excerpts from the book

Resource Wars

The New Landscape of Global Conflict

by Michael T. Klare

Metropolitan/Owl Books, 2001, paper




The third scenario that dominate S. military planning is an internal threat to the Saudi monarch q- Protection of the Saudi regime has been a basic feature of U.S. security policy since 1945, when President Roosevelt met Ibn Saud and assured him of America's support .54 At the core of this arrangement is a vital but unspoken quid pro quo: in return for protecting the royal family against its enemies, American companies will be allowed unrivaled access to Saudi oil fields. To defend the monarchy against its external opponents, the United States has fought a war against Iraq and conducted the military buildup described above. Increasingly, however, internal defense is becoming the greater priority."

The threat posed by the antigovernment underground was first revealed in November 1995, when a massive truck bomb shattered the headquarters of the Saudi Arabia National Guard in Riyadh, killing five American servicemen and two Indians working at the facility. Seven months later, on June 25, 1996, another truck bomb killed nineteen American servicemen at the Khobar Towers housing complex in Dhahran, in what proved to be the most deadly attack on U.S. forces since the end of the 1991 Gulf conflict. Although the identity of the bombers has never been fully established, they are widely assumed to be members of militant antigovernment Islamic organizations. Similar groups, linked to Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden, are also thought to be responsible for the August 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Most analysts believe that the ultimate aim of the organizations involved in these and similar attacks is to overthrow the existing Saudi regime and replace it with an even more conservative Islamic government. Such a revolution is needed, Saudi dissidents argue, because the royal family has been so corrupted by its massive oil wealth and its ties to the West that it can no longer be considered worthy to govern. As evidence of such corruption, they point to Saudi Arabia's timid and ineffectual opposition to Israel and the presence, on sacred Islamic soil, of non-Muslim oilmen and soldiers. Reversing these injustices, the dissidents argue, can be accomplished only by eliminating the existing regime through jihad, or holy war. And because the United States is the leading source of protection for the regime, it, too, must be the target of jihad.

For the most part, those who hold such views in Saudi Arabia are content to express them in private, or among the faithful in private religious assemblies. (Open political debate is not permitted in the kingdom, and those suspected of espousing antigovernment views are routinely arrested and confined to prison.)58 Nevertheless, a small but significant minority within the fundamentalist community favors more vigorous action, including violent attacks on military bases and government offices.' "To the extremists, to declare the government as illegitimate makes it an infidel government," explained Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist. "And the moment they declare a government an infidel government, they believe they have the right to fight against it.

Although driven primarily by religious belief, these groups have also tapped into other sources of discontent. Much of this discontent is of an economic nature: when oil revenues declined in the 1990s, the government cut back on the lucrative benefits provided to all Saudi citizens. Unemployment rose, expectations declined, and many young Saudis became embittered by the loss of privileges once taken for granted. With the open expression of political dissent forbidden, it is not surprising that a certain percentage of these disaffected youths have moved to the political margins.

Despite determined efforts by the Saudi government to suppress dissident organizations, they continue to thrive. This is partly due to their professed religious character, which provides a certain degree of immunity from government surveillance, and partly to the fact that they enjoy the patronage of wealthy Saudi businessmen and senior clerics in Iran, Sudan, and other Muslim countries. Also contributing to the effectiveness and prestige of these organizations is the presence in their ranks of many ex-combatants (of various nationalities) from the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan. "These groups' multinational

composition, financial independence, and international ties to other terrorist groups make them an elusive threat," CENTCOM noted in 1997. "Trained as mujahideen in the Afghan war against Soviet occupation, members of these groups ... form small, impenetrable cells to pursue an extremist agenda."

To prevent these efforts from coalescing into a more substantial threat to the Saudi regime, the United States has undertaken a wide range of measures. These include assistance in the creation of a large, efficient, and well-equipped domestic security apparatus. Primary responsibility for internal stability and the protection of the royal family falls on the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG), an elite force of 57,000 active-duty combatants equipped with a broad array of modern weapons. From its inception, this force has received most of its training, equipment, and technical support from the U.S. Department of Defense or from American military contractors .61 In 1990, for instance, U.S. firms were awarded a $3.4 billion contract to supply the SANG with 1,117 Light Armored Vehicles, 2,000 TOW antitank missiles, 27 M-198 towed howitzers, and related services; follow-on contracts, worth $819 million and $690 million respectively, were signed in 1993.64

