Last month marked the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge’s beginning. This battle proved to be a defining event of the western front of World War II, and about 19,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in action (the British lost about 1,400 and the Germans had about 100,000 killed, wounded, or missing). Since much of the battle focused on threats to Allied supply lines, including operational fuel, I decided to commemorate the battle by reviewing an old article about the key Allied position in the Belgian town of Bastogne.
Collie Small wrote “Bastogne: American Epic” in the February 17, 1945 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, when memories of the battle were still achingly fresh. The battle took place in the Ardennes forest of Belgium, where Germany launched its final major offensive against the Allied front. German armor pressed hard against the thinly-held Allied line in Belgium, creating a bulge in the line that gave the battle its name. Eventually the Allies recovered their ground, but at the beginning the outcome was far from assured. Some of the fiercest fighting took place in and around Bastogne, where the 10th Armored Division and the 101st Airborne engaged with German armor divisions. (The actions of one 101st company are detailed in Band of Brothers; for a visceral experience, be sure to rent the miniseries on DVD).
Several years ago I was coaching a high school debate team in Boston and my students were asked to debate increasing alternative energy incentives in the United States. As one would expect, the debate became one about the effects of climate change. Some students used the tactic of arguing that climate change was a positive phenomenon. They mainly cited an author who wrote that CO2 emissions increase plant growth – in fact this became such a popular point that I heard it argued about five times a tournament, and never well. After digging around a bit more, what I found was that most of the students making this argument were basing their conclusions on one-sided evidence: literature that examined only one aspect of climatic effects on agriculture that negated the net result of increased global emissions (such as melting ice caps and rising sea level that destroy coastal vegetation).
With that in mind, for this week’s Reading Old Magazines I decided to look at a 1994 Nature study by Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research at NASA’s Goddard Institute, and Martin L. Parry, currently at the Grantham Institute, but previously a co-chair of Working Group II at the IPCC, called “Potential Impact of Climate Change on World Food Supply.” (pdf) Parry and Rosenzweig used the latest climate change models to determine the impacts of increasing CO2 emissions on agriculture, although they only looked at the atmospheric effects and not water acidification. They then applied the results to a trade model that examined how shifts in growing patterns would affect worldwide food distribution models.
Earlier this week my colleague Christine Parthemore and I wrote about CNAS’s recent excursion aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class carrier whose tactical air wing consists of F/A-18C/D Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. For this week’s Reading Old Magazines I wanted to look at the history of the F/A-18 fleet, specifically around concerns over fuel performance. I dug up an interesting story by Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post from March 25, 2003, just days into Operation Iraqi Freedom: “Modified Fighter Jet Lends More Fuel to the Fight.” (Subscription required. It is obviously not an old magazine, but some days an exception is in order) Layton’s piece does a great job of framing operational energy security in the context of yesterday’s battles and today’s wars.
According to Layton, shortly after U.S. combat operations in Iraq began, the U.S. air campaign shifted from bombing fixed Iraqi targets to bombing soldiers and weapons in the field. However, the U.S. Navy quickly realized that the fuel performance of its strike fighters was impeding its ability to carry out protracted missions that required jets to loiter in the skies above Iraq. “For those missions,” Layton wrote, “pilots [needed] to circle over Iraq for long periods, awaiting calls to strike Iraqi units menacing U.S. ground forces making their way toward Baghdad.”
This week’s Reading Old Magazines returns to another topic I have been researching lately in conjunction with our Lost in Translation project and sparked by the recent news that the CIA will be standing up a Center for Climate Change and National Security: the nexus of national security and climate science. In a recent post I assessed some of the failures in imagination of an October 1995 op-ed in the Washington Times that argued against the Central Intelligence Agency playing any useful role in studying the implications of climate change. For today’s post I took a look at a March 16, 1998 U.S. News & World Report piece by Bruce B. Auster, “Enviro-intelligence: The CIA Goes Green,” which discussed the greening of the CIA and the opportunities afforded to the United States for using its intelligence assets to study the implications of climate change.
