Water Wars on the Emergent National Security Landscape

Authors: Francis Galgano*, Villanova University
Topics: Military Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology, Environment
Keywords: environmental security, water resources, watersheds, military geography, Jordan River Valley
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper suggests that continued peaceful resolution of interstate water conflicts is inconsistent with the realities of the emerging national security landscape. Climate change is already affecting the distribution of water in many critical water basins, and the proliferation of failing states has reduced the potential for diplomatic resolutions. Water is a particularly problematical variable in the Environmental Security milieu because it is an essential resource for which there is no substitute. The amount of fresh water is finite and not equitably distributed in a spatial sense. From a geopolitical perspective, many river systems are shared by two or more states. Upstream states can control the flow of water and downstream states generally remain vulnerable, which represents a potential tipping point for conflict. Such was the case in the Jordan River valley when in 1964 the Arab League planned to divert two of the three sources of the Jordan River, thus disrupting Israel’s fresh water supply. Israel prevented the project's development by conducting airstrikes in Syrian territory in April 1967 and Israel’s strategic objective to secure its water resources has been cited as a cause for its preemptive attack during the Six Day War. This paper illustrates linkages between environmental stress, regional instability, and conflict by using the 1964 Jordan River diversion project as a case study. The analysis suggests that we will potentially witness a surge in three modes of violence: simple scarcity conflicts, group identify conflicts, and relative deprivation conflicts.

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