8 - Re-drawing the map of the Middle East
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
The Americans are sinking into a quagmire of their own making in Iraq, but still fantasise about re-drawing the map of the whole Middle East more to their liking. One startling example is this map, produced by the Armed Forces Journal, who in their June issue portray a region that is further balkanized, and basically split up along ethnic lines, thus creating a maximalist Kurdistan (which probably would be quite US-friendly, just like the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq at present), a greater Yemen, an Iran that would move eastward (acquiring certain areas of Afghanistan while losing a part of its west to Azerbeijan and an Arab shia state), and so forth.
Not having read the article accompanying the map, I’m guessing this is not so much a proposal as an exercise in thinking out loud. Such a re-drawing would have the whole region – not to mention all Muslim countries – up in arms, possibly quite literally. But it remains an interesting avenue of thought, especially for the disenfranchised peoples who would benefit from such a rearrangement.