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Michael Klare: Finite Resources And The Geography of Conflict

Original Content
By Adam Taggart
Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Michael Klare: Finite Resources And The Geography of Conflict

Original Content
By Adam Taggart on
Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Ukraine. Iraq. Nigeria. Libya. Tunisia. Syria. All are hotspots of conflict in different regions of the world, yet the same underlying cause behind each can clearly be seen when looking through the lens of finite resources.

In this week's podcast, Chris talks with Hampshire college professor Michael Klare, author of The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for World's Last Resources and Resource Wars.

Resources are critical, and if you read enough articles and search hard enough you see hints of that in each of the major current world conflicts. Take ISIS the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria the rebel group that’s taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq. We hear a lot about their professed Islamic intentions to create a caliphate in that part of the world. But if you read enough dispatches from the front, you find out that they are taking over one oil field there after another and refineries throughout the Middle East. Why? It's because they need the oil to run their operations they have the aspirations of becoming a body of fully-functioning Islamic states.

Now whether that's a practical reality or not, we don't know. But in the meantime, they intend to create a functioning state and a state is expensive. It needs revenues and therefore a primary function of their military conquests is to capture oil fields throughout this region so that they have the revenue to operate their system. And moreover, they sell their oil to the Assad regime in Syria in order to get a certain degree of freedom from a tax by the Assad regime. The Assad regime would tax the other rebels but not ISIS – supposedly they’re enemies, but in fact they happen to have a mutually beneficial system where ISIS is their oil supplier.

So oil is a crucial factor in what's happening there, and the same thing is true in all of these other conflicts. Resources are crucial and they're crucial in two dimensions: one is as a motive for war, as a motive for attacking another place to gain control over resources; and the other is as sustenance.  You cannot fight a war without income or without revenue, and all of the wars that we are seeing are partly driven by need to capture the resources needed to generate revenue to keep on fighting.

As a general rule I would agree the more resources a country has, the more peaceful it is. But you don't just need 'resource plenty', you also need equitable distribution. Nigeria is blessed with vast resources, it could be a wealthy country. It could be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But the resources are captured by selfish elites that keep it for themselves. A lot of that money from the oil wealth and agricultural wealth winds up in Swiss bank accounts, whereas the majority of the population lives on one or two dollars a day. So even though the resources are abundant in Nigeria, most Nigerians do not see the benefit of it. What they see is official corruption and wealth concentrated in the hands of the few.

And this is what provides the tinder, the fodder, for groups like Boko Haram, who can point to the poverty on one side and the wealth the conspicuous wealth of the elites in Abuja the capital, and say This is a dishonest, un-Islamic, unspiritual regime that needs to be overthrown. And people flock to its banner even though they do terrible things. It's not just an abundance of resources but its equitable distribution. You don't see that problem in Norway, which also has an abundance of wealth — but where the wealth is allocated in a equitable fashion. So, you have to have both resources and a transparent equitable distribution of that wealth for peace and stability.

Here’s what’s going to happen. We started out talking about resources and because of a combination of scarcity and the fact that the cost of production of resources is increasing and it’s going to increasingly into the future. It's because they’re more difficult to reach — they're in the Arctic, they're in the deep oceans. The cost of resources will rise. They’re going to rise no matter what and whether it’s CCS or something else, the cost of resources will become higher and higher for everyone. And what that will do is to force efficiencies upon us not as a moral choice, but as an economic choice

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Michael Klare (43m:52s):

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