Smoke and Mirrors

David Victor's article "What Resource Wars?" has created quite a stir. Now Victor responds to his critics.

Issue: Jan-Feb 2008

MY ARGUMENT is that classic resource wars-hot conflicts driven by a struggle to grab resources-are increasingly rare. Even where resources play a role, they are rarely the root cause of bloodshed. Rather, the root cause usually lies in various failures of governance. That argument-in both its classic form and in its more nuanced incarnation-is hardly a straw man, as Thomas Homer-Dixon asserts. Setting aside hyperbole, the punditry increasingly points to resources as a cause of war. And so do social scientists and policy analysts, even with their more nuanced views. I've triggered this debate because conventional wisdom puts too much emphasis on resources as a cause of conflict. Getting the story right has big implications for social scientists trying to unravel cause-and-effect and often even larger implications for public policy.

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