Tomorrow we will also do a weekly roundup on the UN activities of the week, but for today, we'll just say that we're thrilled of how much emphasis the President placed on natural security issues in yesterday's address.
As countries battle a wave food shortages, trying to ensure supplies and qualm domestic fears, the consequences of food insecurity are growing increasingly vivid these days. Pakistan is described as being at extreme risk by a recent Food Security Risk Index by a British firm– indeed, 19 Pakistanis were killed this week in a scramble for food distributed for Ramadan in a poor Karachi neighborhood. How should we view data or interpret these kinds of rankings for natural security subjects?
While data plays an important role in understanding the world of natural security, it is, at times, not as readily available as it is for other security issues, nor is it consistently clear what underlying assumptions are actually true. I’m going to be occasionally looking at regressions, data sets and graphs from a variety of sources in order to look at some of the benefits—and drawbacks—of different types of quantitative analysis in natural security.
The Stimson Center held an event yesterday called “Water and Peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” at which Dr. Daanish Mustafa, a geographer at King's College, London, outlined the intricate linkages between water resources and regional stability. According to Mustafa, who has conducted extensive field research in Baluchistan and southern Afghanistan, traditions surrounding access to water form the glue that has held local communities together for centuries. Recent events, however, have begun to unravel social structures with second and third order effects on security.
At the heart of the matter is the traditional karez (also qanat) irrigation system. The ancient technique involves allowing natural water pressure to pump water horizontally underneath agricultural fields through hand-constructed underground channels. In communities throughout southern Afghanistan and Baluchistan, deeply engrained cultural norms dictate access to water and are enforced by mirabs, or water masters. Revered by their communities, mirabs have customarily ensured equity in water distribution and conscientious maintenance of the system’s entire length. For a karez system to remain viable, all stakeholders must use it responsibly.
The advent of tube-wells has disrupted the traditional order. Tube-wells drill directly down to the water table (sometimes 500 feet or more below the surface), sucking up the available water. Over time, though, they draw the water table down farther and farther, requiring deeper and deeper drilling. Tube-wells, then, have the potential to lower water tables enough so that karez systems are rendered inoperable, affecting
On Tuesday, July 21st, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called a hearing on the national security implications of climate change. Arguably, it should have been the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the SFRC was right for so many reasons. Start with the fact that the Chairman and the Ranking Member have been leading the way on energy security and climate change for the nation for some time.
First and foremost, this hearing legitimized the notion that climate change is a national security issue, and that the national security community needs to look at climate change as a concern with planning, policy, force structure, and budgeting implications. It was a bipartisan hearing, both in the senators in attendance and in the witnesses.
The star witness was former five-term senator, the Honorable John Warner, who is honorable, indeed. He could do anything he wanted to with his life right now, including just hang out with his grandchildren, but he has chosen to make raising awareness of climate change his mission. Two of the other panelists were retired flag-rank military officers – between them, about 70 years of experience in the U.S. navy. They passionately and persuasively talked about the national security challenges of climate change.
The fourth panelist was…me. I’ve attended many hearings, prepared others for hearings, but never been in the witness chair myself – it’s a slightly
“When it comes to the stability of one of the world's most volatile regions, it's the fate of the Himalayan glaciers that should be keeping us awake at night,” warns Stephan Faris in Foreign Policy, on the specter of Pakistan unraveling as natural resource consumption and climate change take their toll on this withering nuclear club member.
The Himalayan glaciers are the primary source of the Indus River and its six tributaries that flow through Kashmir to form freshwater supplies for millions of Indians and Pakistanis. To date, Pakistan and India have amicably governed the shared Indus waters under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, which established a governing body – the Permanent Indus Basin Commission – to adjudicate grievances associated with water management between the two rival states. For many, governing the Indus waters has been a hallmark example of how resource issues can act as an opportunity for peace and engagement rather than as the basis for conflict. But, as Faris writes, “the treaty's success depends on the maintenance of a status quo that will be disrupted as the world warms.”