Although it has entrusted the SANG and other Saudi security agencies with primary responsibility for protecting the royal family against internal threats, the United States has taken active measures of its own. These include extensive intelligence-collection activities designed to identify and track the leaders of Saudi extremist organizations-especially Osama bin Laden and his associates-as well as diplomatic efforts to deny them safe haven and banking privileges in neighboring countries .61 The United States has also made it clear that it will employ military force to punish those implicated in terrorist attacks on U.S. bases and personnel, as it did following the August 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.*

Ultimately, the United States is prepared to intervene with its own forces to defend the regime against internal attack. This was made abundantly clear in 1981, when President Reagan declared that the United States would not allow an insurgent movement to overthrow the Saudi monarch, as had occurred in Iran two years earlier. "I win not permit [Saudi Arabia] to be an Iran," he told reporters at the White House.

Direct American involvement in a civil war is, no doubt, the last thing that Washington would like to see happen. To prevent this, great emphasis is being placed on intelligence activities and the disruption of antigovernment organizations. But President Reagan's 1981 statement provides an unambiguous indication of America's determination to protect the Saudi monarchy at all costs. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that this commitment has in any way been diluted since Reagan's time; if anything, the United States is even more closely wedded to the Saudi regime now than it was in 1981. And while it is impossible to predict the exact nature of the U.S. response to any particular threat to the regime, it is likely to be swift, muscular, and lethal.




From a resource perspective, water bears many similarities to oil. It is essential for a wide range of human activities, and it exists in relatively finite amounts. Once the available supply is exhausted, moreover, additional quantities can be acquired only through heroic and costly efforts. Increased population and rising affluence are inflating global demand of both materials, bringing the point of worldwide scarcity closer with every passing day. And, most significant, important sources of water-no less than of oil-are found in areas that overlap national boundaries and may thus become the focus of territorial or ownership contests between neighboring states.

At the most fundamental level, water is absolutely essential to human health and survival-for drinking, for bathing and sanitation, and for food production. According to the World Bank, the minimum amount of water one human needs to remain alive and healthy is 100 to 200 liters per day, or 36 to 72 cubic meters per year. But this represents only a fraction of total need: agriculture, industry, and energy production all require additional quantities of water for a variety of critical processes. Together, these uses bring the minimum human water requirement to approximately 1,000 cubic meters (265,000 gallons) per person per year.

By far the greatest need for water-beyond that needed for basic human survival-is for the irrigation of essential food crops. Irrigation not only allows for the production of food in areas that receive little rainfall (as is the case in most of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and the American Southwest) but also permits double-cropping in temperate climates and the use of high-yield crops. Irrigated farming has led to a

vast increase in food production over the past fifty years, thus making possible a steady increase in the human population. Today, about 70 percent of all fresh water appropriated by humans from the world's rivers, lakes, and aquifers is used for agricultural purposes.

The emergence of severe water scarcities is most evident in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. According to the World Bank, the average annual runoff in these areas in 1995 was 1,250 cubic meters per person, or just enough to satisfy basic human needs. Within these areas, moreover, the bank found eleven countries-Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen-with annual per capita supplies at or below 1,000 cubic meters, the minimum amount considered necessary for healthy human life. These countries have been able to supplement their meager rain-fed supplies with desalinated seawater and/or water drawn from fossil aquifers; most, however, are encountering great difficulty in meeting the basic needs of their growing populations.

Fighting between the government, headed by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA, by its initials in Portuguese), and the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) has been going on for more than twenty-five years, causing the loss of over one million lives and the internal displacement of several times that number. In the beginning, this war was being fought over ideology and power-at one point, Cuba and the Soviet Union were supporting the MPLA while the United States was supporting UNITA-but by the 1990s both sides were fighting largely for control over the country's valuable oil and diamond supplies. Reports by the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations have shown that leaders of both sides were siphoning off many millions of dollars from the sale of oil and diamonds for their private use, while telling their followers that the money was being used to purchase arms and other vital supplies.

The fighting in Sierra Leone follows a similar pattern. As many as 50,000 people have been killed there since 1991, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to abandon their homes. The leading opposition group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), claims to be fighting on behalf of Sierra Leone's impoverished and unrepresented masses. But it appears that the group's major objective is to retain control over the country's valuable diamond fields. Even though the RUF's leader, Foday Sankoh, signed a U.N. -brokered peace agreement in 1999 and promised to disband his military forces, RUF elements continue to occupy the major diamond-producing areas and to oversee the flow of gems to international markets.

