Archive for March, 2012

There are two main international concerns with respect to South Asia: Terrorism and Nuclear War.  Both concerns can be originated from a mountainous geographic region known as Kashmir, in northern India.  I will begin with a short history of the region for an understanding of its cultural and political geography.

The former state known as Kashmir has been disputed for over 50 years between India and Pakistan.  The conflict started shortly after the British Empire gave independence to Indiaand Pakistanwhich was around August of 1947.  Immediately following the independence, the Marharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, contemplated which country would be more advantageous for his state to join.   Both, Indiaand Pakistan were divided by the British due to their religions and Kashmirwas left to make a decision to transfer their power peacefully.  Singh was torn between his religion, Hindu, and the majority religion of his people who were mostly Muslim.  Since there was a larger Muslim population than Hindu, Pakistanand the people of Kashmir wished to become part of Pakistan.  In addition, Pakistanfeared that Indiawould cut off their water supply coming from this region.  Kashmir has a diversity of different religions throughout its region.  In the 1940’s, the total population was just over 4 million people, approximately 77% were Muslim, 20% Hindu, 1.5% Sikh, and 1% Buddhist.  However, the ruler of Kashmir, Hari Singh, practiced Hindu beliefs; therefore, creating a religious conflict.  This resulted in extensive violence in the region between Hindus and Muslims.  Overall, Singh’s conflicting dream was to continue ruling Kashmir as an independent nation. 
A few months later, the Pakistani army and Pashtun tribesman from Pakistan invaded Kashmir in hopes to seize the land for Pakistan.  They pillaged towns, looted, and raped Kashmiri women.  In response, Singh annexed Kashmir to India in return for military aid from the Indian army which would defend Kashmir.  Shortly thereafter, the United Nations ordered a ceasefire at the end of the first Kashmir war.  As a result of the invasion, Pakistanoccupied a substantial part of the Kashmirvalley, totaling approximately 36,000 square miles.  In 1963, Pakistanceded an area known as Trans-Karakoram Tract to China; however, India still claims this area because they do not recognize Pakistan’s region of Kashmir.  Since turmoil continued to affect the region in two more wars, the United Nations has attempted to resolve the conflict by enacting new resolutions.  However, this region of South Asia has caused much violence contributing to this conflict, due to its sparse and different cultural geography.  Kashmir is on the brink of a nuclear war due to this conflict between Pakistanand India.  Moreover, many terrorist groups are being harbored in this region that is also in support of Al Qaeda, among other groups.  This has created much indifference between Pakistanand Indiaresulting in several wars and instability in the region.  As a result of the unstableness in this geographic region, the international community is extremely concerned of what the outcome might be.
Separatist violence in Kashmir has been increasing as time has progressed.  India continues to blame Pakistan-based militant groups for many deadly attacks against Indian civilians, in addition to Indian government security forces.  Most of these militants have ties to Islamic terrorist groups as well.  In March 2003, the chief of India’s Defense Intelligence Agency reported that “70 Islamic militant camps are operating in Pakistani Kashmir. In May 2009, the Indian Defense Minister claimed that about 3,000 “terrorists” were being trained in camps” on the Pakistani-controlled region of Kashmir.  In addition, it is thought that Al Qaeda may be active in Kashmir as well (Kronstadt 2003).  Indian authorities are also urging that the U.S. and international community pay closer attention to anti-India terrorism originating from Pakistan.  Another international concern between these two countries is the possibility of nuclear war.  In 1998, Pakistanand Indiaboth tested nuclear bombs; thus escalating a minor conflict into a possible nuclear conflict.  Since then, there have been concerns over if the two countries would resolve the conflict by nuclear resolution.  Both countries also have their own extensive nuclear policy.  Pakistan’s nuclear policy is “is to act in a responsible manner and to exercise restraint in conduct of its deterrence policy.”  Their nuclear policy also does not want their capabilities to affect non-nuclear weapon countries within in the region; therefore, Pakistan’s nuclear policy seems to allow a nuclear attack only on the defensive.  On the other hand, India’s nuclear policy stands on the offensive.   Its policy will have nuclear involvement only if Indiais reacting to a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack that affects their land or citizens.
The Sumerians are known in world history as being the first civilization dating back to around 3000 B.C.  They excelled in many areas for a civilization of that time.  Furthermore, they established the basics for socio-economics and intellect in the area known as present-day Iraq, nestled in-between the Tigris and Euphrates River.  Many breakthroughs and inventions assisted in the foundations of the Sumerian society which lasted for approximately 1000 years.
Their society was headed by a king and divided into four sets of classes: nobles, clients, commoners, and slaves, which all contributed in some way to their flourishing culture. The Sumerians were heavily involved in trade, whether it was with other nearby civilizations or in the Persian Gulf.  Within their own city-states, citizens were involved in various types of trades, such as masonry, metalworking, and pottery to contribute to the culture within, and trade with foreign entities outward.  Agriculture was a necessity and therefore led to an intensive system of irrigation being created by digging canals from the major rivers.  This lead to rich land for growing food.
Moreover, the Sumerians established a system of writing which was depicted in several forms: pictographs, ideograms, and phonetic signs.  This system of writing bridged the gap between Sumerian city-states and their following generations.  Mathematics, specifically geometry and trigonometry, played a huge role in assisting the Sumerians in erecting structures, such as palaces, temples, ziggurats, canals, et cetera.  Lastly, the Sumerians also used a system of medicine to rid citizens of sickness (or rid them of evil spirits).  Several different treatments were used to help cure the sick and these treatments consisted of magic, surgery, and prescriptions, or even a combination of all three.
All of the aforementioned reasons laid the groundwork for a flourishing civilization in Mesopotamia.  Their influence and culture followed onto other civilizations that conquered in the same geographical region such as the Semites and the Babylonians.  Ultimately, Sumerian culture helped form political and economic stability in the civilized world for the following civilizations to come.

