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Conflict over scarce resources has always been the hidden hand of world conflict. Generally attributed to religious, ethnic, and geopolitical antagonisms, these conflicts have caused a substantial and mounting threat to world peace and stability in many regions of the globe. It is only recently that these problems have been recognized as a distinct and important area of international concern. This research paper will address the nexus between resources and conflict, and how the international community can avoid the threat to human, national, and international security that it implies. Over the course of world history, there has always been a connection between resources and conflict. More specifically, the competition of resources has been the decisive factor in many of these conflicts, from ancient times all the way to the present day. In ancient times states fought for control over land that was suitable for agriculture, usually river valleys (the Tigris-Euphrates basin and Nile basin for example) or areas near springs and oases [1]. Wars have also been fought over other valuable resources, including valuable minerals, timber, and spices. The large-scale colonial expansion by the European powers that began in the 15th century and continued until the early 19th century was largely driven by the pursuit of resources such as land, timber, gold, minerals, spices, slaves, furs, rubber, and oil [2] This outward drive often sparked clashes with the indigenous inhabitants of these territories as well as among the imperial powers themselves. The French and Indian War, for instance, was sparked by conflict between Great Britain and France over the control of resourcerich territories in North America, India, Africa, and Asia [3]. Many of the skirmishes that led up to World War I, especially those arising in Africa, also had this character. This

competition has been a common practice since the days of the Roman Empire, and colonialisms scramble for Africa.

During the Cold War, resource-related conflict of this sort took a back seat to the ideological struggle between the two superpowers but did not disappear altogether. America's presidents were perpetually worried about the emergence of radical nationalist regimes in the oil-producing areas of the Middle East, and this played a key role in shaping U.S. foreign policy during this period. These fears led, for example, the President Eisenhower's decisions to cooperate with the British in the 1953 effort to topple the nationalist government of Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran and then to turn a deaf ear to British and French appeals for support during their ill-fated invasion of Egypt in 1956 [4]. The overthrow of the pro-U.S. Shah in 1979 and the rise of a radical Islamic regime in Iran also provided the backdrop to President Carter's January 1980 declaration that the United States would use force if necessary to repel any effort by a hostile power to block the free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf -- a declaration widely known as the "Carter Doctrine." The basic tenets of the Carter Doctrine were cited by President Regan to justify U.S. intervention in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, and then by President George H. W. Bush to justify U.S. intervention in the First Gulf War of 1990-91, after Iraqi forces had invaded and occupied Kuwait. Rather than invade Iraq at that time to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to the safety of Persian Gulf oil supplies, Bush I chose to quarantine Iraq and seek "regime change" through economic warfare -- a strategy then embraced by his successor, Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush and his advisors saw this strategy as ineffectual, and so, soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush II

determined that the only way to eliminate the Iraqi threat once and for all was through

armed invasion. This strategy taken by the Bush administration illustrates the complexity of modern day conflicts and how the struggle to secure resources will play a defining role in the world powers foreign policy. Various reasons were given for the second Iraq invasion, but I believe when the history books are written in 50 years they will conclude that in many respects the Second Gulf War was a continuation of the First, and that both related back to the Carter Doctrine for their original inspiration.

Different Perspectives
Indeed, many experts of international conflict and world leaders see international competition for increasingly scarce natural and energy resources as a core, and increasingly salient, cause of conflict between and within states. For example, the president of Indonesia, Yudhoyono, stated at the World Economic Forum in 2008 that, The worlds population is already approaching 7 billion this year, and will go to 9 billion by 2045. Over half are in Asia. Imagine the pressure on food, energy, water and resources. The next economic war or conflict can be over the race for scarce resources, if we dont manage it together [5]. This quote sheds light on the possibility of cooperation among the international community to prevent a large-scale conflict over resources. Others have taken a different stance, implying that future conflict over resources is inevitable. With oil being the most valuable of resources, several experts have suggested that many of the conflicts since WWII may have had a resource driven agenda. For example, the pursuit of oil resources has been identified by U.S. economist Alan Greenspan as A driving force behind the recent Iraq war; an ulterior motive for the USled invasion beneath a veneer of social protection and global security concerns.