In both Angola and Sierra Leone-and in similar conflicts occurring elsewhere-there is evidence that major resource conglomerates are contributing to the persistence of violence by purchasing diamonds, minerals, timber, and other commodities from the combatants. UNITA, for example, is said to have sold diamonds to buyers working for De Beers, the South African conglomerate that controls about two-thirds of the world diamond market. The RUF, in collaboration with friendly groups in Liberia, has also been able to sell its diamonds to major dealers in Europe.' Another set of companies, also based in Europe, are believed to have purchased old-growth lumber from rebel-held areas of Liberia. Such transactions provide the cash with which opposing forces pay for black-market weapons; alternately, the proceeds go into the private bank accounts of government and rebel commanders, increasing their personal power and authority. With arms and cash coming into their hands on a regular basis, the leaders of ethnic and insurgent factions have no incentive to sue for peace or to reach a compromise at the bargaining table, rather, their interests are best served by prolonging the conflict.

Although modest when compared to the annual profits of the major oil corporations, the monies accumulated in these conflicts can be quite substantial. The illicit diamond trade in Angola, for instance, is believed to generate as much as $700 million per year; illicit diamond sales from Sierra Leone are thought to be worth at least half as much." In Congo, royalties from copper and uranium mining are thought to have netted long-term dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and his close associates several hundred million dollars per year. And a single large teak tree from Cambodia can be sold for as much as $25,000.

With so much at stake, and so few other sources of wealth available in these countries, it is not surprising that ruthless and enterprising factions are prepared to provoke civil war or otherwise employ violence in the pursuit of valuable resources. In developed countries and in developing nations with strong central governments, competition for valuable resources is normally resolved through the operation of the marketplace and mediation of the state (in the form of civil courts and regulatory bodies). The terms of contracts are generally enforceable, and the systems of adjudicating disputes are viewed as legitimate and fair. In developing societies, matters are often more haphazard and conflict correspondingly more common. Fighting tends to occur when certain conditions are present, such as when the central government is weak and divided, or widely viewed as corrupt. In addition, conflict is more likely to persist if the larger community of nations refuses to intervene to halt the fighting, and the belligerents in these contests are able to sell their products on the international market.

These conditions prevail in much of Africa and in other sectors of the developing world. Particularly vulnerable are once-colonized areas where the occupying power destroyed local institutions, plundered the countryside of its human and material resources, and departed without laying the groundwork for effective, self-financing national governments. Frequently, the governments that have sprung up amid this wreckage are autocratic regimes with close ties to the military and/or a particular ethnic constituency. When minority groups are denied access to political power, or when the economy is controlled by the ruling faction or family, opponents of the regime or those who simply wish to break the elite's monopoly over profitable economic activity-often see no option but to engage in armed rebellion.

Once a rebellion has erupted, the fighting often evolves into resource conflict. To pay their troops and obtain money for arms and ammunition, rebel commanders naturally seek to gain control over territories containing valuable resources. Once in possession of such resources, they can continue fighting indefinitely, even if defeated in battles conducted elsewhere in the country. Over time, many of these leaders acquire the status of warlords-local despots who dominate a particular region by terrorizing the population and selling off the resources they control.!! The government, for its part, is just as likely to fight for these resources, both to pay its bills and to ensure the continued loyalty of prominent cliques and families. The resulting warfare can persist for years or even decades, as in the case of Angola.

A similar pattern has developed in nations where important sources of valuable resources are located in areas occupied by indigenous peoples or ethnic minorities, as in Brazil and Indonesia. Many of the world's remaining stands of tropical hardwoods, for example, are in remote areas inhabited by indigenous groups. As the monetary value of the world's remaining old-growth timber rises, or when valuable minerals are found within the bounds of the forest, the governments of these countries often award valuable concessions to timber and mining companies-typically, companies with close ties to the ruling clique or family. Clashes may erupt between the government and the indigenous groups that occupy these areas.

Although not unknown during the Cold War era, separatist conflicts over resources were normally suppressed by Washington and Moscow. To reduce the threat of insurgency and separatism, both superpowers regularly provided their respective allies in the developing world with substantial military and economic assistance. The United States, for example, twice helped President Mobutu crush separatist drives in Congo's mineral-rich Katanga (now Shaba) province, while the Soviet Union helped Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia quell similar drives in Eritrea and the Ogaden region." With the end of the Cold War, however, this type of assistance largely disappeared, and so the former recipients of such aid-Mobutu and Mengistu among them found themselves far more vulnerable to internal challenges.

