Geopolitics is the struggle not to control territory but to create the territory

Monday, April 25th, 2022

As J.R.R. Tolkien would put it, the superpowers are trying to build a secondary world that everyone else can inhabit:

Inside it, what the world contains is true: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The great game is indeed a game, but a game with a purpose of creating the rules of the game.

Think about it as a clash between two versions of the world. Or, more graphically, imagine a simulated landscape in which two or more computer programmers are fighting to redesign what appears on the monitor. The pixels keep changing from moment to moment. One second, the landscape looks like a mountain scene; then the mountains grow smaller and smaller until the landscape becomes a grassy plain. Some back and forth ensues until one of the programmers gives up and the other vision wins. Geopolitics is the struggle not to control territory but to create the territory.


In his recent book, Jacob Helberg writes that the new wars are now less about who controls some piece of territory in Europe or East Asia than about who “controls the information networks and communications technologies that shape the distribution of world power by shaping the daily lives of billions of people.” He fails to draw an obvious but fascinating conclusion: what changed was that technology has rebuilt the world to such an extent that these networks are now the territory.


Just as new technologies slowly raised the destructive potential of direct conflict, a new avenue was opened: states can now fight one another not by winning in a direct battle but by setting the rules under which other states must operate. Call it a form of indirect government: perhaps your opponent will even assume the rules are natural or given—but in reality, you have moved one level up in the great game. Your opponent is playing a video game. You are coding it. I would reserve the term superpower for those states engaged in a battle to shape the rules. Everyone else is competing under the rules.

Listen to Russian president Vladimir Putin or any of the thinkers orbiting the Kremlin and all you hear is the same geopolitical dread: will Russia be forced to play by Western rules, or can it rise to the role of world-builder? Putin seems to believe that an independent and Westernized Ukraine would reduce Russia to a subordinate status. His is the classical gamble of someone who attempts to change the rules of the game but risks achieving no more than being punished under the existing order. The danger for the Western order is that the tools used to punish and constrain Russian power will erode the legitimacy of that order.

The Ukraine war is a revealing moment in the history of world-building. The global system suddenly appeared as a tool of power rather than a neutral framework of rules. There is some danger in this moment of revelation because a number of state actors in the developing world may themselves stop playing by the existing rules or even start looking for alternative systems of play.


  1. Gavin Longmuir says:

    “Putin seems to believe that an independent and Westernized Ukraine would reduce Russia to a subordinate status.”

    The Ukraine was “independent” — although that may have looked to the Ukrainian people a lot like having submitted to rule by Victoria Nuland. Perhaps “Westernized” means ruled by Victoria Nuland too — although it is difficult to reconcile the concept of Western values with the vicious civil war which the Ukrainian nationalists were fighting against their Russian-speaking fellow citizens. Persecuting minorities is NOT the Western way.

    The article is propaganda nonsense. It is very clear that Russia’s concern was not having an independent Westernized Ukraine on its borders. Russia repeatedly state concern was having the Ukraine under the control of an aggressive US/NATO, putting nuclear missiles on its borders. Russia’s reaction to that provocation is analogous to the US reaction to USSR missiles in Cuba.

    Nothing has changed. We still live in a world where aggressive tyrants seek to control everything. The only difference is that now those aggressive tyrants have set up shop in Washington DC.

  2. Wang Wei Lin says:

    If the actions of any nation can be ultimately justified and then forced on the world then what’s the point since no hegemony remains. Sounds like a win-win. Each nation should just do what they want. Screw these globalist bastards.

  3. Felix says:

    The “struggle” between nations is now a bidding war for people. Nations will need to compete for people in the same way US cities and states have competed for people throughout US history.

  4. TBA says:

    A “bidding war”… The most desirable countries seem to have the opposite problem: keeping (the wrong) people out.

  5. Felix says:

    TBA, You bet. By definition. And, there will always be those nations that nobody lives in any more because they are too crowded.

  6. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    Even more threatening than the prospect of using Ukraine as a base for launching nuclear weapons, is the prospect of using Ukraine as a base for launching ideological weapons.

    An isolated domino is easily bulled into submission – or knocked over.

    Our modern carthage is primarily theocratic in character, so likewise naturally it tends to pursue theocratic forms of power, first and foremost.

    It is constantly invading other countries; not so much militarily (although it does this so often anyways), which is obvious, but most especially, it invades spiritually, which is deniable. It invades with priests, not it’s own soldiers; by which it then seeks to get other people’s soldiery to fight and die for it’s ends, hollowing out the psychitecture of target societies and replacing it with themselves, like fungal cordyceps in an ant colony.

    Invasion by priests is no less violent an act of aggression as any other; indeed, it is supremely violent; dropping a plane full of ivy league law graduates on an area has frequently proven to do more damage than a plane full of high explosives. But inability to perceive invasion by priests as a violent act of aggression is a canonical blindspot in the normie weltanschauung – by design, of course – which is one of the keystones of the ‘putler suddenly starts world war 3 for no reason’ thought terminating cliches (along with simply goldfish tier historical amnesia).

    Any state that wishes to fight globohomo effectively needs an official state religion of their own to point too, and by which likewise identify minions of globohomo as not just ‘normal ordinary person with normal ordinary business’, but as infidels and apostates who in deed and in fact represent mortal threats to their folk, and most deservedly merit dealing with in like kind, with extreme prejudice.

Leave a Reply