I came across the following site that has a wealth of free information on Geographic Information Systems'(GIS)-related information by Berry & Associates // Spatial Information Systems (BASIS).  Map Analysis is a great subject for anyone interested in analyzing maps especially through GIS. A link to the material is

There are presentation slides in the "Online Books and Materials: Map Analysis Workshop Materials" by Joseph K. Berry that go over various topics in the workshops presented such as Introduction and Data Considerations, Spatial Analysis Techniques and Considerations, Spatial Statistics Techniques and Considerations, GIS Modeling Approachesand Considerations , among others.

There is also a free online book which can be downloaded that covers a wealth of topics such as Spatial Interpolation Procedures and Assessment, Where Is GIS Education?, Analyzing Accumulation Surfaces, Linking Data Space and Geographic Space, Analyzing Landscape Patterns, Applying Surface Analysis,  Human Dimensions of GIS, Overview of Spatial Analysis and Statistics, Spatial Data Mining in Geo-business and much more.
A link to the book can be found here:

Happy Reading!
Recently, I came across a book called the Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington which takes a look at people’s cultural and religious identities and argues that this will be the primary source of conflict in the 21st century.
I believe that the clash of civilizations seems to be a very broad statement in the use of Huntington’s thesis.  Personally, I have mixed feelings towards Huntington’s theory.  On one hand, it is possible to picture the validity of the clashing of civilizations; however, on the other hand, I am in agreement with an article by Amartya Sen (2006) titled “What Clash of Civilizations? Why religious identity isn’t destiny” that states that “the increasing tendency to overlook the many identities that any human being has and to try to classify individuals according to a single allegedly pre-eminent religious identity is an intellectual confusion that can animate dangerous divisiveness.”  When comparing civilizations, a civilization can be reduced down to a small scale, it doesn’t necessarily have to be compared to historic civilizations such as Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, and so on.  
When comparing people from different parts of the United States such as Texans, Californians, New Englanders, and Georgians, all who are classified as Americans; however, each has their own distinct cultures within the United States.  But what is an American?  An American is not only somebody from the United States, but somebody in Mexico, or Costa Rica.  Back in 2005, I had taken a trip to Costa Rica to immerse in the culture.  One thing I noticed from the people there is that they were offended when Americans were only referred to the people of the United States.  With that said, single classifications can be very misleading.  If civilizations are divided by particular cultures, then Iraq, a majority Islamic state, could be broken up into three different cultures: The Kurds, Sunni Muslims, and Shiite Muslims, but Iraq is also home to other minorities such as Christians (Chaldeans), among many other ethnic groups.  
For Huntington to state that the world is divided into nine different civilizations is a misnomer.  The truth is that Huntington uses only one type of classification which is based off of religion; however, the different cultures within religious groups, classes, societies, and beliefs are other classifications that can be used to distinctly separate people from one another.  In many nations or states throughout the world, conflict usually arises within their own political boundaries as a result of some sort of clash.  It can usually be defined as cultural differences, but not all conflicts are solely violent.  Some may be political or even economical.  I do not believe Huntington is wrong for his ideology, but he is only looking at conflicts within global politics as one possible perception and is not looking outside the lines of religious/cultural classifications.  This sort of realignment that Huntington predicts has occurred throughout history.  
More recently, globalization is now mixing the various different cultures and civilizations throughout the world together and leading these different cultures and religions to share many commonalities than ever before.  On a separate note, Huntington discusses clashes between western civilizations and Islamic civilizations.   The majority of people in western civilization are Christians; therefore, in my opinion, Huntington goes on to discuss the conflicts between these two cultures as a future problem that needs to be considered in foreign policy.  I disagree with his views on this because Christians and Muslims have been fighting for thousands of years and it should already be in our foreign policies.  This is not only a future issue, but a past and present issue as well.

