Strategic Water

Iraq and Security Planning in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin
  • Author:
  • Rick Lorenz
  • Publisher: Marine Corps University Press
  • Date: 2013

After the final phase of drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, it is important to do what we can to help maintain a level of stability and to look ahead to emerging security threats. Strategic Water: Iraq and Security Planning in the Euphrates-Tigris Basinby Frederick Lorenz and Edward J. Erickson makes an important contribution to this effort by taking a close look at a serious problem that is often neglected—the decline in freshwater availability and its impact on regional security. With convincing authority, the authors make it clear that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating much faster than expected, and in a few years much of Iraq’s water supply will be undrinkable, largely due to high salinity levels. This book not only predicts a crisis, it provides some details on what that crisis might look like: an ugly mix of human suffering, governmental instability, population movement, and a rise in extremist violence. Despite the fact that the United States may have less influence in Iraq in the short term, we cannot deny that it remains a vital U.S. interest to keep the region secure. And there are things that can be done in the short term to help avoid the worst-case scenario. Environmental security is an emerging mission for the U.S. military; for these nontraditional missions, we need problem solvers and innovators. We have to constantly look beyond the short-term problems and try to identify the security issues that will become critical in the years ahead.   In the Euphrates-Tigris basin we have an extraordinary situation when the actions of our NATO ally, Turkey, might negatively impact the water supply in the country we have worked so hard to stabilize, Iraq. Ineffective water management from a lack of experience and a lack of modern technology is only part of the problem. Cultural barriers exist to efficient water use, and Islamic tradition tells us that water should not be sold or controlled. As we look to each new crisis, there seems to be an underlying element of water or resource scarcity that seems to make the problem unsolvable.   This book not only identifies a threat that is not often analyzed, it also makes detailed recommendations on how to deal with it effectively. In the final chapter, Lorenz and Erickson prioritize what needs to be done and describe the relative cost and probable chance of success for each option.   For each alternative, they provide a definition of “success” and the probable impact if progress is made. Two key recommendations are emphasized: the need for better coordination of our efforts and more effective use of technology—the science and diplomacy linkage.   The U.S. military’s budget is now in full retreat, and the amount of resources available for foreign aid will be in steady decline in the next few years. But the problems of water scarcity and the resulting instability in the Middle East will certainly be on the rise. Our nation will face some difficult choices in the years ahead, and this book contains the type of analysis that our leaders should embrace. It should be required reading for those who recognize the strategic importance of Iraq and want to understand the emerging water scarcity threat.