- Editors’ NoteThe SAIS Review Editorial Board
Whether it is regional disagreements on the Earth’s major continents, or conflicts made possible by recent technological innovations, ungoverned spaces remain at the epicenter of current struggles across the globe. Within the vacuums of power and regulation there have arisen conflicts affecting citizens, cities, regions, and entire nations. Traditional definitions of ungoverned spaces have failed to assess the breadth of subject areas the term encompasses, and have not developed a theoretical context for understanding how gaps in regulation form and endure.
In our quest to help fill this void the SAIS Review of International Affairs has dedicated two consecutive issues to exploring the depths of ungoverned space conflicts and their theoretical underpinnings. Our first compendium on ungoverned spaces, “Here be Dragons” (Issue 36, Volume 1), explored the evolving and established legal frameworks for governance of both land and sea. Authors explored gaps in governance in Africa, the Middle East, and the increasingly contested seas of Asia. However, ungoverned space is not contained solely to territory that can be seen or measured. Just as with our first publication, we have defined ungoverned spaces as any area where (1) ownership or control is absent; or (2) ownership is notably contested or control is unclear or unviable.
As technology improves exponentially and knowledge propagates through globalization, actors will vie for control over previously unknown or unseen frontiers. Our title for this issue is taken from a Latin term commonly used in cartography to describe regions that have not been documented. “Terra Incognita,” or land unknown, explores this next generation of frontiers, and their potential to host conflicts. Reminding us of these next frontiers, US President Barack Obama has recently announced the goal to land on Mars by the 2030s. “The next step is to reach beyond the bounds of Earth’s orbit,” the President said, setting his sights on a new frontier.1
Our issue is divided into three sections – the first will explore potential issues associated with the increased accessibility of space. Our second section will seek to unravel the vulnerability of cyberspace, and investigate potential regulatory solutions. Our final section will explore other aspects of ungoverned spaces, to include a discussion trade policy, information dissemination technology, and the intelligence sector.
Our issue begins with a piece by Joan Johnson-Freese which argues that space is a global commons that must be maintained for all, and that the United States should take an assertive role to maintain it as such. She raises important questions as to what the US role should look like, and its implications for countries that follow suit. Next, Henry Hertzfeld, Brian Weeden, and Christopher [End Page 1] D. Johnson, examine term “global commons” and whether it is fair to apply it to outer space. They also discuss significant advancements in technology, which will spur the need for a system of arbitration to settle disputes in the territory.
Our second section on regulation in cyberspace starts with a piece by Aaron F. Brantly where he argues that cyberspace is in fact heavily regulated, but nation-states interpret these regulations differently, providing room for states knowingly and unknowingly to violate these rules to their own advantage. In the following article, Rex Hughes discusses advancements in autonomous vehicles, led primarily by the United States, which present challenges for several global commons. Hughes discusses several commons including sea, sky, space, cyberspace, and the Arctic. He addresses how advancements in technology will have an impact on US policy in these domains, and, in so doing, highlights the bridge between the two compendiums on ungoverned spaces. The section concludes with a republished piece from our 2010 issue on cyberspace by Melissa Hathaway. As is evident from the preceding articles, Hathaway’s commentary on the need for cyberspace collaboration remains timely. Hathaway’s article advocates for a closer digital alliance between NATO members. This would allow for the alliance to confront challenges collectively, developing contingency operations for a variety of scenarios.
Our final section contains pieces on other ungoverned spaces, which our authors have identified as threats. First, Richard Mason explores the technology behind hot air balloons, used by non-governmental organizations in South Korea, to distribute...