I believe all factors will come into play when conflict occurs, not only cultural factors like Huntington states. Every year, the world is becoming more and more global with technology, especially the internet. Many cultures that were once isolated years ago are now sharing many traits with other cultures because it is becoming the “norm” globally. Immigrants that live in repressed or poor regions of the world are now increasingly migrating to Western countries because they believe it will lead them to more opportunities and a better life. The mixing of cultures is becoming more and more acceptable; however, tensions of cultures worldwide will always have some sort of conflict. Huntington’s thesis is inaccurate when it breaks the world into eight different civilizations. Many states and nations within these “8” civilizations have conflicts daily and even within their political boundaries. Therefore, I believe the world is becoming more economical and countries of different cultures are now uniting with other countries of the world for these reasons. The main conflicts will be more of an internal conflict than a worldwide conflict of cultures.

So let’s take a step back for a moment at all the major conflicts since the 21st century.  Afghanistan War, Iraq War, Sudanese Civil War, Russo-Georgian War, Arab Uprising revolutions, and radical Islamist jihads.  With the exception of radical Islam, none of these other conflicts were really based on religious ideology.  They were either political, economic, or over territory in my opinion.  

Islamist radicalists can blend in with any society, no matter where it is to cause harm toward others.  In Huntington’s thesis, they are mostly concentrated as one civilization, “Islamic civilization.”  Regardless, there are no boundaries to these non-state actors and they have developed cells all over the world in many other civilizations than the Islamic one. I would think this would be the closest example that would tie into the thesis.  Yet still, they also fight within their own “civilization” and against other Muslims.  Their interpretation of Islam is very different than other interpretations within the culture.  Not all Muslims believe what these radical Islamists believe in; Islam is supposedly a peaceful religion, this just comes to show that it is not possible to divide the world into civilizations.  

I welcome everyone’s thoughts and comments on this posting.  I would like to initiate a respectable discussion.

Case Study Proposal:

