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Thursday, 27 November 2008
Global Warming and National Security
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders

Alfred Thayer Mahan, the famous American naval theorist,  wrote in his 1897 work, "Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future", that the opening of the Panama Canal would change the geography of commerce and cause foreign naval forces to follow. The lesson of history is geographic changes have national security impacts.


In my 54 years the geography of the planet has remained more or less static. All significant land masses and the waterways they dominate were owned and written into international law. There remain a few geographic lacunae, but for the most part all nations know who owns what.


Regardless of whether you do or do not subscribe to global warming, the reality is the North Polar ice is melting at a prodigious rate. Estimates vary, but most agree that at some point in the next decade or so, we will see year round open water in a new Northwest passage. What is also true is in an energy conscious world, commerce will use this shorter route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. 


Another feature of year round open water in the Arctic is access to what some estimate to be as high as 25% of the worlds natural gas and oil resources. Add into this mix the fact that international borders in this region are not fixed just makes the situation more, not less chaotic. If this was not enough, fueled in part by the potential resource opportunities, Greenland is moving to become an independent nation from Denmark.


The good news is this situation is not sneaking up on us, but at some point sooner than later, things are going to become very interesting. In some recent internal wargames we have begun looking at the situation and the future will belong to those who pay attention now and not later. Based on these wargames the Russians are in the best geographic and infrastructure position to exploit the situation. More interesting is a United States trying to play catch up could create the conditions for a mini- cold war (pun intended). Stay tuned...

Posted by markherman at 12:16 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 27 November 2008 12:22 PM EST
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