A Few Things Ill Considered

The following article is mirrored from TomDispatch.com. I thought that while we are watching the weather heat up, we should not forget that geo-politics heats up with it.

Six Recent Clashes and Conflicts on a Planet Heading Into Energy Overdrive
By Michael T. Klare

Conflict and intrigue over valuable energy supplies have been features of the international landscape for a long time.  Major wars over oil have been fought every decade or so since World War I, and smaller engagements have erupted every few years; a flare-up or two in 2012, then, would be part of the normal scheme of things.  Instead, what we are now seeing is a whole cluster of oil-related clashes stretching across the globe, involving a dozen or so countries, with more popping up all the time.  Consider these flash-points as signals that we are entering an era of intensified conflict over energy.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Argentina to the Philippines, here are the six areas of conflict — all tied to energy supplies — that have made news in just the first few months of 2012:

* A brewing war between Sudan and South Sudan: On April 10th, forces from the newly independent state of South Sudan occupied the oil center of Heglig, a town granted to Sudan as part of a peace settlement that allowed the southerners to secede in 2011.  The northerners, based in Khartoum, then mobilized their own forces and drove the South Sudanese out of Heglig.  Fighting has since erupted all along the contested border between the two countries, accompanied by air strikes on towns in South Sudan.  Although the fighting has not yet reached the level of a full-scale war, international efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and a peaceful resolution to the dispute have yet to meet with success.

This conflict is being fueled by many factors, including economic disparities between the two Sudans and an abiding animosity between the southerners (who are mostly black Africans and Christians or animists) and the northerners (mostly Arabs and Muslims).  But oil — and the revenues produced by oil — remains at the heart of the matter.  When Sudan was divided in 2011, the most prolific oil fields wound up in the south, while the only pipeline capable of transporting the south’s oil to international markets (and thus generating revenue) remained in the hands of the northerners.  They have been demanding exceptionally high “transit fees” — $32-$36 per barrel compared to the common rate of $1 per barrel — for the privilege of bringing the South’s oil to market.  When the southerners refused to accept such rates, the northerners confiscated money they had already collected from the south’s oil exports, its only significant source of funds.  In response, the southerners stopped producing oil altogether and, it appears, launched their military action against the north.  The situation remains explosive.

* Naval clash in the South China Sea: On April 7th, a Philippine naval warship, the 378-foot Gregorio del Pilar, arrived at Scarborough Shoal, a small island in the South China Sea, and detained eight Chinese fishing boats anchored there, accusing them of illegal fishing activities in Filipino sovereign waters.  China promptly sent two naval vessels of its own to the area, claiming that the Gregorio del Pilar was harassing Chinese ships in Chinese, not Filipino waters.  The fishing boats were eventually allowed to depart without further incident and tensions have eased somewhat.  However, neither side has displayed any inclination to surrender its claim to the island, and both sides continue to deploy warships in the contested area.

As in Sudan, multiple factors are driving this clash, but energy is the dominant motive.  The South China Sea is thought to harbor large deposits of oil and natural gas, and all the countries that encircle it, including China and the Philippines, want to exploit these reserves.  Manila claims a 200-nautical mile “exclusive economic zone” stretching into the South China Sea from its western shores, an area it calls the West Philippine Sea; Filipino companies say they have found large natural gas reserves in this area and have announced plans to begin exploiting them.  Claiming the many small islands that dot the South China Sea (including Scarborough Shoal) as its own, Beijing has asserted sovereignty over the entire region, including the waters claimed by Manila; it, too, has announced plans to drill in the area.  Despite years of talks, no solution has yet been found to the dispute and further clashes are likely.

* Egypt cuts off the natural gas flow to Israel: On April 22nd, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company informed Israeli energy officials that they were “terminating the gas and purchase agreement” under which Egypt had been supplying gas to Israel.  This followed months of demonstrations in Cairo by the youthful protestors who succeeded in deposing autocrat Hosni Mubarak and are now seeking a more independent Egyptian foreign policy — one less beholden to the United States and Israel.  It also followed scores of attacks on the pipelines carrying the gas across the Negev Desert to Israel, which the Egyptian military has seemed powerless to prevent.