Population Growth in Prince William County, Virginia and its Implications on the Environment.
This study will examine the continuous urban sprawl and suburban development in Prince William County, Virginia.  Prince William County is located in the region of Northern Virginia, which is a part of the Washington DC Metropolitan greater region.  Urban development disrupts hydrological and ecological systems, in addition to isolating and degrading local natural habitats.  Over the past few decades, Prince William County has transformed from a rural area with two main population centers, Manassas and Woodbridge, to a thriving society.  Today, these two population centers now are interconnected with a steady stream of roads and neighborhoods.  20 years ago, this area was quiet and had quite a lower population. In 20 years, the population has almost doubled from approximately 216,000 in 1990 to approximately 402,000 in 2010. In addition the county is projected to grow to approximately 555,000 in another 20 years; the county had nearly doubled its population every 20 years since 1950 (population was 22,000 in 1950).  The growth of this county has led to a decline in agriculture and an increase in pollution.  These constraints from growth and development have ultimately resulted in several ecological issues that this study will attempt to address.   Furthermore, this study will identify the spatial patterns associated with the growth and how it has grown over the years.
Maps (i.e. Historic, topographic, pre-1990 census maps)  – Any scanned map that has features that can be digitized to fill in gaps from all other data used.
SRTM – Any type of elevation data needs to be used in order to explain why certain areas have not been affected by urban sprawl.
Orthorectified Aerial Imagery – This type of imagery will provide most of the historical data needed to determine foundation data for comparing the present to the past.  Each image used can be digitized to extract data into vector format.
Satellite Imagery – This type of imagery will allow various types of sensors to determine changes via comparing two or more images identify change detection in vegetation, ecology, infrastructure, and other important features in foundation data.
Table 1. Satellite remote sensing data for ecological research.
spatial resolution (m)
temporal resolution (days)
LULC (Land use land cover), including current and historical datasets  – This provides an idea of where the different feature classes of land type and uses are located.
Census: 1990 and newer census tracts, population – Census data reveals where the population is with any given area.
Hydrographic: rivers, streams, lakes, watershed – Hydrographic features are part of a foundation dataset.
Infrastructure: roads, rails, powerlines, pipelines – Infrastructure features are part of a foundation dataset.
Environment: Air Quality maintenance area, water quality monitoring station – Reveals location of areas that monitor changes in the environment.  This allows for the validity of data acquired in relation to air and water quality data compared to sensors that capture quality via remote sensing.
Boundary: County and cities – Provides an outline for the areas of interest.
The methodology used for studying the issue of population affecting the local ecology requires two different datasets themed to a specific time frame, one pre-1990 dataset and one post-1990 dataset.  The area of interest that will be studied is within the county borders of Prince William County, Virginia, including the cities of Occoquan, Manassas, and Manassas Park.  A foundation dataset based on the aforementioned criteria is needed to identify changes and challenges that urban growth has had within the county.  GIS allows this foundation dataset to be overlaid with land cover and other raster and vector files that have a relation to identifying the affects of increased population in the county with files that can help determine factors that affect the ecology such has changes in county infrastructure.
In order to accomplish this, GIS plays an instrumental role in conducting spatial analysis between feature classes and identifying relationships among the two topics: population and ecology.
Not all datasets are readily available in can be used immediately for spatial analyses.  Most of all raster files in this project will have to be scanned and inputted into the system.  At this point, each file, whther it is a photographic image or a map needs to be spatially referenced in the area it is detailing.  Digitizing these types of files is a necessity once the files are geo-referenced in order to extrapolate any valuable vector datasets from the map or images, such as landcover and landuse, vegetation, missing pieces to infrastructure (i.e. roads, buildings, parks, waterways, et cetera), et cetera.  Most of the raster files that are not used for creating vector datasets will be used for identifying air quality, pollution, water quality, and most other ecological readings within the county.
Population data acquired from the U.S. Census Bureau and Aerial Photography will be monitored over the past 60 years, in 5 to 10 year increments depending on how much the population has changed the landscape of the county.  Each 10 year increment changes will be identified in GIS and then compared to see the progression of change temporally.  The decrease of agricultural land will also be identified in GIS via this process.
The results of this project should determine what areas within Prince William County have endured more drastic changes than other areas, as well as what areas need to be protected from any further development.  In addition, this project will visually and temporally depict the changes over time in regards to population growth, infrastructure changes, changes in water levels, air quality animations, and vegetation changes.  Overall, the results will identify spatial patterns that have directly impacted how the area has grown into what it is today from what it was 60 years ago, while simultaneously affecting the ecology of the area.
This most anticipated roadblock will be the acquisition of data needed to fulfill all the requirements in order to do spatial analysis and observations.  Secondary to do this, the time involved to complete this project will be dependent on the amount of change and extraction that is needed from the ingestion of maps or photographic images.  The more gaps in the vector data, the more time needed to extract from the raster files.

Maps can tell a great story without words, especially by showing a temporal depiction of the change of cultures and boundaries. Throughout history though, various empires conquered many lands across most of Asia and left behind many cultural influences that have molded today’s ethnic groups and languages in the region.

There are three main language families in this region depicted in the below map: Semitic (Yellow), Indo-Iranian (Orange), and Turkic (Green).

Semitic language roots trace back to the days of the Sumerians and Akkadians estimated around 2400 BC. These languages have evolved over time into the most commonly known languages of Arabic (commonly used in all Arab States), Hebrew (commonly used in Israel), Amharic (commonly used in Ethiopia), and Tigrinya (commonly used in Eritrea).

