Global Dynamics of National Security: Alliances and Resources

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chapter 10

Interdependence is one of the key words of foreign policy in the post-cold-war era. States are increasingly relying on each other, as well as nongovernmental and multinational entities, to accomplish their stated political and economic goals. Interdependence is complicated because it does not rely on ideological loyalties, as the communist and democratic blocs each did during the cold war. Ideologies are now being replaced by such motivations as money and regional dominance in interstate alliances.


The United States faces a unique set of threats from different parts of the globe and continues to make alliances to suit its tactical and strategic national security goals. Such alliances are usually formal agreements that two or more parties enter into in order to defend their collective security goals. Some of the key allies for the United States in the new world order include the European nations (primarily the United Kingdom), Israel, and certain Persian Gulf states in the Middle East.

Since World War II (1939–45), the United States has signed a number of treaties assuring protection to states that needed military assistance, often to fight the communist threat. However, Congress has always been hesitant about committing U.S. resources for long periods of time. Besides formal alliances that have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, the president can also enter into executive agreements that commit U.S. resources internationally but do not have to be ratified by the Senate, which gives the president greater flexibility in foreign affairs. Such agreements are usually initiated at the executive level of government, and terms are negotiated by a representative. The secretary of state authorizes the negotiator to sign the agreement. The Senate needs to be notified by the executive branch within sixty days of signing an executive agreement, and to be implemented it requires a simple majority vote of the House and Senate.

Many agreements require implementing bills to be passed by both chambers before they can take force. Congress can express its opposition to any particular executive agreement by withholding the necessary implementing legislation. The president's authority to negotiate executive agreements flows from two sources: the power granted to him or her in the Constitution as chief executive, and/or specific powers delegated by earlier acts of Congress. Instances of presidential initiatives involve the 1991 Persian Gulf War coalition, support for anti-Vietnam forces in Kampuchea, and aiding the mujahideen against Soviet forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

U.S. policy makers often have to deal with states that are not necessarily considered close allies in any ideological sense. This would include authoritarian regimes and dictatorships that are not democratic and that may even (intentionally or unintentionally) support anti-U.S. entities. However, support from countries such as these (for example, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) might be useful for America in terms of strategic regional goals or commercial interests (for example, oil). The United States also supported various substate groups opposing their respective governments in Central America and the Caribbean (such as El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, and Haiti) and Africa during the 1980s. Mixed public reaction to actions such as these clearly demonstrates that national security is pursued through a variety of channels and that security agendas are not necessarily always clear-cut.

The United States pursues its national security agenda through international organizations, as well as state-level ties with allies and other countries. It must be kept in mind that any alliance entered into by a state or states requires certain commitments on behalf of all parties involved. These obligations can potentially constrain America's ability to shift policies and make some decisions. Thus, it is important for the United States to consider the flexibility of any commitment it makes, as the national security environment is constantly changing. Also, most security commitments are designed to be honored by each succeeding U.S. administration, unless major changes in the security environment have occurred.


The United Nations (UN) is one of the leading players in the international arena and deals with a host of subjects, ranging from human rights to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nonproliferation. The multinational organization can trace its roots back to the days immediately following World War II. At a 1945 conference in Yalta in the Crimea (then part of the Soviet Union), the leaders of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union decided that the UN was to be an international entity, with five permanent powers with veto authority in its Security Council: China, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Creation of the UN was finalized at the San Francisco conference that same year, when the charter of the organization was signed and ratified by several countries. The UN charter sets forth the organization's rights and obligations and establishes its procedures. According to the UN Web site (, the primary functions of the UN "are to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in attaining these ends."

The two-year 2004–05 proposed budget for the UN is $2.9 billion, or about $1.45 billion per year, which is raised primarily by contributions of member countries. Each individual contribution is determined by the capability of a country, measured through its gross national product. In addition to membership fees, countries are also assessed for the costs of peacekeeping operations. All told, the UN system spends some $12 billion a year, including operating expenses, the costs of UN peacekeeping operations, and all of the organization's programs, funds, and specialized agencies. In addition, through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN loans out billions of dollars each year to help developing countries.

