Global and Strategic Issues

In addition to the active conflicts covered in the other threads, the United States has important security interests that do not (and may never) involve shooting war. Russia, for example, still maintains the second most capable nuclear forces in the world, controls massive land areas, and competes with—and sometimes cooperates with—the US in regional influences and arms sales. Many of these observations also apply to China.

In contemplating U.S. interests in the far corners of the world, however, one is drawn to the observations of Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, who, at the end of a career furthering such interests, noted that:

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket …

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. (extracted from a speech by General Butler in 1933)

This section will also contain commentary and articles about potential use of military force in regional conflicts outside the Balkans and the Middle East—in the Western Hemisphere and South Asia, for example. And of course, participation in UN / NATO peacekeeping missions are possible in any theater.

10/23/07 World Oil Shortage - Scenarios for Mitigation Planning, by Robert L. Hirsch. “The more you think about it, the uglier it gets.” Stand by for World War III. [114 KB PDF]

10/24/2006 Peaking of world oil production, an update by Robert Hirsch, Senior Energy Advisor, SAIC:

In-depth introduction to the issue and its complexities. Prepared for the Atlantic Council, 23 October 2006 (735 KB)

“PEAKING OF WORLD OIL PRODUCTION: Problem, Complexity, Mitigation & Risks,” a brief overview of the major issues. To be presented at “Energy Sustainability in the Global Enterprise,” at the University of Wisconsin, November 30 - December 1, 2006 (189 KB PDF)

5/06/06 Roger H. Bezdek, Robert M. Wendling, and Robert L. Hirsch, “Economic Impacts Of Liquid Fuel Mitigation Options.” Prepared for the The National Energy Technology Laboratory, February 2006. If we launch a $2.6 trillion program with the technology available today, within 20 years we could reduce oil imports from 13 million barrels to 5 million barrels per day.

03/31/05 The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, Report to the President of the United States. (PDF 3402.54 KB)

2/14/06 When will oil production peak? 2015? 2025? A leading expert says it was last December.

10/21/05 Peaking of World Oil Production: The Mitigation Challenge, By Robert L. Hirsch (PDF 113.67 KB)

10/19/05 Did the Posse Round Up Angela Merkel? By Chet Richards, Center for Defense Information

10/17/05 The Inevitable Peaking of World Oil Production, Robert L. Hirsch, The Atlantic Council, October 2005. A distinguished energy scientist considers three questions pertinent to world conflict: When will oil production peak? How will we know that it has? And will we have sufficient warning to mitigate its effects? Although estimates range from next year to 2025 (or later), the fact is that for the last 15 years, the world has used more oil than it has discovered. This trend is accelerating as China, India, and other developing countries ramp up their consumption. (211 KB PDF)

10/10/2004 Six Major Factors in Energy Planning, by Robert L. Hirsch. Are we running out of oil? Will it become the next major source of conflict in the world? An in-depth backgrounder. [2MB PPT presentation with extensive notes.]

9/16/2004 Peaking of World Oil Production - What Are We Willing to Risk? by Robert L. Hirsch. As the world’s population increases, competition for resources will be a major source of conflict in the 21st Century. A distinguished scientist explores the questions of when world oil production will peak and can technology and pricing solve the problem? (140KB PDF - distillation from the PPT presentation above.)

5/26/04 Colombia: Old Domino’s New Clothes Foreign Policy In Focus, Conn Hallinan. Between 65 and 68 percent of Colombia’s people live in poverty, and 30 percent of the landowners control 95 percent of the land. Revolution, anyone?

2/1/03 Talking About Defense: Is Bush Deterring, Or Spurring, Nukes? George C. Wilson. Is the Bush Administration’s policy of preemption contributing to proliferation?

The Reasons Why: The US Failure to Control the Nuclear Agenda in South Asia, Harold A. Gould. Although North Korea gets the headlines, the world’s first truly nuclear war may be most likely on the subcontinent (187 KB MS Word file.)

Afghanistan, map showing linguistic / ethnic composition. The Taliban are primarily Pashtun. For other topical maps of this region, please visit our Charts and Data section.

Soldiers of Islam: Origins, Ideology and Strategy of the Taliban,” Aabha Dixit, Research Associate, Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, New Delhi, August 1997. Long-ish article on the origins and policies of the Taliban, with a definite Indian bias. Still, excellent background on the subject.

Analysis of Recent Polling Data on National Missile Defense,” Few Americans care strongly about missile defense, and when told about the system’s failures, initial support turns to opposition. Most don’t believe that NMD is more important than fixing Medicare or Social Security, or even other priorities within the military. July 9, 2001. Reprinted by permission of the Council for a Livable World, which commissioned the poll. (80 KB MS Word)

Back to the Future with Asymmetric Warfare,” by Col Vincent J. Goulding, USMC. What to the battles of the Teutoburger Wald (9 & 14-15 A.D.) and Grozny (1994-95) have in common? For one thing, they both show how determined and resourceful “fighters” can defeat conventional armies by shaping their expectations prior to the actual combat. From Parameters, Winter 2000 - 2001.

“All the World’s A Mall,” David E. Sanger’s review of Robert Gilpin’s new book on globalization. Economic issues have a long history as justification for the use of military force. Are we coming up on a new round? Excerpt from the review: “Even as nations around the world race to embrace free-market capitalism—or at least talk a good game—their political systems convulse at its ramifications.” Includes a link to the first chapter of the book. (New York Times Book Reviews, April 30, 2000)