherently artificial contours, politics is still at the mercy of geography.

So in what quarter of the earth today can one best glimpse the future? Because of their own geographic circumstances, Americans, in particular, continue to concentrate on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. World War II and the Cold War shaped this outlook: Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and communist China were all oriented toward one of these two oceans. The bias is even embedded in mapping conventions: Mercator projections tend to place the Western Hemisphere in the middle of the map, splitting the Indian Ocean at its far edges. And yet, as the pirate activity off the coast of Somalia and the terrorist carnage

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  • ROBERT D. KAPLAN, a National Correspondent for The Atlantic and a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in Washington, D.C., is writing a book on the Indian Ocean. He recently was the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the U.S. Naval Academy.
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