A little pop analysis. Here are the number of mentions of our major natural security topics in the just-released National Security Strategy:
Climate Change: 28
Agriculture: 3 (including specifically regarding India and Afghanistan)
Conservation (forests): 1
By comparison - and this is very interesting:
Nuclear (energy and other): 74
That's right, folks. The new NSS mentions "energy" more than "engagement" or "military." And "climate change" appears more than "intelligence."
And for full context, here is a word cloud of the document (note: removed the words "United States").
The big headline of the national security strategy, to me, is the major role conferred upon natural resources issues, for example reducing oil dependence, addressing climate change and food security. This NSS sets a proper path for ensuring American power in the long term: toward the intersection of natural resources and national security.
It is new to give natural resources challenges such a prominent role in mainstream U.S. strategic planning, as this National Security Strategy does. As such, mapping out new plans and ways of doing business to accommodate issues surrounding energy, climate, food and demographics is likely to be a taller task than for more traditional elements represented in this strategy.
At its heart, this document gets right that addressing energy, climate change, scarcity and environmental concerns can provide useful tools for engagement, for building governance and economic strength in partner nations, and for national security broadly. However, in many cases this will be more complicated than it may seem. Clean energy and climate change-based engagement with Indonesia, for example, must account for that country’s often contradictory goals of both producing and preserving its natural resources. The United States may wish to form cooperative relationships with Afghanistan and Pakistan to address water, energy, food and demographic stresses, but China is swiftly moving to do the same. This strategy’s objectives of managing supply chains and maintaining access to scarce commodities, if not planned carefully, could also lead to minerals policies that run counter to its emphasis on human rights, transparency in trade and rule of law. This, to me, is one of the worrisome phrases within the document:
America – like other nations – is dependent upon overseas markets to sell its exports and maintain access to scarce commodities and resources. Thus, finding overlapping mutual economic interests with other nations and maintaining those economic relationships are key elements of our national security strategy (emphasis mine).
I don’t know about you, but my weekend RSS catch-up took me through approximately 9,000 pieces on the Gulf oil disaster. While that’s still obviously the biggest natural security story of the weekend, I’ll avoid pontificating on it yet again, as I assume it’s something you’re all caught up on.
I suggest instead that we take a moment to ponder the role of agriculture in Afghanistan given current operations. This is something we’ve covered regularly, and will a bit more heavily in an upcoming report on resources and security. Our colleague Nate Fick also highlighted agriculture as a “key business sector” in his recent CNAS policy brief with Clare Lockhart:
Promoting the growth of legitimate agriculture would have positive effects including providing jobs, encouraging economic growth, and slowing the drug trade as a major source of funding for the Taliban. Success in this sector may be achieved best through a National Agriculture Program that would focus on creating the value chain to form the right market linkages, appropriate marketing tools, access to credit, processing facilities, cold storage, irrigation and transportation. Such a program could be supported by a consortium of international investors and a network of Afghan land-grant colleges with specialized agricultural knowledge.
Could aid dependency undermine efforts to bring stability to Yemen? Amid growing instability associated with acute water scarcity, dwindling oil revenue, continued calls for secession from the South, and conflict in the North between al-Houthi-led militias and government soldiers, many Yemenis – at least 175,000 – have been internally displaced and taken refuge in temporary camps where they may find a modicum of relief with access to food, water, and other aid rations. And given the government’s inability to provide, in many cases, the most basic public services, many of the displaced people are not looking to go home – at least any time soon.
In Yemen, unsustainable natural resource management and agricultural practices and a dependence on oil revenue to sustain otherwise expensive water extraction may be precursors to more extensive environmental collapse that could undermine Yemen’s economic development and stability if the government does not improve its environmental stewardship. Already these issues have led, in part, to low-level conflict and left many Yemenis without access to food, water, and other vital resources to sustain their own livelihoods. These dynamics are part of what’s driven many Yemenis from their homes to internally displaced person (IDP) camps.
Yesterday an article in the LA Times caught my eye. As if Yemen didn’t have enough to worry about, it now has a good old fashion revolution in the south, with separatists declaring, “Yemen is not our country. South Arabia is our country.” So what does this have to do with Natural Security? In the words of a South Arabian activist “Look around. We have oil and gas and fertile lands and ports.”
In addition to complaints over land and oil, lack of services such as education and infrastructure also top the secessionists’ list of issues with the Yemeni state.
With the majority of known Yemen’s oil located in the South, governmental development of southern oil (and to a lesser extent natural gas) reserves has been a key grievance for South Arabian rebels, who have begun “opposing with manly firmness [Yemen’s] invasions on the rights of the people.” The region’s residents too have taken a similar stance, or so suggests the reported 70 percent of residents looking to secede and their recent kidnapping of Chinese oil workers in the South.
While doing some background work on Yemen, I came across this nifty graph. I don’t think I need to explain just how wide the gap between the world average (per capita) usage of energy and Yemen’s average is; clearly Google has done that for me.