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Home » GeoNotes, Geopolitics, Myth of the Nation-State

Diagramming the “Greater U.S. Realm”

Submitted by on September 24, 2012 – 3:22 pm 8 Comments |  
As promised, I have posted a diagram of the “greater U.S. realm.” It is a little less map-like than the diagram of “greater UK” posted last week, as it does not differentiate east from west in regard to the placement of labels.

I was uncertain as to how to classify Guantanamo Bay. I have included it, alone among U.S. foreign military bases, because it is “perpetually leased,” giving it a degree of permanence that other bases lack.

Comments and criticism are again welcome.

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  • Seth Jackson

    How does the District of Columbia fit in? Like other federal U.S. territories, they are “controlled” directly by Congress. Also, how do the 565 federally-recognized tribes fit in? In many ways, they are independent of states. In fact, they are one of four forms of governments that have direct government-to-government relations with the federal government, the others being states, territories, and foreign countries.

    • Excellent points. I have changed the diagram to show the quasi-sovereignty of tribal governments. I am not sure that to do with D.C. Ideas?

      • Seth Jackson

        DC is proving to be tricky. I wonder if it needs its own category, labeled “Federal District” perhaps.

        • Joan Pederson

          Federal District for DC may be OK from a sovereignty perspective, which this diagram addresses, after all, but perhaps a different term might be better to distinguish federal districts whose resident citizens have full voting rights (e.g., Mexico?) from those who do not (DC).

          • Excellent point. I will edit the map again this evening to try to reflect this point.

          • I have made the change — let me know what you think.

  • Rob S

    Hello. Nice diagram and great site! I believe that Palmyra Atoll, as an incorporated territory, should actually sit within the ‘United States Proper’ box.

  • Hunter

    The diagram is off when it comes to the territories. Legally there are only four kinds of territories: Incorporated Organized territories (currently none, the last were Hawaii and Alaska), Incorporated Unorganized territories (only Palmyra Atoll), Unincorporated Organized territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Marianas and US Virgin Islands) and the Unincorporated Unorganized territories (American Samoa and the minor islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean). “Commonwealth status” is essentially meaningless. There is no difference between how Puerto Rico relates to and is organized by the US government and how the USVI is with regards to the US government. The Commonwealth tag is overblown and makes as much difference as the name “Commonwealth” does in the names of states like Kentucky or Pennsylvania. Yes Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas have their own indigenously drafted constitutions. But said constitutions were only drafted after being so authorized by a law passed by Congress and the constitutions themselves had to be approved by Congress in another law. In essence that makes them no different to Organic Acts which provide for constitutions to other unincorporated territories except that Congress outsources the writing of the contents of the Acts to the local population.

    The confusion over the territorial commonwealths comes because of a bit of creative naming on the part of the constitution writers in Puerto Rico in the 1950s/1960s – they chose the name “Commonwealth” in English because the literal Spanish translation of the name the official name they wanted to choose for Puerto Rico (“Estado Libre Asociado” or “Associated Free State”) would not have gone down well with federal government and US public at the time. So instead they chose a nice term that approximated the Spanish name and which conveniently enough had been used by the Philippines in the 1930s before they got independence. However the Commonwealth of the Philippines was the only territory to have been REALLY different (even though up until 1946 it was still legally an Unincorporated Organized territory) as not only did it have it’s own constitution, but the executive authority was headed by a “president” instead of a traditional “governor” and the name of the territory in Spanish was “Mancomunidad de Filipinas” and so it was really called a “Commonwealth” in both English and Spanish.

    I would recommend just moving Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas into the Unicorporated Organized territories box (perhaps keeping them green to signify that they have drafted their own governing document with approval of Congress) and also adding Palmyra Atoll in the “United States Proper” box.