Ostensibly, the decision was taken in response to a dispute over Israeli payments for Egyptian gas, but all parties involved have interpreted it as part of a drive by Egypt’s new government to demonstrate greater distance from the ousted Mubarak regime and his (U.S.-encouraged) policy of cooperation with Israel.  The Egyptian-Israeli gas link was one of the most significant outcomes of the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, and its annulment clearly signals a period of greater discord; it may also cause energy shortages in Israel, especially during peak summer demand periods.  On a larger scale, the cutoff suggests a new inclination to use energy (or its denial) as a form of political warfare and coercion.

* Argentina seizes YPF: On April 16th, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced that her government would seize a majority stake in YPF, the nation’s largest oil company.  Under President Kirchner’s plans, which she detailed on national television, the government would take a 51% controlling stake in YPF, which is now majority-owned by Spain’s largest corporation, the energy firm Repsol YPF.  The seizure of its Argentinean subsidiary is seen in Madrid (and other European capitals) as a major threat that must now be combated.  Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel García Margallo, said that Kirchner’s move “broke the climate of cordiality and friendship that presided over relations between Spain and Argentina.”  Several days later, in what is reported to be only the first of several retaliatory steps, Spain announced that it would stop importing biofuels from Argentina, its principal supplier — a trade worth nearly $1 billion a year to the Argentineans.

As in the other conflicts, this clash is driven by many urges, including a powerful strain of nationalism stretching back to the Peronist era, along with Kirchner’s apparent desire to boost her standing in the polls.  Just as important, however, is Argentina’s urge to derive greater economic and political benefit from its energy reserves, which include the world’s third-largest deposits of shale gas.  While long-term rival Brazil is gaining immense power and prestige from the development of its offshore “pre-salt” petroleum reserves, Argentina has seen its energy production languish.  Repsol may not be to blame for this, but many Argentineans evidently believe that, with YPF under government control, it will now be possible to accelerate development of the country’s energy endowment, possibly in collaboration with a more aggressive foreign partner like BP or ExxonMobil.

* Argentina re-ignites the Falklands crisis: At an April 15th-16th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia — the one at which U.S. Secret Service agents were caught fraternizing with prostitutes — Argentina sought fresh hemispheric condemnation of Britain’s continued occupation of the Falkland Islands (called Las Malvinas by the Argentineans).  It won strong support from every country present save (predictably) Canada and the United States.  Argentina, which says the islands are part of its sovereign territory, has been raising this issue ever since it lost a war over the Falklands in 1982, but has recently stepped up its campaign on several fronts — denouncing London in numerous international venues and preventing British cruise ships that visit the Falklands from docking in Argentinean harbors.  The British have responded by beefing up their military forces in the region and warning the Argentineans to avoid any rash moves.

When Argentina and the U.K. fought their war over the Falklands, little was at stake save national pride, the stature of the country’s respective leaders (Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher vs. an unpopular military junta), and a few sparsely populated islands.  Since then, the stakes have risen immeasurably as a result of recent seismic surveys of the waters surrounding the islands that indicated the existence of massive deposits of oil and natural gas.  Several UK-based energy firms, including Desire Petroleum and Rockhopper Exploration, have begun off-shore drilling in the area and have reported promising discoveries.  Desperate to duplicate Brazil’s success in the development of offshore oil and gas, Argentina claims the discoveries lie in its sovereign territory and that the drilling there is illegal; the British, of course, insist that it’s their territory.  No one knows how this simmering potential crisis will unfold, but a replay of the 1982 war — this time over energy — is hardly out of the question.

* U.S. forces mobilize for war with Iran: Throughout the winter and early spring, it appeared that an armed clash of some sort pitting Iran against Israel and/or the United States was almost inevitable.  Neither side seemed prepared to back down on key demands, especially on Iran’s nuclear program, and any talk of a compromise solution was deemed unrealistic.  Today, however, the risk of war has diminished somewhat — at least through this election year in the U.S. — as talks have finally gotten under way between the major powers and Iran, and as both have adopted (slightly) more accommodating stances.  In addition, U.S. officials have been tamping down war talk and figures in the Israeli military and intelligence communities have spoken out against rash military actions.  However, the Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and leaders on all sides say they are fully prepared to employ force if the peace talks fail.

For the Iranians, this means blocking the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel through which one-third of the world’s tradable oil passes every day.  The U.S., for its part, has insisted that it will keep the Strait open and, if necessary, eliminate Iranian nuclear capabilities.  Whether to intimidate Iran, prepare for the real thing, or possibly both, the U.S. has been building up its military capabilities in the Persian Gulf area, deploying two aircraft carrier battle groups in the neighborhood along with an assortment of air and amphibious-assault capabilities.

