Clearing the Air

In the previous issue of The National Interest, David Victor argued that the threat of resource wars is exaggerated. Michael Klare weighs in.

Issue: Jan-Feb 2008

"WHAT RESOURCE Wars?" performs a worthwhile service by provoking debate about the role of resource competition in contemporary world affairs. Yet, as a window into the reality of resource-related violence, it comes up short.

Victor's missteps are partly methodological. He too narrowly defines "resource wars" as "hot conflicts triggered by a struggle to grab valuable resources." This classification severely underestimates the number of worldwide resource-driven battles. What's more, the sort of wars he depicts-the staple of European imperialism-may have become less frequent in the modern era, but they have hardly disappeared. Surely Saddam Hussein's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait fits his definition-a resource "grab" that was only reversed after intervention by a half-million U.S. troops. But this is not the type of resource conflict that has most troubled the planet in recent times.

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