Alternative geography of the United States

The classic definition of the state from Weber (“monopoly of violence”) or Giddens (“bordered power container”) has certainly been rejected and challenged by geographers. It is often stated that states are more porous and have networks of relations beyond the homeland.

But it’s also worth recalling that nowadays states don’t necessarily have a monopoly of violence or control  within the homeland. According to the two-year investigation by the WaPo for example, much of the USA’s defense and security industry is in the hands of private sub-contractors.

This is the “alternative geography” of the United States, in their words.

The Post estimates that out of 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, 265,000 are contractors. There is no better example of the government’s dependency on them than at the CIA, the one place in government that exists to do things overseas that no other U.S. agency is allowed to do.

Private contractors working for the CIA have recruited spies in Iraq, paid bribes for information in Afghanistan and protected CIA directors visiting world capitals. Contractors have helped snatch a suspected extremist off the streets of Italy, interrogated detainees once held at secret prisons abroad and watched over defectors holed up in the Washington suburbs. At Langley headquarters, they analyze terrorist networks. At the agency’s training facility in Virginia, they are helping mold a new generation of American spies.


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