One can debate the extent to which Washington’s long-running feud with Iran is driven by oil, but there is no question that the current crisis bears heavily on global oil supply prospects, both through Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for forthcoming sanctions on Iranian oil exports, and the likelihood that any air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities will lead to the same thing.  Either way, the U.S. military would undoubtedly assume the lead role in destroying Iranian military capabilities and restoring oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. This is the energy-driven crisis that just won’t go away.

How Energy Drives the World

All of these disputes have one thing in common: the conviction of ruling elites around the world that the possession of energy assets — especially oil and gas deposits — is essential to prop up national wealth, power, and prestige.

This is hardly a new phenomenon.  Early in the last century, Winston Churchill was perhaps the first prominent leader to appreciate the strategic importance of oil.  As First Lord of the Admiralty, he converted British warships from coal to oil and then persuaded the cabinet to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner of British Petroleum (now BP).  The pursuit of energy supplies for both industry and war-fighting played a major role in the diplomacy of the period between the World Wars, as well as in the strategic planning of the Axis powers during World War II.  It also explains America’s long-term drive to remain the dominant power in the Persian Gulf that culminated in the first Gulf War of 1990-91 and its inevitable sequel, the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The years since World War II have seen a variety of changes in the energy industry, including a shift in many areas from private to state ownership of oil and natural gas reserves.  By and large, however, the industry has been able to deliver ever-increasing quantities of fuel to satisfy the ever-growing needs of a globalizing economy and an expanding, rapidly urbanizing world population.  So long as supplies were abundant and prices remained relatively affordable, energy consumers around the world, including most governments, were largely content with the existing system of collaboration among private and state-owned energy leviathans.

But that energy equation is changing ominously as the challenge of fueling the planet grows more difficult.  Many of the giant oil and gas fields that quenched the world’s energy thirst in years past are being depleted at a rapid pace.  The new fields being brought on line to take their place are, on average, smaller and harder to exploit.  Many of the most promising new sources of energy — like Brazil’s “pre-salt” petroleum reserves deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean, Canadian tar sands, and American shale gas — require the utilization of sophisticated and costly technologies.  Though global energy supplies are continuing to grow, they are doing so at a slower pace than in the past and are continually falling short of demand.  All this adds to the upward pressure on prices, causing anxiety among countries lacking adequate domestic reserves (and joy among those with an abundance).

The world has long been bifurcated between energy-surplus and energy-deficit states, with the former deriving enormous political and economic advantages from their privileged condition and the latter struggling mightily to escape their subordinate position.  Now, that bifurcation is looking more like a chasm.  In such a global environment, friction and conflict over oil and gas reserves — leading to energy conflicts of all sorts — is only likely to increase.

Looking, again, at April’s six energy disputes, one can see clear evidence of these underlying forces in every case.  South Sudan is desperate to sell its oil in order to acquire the income needed to kick-start its economy; Sudan, on the other hand, resents the loss of oil revenues it controlled when the nation was still united, and appears no less determined to keep as much of the South’s oil money as it can for itself.  China and the Philippines both want the right to develop oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, and even if the deposits around Scarborough Shoal prove meager, China is unwilling to back down in any localized dispute that might undermine its claim to sovereignty over the entire region.

Egypt, although not a major energy producer, clearly seeks to employ its oil and gas supplies for maximum political and economic advantage — an approach sure to be copied by other small and mid-sized suppliers.  Israel, heavily dependent on imports for its energy, must now turn elsewhere for vital supplies or accelerate the development of disputed, newly discovered offshore gas fields, a move that could provoke fresh conflict with Lebanon, which says they lie in its own territorial waters.  And Argentina, jealous of Brazil’s growing clout, appears determined to extract greater advantage from its own energy resources, even if this means inflaming tensions with Spain and Great Britain.

And these are just some of the countries involved in significant disputes over energy.  Any clash with Iran — whatever the motivation — is bound to jeopardize the petroleum supply of every oil-importing country, sparking a major international crisis with unforeseeable consequences.  China’s determination to control its offshore hydrocarbon reserves has pushed it into conflict with other countries with offshore claims in the South China Sea, and into a similar dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.  Energy-related disputes of this sort can also be found in the Caspian Sea and in globally warming, increasingly ice-free Arctic regions.

