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Our Shrinking Planet

Resource Wars: Notes From the CNAS Conference on Natural Security

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Any time you get famed counterinsurgency advisor David Kilcullen and global correspondent and author Robert Kaplan on the same panel you’re bound to get some international security goodness. Yesterday’s conference on the security implications of resource scarcity and climate change put on by CNAS in downtown Washington did not disappoint.

I think Kaplan goes a bit overboard on prepping for a war with China, but I think he has some good insight on why China and the U.S. will likely be butting heads for the rest of this century. For one, China’s voracious appetite for raw materials and its manic efforts over the last few years to lock down as many sources of the same. China’s strategic plan, which drives its mercantilist foreign policy, has a simple objective: to dramatically lift the standard of living of a fifth of the world’s population.

As hundreds of millions of Chinese move up the consumption ladder the country will need ever more quantities of basic inputs that come almost entirely from other countries. That thirst for resources is what’s driving China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia; he sees a Chinese “Monroe Doctrine” developing in the South China Sea. China’s naval modernization and shipbuilding must be seen in that light.

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The Water Wars of 2050

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Icebergs melting.jpg

Although wars are often justified under the banners of lofty tenets, they are just as often fought over resources. And as the Associated Press reports today, it’s not unthinkable that as global warming changes the resource status quo, conflicts will erupt between peoples competing for those resources.

A few highlights from the article:

“One of the biggest likely areas of conflict is going to be over water,” said [retired General Charles] Wald, former deputy commander of U.S. European Command. He pointed to the Middle East and Africa.

The military report’s co-author, former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, also pointed to sea-level rise floods as potentially destabilizing South Asia countries of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Lack of water and food in places already the most volatile will make those regions even more unstable with global warming and “foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies,” states the 63-page military report, issued by the CNA Corp., an Alexandria, Va.-based national security think tank.

Mother Nature’s potential WMD sort of raises the bar of imminent threat, doesn’t it?

– Ward