Other political theorists such as Mary Kaldor and Mark Duffield have termed these prevalent conflicts, like the Iraq wars, as new wars. These new wars are not driven by ideological motivations, but instead have their roots in economic motivations such as a

desire to control natural resources [6]. In can be seen as the demand for natural resources such as oil rises, the value it has to developed nations will also increase, thus making the likelihood of these new wars even greater. However as Michael Ross has suggested, the type of resource in question often influences its usage as either a tool for financing conflict, or as a way of achieving economic gains. Ross stated that, Wars have certainly started over a desire to control oil supplies, yet as a commodity it is hard to steal with commercial success, so it rarely finances a war once it has commenced. By contrast, Ross states that, Mineral resources like diamonds are easily lootable and can be swiftly used to raise money to finance wars [7].

A Future of Resource Driven Conflicts?

As we have discovered, scarce resources can be found at the source of conflicts in the past, present, and future. Conflicts of the future will be largely fought over the possession and control of vital economic goods -- especially resources needed for the functioning of modern industrial societies. In the future, we can also anticipate an increase in the level of resource-related conflict because there are no more large scale unclaimed areas of land waiting to be settled by the excess populations of over-crowded, resource-stressed areas. During the colonial period when Europe's resources could no longer support its growing population,

all sorts of incentives were provided to encourage people to resettle in North and South America, in Africa and Australia [8].

These territories, in turn, produced surpluses of food and other resources that were shipped back to the motherland. Today, virtually the entire planet is inhabited, and there are very few arable areas left that are not under cultivation. As a result, we are seeing increasingly bitter conflicts over land in many parts of the world -- in a way, the tragic struggle in Darfur is emblematic of this trend. The same is true of many other resources. Virtually the entire planet has been scoured in the search for valuable sources of energy and minerals, and the rate of new discovery has dropped sharply in recent years. Moreover, most of the world's known reserves of oil, natural gas, copper, uranium, and other vital materials have been brought into production or are likely to be so in the not-to-distant future. This means that we are becoming ever more dependent on a finite supply of critical materials at a time when the global demand for these resources -- driven, in part, by the rise of China, India, and other newly-industrialized countries is expected to soar. Under these circumstances, all of the conditions that might have prompted conflict over resources in the past are likely to become magnified. This renewed competition over resources is also causing global super powers to find ways to secure the future flow of oil to supply their demands. The Department of Energy estimates that global oil output will climb to about 100 million barrels a day in 2013. However, global demand will reach 104 million barrels in 2020 and then continue to rise steadily [9]. It is obvious that the world will face an increasingly wide gap

between supply and demand of oil in the future and this will likely lead to more conflicts over the strategic resource. The competition between super powers such as the U.S. and China to secure future energy supplies is contributing to the rise of armed conflict in the world because both powers often seek to cement their ties with potential resource suppliers [10]. The majority of the resource suppliers are located in developing world, and in return for supplying energy they are provided with arms and other forms of military assistance, which often then find use in internal conflicts further destabilizing security in the world. For example, China, in pursuit of Sudanese oil, has cemented its ties with the northern government in Khartoum by supplying a wide range of arms, which reportedly have been used in the government's "scorched earth" campaign against SPLA rebels in the South [11]. In response to Chinas aggressive move into Africa, the United States is expanding its military presence in the continent due to the Pentagons decision to create the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Like China, the United States has begun to assist many African oil states. For example, the U.S. has assisted the Nigerian government in its crackdown against tribal militants in the Niger Delta region, the main center of Nigerian oil production [12]. This Delta region also sees extremely high tensions over water supplies, which could be another possibility of resource conflict in the future. Both the U.S. and China are also providing arms and military aid to the various regimes in Central Asia, and this, too, could strengthen the tendency of these regimes to rely on force and repression to rule, rather than to allow greater democratic participation. While the potential peaking and subsequent decline of oil production has been the source of this race to secure the future

flow supply of oil, international concern also extends to finite supplies of natural gas and uranium as well as other industrial minerals such as copper, cobalt, chromium and titanium..

Energy Security -- The New Paradigm?

