Immerwahr argues that, if we take a step back, the arrangement with Saudi Arabia reflects the changing geographies of war, trade, and diplomacy. Power in the late twentieth century was becoming rooted in networks and supply chains rather than territory. The United States didn’t need to occupy Saudi Arabia to get what it wanted: a centrally located airfield to add to its global network of bases. Almost every conflict since 1898 had left the United States with snippets of land through diplomatic arrangement or lease. Its most critical nodes include bases in Japan, Germany, Korea, and Qatar, as well as its sprawling empire of island territories in the Pacific and Caribbean and the semi-sovereign enclave in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay. Why was it so useful for the United States to have access to a network of dots on a map? How did this reflect the nature of modern military and economic power? What were some ways that Osama bin Laden’s own terrorist network embraced a similar logic of harnessing power through access to dots on a map rather than seizing national governments? How did this help him hide in Pakistan for nine years?
A network of dots on a map