The seeds of energy conflicts and war sprouting in so many places simultaneously suggest that we are entering a new period in which key state actors will be more inclined to employ force — or the threat of force — to gain control over valuable deposits of oil and natural gas.  In other words, we’re now on a planet heading into energy overdrive.

Michael Klare is a TomDispatch regular, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses global energy conflicts, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Michael T. Klare

Comments

  1. #1 mandas
    May 14, 2012

    One of the first fallouts from climate change and the overuse of resources caused by the ever increasing human population (which is a major driver of climate change) is that conflicts over the increasingly scarce resources will become more common and more widespread.

    As stated in the article, conflict over resources is not new, but then again, it is not confined to humans either. All animals fight over scarce resources, except other species don’t quite have our destructive potential.

    Of course, a switch to renewable resources like wind, solar and even fusion will go a long way to reduce the potential for conflict over our ever reducing fossil fuels. But other resource scarcities such as water, fish and rare earth minerals will take their place.

    Quite simply, there are too many humans. Every species which undergoes exponential growth the way humans are doing eventually exceeds the available resources to sustain them, and undergoes catastrophic population collapse. We are no different. It is coming, make no mistake about that.

    (by the way Coby, my email address has changed)

  2. #2 Snowman
    May 15, 2012

    Mandy, to help us understand your point, perhaps you could give examples of increasing conflicts over scarce resources – note that I ask for increasing conflicts as, after all, such conflicts are part of the history of the human race.

  3. #3 Snowman
    May 15, 2012

    Apologies, Mandy, I accidentally hit the post button before completing my point. I was going to add that examples would be helpful because the actual evidence suggests that the truth is precisely the opposite. As Steven Pinker points out in his exhaustively-researched analysis of conflict ‘The Better Angels of our Nature’, people go to war for a number of reasons such as ideology or rivalry over the products of human ingenuity. The idea that wars are fought over resources is commonly held but is quite wrong. He demonstrates, with detailed statistics, that such wars are rare and becoming rarer.

    Why should this be? Pinker, you may know, is a Canadian who is a professor of cognitive sciences at Harvard. He therefore offers us the example of Canada and the US. With its vastly superior military strength, the United States could easily invade its northern neighbour to lay claim to its natural resources. But why should it do anything so violent and costly (in human as well as monetary terms) when it can gain access to these resources through friendly trade that benefits both countries?

    That is the real lesson of history. Human co-operation is becoming greater, not lesser. There is no evidence to support the view that in future we will be battling for scraps.

  4. #4 mandas
    May 15, 2012

    Snowman

    I had never heard of Steven Pinker before now – he certainly wasn’t someone that we studied in War College (did you know I was a graduate?). But anyway, as is usual for me when someone provides me with a source I always check it to see what it is about.

    Pinker’s thesis appears to be that violence is decreasing over time, and that this is somehow due to an increasing ‘enlightenment’ of human civlisation. Of course, I have only read extracts and reviews of the book and not the book itself, so this ‘understanding’ may be flawed.

    However, if this is correct, then Pinker demonstrates a common failure with regard to his understanding of war and conflict. Conflict, especially over resources, is an all pervading feature of international relations. War – or war as it is sometimes incorrectly defined – is just one aspect of conflict, and that concept of war only occupies an extreme end of that spectrum.

    Take an example that you may or may not be familiar with – the ‘Cod Wars’ between Britain and Iceland. They did not degenerate into an all out shooting match, but were conflict over resources nontheless. Staying on the subject of Britain, there is the Falklands War, which was also a war over resources (a group of islands). Just because Britain tended to frame it as a sovereignty issue does not change the fact that it was over a resource, and tensions are once again rising as the concept of the exploitation of the EEZ is becoming an issue.

    Similarly, there are ongoing tensions occasionally escalating into violence in the South China Sea between Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philipines, Indonesia and China over a small group of islands. Ownership is critical to be able to expolit the EEZ and resources contained within. Australia has similar issues with Indonesia regarding Timor and the Timor ‘Gap’ continental shelf.

    Then of course, WWII was entirely a matter of resources from the Japanese perspective.

    I could go on about water issues in the Middle East and south eastern Europe, the increasing arguments and maneouvring about sovereignty over the Arctic seabed, and continuing conflicts between the US and South Pacific island nations over fishing rights; but I hope you are getting my point.