The end of superpower involvement in resource contests has not been followed by the adoption of new systems of international conflict management. Although the United Nations has attempted to resolve many of the internal struggles now under way, it has generally lacked the capacity and know-how to succeed at these efforts. The U.N.'s effectiveness has been further hampered by the unwillingness of the major powers-especially the United States-to provide troops, funds, and equipment for international peacekeeping operations. As a result, fighting has continued in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Somalia despite a series of U.N. -sponsored interventions.

The increasing vigor of globalization has also contributed to the persistence of resource contests in the developing world. With industrialization spreading to more countries than ever before, the worldwide demand for many basic materials-including minerals, gems, and timber-is growing rapidly, thereby increasing the monetary value of many once-neglected sources of supply. In 1995, for example, the World Resources Institute estimated the value of the world's untapped reserves of iron ore at $2 trillion, those of copper at $732 billion, and of bauxite (the ore used to produce aluminum) at $537 billion. 14 Rising commodity prices give greater incentive for separatist and insurgent groups to gain control over these materials, and for besieged governments to resist such efforts. Globalization has also expanded the roster of corporations with both the means and the incentive to procure resources from remote and undeveloped areas-even if this means dealing with warlords and/or transporting valuable commodities through areas of conflict.

The growing presence of transnational resource firms in areas of conflict is responsible for another distinctive feature of such contests: the prominent role performed by private military companies (PMCs) like Executive Outcomes and Sandline International. These firms, often composed of soldiers demobilized at the end of the Cold War, provide protection for large oil and mining operations and, in some cases, assist governments in their efforts to suppress rebel movements. 16 The MPLA of Angola, for instance, once hired Executive Outcomes to spearhead a government drive into UNITA-controlled diamond fields in the interior. Needless to say, such companies do not seek a resolution of conflict; rather, their interests are best served by allowing the fighting to continue as long as possible.




Bougainville is a mountainous, tropical island in the Southwest Pacific claimed by the state of Papua New Guinea (or, as it is widely known, PNG). Geologically a part of the Solomon Islands chain, Bougainville was ceded to British control under an Anglo-German agreement signed in 1898 and thereafter governed from the PNG capital of Port Moresby. After World War II, PNG and Bougainville were administered as a single unit by Australia under a U.N. trusteeship. In 1975, despite protests from its inhabitants, Bougainville was ceded to Papua New Guinea when that territory was granted independence. Thirteen years later, in 1988, the people of Bougainville commenced a war of secession from PNG.

At the heart of the Bougainville-PNG dispute is the social and environmental damage wrought by large-scale copper mining. While still under Australian control, the PNG administration in Port Moresby granted London-based Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) a concession to copper-bearing areas at Panguna in central Bougainville. RTZ and its Australian affiliate, Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia, formed Bougainville Copper Ltd. (BCL) to exploit the Panguna concession. In time, BCL established the world's largest open-pit copper mine on Bougainville Island: a gaping chasm three-quarters of a mile deep, two and a half miles wide, and three and a half miles long. 18 At the time of peak production, in the mid-1980s, the Panguna mine was producing $500 million worth of copper, gold, and silver every year most of which went to RTZ (80 percent) and the PNG government in Port Moresby (20 percent); the Bougainvilleans received next to nothing.

By the late 1980s, local opposition to the Panguna concession had reached the boiling point. Not only had the area's residents been denied adequate compensation for their confiscated properties, but the mine itself had produced severe environmental damage. Each year, vast quantities of poisonous "taiings"-mine refuse-were dumped into the local river system, killing fish and contaminating the island's drinking water .20 When repeated efforts to gain compensation from BCL for all of this damage came to naught, a group of islanders formed the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and seized control of the mine, which they then shut down. Two years later, in 1990, leaders of the BRA established the Bougainville Interim Government and declared their independence from Papua New Guinea.

The BRA revolt presented the PNG government with an acute dilemma: although the Papuan elites who governed the state had few ethnic or political ties to Bougainville, they relied on royalties from the Panguna mine for a large share of government income. With the mine in rebel hands, government spending plummeted and the nation experienced widespread political and social unrest. Rather than attempt to resolve the dispute with Bougainville through peaceful negotiations, the PNG government chose to reestablish control over the island through military action. The national army, known as the Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF), was ordered to invade Bougainville and reestablish PNG control over the copper-producing area. But while successful in gaining a beachhead on the island, the PNGDF was never able to occupy central Bougainville and the Panguna mine complex.