According to its various functions, the UN is divided into six principal organs:

  1. The General Assembly is the legislative arm of the UN and is broken down into six committees: Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial; Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues; Special Political and Decolonization; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal Matters.
  2. The Security Council has fifteen members: ten elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms and five permanent members. Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions on procedural matters require at least nine of the fifteen members voting in favor; substantive issues require nine positive votes, including one from each of the permanent members. There are two standing committees in the Security Council: one dealing with rules and procedures and another with admission of new members. Ad hoc committees are established as needed, as well as working groups on various issues.
  3. The Economic and Social Council is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, employment, and economic and social progress around the world. It facilitates cultural and educational cooperation, deals with social and health problems, and encourages respect for global human rights and fundamental freedoms. The council coordinates the work of fourteen specialized UN agencies, ten functional commissions, and five regional commissions.
  4. The Trusteeship Council was established to supervise and administer trust territories. These were territories that were formerly part of Western colonial empires, that the UN wished to aid in their development toward full and effective self-governance. The council suspended its operations as of November 1994, with the independence of Palau, the last remaining UN trust territory.
  5. The International Court of Justice, headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, is the principal judicial organ of the UN. The court is charged with settling legal disputes submitted to it by state parties, as well as giving advisory opinions on questions referred to it by international entities. It is composed of fifteen judges, elected to nine-year terms by the General Assembly and the Security Council.
  6. The Secretariat is composed of an international staff carrying out the day-to-day maintenance work of the organization. It is headed by the secretary-general, who is appointed by the General Assembly for a five year term.


On April 4, 1949, the United States and Canada signed the North Atlantic Treaty. This entered them into a political and military alliance with ten European nations: Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was essentially created to protect Europe from potential Soviet aggression and create a balance of power between the communist and democratic states. In 1952 Greece and Turkey joined the treaty, followed by the Republic of Germany, which joined in 1955. In 1982 Spain became a member of NATO. After communism fell in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and 1990s, NATO expanded its membership rapidly, starting with the reunified Germany in 1990. By 1999 member states also included the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. On March 29, 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia also joined the organization, the largest round of enlargement in NATO's history. As of 2004 three countries—Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia—were in the process of meeting NATO standards for possible future membership.

NATO is primarily a multinational alliance, promoting collective defense while allowing states to maintain their individual sovereignty. According to the NATO handbook, NATO has the following fundamental tasks:

  • It provides an indispensable foundation for a stable security environment in Europe, based on the growth of democratic institutions and commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes. It seeks to create an environment in which no country would be able to intimidate or coerce any European nation or to impose hegemony (leadership or dominance of one state over another) through the threat or use of force.
  • It serves as a transatlantic forum for allied consultations on any issues affecting the vital interests of its members, including developments that might pose risks to their security.
  • It provides deterrence and defense against any form of aggression against the territory of any NATO member state.
  • It preserves a strategic balance in Europe.

These security undertakings have gone through a transformation since the 1990s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO had to redefine its security goals to fit the changing security environment. After the Prague Summit of 2002, it developed a list of points that helped the organization shift its strategies to better fit the new millennium. The highlights of the list, as posted on the NATO Web site, include:

  • The NATO Response Force will be a technologically advanced, flexible, deployable, interoperable (able to operate between different branches and locations), and sustainable force including land, sea, and air elements ready to move quickly to wherever needed.
  • NATO's command structure will be made leaner, more efficient, more effective, and more deployable, in order to meet the operational requirements for the full range of NATO missions. There will be two strategic commands: one operational (the strategic command for Operations, based in Europe) and one functional (the strategic command for Transformation, based in the United States).
  • In the Prague Capabilities Commitment, individual allies have made firm and specific political commitments to improve their capabilities in areas key to modern military operations, such as strategic air-and-sea lift and air-to-ground surveillance.
  • To defend against new threats like terrorism, five specific initiatives in the area of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons defense were endorsed to enhance NATO's defense capabilities against such weapons. NATO's defense against cyber attacks will be strengthened, and a missile defense feasibility study will be initiated.



Preserving the security of the state of Israel while supporting the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations has been, and continues to be, an important policy for the United States. The United States has been a strong ally of Israel since the country was established in 1948 because of the two countries' shared political values, a historical relationship, and shared cultural and personal ties. Over time, the two states have also shared similar security threats, including Soviet aggression and, more recently, threats from radical Islamic fundamentalists and WMD.