    Violence (war) is just one element of conflict, and nations do not tend to go to war unless they see that the benefits of war will be outweighed by the high costs involved, or if they are backed into a corner and have no choice. Wars also tend to be surpressed by having a big bully who stands around and dictates what people will and will not do, under threat of violent action. I suggest there would have been a lot more violent conflict in some areas of the world if not for an overseeing US presence and the inherent threat of intervention. Of course, the US has also been the instigator of a lot of violence and war, but that’s a separate issue.

    Humans went to war in the past because they traditionally lived apart, and as they came closer together they would fight over the border areas (ie resources) or to gain control of resources that were ‘unowned’. A lot of that has now been resolved, but conflict remains in many areas and is increasing as many resources become less. The west is resource rich and has the power to retain what it has – for the moment. The remainder of the world wants its share of those resources, and there is simply not enough to go around. Eventually, it will have to fight to get it, because the west is not going to give it away. Further, the ‘remainder’ has some resources that the west wants (South Pacific fisheries for example). At the moment, the west has the power to simply take it. But eventually, the poorer countries will fight back when the amount the west takes starts to eat into what they need to survive.

    You should not have any doubts that we will fight over scarce resouces. All living species do, and we are not special. The problem is as I have stated before, we have far more destructive power, and the fallout (no pun intended) from a major conflict over resources will be severe for human civilisation. But it will happen – it is simply a matter of when.

  5. #5 Snowman
    May 15, 2012

    An interesting answer, Mandy, but I am afraid it does not support your thesis. Your argument was not merely that conflicts have arisen over resources and from time to time still do. No, it was that these conflicts will inevitably increase and are already doing so. You have presented no evidence, apart from a random collection of episodes which comprise no pattern or trend.

    Pinker deals specifically with the false tendency to see a conflict as resource-driven and points as an example to the Vietnam war. At the time (as he shows) earnest academics in the US and elsewhere solemnly assured us that this was actually a battle for tungsten, a scarce element of which Vietnam is a major source. The notion is completely forgotten now and seems absurd, which indeed it was. But it gained ground not because it was plausible but because it flattered those who held the view, allowing them to claim a deep insight that set them apart from the common herd. This phenomenon is something we see today, particularly in the middle east.

    The fact that you lead off with the cod war, an absurd Ruritanian squabble with not a shot fired undermines your case. Then you raise the Falklands, a genuine war if a short one. To describe this as a battle over resources is simply ridiculous. I know; I lived through it. Not a single person in Britain – and not a single person in the Government – even considered ‘resources’. We fought it with the greatest reluctance and a real feeling of pointlessness because we felt we had an obligation to the Islanders and their wish for self-determination.

    I must say, too, that airily to dismiss Pinker’s exhaustively-researched, 800 page thesis (complete with detailed statistics from pre-history to the present) as a failure of understanding is rather lofty, particularly as you haven’t read it. Then to tell me that I must have no doubt that resource-wars will happen is empty assertion.

  6. #6 mandas
    May 15, 2012

    Wow Snowman, you completely failed to read anything I wrote. Not unusual I guess.

    I did not ‘airily dismiss’ Pinker’s work. Go back and read what I said again. What I said – very clearly – was:
    “….Of course, I have only read extracts and reviews of the book and not the book itself, so this ‘understanding’ may be flawed….”

    You also suggest that the Cod War undermines my case. But that just proves you read and understood nothing about what I wrote. I said – very clearly – that conflict is all pervading, and that war merely occupies the extreme end of human conflict. To suggest that something is not conflict simply because no shooting is involved is – not to put too fine a point on it – idiotic.

    You also have a problem with my description of the Falklands conflict. But once again, you failed to read or understand anything I said. Just because you ‘lived through it’ does not mean you understood anything about it. I lived through it too, and unlike you I was in the military at the time. But that isn’t the point. Just because nobody in Britain saw it as a war over resources does not mean that the Argentinians didn’t see it that way – they clearly did. But I think you did understand that – you are just being snowman. You took no issue with my description of WWII. Yet the USA did not see it as a resource war – but the Japanese did, as I suggested. Just because one side does not see a conflict as resource-driven does not mean that the other side doesn’t.

    That is one of the main issues about conflict and war that most people don’t grasp. If you don’t understand what the other side is fighting for, then you are unable to properly prosecute the conflict. It’s called ‘effects based operations’, and is a fundamental underpinning of the operational doctrine of most western militaries.