Energy has become the most potent of resources in terms of its ability to shape relations between the major powers. Weve begun to see the emergence of a new world power configuration in which the possession of energy and other key resources is the principal indicator of national strength, rather than the possession of military arsenals, as was the case in the Cold War era and in prior centuries. Russia, once the defeated state of the post-Cold War era, has acquired new prominence because of its abundance of oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium. Russia will likely use its control over natural gas and other resources to reassert itself as a world super power. With Iran holding a large amount of natural gas they too will use it for their political advantage. The two of them combined have 40 percent of the worlds natural gas [13]. On the other hand, the United States, the supposed victor of the Cold War, has suffered from significant vulnerabilities because of its deep dependency on imported oil. However, in recent years, thanks to new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing, there has been a natural gas and oil boom that will enable the U.S. to become one of the worlds largest controllers of natural gas. The Department of Energy has estimated that newly discovered natural gas is enough to supply the U.S. for 200 years [14]. These large supplies of natural gas will give the U.S. and Russia a strategic advantage in the new world system that is emerging today. In terms of natural gas, it has already become a source of conflict. As supplies dwindle, particularly of oil and natural gas, those with the ability to export oil and natural

gas will become increasingly more powerful in the international system and those who depend on imports will become increasingly weak in the system and will be forced to compete with one another for access to the remaining supplies. The world super powers

have noticed the need to secure their future supply of these commodities, because if they fail to act now, they will lose power in the international system. For example, China and Japan have squared off over the Chunxiao gas field in the East China Sea. This field extends into an area claimed by both countries, and both seek to extract its reserves in order to diminish their reliance on imported energy. Neither side has been willing to compromise on the matter, and both have threatened to rely on military means if necessary to protect their interests [15] In the fall of 2005, moreover, China stationed a squadron of naval vessels on its side of the disputed area while Japan began regular flights by maritime patrol aircraft on its side, leading to several close encounters between Chinese and Japanese forces [15]. This sort of behavior is what could easily lead to unintended escalation in some future crises between the two countries. Other disputes over the possession of offshore natural gas fields could also become a source of conflict in the future, specifically between Iran and its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, and between the coastal states of the Caspian Sea. While the previous examples were possible conflicts between large and stable nations, the future could see a rise in conflict between un-developed nations. Many of the violent conflicts of Africa have been due to the allocation of scarce resources such as diamonds, minerals, and water supplies, and are likely to be so again in the future. Conflicts over these resources are unlikely to involve the major powers, but will more likely involve either states that derive a majority of their revenue from resources, or

warlords, ethnic militias, and non-state actors that rely on these resources as revenue.


Many of these conflicts in undeveloped states often produce great humanitarian disasters. For example, in the war in Sierra Leone, the Revolutionary United Front rebels used revenues from smuggled diamonds to finance their fighting, and the fighting caused large-scale humanitarian disaster, sparking involvement by the major powers in a peacekeeping capacity [16] These types of conflicts not only pose a threat to the national security of these nations, but the common heritage of all mankind and the security of the international community at large.

What Should Be Done?

As discovered in the research of this paper, the politics of the 21st century are likely to be driven by the global scramble for scarce natural resources, especially oil due to its energy producing capabilities. Resource wars will become, in the years ahead, the most distinctive feature of the global security environment. The importance, and relative scarcity of resources will transform the geopolitical and security landscape as major industrial powers become more aggressive in their pursuit of the planets untapped reserves. If, as widely predicted, global energy reserves shrink in the future due to rising demand, world superpowers could be locked in a dangerous struggle for diminishing supplies in chronically unstable parts of the world. The costs, in terms of rising military expenditures and the inability to invest in more valuable social, economic and environmental endeavors would be enormous. The role of resources within conflicts may be the key to understanding their underlying causes and thus, ultimately, how to bring them to an end. It is time for an awareness of the increasing multidimensional importance


that resources have within social, technological, economic and political spheres. It would be far better to avoid the high costs of conflict, and for world powers to work collectively on the development of energy alternatives, including: renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, fuel-efficient vehicles, better public transport systems, secondgeneration biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells and other energy innovations that can move us away from conflicts over energy related resources. This policy choice is momentous for the future of human, national, and international security. How individual nations tackle resource scarcity will be critical to the overall security environment. If countries begin shifting from a heavy reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources we can avoid future large-scale conflict over resources. It will be a difficult decision and one that can take decades to accomplish. It is likely that this transition will not happen smoothly, so the cooperation between nations to combat problems and implement solutions will be a necessity going forward.

12 References

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