The Persian Gulf and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Perhaps one of the most significant regions for U.S. foreign policy is the Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf). Both Iran and Iraq have always been major powers in the Persian Gulf region in terms of size, population, resources, and military capabilities. But the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the subsequent oil crisis, and the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88) left many of the other Gulf States feeling vulnerable. On May 25, 1981, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates met in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to form an alliance known as the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The six GCC countries are tied together by their religious, cultural, and social mores. The GCC is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and holds meetings annually. The main bodies of the organization are the Supreme Council, the Ministerial General, and the Secretariat General.

The Peninsula Shield Force, created in 1982, was designed to increase the interoperability of GCC states' militaries, but its strength and validity were strongly questioned during the 1991 Gulf War. As of 2001 the cumulative strength of personnel in the GCC militaries (273,730) fell far short of Iranian totals, which stood at 424,600. Interestingly, a defense pact was never mentioned in either the charter or the framework of the GCC. It is generally believed that the states specifically chose to omit the terms "defense alliance" or "military cooperation" in order not to upset Iran or Iraq (when the dictator Saddam Hussein was still in power).

Instead, the purpose of the GCC, as stated on its Web site (, is:

[To bring about] inter-connection between Member States in all fields, strengthening ties between their peoples, formulating similar regulations in various fields such as economy, finance, trade, customs, tourism, legislation, administration, as well as fostering scientific and technical progress in industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources, establishing scientific research centers, setting up joint ventures, and encouraging cooperation of the private sector.

In the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s, however, the GCC countries adopted a pact underlining the interconnectivity of their security. On December 31, 2000, at their annual meeting in Bahrain, the six countries resolved to come to on another's defense if necessary, stating that aggression against one meant aggression against all. Even though GCC states agreed to come to each other's aid in the face of aggression, this pact had not been ratified as of 2004.

Overall, the GCC aims to strengthen its political, economic, and strategic position in the region. Its member states seek to alleviate economic and population problems and increase trade flow to the area. Commercial, social, and even political alliances cannot be achieved if there is strategic regional instability. As a consequence, increasing military cooperation and securing defensive capabilities are priorities for the GCC.

u.s. allies in the gulf. Since the decline of British authority in the Persian Gulf in the early 1970s and the end of the cold war in the early 1990s, the United States has played a strong role in the Persian Gulf theater. Its primary regional interests include protecting its national interests, protecting allies' security, and guarding the international oil supply.

In addition to the Peninsula Shield Force, each of the GCC states relies heavily on the United States for military protection, and the United States has dozens of military bases throughout the region. Among the most important American bases in the Gulf is the headquarters for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. The Fifth Fleet is primarily responsible for all naval activities in this theater. Oman, which retains strong military ties with the United Kingdom, hosts U.S. airbases in Seeb, Thumrait, and Masirah. Qatar hosts the forward headquarters for the U.S. Army's Central Command. Many of the U.S. bases in the GCC states played important roles in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Many additional bases have been established within Iraq to support the U.S. presence there.

The United States has individual formal defense agreements with each GCC state except Saudi Arabia. Because of internal opposition, Saudi Arabia has not signed a formal defense pact with the United States but continues to have strong defense ties (including weapons procurement and training exercises) to its Western ally. Maintaining strategic stability in the six GCC states is of great importance to the United States because these countries' support is vital to U.S. presence in the region.


An important element to consider while studying U.S. alliances and the global dynamics of national security is the heavy Western dependence on energy resources from around the world. The United States and most other developed countries do not produce enough petroleum to meet domestic demand and must therefore import oil from other nations. As a steady supply of oil is essential to the functioning of a modern economy, this dependence on foreign oil exposes the United States to danger and plays a significant role in U.S. defense and foreign policies.

The Persian Gulf Peril

share of world output. The main issue for national security planners in the early twenty-first century regarding oil is less that the world is running out of it than that there is an increasing concentration of supply from one region: the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf producers work through the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to control oil prices. OPEC membership includes Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. The primary mission of OPEC is to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and to determine the best strategy for protecting their individual and shared interests.

World oil reserves (yet-to-be-tapped sources of supply) in 2003 were 1,147.7 billion barrels. The Persian Gulf producers and OPEC, while sitting on top of mammoth untapped supplies, have occasionally held back production, as they did noticeably in 2000. Indeed, they have usually produced at a rate lower than the maximum possible to limit supply and bolster prices. By contrast, the American oil industry's goal is to produce a full 7% of an oil field's underground capacity each year. Industry analysts have said that if this practice were applied worldwide, it would, in theory, yield a capacity of 190 million barrels per day, more than twice the expected worldwide demand in 2010.