Indo-Iranian language roots trace back to 6th century BC. Indo-Iranian is most commonly known today as the Persian language family consisting of mainly Kurdish, Farsi, Pashto, Tajik, and Dari. Other Indo-Iranian languages are located in Pakistan and India.

Turkic language roots trace back to the early Middle Ages (around 8th century AD). Before the Turkic expansion occurred, most Turks were located in the Area known as Mongolia today. In the years following the early Middle Ages, the Turks expanded in all parts of Asia from Siberia to India to Turkey covering a vast land mass and influencing many cultures along the way. Today, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and the languages of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia make up what is part of the Turkic family.

The following maps are courtesy of the Gulf/2000 Project funded by Columbia University:

Linguistic Composition of Southwest Asian States: Present Day

The following group of maps reveals historic changes as a result of the various conquerors, empires, and cultures from 1450 to 2000 AD. Throughout the years, the only long standing empires have been the Ottoman/Turkey and Persia/Iran.

Islamic States ca. AD 1450
Islamic States ca. AD 1510
Islamic States ca. AD 1550
Islamic States ca. AD 1625
Islamic States ca. AD 1700
Islamic States ca. AD 1750
Islamic States ca. AD 1800
Islamic States ca. AD 1840
Islamic States ca. AD 1850
Islamic States ca. AD 1900
Islamic States ca. AD 1925
Islamic States ca. AD 1950
Islamic States ca. AD 2000
This will be my last post in this series of my Military Geography awareness postings.  I had fun researching and writing this topic.  In this last posting, I want to highlight the effects of weather, climate, and terrain on military forces and how geography plays an instrumental role in this.  A couple of years ago, I read book entitled Battling the elements: weather and terrain in the conduct of war by Harold Winters.  This book was not only intriguing to me, but also interesting at the same time in how it depicts various scenarios on how geographies played a crucial role in winning or losing battles.  This posting is a conglomeration of my thoughts with historical facts contained within this book.
Military operations have continuously been effected by various climates that have posed many problems for militaries in foreign lands.  Ground, naval, and air forces each are affected by climate in different ways, but also have some similarities among them.  Those forces that conduct an offensive battle in another climate have usually resulted in a decisive loss.  In order to counter the threat that the climate poses in a foreign land, military strategists and climatologists must do their part to educate their own military force to be effective.  This can be done by understanding the seasonal changes and how terrain and soil will be impacted by the temperatures and precipitation.  Though no strategy will be completely perfect since the weather within the climate may change from year to year, individuals can still study the historical commonalities over time to establish trends and patterns that will benefit their military force.  The impact of a climate in a foreign land has had devastating results on the movement and logistics of a military.
Intruders into a foreign region may be deceived by the weather in an area and not understand the long-term climatic effects.  Climatic factors that have affected historic campaigns consisted of temperature and precipitation as the primary forces.  Ultimately, these effects of nature have disintegrated armies in the past.  In Russia, temperature levels greatly rise in the summer months, but as the year progresses, the temperatures fall drastically.  In the past 300 years, three armies attempted to invade Russia regardless of its climate.  The Swedes, French, and Germans have all suffered greatly as a result of Russia’s weather and climate.
Temperature can be broken down into extreme heat and cold.  Each extreme affects military forces in several different ways depending on the climate the invading country originated from previously.  Extreme heat is preferably more favorable than cold.  For example, most military campaigns against Russia have began in the summer months since the movement of ground forces was somewhat more formidable than in the winter.  The climate in Western Europe relies mainly on air that originates from the nearby ocean which allows for more moderate temperatures.  This climate is very different than in Eastern Europe, where the ocean cooling and heating occurs at a slower rate since it is further inland.  In addition, Russia is a vast territory in size which allows for four major climates that affect its physical environment: tundra, subarctic, continental, and temperate.
Moreover, extreme cold temperatures create hazards for military forces that are unprepared when traveling from less extreme climates.  For example, the lack of seasonal uniforms that were worn by the Germans during their invasion of Russia forces major delays in their advancement into Russia’s heartland, because of their need to warm their troops and equipment.  In addition, soldiers can become frost bitten which allows soldiers to be more susceptible to death, injuries, disease, or desertion if they are inadequately dressed.  Therefore, climatic temperature can have a great impact on a military forces’ physical and mental well-being when traveling across great distances.
