Resource Wars

It all boils down to oil and water. Although the two elements don’t mix well, they do combine as necessary but limited resources which the 21st century needs for physical and economic survival. This was a fantastic, pre-9/11 look at the global situation, which accurately predicts the US invasion of Iraq to secure its oil supply.
My biggest takeaway from the book is that yes, (duh!) our war in Iraq is about oil. A stated strategic concern for the US since WWII, we’ve made no bones about needing to secure our supply of a resource vital to our economy and military. I’m just not sure why our politicians aren’t more forthcoming about the real reasons for our wars. Do they think we can’t handle the truth of needing to kill or displace millions of Iraqis in order to keep our $4/gallon gas flowing freely?
I had another “Aha!” moment while walking around town during the time I was reading this. Bumper stickers railing against the war in Iraq are simply ridiculous; you’re against the war, and yet you’re driving a car fueled by the reason for the war. These bumper stickers are better served adorning bicycles, which are not petroleum-free either, with nearly 2 gallons of oil making up the tires and lubricants.
In reading the footnotes for one of the most engaging chapters (“Oil Conflict in the Persian Gulf”), I stumbled onto a 1996 NYTimes article about Saudi Arabia/Bin Laden. It posited that Saudis were getting restless since overpopulation was cutting into the benefits the royal family had given out to everyone to keep people appeased (education, health care, good jobs), and Saudis were particularly angry at the US from a misperception (?) that we had profited from the 1992 Gulf War and the outrage at having 5,000 US military on the sacred Islamic ground of the peninsula.
Also in the footnotes, related to the 1945 meeting of Roosevelt with Ibn Saud to assure him of American support, Dick Cheney (1990 Defense Secretary) cited this relationship as a key factor in the US decision to intervene in the Gulf, “We do, of course, have historic ties to the governments in the region, that hark back with respect to Saudi Arabia to 1945, when President Roosevelt… affirmed at that time that the United States had a lasting and a continuing interest in the security of the Kingdom.” There never has been any doubt, moreover, about the reasons for this commitment: “We obviously also have a significant interest because of the energy that is at stake in the Gulf,” Cheney affirmed. “Within a couple of hundred miles of the border of Kuwait, in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, reside… 24 or 25 percent of the world’s known reserves.” — Senate, Armed Services Committee, Crisis in the Persian Gulf Region, p 10.
Besides the Persian Gulf, keep your eye on the Caspian Sea and South China Sea for upcoming conflict over oil and natural gas reserves.
From the final chapter:
“The conflict scenarios discussed in this book… all possess distinctive characteristics, and so tend to be viewed by analysts and policy makers as isolated phenomena. But the resource wars of the post-Cold War era are not random or disconnected events. Rather, they are part of a larger, interconnected geopolitical system. Whereas international conflict was until recently governed by political and ideological considerations, the wars of the future will largely be fought over the possession and control of vital economic goods – especially resources needed for the functioning of modern industrial societies… It is the central thesis of this book that resource wars will become, in the years ahead, the most distinctive feature of the global security environment. This is so for all of the reasons outlined in the previous chapters: the priority accorded to economic considerations by national leaders, the ever-growing demand for a wide range of basic commodities, looming shortages of certain key materials, social and political instability in areas harboring major reserves of vital commodities, and the proliferation of disputes over the ownership of important sources of supply. ”
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On the water conflict in the Nile, Jordan, Tigris-Euphrates and Indus River Basins:
“Clearly, each of the river systems described above harbors a significant risk of violent conflict. This risk stems from the fact that the demand for water is growing while the supply is not, and from the failure of the riparians in these systems to establish an integrated, basinwide regime for the equitable distribution of the shared resources.”
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Reco’d by Paul Ehrlich during a recent SALT talk


auth=Klare, Michael
pub=2001
sub=The New Landscape of Global Conflict
isbn=0805055762