As calculated by BP Amoco in its Statistical Review of World Energy, 2004, the eight main Middle East/Persian Gulf oil-producing states—Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, Qatar, Yemen, and Oman—were responsible for almost 30% (22.6 million barrels per day) of the world's daily production in 2003. Proven Middle Eastern reserves (726 billion barrels) accounted for 63.3% of the world's unproduced sources of supply at the end of 2003.

Nearly two-thirds of the world's global petroleum supplies lie in the Persian Gulf. Should the price of oil remain relatively low, U.S. dependence on Persian Gulf oil may increase—historically, Gulf oil has been the cheapest oil to produce. In the future, non–Persian Gulf producers, such as Venezuela, Russia, and Mexico, may supply as much as forty-seven to fifty-seven million barrels per day, or 62%–65% of demand. Still, if world oil demand comes in at its DOE estimate of about ninety-five million barrels per day by 2010, and if non–Persian Gulf production remains at forty-seven million barrels per day, then the Persian Gulf states might be supplying 50% or more of world oil demand by the end of the twenty-first century's first decade. Such a high level of dependence on one region, and especially Saudi Arabia, would leave the world and U.S. economies vulnerable.

As resource-conflict specialist Michael T. Klare noted in Resource Wars (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001), "A significant share of the additional petroleum will have to come from the Gulf—there is simply no other pool of oil large enough to sustain an increase of this magnitude. All projections of future supply and demand assume that the Persian Gulf will account for an ever-expanding share of the world's oil requirements: from 27% in 1990 to 33% in 2010 to 39% in 2020."

arms, war, and security concerns. Such large reserves of oil in the Persian Gulf actually increase the likelihood of interstate conflict there. They give the nations in the region the means to procure huge quantities of sophisticated modern weapons, and so when warfare breaks out, the scale and intensity of the fighting are elevated. For example, the war between Iran and Iraq of 1980–88 yielded an estimated one million casualties and over $100 billion in property damage.

The arms that Gulf States have acquired from the United States alone have been substantial. According to the Congressional Research Service (Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1995–2002), from 1999 to 2002 the value of U.S. arms-transfer agreements with the Persian Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates came to $16.8 billion.

world oil transit chokepoints. U.S. national security concerns regarding Persian Gulf oil extend to those areas that do not themselves hold large petroleum supplies. These are sea passages and straits used to ship oil by tanker or pipeline. Because several of these areas adjoin areas of recurring conflict, the DOE has dubbed them "world oil transit chokepoints." Figure 10.1 and Table 10.1 provide details on each of these chokepoints, including the major concerns should closures occur. These six passages carried over thirty-five million barrels of oil per day in 2004—more than 45% of global consumption. This list illustrates the importance of the volatile Middle East and Persian Gulf to petroleum supplies—four of the six chokepoints (the Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb, the Suez Canal/Sumed Pipeline, and the Bosporus/Turkish Straits) lie in these regions.

The Former Soviet Union: A Challenge to the Persian Gulf?

Some industry experts suggest that Russia may be in a position to pose a challenge to Saudi Arabia's role as top worldwide oil producer. As Edward L. Morse, executive advisor at Hess Energy Trading Company and former assistant secretary of state for international energy policy, and James Richard, portfolio manager at Firebird Management, point out in "The Battle for Energy Dominance" (Foreign Affairs, March/April 2002), before the breakup of the former Soviet Union, state-owned oil production had reached 12.5 million barrels per day, well beyond the largest amount reached by Saudi Arabia at its production height. Currently, Russia keeps a much larger amount of its oil for internal use than does Saudi Arabia, so Saudi exports are still substantially higher than Russia's.

Significant, and so far unresolved, difficulties associated with Russian oil production include issues of sufficient investment, management, construction and maintenance of pipelines, and ownership/development disputes among the countries bordering the oil-rich Caspian Sea. Morse and Richard predict that the Caspian area could become the source of enough oil to supplant Saudi Arabia as the West's primary source of oil within four years, but the DOE is more cautious. It predicted in International Energy Outlook 2004 that the former Soviet Union's net oil production would increase to 17.2 million barrels per day by 2025. OPEC production is expected to grow by an annual rate of 2.6% through 2025.

