Round tables  


1. Sharing Oases in the Desert: Water Access Issues in the Middle East

  • Moderators: 1/C Adam Harris, 3/C Chris Goodale

A woman sends her teenage child through war-torn streets to the local well to obtain her family’s water for the week.  A man looks on as the dust blows through his barren fields, hardly able to grow anything.  Rivers that have quenched the cradle of civilization for centuries threaten to run dry. These images are the stark reality of today’s water crisis in the Middle East. In a region that is stereotypically associated with luxurious oil wealth, countries in the Middle East struggle with the effects of water scarcity and the regional security issues therein. On average, the Middle East’s water availability is 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, compared to the 2,842 cubic meters available to the average American. The issue can be traced to irrigation shortages, though there are layers of complexity that impact each country differently. Water resources affect relations between states, cities, tribes and ethnic groups, and the use of water resources is, in turn, affected by the aforementioned relations. This roundtable will examine three questions that cause the core issue - a lack of access to water for irrigation purposes - to manifest differently from country to country in the Middle East. First, how can legal issues be resolved in order to increase the amount of irrigation water available to nation states? Second, what technological innovations and collaborations can increase the amount of irrigation water available in the Middle East? Finally, how can we address the elements of the regional culture and domestic politics that exacerbate the issue?  

2. A Global Heart of Darkness: Neocolonialism and the Race for Resources

  • Moderators: 2/C Joe Dinkel, 3/C Charlotte Asdal

Even in the twenty-first century, colonialism exists. States with ecological deficits grab natural, non-renewable resources from countries with a surplus. Sometimes underdeveloped states, though not lacking in flora and fauna, are plagued by a “resource curse” in which more powerful nations and corporations extract elements they desire, but fail to assist in the host state’s progression. What does neocolonialism look like in today’s world? On a regional level, the South Korean firm, Daewoo Logistics®, promised Madagascar $6 billion in infrastructure projects in return for enormous swathes of crop-able land to assure food and biofuel security. How do these nuanced relationships between states affect the sovereignty of the colonized? We must consider how the European Union subsidizes fishing contracts off the coast of Africa. What is the role of transnational corporations in infringing upon and regulating the resource capital of a state? On the streets of Dakar, Chinese peddlers increasingly join the Senegalese merchants and semi-skilled workers, imported from mainland China for infrastructure projects. How does the racism present in migrant populations undermine the large-scale policy goals of the international hegemons? Trust is essential when fostering these resource transactions on all levels. What role do corruption and lack of transparency play on the neocolonial stage?

3. The Eagle v. The Bear: Russian and American Grand Strategy in a Resource Scarce Era 

  • Moderators: 1/C Lauren Hickey, 1/C Ryan McGee

Despite the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has dominated the European energy markets over the past several decades, with minimal interference from the United States.  The recent Russian aggression in Ukraine, coupled with the United States’ emergence as a potential energy exporter, is shifting the status quo.  According to Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left, “the world is entering an era of pervasive unprecedented resource scarcity.” As the nearly century old rivalry between these two states continues with sanctions on trade, Russian pressure in Ukraine, the race for the Arctic, and the pursuit of global energy market dominance, confrontation becomes more likely..   With these events in mind, we are already witnessing the rising energy related tension between Russia and the United States through the recent embargos and sanctions in the late months of 2014. While these actions may be considered minor, they could be the beginnings of greater challenges. How will Russia react to an energy exporting United States? How will European states respond to a multilateral energy market? How does this new era of a resource scarce planet shift these state’s grand strategies?  Or is it possible for the United States and Russia improve dialogue and attain stronger relations during this time?  If so, how? Tune in and find out when the Bear takes on the Eagle!

4. America's Backyard: Resources and Opportunities in Latin America

  • Moderators: 1/C Patrick Swain, 3/C Cameron Wegener

At this very moment, the most ambitious construction project of the century is being undertaken in Latin America. With the endorsement of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a Chinese firm is building a 170-mile transcontinental shipping canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The canal, which will be 500 yards wide, will rival the U.S.-built 48-mile Panama Canal and is expected to usher in a new age of Chinese influence in the region. Since the establishment of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has reacted adversely to outsiders intervening in “America’s Backyard.” Does China’s increasing trade and investment relationship with Latin America affect the U.S. and our hemispheric security? Beyond the scope of China’s influence, a number of historical circumstances, economic policies, domestic issues, and political systems exist in Latin America. How do these factors explain the disparity in the economic growth of these countries?  Oil production has become a significant factor in the economies of many Latin American countries, but some have enjoyed greater economic success than others. What can Latin American countries do to overcome the unsustainable, export-led economic system that persists in the region today, and what lessons can be gleaned from looking at these nations through a lens of comparative development?

5. Blackened Hands, Blackened Hearts: What Fueled India's Coal Scandal?

  • Moderators: 1/C Kyle Waldorf, 3/C Ross Gilchriest

A 2013 Lowy Institute poll found that 96% of Indians believe that corruption is holding them back as a nation. The endemic corruption in Indian society demonstrated by massive resource scandals in the areas of coal mining, radio spectrum allocation, and land distribution has shattered public confidence in its government in the previous few decades. One example was corruption in the nation’s coal industry. In 1993, in an effort to produce more power for cities, contract licenses for coal mining were handed out to private entities. Many of the licenses were awarded unfairly, and some companies abused the mining rights outlined in their contracts. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India held that the allocation of all coal blocks since 1993 were illegal. This ruling was meant to shore up the monopoly of the state-run Coal India Limited. In response, Prime Minister Modi’s cabinet approved an ordinance in late 2014 allowing the online auction of the canceled coal blocks to private investors, with much outcry against him for “denationalizing” the coal industry. Many argue that this type of corruption is something ingrained in the culture of India. If this is the case, how did this deep-seated culture of corruption begin? What is the future of a nation that tears itself apart from within through economic oligarchy? How can the people maintain sovereignty if national resources are bartered at whim? What are the implications in the international community?