Frustrated in its efforts to recapture Panguna through military means, in 1995 the PNG government reluctantly agreed to participate in peace negotiations with representatives of the BRA. Although neither side made any significant concessions, the two sides refrained from attacking each other. In 1996, however, the newly elected PNG prime minister, Sir Julius Chan, decided to renew military operations against the BRA. Once again, PNGDF forces attempted to seize the Panguna mine, and, once again, they failed. Chan then took another tack: with funds provided by the World Bank (supposedly for development purposes), he offered a British PMC, Sandline International, $36 million to organize a new invasion of Bougainville.

Sandline personnel arrived in Port Moresby in February 1997 and immediately began preparations for a major military offensive against the BRA. To bolster its ranks, Sandline hired experienced combat personnel from another private military firm, Executive Outcomes of South Africa. Sandline also contracted with a firm in Belarus to provide $7 million in Soviet-era military hardware, including four assault helicopters, six 57mm rocket launchers, and five hundred cases of ammunition . As news of these preparations swept the country, however, a new problem arose: senior PNGDF officers, incensed that $36 million had been promised to an outside firm at a time when their own funds were being cut, turned on Chan and demanded his resignation. After several days of rioting, Chan stepped aside as prime minister and canceled the Sandline contract.

Although Chan was later exonerated of any wrongdoing in the Sandline affair, his party was rebuffed in national elections in late 1997. The new government, headed by Bill Skate, eschewed any intention of reoccupying Bougainville through force. A cease-fire was signed between PNG and the BRA, and in 1998 a small U.N. peacekeeping force was deployed on Bougainville to monitor the agreement. Talks have also begun in New Zealand on a final resolution of the dispute. However, neither side has as yet conceded any of its main demands, so it is not clear how the dispute will be resolved. The Bougainville conflict, although still unresolved, is revealing on a number of accounts. To begin with, it exposes the close relationships that often develop between postcolonial governments and the multinational resource firms that frequently provide much of their income. It also shows how far these governments are often prepared to go in defending that relationship against armed opposition forces. (Similar arrangements can be found elsewhere. In Irian Jaya-the Indonesian-controlled sector of New Guinea-the government has teamed up with the Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Company of New Orleans to protect the giant Grasberg mine against attacks by Papuan separatists .28) Lastly, the Bougainville case exhibits the growing involvement of private military companies in resource conflicts.



Like the island of Bougainville, Sierra Leone possesses valuable mineral supplies that have long been exploited by foreign mining companies with little benefit to the local population. Although very poor by world standards-the GNP per capita was a mere $180 in 1995, the country harbors substantial reserves of rutile (titanium ore), bauxite, and diamonds. Prior to the outbreak of fighting in 1991, Sierra Leone exported diamonds worth as much as $300 million per year, while bauxite and rutile exports generated another $75 to $100 million. The national government, which received only a small share of the income from domestic mining operations, was largely dependent on external aid for the upkeep of most essential services.

From 1968 to 1985, Sierra Leone was ruled by Dr. Siaka Stevens. Like Mobutu in Zaire, Stevens siphoned much of the nation's wealth into his own pockets and rewarded loyal supporters by giving them control over some of the country's lucrative mining areas. Stevens's handpicked successor, General Joseph Momah, sought to establish control over the diamond fields, but his forces often refused to fight the local diamond barons (many of whom had formed their own private militias). By 1991, few government services were functioning, and corruption was rife.°

This situation proved irresistible to Charles Taylor, the Liberian insurgent leader whose forces controlled the territory adjoining Sierra Leone to the east. Taylor had invaded Liberia in late 1989 with the aim of ousting President Samuel Doe and assuming control of the country. When frustrated in this endeavor by the arrival of a peacekeeping force organized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he set out to control the countryside and gradually starve the capital, Monrovia, into submission. To finance his growing army and achieve his long-term objectives, Taylor sold off as much of Liberia's timber and mineral wealth as he could get his hands on. And, when still more funds were needed to equip his forces, Taylor sought to gain control over the diamond trade in Sierra Leone.

