Mid-Afternoon Map: War on the Rocks’ Tenth Anniversary Edition


Welcome to Mid-Afternoon Map, our exclusive members-only newsletter that provides a cartographic perspective on current events, geopolitics, and history from the Caucasus to the Carolinas. Subscribers can look forward to interesting takes on good maps and bad maps, beautiful maps and ugly ones — and bizarre maps whenever possible. This is a special edition of the newsletter available to all members to celebrate War on the Rocks’ tenth anniversary. To get Mid-Afternoon Map delivered to your inbox twice a month, sign up for a discounted War on the Rocks membership, for a limited time only.

Over the past decade, War on the Rocks has published a lot of articles about a lot of different countries. Almost all of them, it turns out. Not surprisingly, some places have received considerably more attention in these pages than others. So, in honor of our tenth anniversary, I sat down to see where our digital attention has been devoted over the years. 

The map below is based on Google site-search results for “warontherocks.com.” Methodologically speaking, its definitely suspect. But then again, the best maps are. Regardless of whether we meant Georgia or Georgia that one time, there are some undeniable patterns when it comes to who we, and Washington as a whole, have talked about. 

Predictably, the countries that got the most attention were the ones America was either fighting in, against, or alongside. Key European and East Asian allies feature prominently in our pages, as do longstanding rivals like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Needless to say, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine have also received considerable and consistent attention. Ukraine, we hope, is at least a little better off for it.

Taken as a whole, these results serve as a pretty good proxy for Washingtons perennial strategic priorities. With a more precise chronological breakdown, you might be able to spot a slight pivot to Asia over the past decade. With some intense squinting, you could also plot this on to Mackinders Heartland or Spykman’s Rimland theories. But it would probably be more precise to simply say that Eurasia really matters. 

Other areas get overlooked. Our apologies to Andorra, Lesotho, Saint Lucia, and Suriname. You were on the tip of our tongue the whole time. We meant to mention you and now, as of a sentence ago, we have. Sadly, S*n M*rino will have to wait. 

And what about Greenland? Critics keep noting that the Mercator projection wildly exaggerates Greenlands size and significance. Apparently, its still not enough for us to notice. New Zealand, too, has caused some cartographic trouble. I never understood why it was so regularly forgotten on maps until I did so myself while making this one. Worse, we were just discussing New Zealand the other day — specifically the awkward fact that America considers Wellington an “ally” while Wellington seems to prefer “partner.”

Among other things, this map reveals our collective debt to all the War on the Rocks authors who have worked to keep the entire world on our radar. People continue to pitch articles about places that would otherwise be overlooked, and we hope that going forward even more will. Unfortunately, when the right geopolitical alarm bells aren’t ringing, harried editors get distracted all too easily.

The lede of a recent piece captured the implicit metric well:

Relative to much of the world, The Bahamas is doing fine… [T]his archipelago nation is not at risk of descending into violence or being taken over by China… Indeed, by the conventions of foreign policy punditry, there is no need for an alarmed article on The Bahamas right now.

In the coming decade, we continue to wish the Bahamas the best. We also hope to paint our entire map maroon without having to wait for the world to descend into violence or be taken over by China.


Thank you for reading Mid-Afternoon Map. Readers can send comments, criticism or more maps to nick.danforth@warontherocks.com.

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