On the other hand, precipitation and moisture can cause damage to any military force regardless whether it’s hot or cold.  In summer months, continuous thunderstorms cause the soil to loosen which results in the ground turning to mud.  Climates that rapid cooling occurs in leads to temperatures dropping dramatically; therefore, colder regions of the world endure large quantities of snow.  In Russia, the large amounts of snow cover allows for reflection of the sun’s energy, ultimately prolonging the arrival of spring.  These conditions were quite different than in Western Europe’s winter and both the German and French armies were not prepared for the Russian winter.
The aforementioned climatic factors have ultimately decided the outcomes of military campaigns.  Every military force that decides to invade or fight against another nation in a different climate needs to understand the geographic setting and how the weather will impact their mission.  In addition, historic military forces typically have not been prepared with plentiful supplies, resources, and vehicles in order to carry out their mission in an efficient capacity.  A prime example of military forces that have operated from one climate zone to another during a seasonal change was the German and French invasion of Russia.  These two military invasions based their planning and operations during summer and fall months for their movement into Russia in the hopes for a short battle.
Both militaries expected to return to their respected home countries prior to the arrival of winter.  As a result, each army did not plan for the harsh winter which became their ultimate demise.  Regardless, both armies traveled eastward during the pleasant weather conditions in Western Europe in the summer months.  As the early autumn months arrived, harsh thunderstorms created mud conditions which drastically slowed down the army’s trafficability.  In 1812, autumn was shortened by frigid temperatures as well as extreme cold and snowy conditions.  In 1941, the Germans encountered a long wet autumn which then transitioned into similar harsh conditions that the French faced.  Inadequately equipped soldiers and limited shelter became more damaging to the invaders than any other force.  Overall, both armies were forced to retreat because the French and Germans were not match for the brutal climate in Russia.
Militaries have traveled great distances into unfamiliar climates throughout history in order to gain territory or show superiority to another region of the world.  During a campaign under these pretenses, militaries encounter dust, mud, frost, chill, and hot conditions.  Each of these climatic factors can weaken soldiers and their trafficability as well as affecting their logistics.  These factors also impact the maintenance and functionality of weapons and equipment.  Visibility can often be impaired by such climatic conditions for ground and air operations.  Moreover, air warfare is also impacted by cloud coverage and fog which also contributes to reduced visibility, especially in geographic regions where this type of atmospherics are prevelant.  In combining these factors along with the terrain, many foreign armies can expect conditions harsher than in an actual battle.
All climatic factors impact ground forces’ movement and maneuverability in several different ways.  The effects on trafficability change considerably with the progressions of the seasons.  Climates throughout the world vary in the levels of precipitation that is accumulated over time.  Some climates are mainly dry, while others can be consistently wet or change in the amount of rainfall every year.  The physical environment ultimately determines how a climate will impact military movement.  Constant rainy conditions often cause a muddy setting.  Mud almost always reduces travel time, and stalls machinery, vehicles, and soldiers usually by the unfavorable conditions mud creates in the ground.  This seemed to be a huge obstacle for the German and French armies when traveling into Russia.
Operation Barbossa
In higher latitudes, winter conditions also effect movement greatly.  Countries located in these climates have an edge because they are used to the harsh weather.  Foreigners that are not familiar with these types of conditions usually are unprepared in many ways.  Also, these climates have excessive snow amounts which impede wheeled vehicles and persons especially when the snowfall exceeds 12 inches.  Either of these conditions can completely halt or slow down movement, which was the case for the Germans in Operation Barbossa, and were forced to travel 12 miles in 2 days as a result of the foreign climate.  On the other hand, a benefit of higher latitude climates is when the ground freezes on open terrain, faster movement will occur because of the hardened soil which is ideal for ground forces.
Lastly, climatic conditions also have a huge impact on the logistics of an army.  For example, in June 1812, the French army traveled over the Niemen River in modern-day Lithuania and became stuck in a series of prolonged thunderstorms.  These thunderstorms caused the ground to become so muddy that they had to leave behind many heavy wagons filled with many supplies and equipment needed for the journey to Russia.  Assuming they would return to France prior to the start of winter, the French also brought a limited amount of supplies with them and as a result, the late summer and autumn months became very troublesome.  In the winter months, logistic necessities such as fuel, food, and water became scarce an armies had trouble acquiring the necessary supplies because of the harsh conditions and distance from friendly supply depots.  In addition, this results in a decrease in supplies and ammunitions and access to resources.  Since the higher latitude conditions are not favorable in winter months, most foreign armies are forced to retreat.  Overall, militaries that do not plan effective routes and a plentiful amount of supplies usually succumb to the forces of nature in foreign lands that have significantly different climates than in their homeland.
