Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Surprise: Few wars are primarily about oil

The Washington Post recently published Oil wars: Why nations aren’t battling over resources by Emily Meierding. Does this article remove the entire foundation of this blog and the book I made of it?

Pointing at "invasion costs, occupation costs, international costs and investment costs", Emily Meierding says oil wars are just not worth fighting. With reference to The Falklands War (1982), The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Kuwait war (1990) and other wars, she argues these historical examples were about national pride, territory and Saddam Hussein's survival respectively. Similar alternative explanations for other wars.

So, why am I bookmarking this article? And why didn't I immediately delete my blog and forget about this whole thing?

Firstly, I have always bookmarked the opposing point of view. Go through my history of hundreds of ecowar bookmarks, and you will find plenty. Also see the beginning of chapter 4 (pages 74-) and the Objections part of chapter 6 (pages 123-) of my book, Ecowar - Natural Resources and Conflict.

Secondly, although Emily Meierding's headline says "nations aren't battling over resources", I don't think she really proves this statement in her text. What she does convincingly argue, is that in the cases she mentions, oil wasn't the primary causes of the conflict. To get academic about it, for each war one should list its causes and rate them in primary, secondary and even tertiary. I am guilty of having more or less skipped this discipline. But that doesn't mean conflicts with natural resources as their secondary causes aren't resource conflicts at all. For a very brief discussion of this, see the first chapter of my book or look up the works of some of the leading scholars.

What is also interesting about Emily Meierding's article, is how the discussion has gone full circle. When I first set out researching, claiming most wars were resource wars was taboo. While I wrote up the book, that changed (pages 126-128). Apparently, now it is quite main stream to associate natural resources with conflict. And what have we: An up and coming scholar seeking to prove things to be the other way around. Isn't that what we all want to achieve?



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