To spearhead his penetration into Sierra Leone, Taylor turned to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a small insurgent force made up of disgruntled Sierra Leonean officials and led by a former army corporal, Foday Sankoh. With strong support from Taylor's rebel army, the RUF invaded southeastern Sierra Leone in 1991 and proceeded to seize control of the Kono diamond fields. Resistance by the government army, the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Force (RSLMF), was scattered or nonexistent; in addition, many of the local diamond barons chose to collaborate with the RUF (and, by extension, with Taylor) rather than side with the Sierra Leonean government. By 1995, following a series of unsuccessful RSLMF counteroffensives, the RUF controlled much of the countryside and was poised to attack the capital, Freetown .

At this point, the government-now headed by Valentine Strasser, a former RSLMF officer-sought outside help to protect the capital and drive off the RUF. Strasser initially employed Gurkha Security Guards (GSG), a private firm made up of Nepalese Gurkha fighters who had been dismissed from the British army. But when GSG personnel refused to conduct offensive operations against the RUF, Strasser turned in desperation to Executive Outcomes (E.O.), the

same firm that was later to figure in the Bougainville conflict. E.O. operatives arrived in Freetown in April 1995 and quickly organized a successful campaign to drive the RUF away from the capital; three months later, E.O. -led units of the RSLMF regained control of the Kono diamond region and, by the end of the year, had recaptured the Rutile Sierra mine at Gbangbatok.

The defeat of rebel forces in 1995 produced a welcome degree of stability in the country. Although Strasser was deposed by another senior officer in February 1996, multiparty elections for a new civilian government were held in March and, following what was generally considered a free and fair election, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of the Sierra Leone People's Party was chosen as president. Believing that conditions in the country had been stabilized, Kabbah terminated the government's contract with Executive Outcomes in January 1997.

Unfortunately, Kabbah's optimism proved to be premature: within weeks of E.O.'s departure, a loose coalition of disgruntled RSLMF officers and surviving RUF insurgents took control of Freetown. 16 Once again, the government-now operating from exile in Guinea, sought outside help to oust the rebels. In July 1997, Kabbah signed a $10 million contract with Sandline International to wage a counteroffensive. Nigeria also stepped in at this time, supplying troops for an ECOWAS peacekeeping mission. Together, the Sandline-led national army and the ECO WAS peacekeeping force regained control of Freetown and, in March 1998, reinstated Kabbah as president. The pro-government forces then fanned out into the countryside, driving the rebels out of many towns and villages.

Although successful in some parts of the country, the 1998 campaign did not eradicate the rebel threat. Remnants of the RUF held out in many remote areas, terrorizing the population and recruiting new soldiers-often using threats of execution or mutilation to overcome resistance from villagers." After rebuilding their strength, RUF forces launched a fresh offensive in January 1999. This time, President Kabbah concluded that it would be better to strike a deal with the RUF than to risk another all-out conflict. With U.N. support, talks were convened in Lomé, Togo, and in July 1999 a peace agreement was signed between the Kabbah government and the RUF.

Under the 1999 Lomé agreement, RUF forces were to be integrated into the national army and the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, was named vice president and chairman of the Strategic Resources Commission-essentially giving him control over the disposition of the country's diamond and mineral wealth.° The elevation of Sankoh to the vice presidency was seen by many Sierra Leoneans as the price they would have to pay for a measure of peace in the country. However, it soon became evident that even this form of tribute was insufficient to satisfy Sankoh's appetite. With new arms and ammunition obtained through the sale of diamonds, the RUF commenced a fresh offensive in early 2000, overpowering a weak U.N. peacekeeping force and occupying much of the countryside.'

This new round of fighting had one unexpected but revealing sidelight: during the RUF advance on Freetown, opponents of the rebel group invaded the house occupied by Foday Sankoh while he was serving as vice president and seized a cache of documents concerning his involvement in the illicit diamond trade. The documents, which were later described in The New York Times, indicated that Sankoh personally supervised the export of diamonds from rebel-held areas of Sierra Leone to markets in Europe. During the last six months of 1999, for example, Sankoh received over two thousand stones from his confederates in the field. The documents also revealed that he ordered his forces to go on the offensive against U.N. peacekeeping forces when he learned that the peacekeepers' leader, General Vijay Kumar Jetley, was preparing to send his troops into the Kono diamond region. Rarely has the link between resource exploitation and internal conflict been made more visible and concrete.