Lastly, another good book for anyone interested in getting an overview of military geography is Military geography for professionals and the public by John Collins.
Everything happens for a reason.  At least that is what a mentor told me years ago when I was just walking into the real world for the first time.  Culture is the basis behind every action throughout the world.  All people do things for a reason and this has a lot to do where one is raised or lives.  In the anthropology field, this is called a person’s “Worldview” – A person’s worldview ties into their geography greatly.  In addition, this carries over not only in our everyday lives, but for the militaries across the world.  Moreover, Military Geography is not only used by the military, but also by academics and politicians in order to understand the geopolitical sphere through a militaristic lens.
Knowledge and expertise of military geography is a critical factor in analyzing the enemy.  Military geography of a specific region is the discipline regarding geographic aspects that affect military planning and the execution of operations.  In addition, this discipline is divided into several sub-classes of study: cultural, economic, political, and physical geography.  Each one of the areas of study establishes the base for knowledge of a region or area.  The more expertise of a geographic region, the better suited an analyst will be in order to analyze raw intelligence and apply it to an analysis.  Outcomes regarding past U.S. conflicts have been determined by regional knowledge of military geography and have ultimately formulated standards of knowledge for today’s intelligence to be successful. 
Regional, area, and cultural expertise is vital knowledge required for understanding an enemy’s intentions and vulnerabilities.  Also, this knowledge can result in improved battle tactics by understanding the terrain, weather, soil, and lines of communication that are prominent in an area which may ultimately effect enemy movement.  Expertise in these areas allows for a commander, decision-maker, or analyst to establish an overall picture for planning and executing operations.  Understanding culture is becoming a more important factor for military operations across the world.  Unlike the days of the Cold War, enemies of the United States are now integrating into civilian societies.  These enemies may use certain key locations to take cover that are not allowed to be bombed or attacked to their advantage such as hospitals, schools, and mosques.  Therefore, the U.S. military needs to be cognizant of cultural and social norms within a region in order to identify any anomalies or something that is just not normal within a foreign society. 
Regarding military geography, cultural friction is one of the more significant causes of surprise in enemy action.  When in conflict with an opposing force, enemy intentions may be unpredictable, but it may be the culture of the enemy that is most often misunderstood in this sense.  This causes confusion among the friendly force because they are unfamiliar with the norms of their enemy’s society.  The expertise acquired in studying a certain region, area, or culture will overall determine the course that an operation must take in order to be successful, but at the same time limit civilian causalities.  In my opinion, regional expertise is more beneficial for strategic planning than tactical planning.  Understanding the military geography of an area is essential prior to executing enemy forces in a battle.  Knowing when, where, and how to attack an enemy is also influenced by this expertise and has a major effect on the planning stages of a military operation.
There have been several examples of this type of expertise not being utilized that have occurred throughout history.  A somewhat recent example of this took place in the 1990’s in the country of Somalia.  Somalia is a very unstable region that is in a constant state of conflict.  U.S. military forces where not very familiar with certain aspects of the area of Somalia where they were in conflict, in addition to not having basic knowledge of Somali society.  These aspects included the lack of decent geospatial intelligence.  Based on my overall knowledge of this conflict, I believe our forces attacked our enemy as ordered, but did not do their research prior to the battles in ensuring a successful outcome.  This opinion is based on the continuous failures during the conflict in the streets of Mogadishu that U.S. forces endured.  Overall, this was probably due to a lack of expertise in the region known as the Horn of Africa.  However, the United States has been in many other battles that have resulted in similar consequences that have forced U.S. troops to disband and leave the area of conflict.
In order for military forces to act successfully in a foreign land, they must be mindful of where they are located.  Furthermore, they must be reliant on intelligence analysts to supply them with accurate intelligence.  This ties into the that the United States continues to be involved more with asymmetric conflicts across the world, and fewer conflicts against political or organized entities similar to the past.  Military geography also allows for knowledge of an area to be applied to certain operations.  Tactical, operational, and strategic planning rely on this knowledge to avoid any uncertainties and create a successful battle plan.
