Straw Man in the Wind

In his article "What Resource Wars?" David Victor argued that the threat of resource wards is exaggerated. Thomas Homer-Dixon responds.

Issue: Jan-Feb 2008

PUNDITS, JOURNALISTS and Sunday morning news show commentators sometimes say silly things about the links between resources and war. "Iraq is all about oil" or "Global warming caused the Darfur genocide." And, sometimes, NGO leaders and policymakers say similar silly things when they want the media to pay attention to a particular region or issue. It's easy to criticize these statements. But thoughtful commentators, of whom David Victor is normally one, know they contribute little by doing so. Yet, in this case, he's pulled together several oft-heard arguments about why threats from resource wars are overblown. Some of the skeptical positions have merit, but many are deeply misleading. No serious scholar of this issue says that resource stress causes violence by itself; almost none asserts that the causal links between resource stress and violence are direct; and very few argue that interstate war is the most likely outcome.

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