Redefining the Gap 10, Limitations and Conclusion

Note: This is a selection from Redefining the Gap, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06


Halford Mackinder said that “every century has its own geographical perspective,” and it may even be true that “every century has its own geographical stereotype” (Meinig 1956:553). Geopolitical analysis is necessarily limited to some conception of the world. This research design seeks to test a geopolitical view of the present world. It is not a test throughout time. It makes no claim to be. That makes this study no less valuable.

The effects of this study depend on the truth or falsity of the hypothesis. In each case, the most interesting results would be if the hypothesis is false.

A failure of the first hypothesis — that is, negative or no correlations for the binary Core-Gap value — is very unlikely. It is doubtful that life in in the “Core” is more brutal, nastier, shorter, poorer, and more solitary than life in the Gap. However, given the broad definition of “Core” here, negative or no correlation for at least some of the variables is possible. This raises a more delicate point: if just one of the categories has a negative correlation with the Core-Gap variable, there will be a temptation to simply say it was poorly defined. Regardless of the ultimate conclusion, though, such a result would pave the way to future research.

In general, the same conclusions will hold true if hypothesis two is demonstrated false. However, a negative results here would be somewhat less surprising. If in general “new core” states are more livable than old core states, which seems somewhat reasonable (is “Old Core” Spain truly better than “New Core” South Korea?), this would skew the results.

Even if hypothesis one and two hold true, however, the utility of Barnett’s “new map” will be undermined if hypothesis three or four are shown to be negative. If for instance a geopolitical categorization based on the G77 or the Nonaligned movement are more accurate that Barnett’s concept, then PNM’s goal as a grand strategy for the United States is unlikely to be fulfilled. After all, why go with something new and strange when something old and familiar does the job better? Likewise, if defining the Gap simply as the Organization of the Islamic Conferences and the African Union gives better values than Barnett’s current summary, This is not just an academic concern, but may in turn effect base closings and even how and when to go to war.

If disproving the third and fourth hypotheses would be the most interesting, disproving the fifth would be the most boring. The New Core – Old Core divide naturally seems somewhat artificial, leaving Australia and New Zealand in the “new” world while confining Spain and Greece to the “Old.”

On the flip side, finding all five of the hypotheses true would help validate Barnett’s claims. More work would have to be done. After all, a study that uses the data suggested by the theorist might be suspect, but it would be a good first step.

Redefining the Gap, a tdaxp series:
Redefining the Gap 1. Prologue
Redefining the Gap 2. Summary
Redefining the Gap 3. Introduction to Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 4. First Geopolitical Theories
Redefining the Gap 5. The North and the South
Redefining the Gap 6. Critical Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 7. The Pentagon’s New Map
Redefining the Gap 8. The Research Design
Redefining the Gap 9. Methods and Operationalizations
Redefining the Gap 10. Limitations and Conclusion
Redefining the Gap 11. Results
Redefining the Gap 12. Bibliography
Redefining the Gap 13. Appendix: Computer Code
Redefining the Gap 14. Appendix: National Codes