    And going back to Pinker’s dissertation, the fact that he raised Viet Nam as an issue is immaterial. So what? No one I know about thinks tungsten had anything to do with it. I don’t even know where you or he got that from – I have never heard of it. So why he would raise it as an issue is a mystery. So what if a few academics raised it. No-one with any credibility would take such a view seriously, and if Pinker spent any time trying to discredit such a view it speaks volumes for the lack of substance to his thesis.

    If Pinker wants to try and discredit resources as a cause of conflict, then he is going to have to widen his analysis to include non-shooting conflict. Just because something does not degenerate into shooting does not mean that it is not conflict. He is also going to have to look at things from all angles, not just one-sided as you have done regarding the Falklands (does he?).

    In regard to this issue, you are simply demonstrating your normal modus operandi. You have latched on to a single document which has findings that run counter to all the prevailing wisdom, and decided that it is correct and everyone else who is actually an expert in the matter is wrong. Pinker – a psychologist – is apparently correct about the causes of conflict, while every military historian in the world is wrong.

    There are hundreds of books, papers, journals and military staff theses and planning documents which describe the resource driven conflict in detail. Do a google scholar search (or even a google search) and you will find more than you can ever read. I have even marked numerous papers as part of my job when I was a lecturer on operations at joint staff college. I have even been involved in contingency planning for wars and conflict as the deputy operations commander at theatre headquarters. Please don’t pretend that you know something about the subject just because you have stumbled across a book by someone purporting to know something about the issue.

    Oh, and I am mystified by your defence of Pinker’s work when you say this:
    “…complete with detailed statistics from pre-history to the present…”

    Perhaps you could enlighten us all how he could have used statistics on conflict from prehistory, when the very definition of prehistory means that no statistics would be available.

  7. #7 Wow
    May 16, 2012

    “Pinker’s thesis appears to be that violence is decreasing over time, and that this is somehow due to an increasing ‘enlightenment’ of human civlisation.”

    It was discussed quite a while on Slashdot, Mandas.

    However, it’s almost entirely the same thesis as Dawkins has in his book “God Delusion” that he has throughout the book but dealt with specifically in the chapter on the Moral Zeitgeist.

    Problem is, it has nothing to do with greed. Or climate science.

    It is, in fact, a distraction.

    Good call on the pre-historic statistics, though.

  8. #8 snowman
    May 16, 2012

    But Mandy, you are still refusing to address my main objection to your thesis. You advised us that resource based conflicts are increasing and will become more marked. Yet you produce not a scrap of evidence. You argue, rather opaquely and mysteriously, that the Falklands war was about resources. I cannot imagine what resources you had in mind. Sheep? Peat bogs? It certainly can’t have been oil, a far more recent and still unproven development.

    But even if you could produce something to support your claim, so what? No one is suggesting that a conflict over resources has never arisen. No, I am asking you to justify your claim that such conflicts are increasing and will accelerate.

    Oh, and to deal with your query about pre-history. Pinker deals at length with the archaeological evidence, and explains the surprising amount we can learn about ancient battles and movements of population.

    But this isn’t really about Pinker, interesting though his book is. It is about your unsubstantiated claims. I ask you again: where is your evidence?

  9. #9 mandas
    May 16, 2012

    I am going to assume the last post is simply snowman not knowing the difference between his name and his email address.

    If so, once again snowman spectacularly fails to address any and all of my points. And I have to wonder why he is grasping at Pinker’s book as being the so called definitive work on human conflict. Why is that snowman? Is it because it is a lone voice crying in the wilderness that runs counter to all current knowledge and understanding, and therefore must be correct? Sort of like your views on climate science.

    I have since had a chance to have a look at more extracts from Pinker’s book, and I have to say it is one of the worst written, heavy going, naive treatis on the subject I have ever had the displeasure of reading – and I have read a LOT on the subject.

    Firstly, Pinker’s work is more about human nature and violence, and not on the subject of war. Second, when he does discuss war, he fails spectacularly to examine international conflict that does not degenerate into an all out shooting match (did you read my words above about the spectrum of conflict?). Third, he does not even discuss the many, many wars and conflicts that have occurred and are now occuring in third world countries. And finally, he makes the staggering claims that since the end of WWII we have been in some sort of ‘long peace’ and that wars in this period have been ‘infrequent’ and ‘less violent’. WTF???!!! That is probably one of the most idiotic things I have ever read, and I have read a lot of idiotic things (think, posts on wattsupmybutt for example). Quite frankly, this book belongs on the same shelf as Ian Plimer’s “Heaven and Earth” and “How to Get Expelled from School” – fiction masquerading as fact.

