The rapidly industrialising third world is seriously short of fresh water and this will have a serious effect on their success or failure in move economies from subsistence to modern, in the space of a single generation. A second group of mostly rich Middle Eastern petroleum producers have their own problems of fresh water shortage, that will have a catastrophic effect on their plans to diversify away from oil extraction, in the face of massively increased non-OPEC oil production and a tough oil pricing environment.
Looking at two cases, Egypt, an emerging third world Regional power in the Middle East with burgeoning population growth trying to handle international competitive threats to the upstream Nile river water resources; and Saudi Arabia attempting to diversify away from almost 100% dependence on oil production, into industrialisation, whilst having meagre and failing natural fresh water availability. With Egyptians surviving on just 40 Cubic Metres of water per head of population per year and the Saudis using 76 Cubic meters each, when the UN mandated 500 Cubic Metres for an industrialised First World water consumer, shows just how serious the problem is right now in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, let alone when the ‘demographic bulge’ hits their societies.
Linked to water scarcity, as a serious limitation to diversified economic growth, is the availability of inexpensive energy that might drive ‘artificial water’, that is sea water desalinisation, as a crutch for a serious and growing water shortage crisis. Cheap permanent energy availability will hamstring the plans of both of these nation states. The irony of this for the Saudis is breathtaking.
Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia risk serious political fallout internally unless they can solve the ‘water problem’, and soon, as their demographics explode and unrest and radicalism rises.
The following column is adapted from a speech delivered by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at the National Defense University on December 14, 2016. I want to start by thanking the National Defense University. This is an extraordinarily important institution. You’ll see why as I go through this. The greatest challenge we face is not money. The greatest challenge we face is thinking. This is one of the places assigned the responsibility for thinking. It was no accident that Admiral Nimitz said after World War II, there was no major problem in the Pacific, that they had not war-gamed at the Naval War College. It’s no accident that Eisenhower graduated first in his class at Leavenworth, and ended up as a senior planner, and then as the Commander of all allied forces in Europe.
These were people who understood that thinking things through really mattered. Curtis Lemay told me the greatest contribution that he made to World War II, was that he had gone to the new Air Corps Command and Staff College in Montgomery, and had learned how to write a five paragraph field order. He got these huge complicated messages from 8th Air Force when he arrived as a Commander of a Wing in England, and he would rewrite them into the appropriate form, send it back and say, is this what you meant to send me? After about six weeks, 8th Air Force began issuing the new model. These things, they seem trivial, but the most successful security systems have constant processes of evolution, which require thought. The hardest is to evolve without defeat.
With weeks to go in his tenure, President Obama on Friday moved to end the controversial “dual-hat” arrangement under which the National Security Agency and the nation’s cyberwarfare command are headed by the same military officer.
NSA Headquarters. Reuters
It is unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump will support such a move. A transition official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the next administration’s plans, said only that “cybersecurity has been and will be a central focus of the transition effort.”
Pressure had grown on Obama to make such a move on the grounds that the two jobs are too large for one person to handle, that the two organizations have fundamentally different missions and that U.S. Cyber Command, or Cybercom, needed its own leader to become a full-fledged fighting force.
This is a very bad idea as the Analysis at the end of this story makes clear
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In four respects, UNSCR 2334 undermines the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace and threatens what little regional stability is left. First, it could force Israel to fall back on its powerful legal position as the only existing legal inheritor of the British Mandate. Second, it compounds the error made by Obama’s transition team even before he came to power of ignoring a written commitment of a US president. Third, it has placed Sisi’s government in Egypt – a keystone of regional stability – in an untenable position. Fourth and most painfully, it will make it far more complicated – if not impossible – for the Palestinian leadership, enticed by the prospect of international coercion, to accept a reasonable compromise. The New Zealanders, do-gooders with a very dim understanding of what they have wrought, can be forgiven such folly. The Obama administration has no such excuses.
“Be careful what you wish for; you might get it” says the old adage, and sober elements among the Palestinian leadership may yet rue the day they managed to secure an American abstention leading to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. The resolution condemns “settlement activity” anywhere, including East Jerusalem, and calls upon all members to distinguish in practice between Jews who live on one side of the Armistice Line of 1949 and those who live beyond it. It presumes to speak in the name of international law and to create the conditions for further progress towards peace in the interests of both Palestinians and “legitimate” Israelis. In fact, this poorly designed and atrociously timed diplomatic tool seems set to harm, if not entirely destroy, the very purposes it was designed to serve.