Although Russia had agreed in a deal with OPEC to cut its output, in mid-2002 it announced that it would abandon that agreement. Russian president Vladimir Putin also promised to keep Siberian oil flowing during any Middle East crisis.

China, Oil, and U.S. Interests

China has gone from a net petroleum exporter to a net petroleum importer. It has taken vigorous steps to grow its economy and, as part of that goal, has tried to promote private automobile ownership by individuals since 1993 (which could lead to twenty-five million more cars in the country by 2015). Even if it develops the oil fields located


in its isolated interior regions, it is likely to import at least two million barrels per day by 2015.

China's discomfort with reliance on world markets for this vital resource could translate into a political alliance with one or more oil-exporting states in the hope that this would mean a more secure source of oil. The problem for the United States with such an alliance is that China's partners in the Middle East will most likely not be American allies but those considered rogue states, such as Iran. China's friendly relationship with Iran has given Iran plenty of access to Chinese advanced-weapons technology. One worst-case scenario for the United States would be that Iran would take an aggressive stance, armed with nuclear weapons obtained from the Chinese, or enter into some sort of defense pact with the Chinese.

Continued U.S. Oil Supply and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)

Petroleum reserves are vital to modern economies, but controlling them does not guarantee prosperity or security. As with other mineral resources and raw materials, petroleum is distributed within a well-developed market, one that allows almost any country access to the commodity, even during times of conflict, as long as adequate worldwide supplies exist within a reasonable and customary price range. Once the oil-supply chain is upset by events such as civil wars in developing countries, however, prices may become volatile. Additionally, increased production can destroy land and the environment, and eventually overdevelopment may cause large migrations of displaced people, for example in Africa. A widely accepted summary of the state of oil in the future is that this resource is finite, production will peak well before the middle of the century, and an alternative must be found to avoid widespread dislocations in modern life.

One strategy for dealing with the risk or threat of disruption in petroleum supplies has been to encourage public and private stocking. Planners generally give the government the role of creating its own strategic reserves and establishing incentives for such stocking. Because the stocks would help ensure the flow of oil, they could reduce the U.S. need to intervene during a crisis—or at least the need to intervene quickly. These stocks could provide time needed to bring alternative energy sources online—to shift, say, from oil to coal for electricity generation in dual-fuel-capable boilers, or to start pumping oil wells that were temporarily idle. This has been the strategy adopted by the U.S. government and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The Arab oil embargo of 1973–74 and later price spikes motivated the United States to create the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), a series of underground salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico coast with a capacity of 560 million barrels. The SPR was authorized in 1975 and

TABLE 10.1

Chokepoint capacity, limitations, and threats, 2004
ChokepointUsage (ships/day, 2003)Additional capacityLimitationThreat
*dwt = deadweight ton
source: Jean-Paul Rodrigue, "Table 1. Chokepoints: Capacity, Limitations and Threats," in Straits, Passages and Chokepoints: A Maritime Geostrategy of Petroleum Distribution, revised version, July 2004, (accessed September 23, 2004)
Hormuz50LimitedNarrow corridorsIran/terrorism
Suez38Some200,000 dwt* and convoy sizeTerrorism
Bosporus135Very limitedShip size and length; 200,000 dwt*Restrictions by Turkey; navigation accident
Malacca600Substantial300,000 dwtTerrorism/piracy
Panama35Limited65,000 dwtNo significant

began operation in 1977. It is the first line of defense against an interruption in petroleum imports. If necessary, the reserve can be drawn down at a rate of 4.3 million barrels per day, equal to about 40% of daily U.S. oil imports.

At the same time as the reserve was established, the industrial nations agreed to hold reserves equal to ninety days' imports. They also agreed to coordinate their responses, in the event of an interruption in oil supplies, through the twenty-three member countries of the IEA.

In November 2001 President George W. Bush issued a directive to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its capacity. Since then, the SPR has been adding to its reserve. As of May 2003 the oil stockpile passed the 600-million barrel mark, a new high. The SPR's goal is an eventual stockpile of 700 million barrels. According to the Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy Web site (, storage capacity as of 2004 was 727 million barrels.

Emergency use of the SPR occurred in January 1991, at the start of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. military campaign to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait. According to the Institute for National Strategic Studies (Strategic Assessment 1999: Priorities for a Turbulent World, Washington, DC, 1999), "The mere announcement of SPR sales had a considerable stabilizing effect on world markets. Only 17 million barrels were actually sold before market conditions returned to normal."

