Mapping Colombia: The Correlation between Land Data and Strategy

  • March 01, 2003
  • Dr Geoffrey Demarest

The mapping of Colombian national territory, however, is fundamental to the problem of control of national territory. As a threshold matter, policy, strategy, and military asset management in contemporary conflict in virtually any unstable part of the world must deal with the problem of governance in "lawless areas." Unless a central government such as that in Colombia can exert legitimate control and governance in the 60+ percent of the municipalities not under its control, there can be no effective judicial system and rule of law; no effective legal crop substitution programs; no effective democratic processes; and, only very little military or police action to bring law and order into unknown and difficult terrain. Indeed, control of the national territory is a strategic paradigm for 21st century conflict. The state is under assault by a powerful combination of state weaknesses, "lawless areas," and insurgent and criminal terrorism. All these contributors to instability and violence have a powerful effect on local, regional, national, and international security. Colombia and other states experiencing conflicts that range from criminal anarchy to virtual civil war must understand that putting treasure and blood into a conflict situation without first establishing the strategic foundations of success only result in ad hoc, piece-meal, disjointed, and ineffective reactions to truly inconsequential problems.