    You ask me for evidence re my claims about resource wars, and I simply asked you to do a modicum of research. Do a Google Scholar search, and you will find dozens – indeed hundreds – of papers and books on the subject, written by actual historians with expertise on military and international relations. Unfortunately, it seems to be the modus operandi of people like snowman. They throw a piece of idiotic information at us, then demand we disprove it by producing mountains of evidence of our own, when they have produced zero to support their case.

    Its not going to work snowman. Like your views on climate science, you will never be convinced you are wrong no matter how much evidence we produce. And I am not going to do your work for you. Real research involves reading more than one paper or book. It involves reading as much as you can on the subject before forming an opinion. But hey, if you already have an opinion, why would you both doing any reading, hey snowman? You have an ideological opinion that was given to you by someone, or you have read a book that confirms your ideological viewpoint, and you will never be swayed to change your (for want of a better word) mind.

    On the subject of climate change, did you read the latest paper to be published in “Climate”? It is this:

    “Neukom, R., Gergis J., Gergis, J., Karoly, D., Frank, D., Villalba, R., Zinke, J., Linsley, B., Phipps, S. J., Raible, C., González-Rouco, F. and Steig, E. (2012). Southern Hemisphere temperature variability over the last millennium”

    And guess what? Recent climate change is unprecedented. It is caused by humans. I wonder if snowman will accept this work, the same way he has accepted Pinker’s? I will take bets.

  10. #10 skip
    May 16, 2012

    I’ll bet dollars to donuts he didn’t even read Pinker. We all know he never read anything by the “Mike Tyson” of climate change denial, but it never stopped him from betting on that fat, slow pony.

    That being said, I’ll confess I never read Pinker, either, so will withhold final judgement. But my judgement of Snowman remains as firm as ever.

    It’s also interesting that Snowman lauds Pinker’s “statistics” when we all have seen his competence in that subject matter:

    Hey Snowman: Want to tell us in your own words, again, what you think a *trend* is–or do you just want us to “forget it”?

    LOL.

  11. #11 Snowman
    May 16, 2012

    Firstly, thank you, Coby, for correcting my clumsy error. Particularly in view of our recent clash, I am grateful for this generous gesture.

    As for you, Mandy, I am at a bit of a loss. What a very strange reaction. Let’s just recap: you make certain claims. I ask for evidence, pointing out that a recent, critically-acclaimed book reached a very different conclusion. Do you produce evidence? Of course not. Do the research, you say. Do some basic googling.

    Is that how it works? Does the responsibility for justifying a claim lie not with the person who made it, but with those who disagree? Is that really what you are saying?

    And you aren’t impressed by Pinker. Well, that’s fine. You are completely entitled to your views, and any scholar who takes such a counter-intuitive stance is bound to attract critics. (Although I note that the Guardian, that bastion of right-wing denialism, used words such as brilliant, stunning and mind-bending – I quote from memory – in its review.)

    But as I intimated above, my job is not to defend Pinker. It is to point out that his recent, widely-discussed work does not support your conclusions. In light of that, I ask once more for further substantiation.

  12. #12 mandas
    May 17, 2012

    snowman

    Why don’t you simply scroll up for a start. This whole thread is predicated on a book about resource wars. Have a read of that for a start, or did you simply start commenting without understanding what you were commenting on?

  13. #13 skip
    May 17, 2012

    I ask once more for further substantiation.–Snowman

    In addressing your defense of a book you have not even read. Absolutely amazing.

    I have deduced about you, Snowman, one potentially admirable quality: consistency. You are *always* a mindless believer in whatever notion you happen to fancy at the moment. That level of self-deception and ignorance requires superhuman endurance I could never match.

  14. #14 Chris S.
    May 18, 2012

    “Why don’t you simply scroll up for a start. This whole thread is predicated on a book about resource wars.”

    This is a classic. And a prime example of our friend snowman not bothering to read anything above the line, preferring instead to wage ‘conflict’ with his nemeses in the comments.

    Oh, and this on the Falklands:

    “Not a single person in Britain – and not a single person in the Government – even considered ‘resources’.”

    is plainly bollocks. One of the UK’s few remaining points of access to the lucrative southern fisheries under threat, with the Cod Wars still a recent memory? Never crossed our minds.