Energy security is often grounded in political concerns here in the United States, and it is of course unsurprising that other countries factor their domestic politics into economic calculations. A perfect example of this is a debate about a decade ago in South Asia over natural gas pipelines. In May 1999 Rahul Tongia and V. S. Arunachalam reviewed the debate in their Economic and Political Weekly article, “Natural Gas Imports by South Asia: Pipelines or Pipedreams?”
Foreign policy watchers know that India is a hot topic in world politics, and will only become more so as its population and economic prospects increase (though its economy, like most others in the world, will take some time to recover after the global downturn). India is of interest to us natural security-minded people as well: it relies on imports for most of its increasing energy needs; it is a somewhat serious contributor to climate change with its growing use of coal to generate electricity and often a climate negotiations trend setter for developing nations; and its perennial water issues point to some worrying trends for the future. As we are just beginning to think more about these issues for India (and what it means for U.S. security), we won’t be drawing any hard conclusions until we’ve done a bit more research and exploration. But with this in mind, I searched for some historic lit that might provide some interesting insights.
I found such an article way back in the October 1943 issue of Foreign Affairs: “India's Mineral Wealth and Political Future,” by Charles H. Behre, Jr., a lifelong geologist and partner in the mineral consulting firm Behre, Dolbear, and Company. The entire premise of the article is admittedly dated—it’s about how to partition India into a majority Hindu nation and a majority Muslim nation, which wouldn’t happen for another four years—but it gives insight into important minerals considerations, and provides a good comparison case for the current resource wealth of India and Pakistan. Here are a few highlights:
Two weeks ago I wrote about the debate around what role the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could play in analyzing climate change. As I noted in that post, the CIA has already been playing a role since the mid-1990s. That got me thinking about the debate back when the CIA first stood up its Environment Center and started using its satellites to collect climate data. For this week’s Reading Old Magazines I took a look at an October 17, 1995 op-ed in The Washington Times, “Is the CIA being led astray?” While this is a newspaper article and not our usual old magazine, author Bruce Fein, a lawyer and free-lance writer with The Washington Times, offers some interesting points that help one understand the debate back when the CIA firsts began integrating climate change into its work.
During that time opponents seemed to bemoan looking beyond traditional security threats to include environmental concerns and climate change into intelligence assessments. “The national security of the United States is ill-served…by an agency without personnel made of sterner and less starry-eyed stuff,” Fein wrote. His suggestion that incorporating these concerns might pacify national security experts and intelligence analysts is indicative of the attitude at this time that including threats other than war was a luxury that could undermine hard security priorities.
My colleague Mike pointed me in the direction of this post by Stephen Walt, which considers strategic minerals on a Halloween list of “overblown threats, dubious nightmares, and (mostly) fictitious demons.” There he links to an article that was billed as offering alternative options for dealing with a mineral supply disruption: a 1982 Foreign Policy article by Michael Shafer, the Director of the Center for Global Security and Democracy at Rutgers University. Shafer published this piece, called “Mineral Myths,” (subscription required) to offer an alternative look to the narrative of mineral dependencies and resource wars.
Shafer does not suggest that the implementation of various precautions warrants the blasé rejection of all supply concerns, as Walt seems to portray. While Shafer did reject the notion that the United States would face a true strategic, military problem due to mineral dependencies, he did so in the framework of the Cold War. Shafer went out of his way to explain that while we may face shortfalls, they would not cause second- and third-order effects such as direct confrontation with the Soviet Union or a break with allies who must turn to the USSR for irreplaceable minerals.
Given all our recent work and the recent press on critical minerals (or “strategic” minerals; more on the distinction later), I gave a look back this week to Peter Harben’s 1992 article “Strategic Minerals” from Earth magazine (print only, but those with access to databases like Ebsco should be able to access it).
Wars over timber, shrinking water supplies, and constant forward deployment of our military to protect oil and natural gas reserves, this was the vision that Michael Klare, the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College and a proponent of ideas like peak oil, espoused in his May 2001 Foreign Affairs article “The New Geography of Conflict” (subscription required). Klare is a controversial figure due to his unabashed critiques of the Bush administration and his habit of making the Left look Right. However, in this article, he outlines a pre-9/11 worldview that is interesting to examine in light of the last eight years.