Overtime, regional and cultural subject matter expertise continues to become a more substantial key component for intelligence operations.  Education, cultural appreciation, and regional experience of analysts are often insufficient for providing insight for an understanding of the enemy.  Also, there is little knowledge of any historical aspects that create social norms different than in the United States or even the language of the local population which can purely affect an overall analysis of a network’s true intentions.  Overall, this is unsatisfactory and proves why knowledge of military geography of a specified area is vital in understanding and analyzing the enemy.  This seems to be a common issue across the world and probably has led to initiatives such as human terrain analysis also known as human geography and other elements that cater more towards regional studies in academia.
Have you ever thought how geography was used in military operations before all this fancy technology came online?  Here’s an example I have drafted up involving geospatial intelligence and geographic analysis about 70 years ago using paper maps and aerial imagery.
Geographic techniques in conjunction with geospatial intelligence have both played important roles in planning wartime operations.  In this post, I will describe the value of this that contributed greatly toward the Invasion of Sicily during World War II in July 1943, specifically OPERATION Husky.  Intelligence provided General Patton with several different scenarios for the execution of tactical operations.  Each scenario was used to give Patton options in order to complete his missions.  Similar to a maze in a newspaper we used to try to complete as children, Patton would use these options in order to prevent a dead-end in his tactical operations.  If he was to reach a dead-end, the other scenarios would allow his other options to still achieve success in carrying out his mission.  All of the different intelligence sources assisted Patton in commanding tactical operations.  The intelligence collected by the G-2 provided details on the enemy opposition (such as their capabilities, intentions, and vulnerabilities).
Furthermore, terrain and weather played a significant role in his operations by allowing Patton to choose the most desirable route based on several considerations such as vegetation, terrain, lines of communication, soil-type, and weather conditions.   Each of these considerations determined the cross-country routes that would be taken in order to achieve his objectives.  Unfortunately, Patton did not have the option to utilize the vast techniques associated with geographic information systems, but instead, relied on conducting geospatial analysis with paper maps.  Intelligence also provided Patton with the means to go about an invasion no matter where in Europe the invasion would occur at.  For example, where to strike enemy forces on the beaches of Sicily became vital and was reliant on effective and accurate intelligence.  All of these factors supported Patton during his execution of tactical operations
Aerial photography was an integral part of many missions throughout World War II.  In OPERATION Husky, aerial photography assisted Allied forces in conjunction with General Patton’s army with a successful invasion of Sicily.  The geography of Sicily, especially the terrain, proved to be challenging for the aircrafts because of the elevation and ruggedness of the topography.  The imagery collected assisted photo interpreters to generate terrain models which allowed for visualization of the coastline, in addition to formulating beach landing zones in Sicily.
The aircraft used in this operation was a modified North American B-25D Mitchell (also known as an F-10 reconnaissance model) which had all of its armament and bombing equipment removed.  This aircraft’s main purpose was mapping the landscape in order to determine enemy order of battle, enemy routes, and determine viable landing zones for the Allied forces.  The aircraft was modified to equip three K-17 cameras, mounted at several angles: vertically, horizontally, and obliquely which allowed for various look angles to be captured on film.
Overall, photo reconnaissance provided ample support in order for an invasion into Sicily to be possible.  There were approximately five aerial missions a day and the processing of 200 to 600 prints per hour were extracted by analysts located in North Africa.  Lastly, the start of taking photographs at night began during the operations that were conducted in Sicily.  According to, aircraft dropped flash bombs from 10,000 to 12,000 feet that triggered the camera shutter. A single exposure covered an area roughly two miles long by four and a half miles wide. F-10s (modified B-25s) carried a small number of flash bombs, which normally limited missions to twenty pictures.”
I was not able to locate any aerial photography taken during this operation; however, I was able to locate a planning map that was used to direct where aerial photography was needed, an actual imagery report disseminated during this operation, as well as a picture of the F-10.
Operation HUSKY, Photo Reconnaissance Plan
                                                                       Photo Interpretation Report Example
F-10 Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft
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The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.