Aside from Amazonia and Central Africa, the world's largest surviving tropical forests are found on the islands of the Southwest Pacific, mostly on Borneo and New Guinea. Borneo, the world's fourth-largest island, is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Sultanate of Brunei. Indonesia calls its portion of the island Kalimantan; the Malaysian portion is divided between the states of Sarawak (in the northwest) and Sabah (in the northeast), with Brunei in the middle. For over twenty years, the forests of Sarawak and Kalimantan have been the sites of recurring conflict between indigenous peoples and those who seek to harvest the original trees or replace them with palm-oil plantations.

Until recently, what little development occurred in Borneo was confined to a few coastal enclaves that were connected to one another only by boat and plane. Beginning in the 1960s, however, the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia opened up vast areas of the interior to commercial logging-in many cases awarding the largest and most lucrative concessions to members of their political and business elites. As the global demand for timber expanded, these concessionaires began to strip their holdings of all marketable trees. The pace of timber harvesting has been extraordinary: by 1985, approximately one-third of Sarawak's forests had been logged over, and another 700,000 acres (about 5 percent of the total forest cover) were being cleared every year .41 A similar pattern prevailed in Kalimantan, where 12 percent of the total forest cover disappeared between 1982 and 1990.

As a result of intensive logging in Borneo, Malaysia and Indonesia have become the world's leading exporters of tropical logs and timber products. Malaysia now leads the world in the overseas sale of logs and sawn lumber; Indonesia, which has emphasized the sale of "value-added" wood products, is the world's leading exporter of plywood.

Although some of these products come from the more developed parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, the greatest yields have come from the forests of Borneo.

The production of logs and wood products in Sarawak and Kalimantan has generated enormous wealth for the privileged elites who control the principal concession areas .41 In Sarawak, the chief minister grants the concessions; in many cases, these prized assets have been awarded to the friends, political associates, and family members of the current officeholder. In 1987, for example, the former chief minister, Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub, was reported to possess (or to have given to friends) concessions covering some three million acres of forest, worth an estimated $9 to $22 billion; his successor, Datuk Patinggi Hagi Abdul Taib Mahmud, was said to control another four million acres .41 (Together, these holdings represented about one-third of Sarawak's total forested area.) Similarly, in Kalimantan, vast concessions were awarded to business associates of the Suharto family and to senior military officers .

To obtain profit from these vast holdings, the concessionaires must strip the forests of all marketable timber. This has enormous environmental consequences, both in terms of loss of biodiversity-the forests of Borneo are home to many species of animals and plants that are not found elsewhere-and soil degradation. Even more worrisome, logging on this scale poses a direct threat to the indigenous

people who live in Borneo's forests and depend on them for their food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. These communities are composed of many different ethnic groups, but all share a strong sense of identification with the living forest and its resident species. Like the inhabitants of Amazonia, the forest peoples of Borneo view the plants and animals of the forest as sacred, as the embodiment of powerful spirits and deities. Ever since outsiders have come to log or clear the forests, the natives have attempted to protect their ancestral lands by whatever means available.

In Sarawak, conflict between the Dayak (the collective name for the indigenous peoples of Borneo) and government-backed logging companies has continued since 1987. For years, the Dayak had petitioned local authorities to stop the destruction of their traditional lands, only to be rebuffed on every occasion. Then, on February 13, 1987, the Penan people (one of the subgroups of the Dayak) issued an ultimatum to the authorities:

We, the Penan people of the Tutoh, Limbang, and Patah rivers region, declare: Stop destroying the forest or we will be forced to protect it. The forest is our livelihood. We have lived here before any of you outsiders came. We fished in clean rivers and hunted in the jungle .... Now the logging companies turn rivers into muddy streams and the jungle into devastation .... By your doings you take away our livelihood and threaten our very lives .... ...We want our ancestral land, the land we live off, back .... If you decide not to heed our request, we will protect our livelihood. We are a peace-loving people, but when our very lives are in danger, we will fight back."

Like all prior communications from the Dayak, this message was ignored by local officials. This time, however, the Penan turned to direct action: armed solely with traditional blowpipes, small groups of men and women established blockades across logging roads and stopped the transportation of timber. Soon other indigenous groups, including the Kayan and Kelabit, erected obstacles of their own. By October 1987, blockades had been established at twenty-three sites, halting logging operations in much of Sarawak.

Faced with a significant loss of income, the logging companies pressed the government to take decisive action. As a result, paramilitary police were deployed throughout the region and large numbers of Dayak were arrested. In November 1987, the state government adopted Amendment S90B of the Forest Ordinance, making it a major offense for any person to obstruct the flow of traffic along any logging road in Sarawak. Large numbers of protestors were arrested under this law, forcing the Penan and their allies to abandon many of the blockades. By early 1989, however, new blockades had been established at many sites, and clashes between the Dayak and government forces had become a regular occurrence."