Reserve oil was also loaned to southern refineries after the disruption of normal offshore production and import deliveries during the hurricane seasons of 2002 and 2004. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham noted in an October 2004 press release that "the SPR was designed to protect American consumers against supply disruptions, including natural disasters."

U.S. Internal Oil Production versus Conservation

The ultimate exhaustion of the world's oil reserves—which would be preceded by hefty price increases that could occur well before the year 2050—constitutes a long-term national security problem. Because oil is a nonrenewable resource (i.e., there is only a limited amount of it), many believe that Americans should begin seriously to reduce their use of energy, particularly energy from oilbased sources. Although recent public-opinion polls have shown that most Americans support the idea of decreasing our dependency on foreign oil, especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans continue to use great amounts of energy—one illustration of this is the continued popularity of heavily gas-consuming sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

Conservation efforts, while one option, are not the only route to decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Increasing production by exploiting known reserves in various regions of the United States has also been proposed. Such regions include the Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, and, particularly, the 19.6-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the largest national wildlife refuge in the United States. Oil companies have long been interested in ANWR and, along with their political supporters, have challenged its protected status. According to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton in testimony before the House Committee on Resources in March 2003, there are an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil in the ANWR coastal region. Conservationists and others who feel the ecological and environmental damage caused by drilling would be significant, even disastrous, have been fighting off these challenges.

Until September 11, 2001, public support tended to be on the side of the conservationists, but immediately after the terrorist attacks, U.S. opinion changed radically. When The Wirthlin Report asked in July 2001 whether the positives of producing oil and natural gas by drilling in ANWR outweighed the negatives, only 39% of Americans surveyed agreed. When asked the same question soon after September 11, however, 61% felt the positives outweighed the negatives. In August 2001 the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have allowed drilling within ANWR, but the Senate rejected this proposal in April 2002, thereby continuing the area's protected status. It is likely that drilling in ANWR will continue to be a matter of debate for some time.


Resource stresses abroad may well keep the United States on its toes in the next few decades, especially because they may make conflicts among regional powers more likely and more intense. Although involved parties may seek economic sanctions before resorting to military force, transborder resource conflicts are likely to occur.

The Middle East is of special concern to U.S. security planners. The great oil riches of the Persian Gulf states have inflamed border disputes between them. Water scarcity is also a problem in the Middle East, especially in the westernmost part of the region where most water comes from the Jordan and Nile rivers. Here, national populations are expected to soar in size, making water supplies increasingly scarce. The existing political ill will between nations and groups may easily increase and lead to conflict. Now that the United States is maintaining a presence in these regions, the low likelihood of success of an outright resource or territorial grab might discourage sovereign states from contemplating aggression.

The Middle East is not the only region where resource conflicts are likely. Civil wars in some of the African states have been caused by wars over natural resources, including water, land, diamonds, oil, minerals, and timber. These wars have taken their toll in the form of millions of deaths. For example, coltan is a mineral used in cell phones, DVDs, and other electronic products. Mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African nations, it has created problems as conflicts arise over ownership of rights. Governments, rebel factions, and other entities have confronted Americans and others involved in importing coltan, diamonds, and other resources with increasing resentment.

In Nigeria, where several U.S. oil companies have operations, there have been serious conflicts involving protesters concerned with environmental and health damages they say have been caused by oil-related activities. Protesters also feel that, despite what they were told about the economic benefits of oil production for their villages, corrupt local governments and the oil companies have been the only beneficiaries. In the meantime, they have received little or no compensation for environmental damage and ill health that has resulted from oil-production activities.

Additionally, human-rights abuse charges have been made by Nigerian citizens and by international human rights organizations, which believe that the oil companies have been complicit in the violent repression of protesters. If not directly involved in such abuses, the oil companies have failed in their responsibility to prevent or publicly oppose such abuses, opponents say. In one particular incident on January 4, 1999, for example, Nigerian soldiers using a Chevron helicopter attacked villagers in two communities, killing at least four people and destroying most of the village structures and homes. (In March 2004 a U.S. District Court judge ruled that ChevronTexaco can be held liable for its subsidiary's involvement in the Nigerian raids.) Other protests, including the takeover of a ChevronTexaco oil plant by protesters in 2002 and the kidnappings of foreign workers in oil-producing areas, demonstrate the potential threats to Americans in the region and to U.S. interests abroad.

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