Late this morning Fox News brought on military analyst retired Major General Bob Scales to update viewers on the War on Terror. Today’s topic: The Cone of Instability.

You see, Scales explains, the military is sending advisors abroad “in order to get a step ahead of some of these terror networks in the war on terror. ” It’s a four-front deployment. First, as everyone knows the “heartland of the insurgency has been right here in the Middle East.” But there are other flanks, as well. “It has an eastern flank which is the Muslim area of Southeast Asia.” And, “It also has a western flank and that’s in Trans-Saharan Africa and the horn of Africa.” Just check out the “Cone of Instability” graphic below:

The graphic is grainy — even on TV — so we broke down the list of those coned-off countries as best we could.

The Middle East cone includes Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Oman, Israel, Lebanon, and a tidbit of India, but apparently not Yemen. It’s unclear whether or not Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan were included.

In Southeast Asia (or the Eastern flank) the cone includes Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Although Scales mentions the Philippines, they aren’t visually included until later.

The Trans-Saharan African flank includes, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Libya, Egypt, Chad, Sudan, Cameroon, and Central African Republic.

The horn of Africa flank includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia.

The latter country is important, Scales points out, because two of the bombers in the recent London bombings came from there. That’s kinda hard to digest in just words. So, take it away, John Madden, map out that flag route, or is it a wedge formation kickoff return?

But then Scales got marker happy as he talked up “what many people call the so-called cone of uncertainty or Cone of Instability in the region. The idea is to find those seams that Al Qaeda may seek to exploit, not only just to export their brand of terrorism but frankly also, to take over governments, to control the military, the political systems in those nations so they can build another Afghanistan. They can build another sanctuary if you will, in the Muslim areas of Africa.” So watch out, Eastern Hemisphere, you are about to be overrun by the ch-ch-ch-chia Cone of Instability:

The expanded cone now includes India, Mozambique, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Malawi, Zambia, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and any nation in the Indian Ocean (yeah, we’re looking at you, Mauritius).

(Apologies to any country left off the Cone of Instability list. As we said, we’re doing our best with the grainy maps available.)

Scales does say that the U.S. military is operating in 58 countries. Our list, based on the red cone alone (which, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out, looks nothing like a cone) comes to about 66 countries. Not bad, given the haphazard way in which the lines were drawn. Of course, we have no way of knowing if the 66 countries Scales tossed into his cones correspond with the 58 countries where, his sources tell him, the U.S. is getting one step ahead of the instability or insurgency. (Scales inexplicably uses the words as if they mean the same thing.)

No doubt the U.S. has got its work cut out for it preventing disenfranchised teenagers in the Third World from turning to terrorism as an answer to their problems. And no doubt (hopefully!) the U.S. has a policy to douse those simmering fuses.

But if the question is where, then we aren’t convinced that these graphics are the answer.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.