El Pais, Spain’s largest daily newspaper, has published an article of mine about “The Myth of Climate and Water Wars in the Middle East“ (in Spanish).
Like our earlier article in Footnote1 it argues that water scarcity and climate change are serious issues, but that primary reasons for unrest in the Middle East can be found in its political economy.
The climate and water war narratives might be intuitively appealing but they are not convincing in comparison. The environment is not an external category that would transform itself mechanically into sociopolitical outcomes.
Jeannie Sowers, John Waterbury and myself have just published an article in Footnote1 about the question whether climate change and the drought from 2006-2011 have caused the Syrian uprising. This explanation has become pretty popular in think tank circles yet it overlooks the crucial role of political economy issues.
Humans have choices. The environment is not just an external variable that transmits itself mechanically into sociopolitical outcomes. Via reaction and adaptation it is quintessentially a human category. The drought certainly did not help, but growing inequalities as a result of economic liberalization in Assad’s crony capitalism were the more important factor.
In another article for openDemocracy.net I take a look at Syria’s war economy and the state of food security in the country: What do Syrians Eat?
Without food aid and imports Syria would face famine now. I have frankly grown rather tired of armchair strategists who are mushrooming all over the place who can only look at the conflict in terms of US strategic interests, weapons systems and the like. It’s the economy stupid and without a political solution and economic recovery the Syrian tragedy will continue, regardless who might be a military “victor”.