The intensity of these clashes have ebbed and flowed over the years, but the Dayak have steadily lost ground to the loggers. More and more of Sarawak's forests have been cleared, and the indigenous people have been forced to resettle in government encampments or to move deeper into what remains of the original forest. Even the special parks and "biospheres" established by the Malaysian government to house the Penan have been invaded by the logging companies. Meanwhile, the protests continue. In 1997, for example, forty-two Dayak were arrested in one incident and three were shot (one fatally) in another."

In neighboring Kalimantan, the Dayaks have faced a similar challenge: in a bid to increase agricultural productivity, the Indonesian government is attempting to convert many forested areas into commercial rubber and palm-oil plantations. In West Kalimantan alone, the government has set aside 5.7 million acres of forests-much of it occupied by indigenous groups-for such plantations. To provide labor for these endeavors, the central government in Jakarta has also subsidized the relocation in Kalimantan (or "transmigration," to use the government's term) of unemployed laborers from other parts of Indonesia, especially the highly populated islands of Java and Madura. As employees of the plantation firms, these settlers have been forced to participate in the clearing of original forests-placing them, as it were, on the front lines of conflict with the Dayak population. As a result, clashes between indigenous groups and the settlers (especially the Madurese) have become increasingly frequent and violent.

By February 1997, these clashes had escalated into a low-level insurgency. Army troops were deployed throughout western Kalimantan, and travel into the interior was banned. Although journalists were unable to visit the conflict zone, refugees spoke of scattered encounters between armed Dayak gangs and elite army commandos, the former armed with spears and machetes, the latter with modern weapons. Hundreds of people were killed in these encounters, and thousands more were forced to relocate in government-run refugee camps .

As the conflict intensified, the belligerents on each side resorted to one of the oldest and most terrifying weapons of all: fire. To clear the concession lands of both flora and fauna (including humans), plantation workers-many of them transmigrants from Java and Madura-have set fires throughout Kalimantan, destroying millions of acres of forest and forcing more of the Dayak into refugee camps. In retaliation, the Dayak have periodically set fire to the settlers' communities. Because of especially dry conditions in the late 1990s (caused, in part, by the El Niño effect), these fires have often burned out of control, filling the air with soot and smoke and producing an environmental disaster of vast proportions .

Government intervention succeeded in arresting the violence in 1998, but fighting between the Dayaks and the Madurese erupted with renewed intensity in early 1999. Allied on this occasion with native Malays, the insurgent Dayak tore through Madurese communities, burning houses and killing anyone who stood in their way. "The roads and fields swarm with men carrying swords, crossbows, and home-made shotguns," The Economist reported in March. In some areas, "severed heads are displayed openly on the roadside." Within days, 185 people were killed and thousands driven from their homes. Once again, the Indonesian government sent troops to quell the fighting, but, as before, this brought only a temporary calm-not an end to the conflict. As the twenty-first century commenced, hostility between the indigenous people of Borneo and the various settler communities was as powerful as ever.

Like the rebellion in Bougainville, the violence in Sarawak and Kalimantan revolves around efforts by governments-usually in league with local business interests-to ensure access to valuable resource supplies despite determined resistance by local residents. Because the invaders of these lands are often of a different racial or religious background than the inhabitants, the fighting is often experienced by belligerents on both sides as an ethnic conflict, and is usually described as such by the international media. But as these encounters demonstrate, it is not racial animosity between the Penan and Malays or the Dayaks and Madurese that is primarily responsible relentless pursuit of resource wealth by powerful government factions.



Most resource wars of the future will occur in the developing world, notably, in countries where the national government is weak or corrupt and where local and external actors are competing for political power. Armed combat will most likely be limited to periodic skirmishing between militias and other paramilitary formations. Typically, the civilians living in combat zones will suffer the greatest casualties, as has been the case in Angola, Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. And while a handful of individuals may profit from the sale of diamonds and old-growth timber to foreign firms, most of the people living in these societies will remain entrapped in poverty and despair.

A strategy based on the use of force to protect vital resources will l available very costly. As much as one-fourth of the U.S. defense budget-about $75 billion per year-is allocated to American forces in the Persian Gulf and to those units stationed elsewhere that are kept available for deployment to the Gulf.

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