6. Fool's Gold: Beating the Resource and Leadership Curse in Africa

  • Moderators: 2/C Charles Simpson, 3/C Hannah Meadows

For hundreds of years the developed world’s quality of life has depended on raw materials extracted from Africa. Pacemakers keep hearts beating with components made of platinum extracted from South African mines; the tantalum that powers conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also powers our cell phones; and nearly 10% of the world’s oil comes from Nigeria alone. As the world population grows, so too will the demand for Africa’s arable land, a staggering 60% of the world’s total. Nevertheless, this continent has been plagued by poverty and disease for centuries. Corruption, mismanagement of resources, and conquest have all contributed to the plight of this culturally diverse and naturally wealthy continent. With a dearth of effective leaders to pull Africa out of its current state, it is proving more evident that a surplus of resources is hindering the sustainability of this continent. Why have some countries been met with relative success while others are mired in poverty? What successful attempts at reform can African states use to beat the resource and leadership curse? To what extent should the international community help Africa in solving this problem, or should it be our concern at all?

7. Insatiable Appetite: Territorial and Resource Disputes in the South and East China Sea

  • Moderators: 3/C Akbar Arsiwala, 3/C Andrew Cho

The East China Sea conflict traces back to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, where the sovereignty of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands was first contested. The South China Sea has historically been a region of instability, where territorial claims overlapped between many nations. In the past decade, China has experienced an impressive economic growth with an average of 10% GDP growth rate annually. In order to sustain this growth, China needs a constant flow of raw materials, and it looks to the South and East China Seas for a solution. China claims bodies of water that have already been internationally recognized by the Exclusive Economic Zone as belonging to nations such as Japan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. These waters contain an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil. Furthermore, in order to enforce these claims, China has introduced five Type 094, Jin-class, ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) in the South and East China Seas as a means of power projection. This roundtable will discuss the territorial and resource disputes in the East and South China Seas by examining the background and the key players in this conflict; America’s response to Chinese military presence in the South China Sea; and rising military tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea. This region could set the precedent when dealing with power projecting nations in a resource strained world.

8. Disunion: The Uncertain Future of Europe's Shared Resources

  • Moderators: 1/C Michael Lemonick, 1/C Katie MacVarish

Europe was once the home of the dominant global powers, nations whose actions resonated around the world; a very different continent arose from the blood and ashes of World War II.   Devastated by the ravages of that conflict and cut off from the colonial cash flow, the nations of Europe had to find new ways to survive. Some nations came together to benefit from shared political and economic power, creating what would eventually become the European Union. For a time, this collective method seemed to work, enhancing the wealth and influence of member nations. However, in recent years the EU has been hit hard by economic downturns. Efforts to expand have slowed sometimes disastrously; the civil war in Ukraine started over an Association Agreement, merely an initial treaty framework for cooperation between the EU and other nations. These types of events have raised doubts around the world regarding the sustainability of the European system. This roundtable will seek to examine the future of Europe through the following questions: Is the Union’s economic structure to share resources and power truly beneficial to member nations? What impact would the membership of Eastern European nations have on the Union, the nations, and the world? Will the continent of Europe continue to play a major role in global politics, or will it be pushed out by the resource-rich nations it used to dominate? 

9. Politics at the North Pole: New Issues of Law, Security, and Environment in the Race for Arctic Resources

  • Moderators: 2/C Amanda Assenmacher, 3/C Stephen Phillips

Beneath the fuzzy polar bear families slumbering in the Arctic Circle are commodities of continuously higher demand, but lower supply. Today, ease of access to these commodities has grown to the point where countries, especially those that border the Arctic Ocean, cannot afford to ignore them.  Now, the hunt is on for the increasingly precious natural resources under the Arctic.  All five nations with territorial claims in the Arctic – the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark – have sent their best geologic surveyors to find out the exact location of these oil and natural gas deposits.  The latest report from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates an average value of 83 billion barrels of oil and 1,547 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in reservoirs under the Arctic ice. This is 13% of the world’s remaining oil and 30% of remaining natural gas! The highest concentration is believed to be around the Lomonosov Ridge, an area that is currently outside of the territorial claims and the exclusive economic zones of the five bordering nations. Disagreement over territorial waters in this region and among these nations still persists, becoming more complicated as the natural resources are pinpointed in location. This roundtable aims to answer the following questions: Which nation or nations will pinpoint and claim these highly sought after resources, and how will the international community and international legal bodies respond? What new issues of security and potential military action will Arctic Ocean nations face in protecting natural resource interests? How will climate change and extraction of these resources alter both the environment and international relations for the years to come?

10. The Final Frontier: Regulating, Policing, and Exploiting Space

  • Moderators: 3/C Madison Denny, 3/C Ned Hanlon

An estimated 1,100,000 metric tons of helium-3 lie below the moon’s surface, but only 25 tons are needed to power the United States for a year.  Similarly, a single asteroid can contain more platinum than all the platinum mined in human history.  As resources grow scarce, private and public interests are jockeying to mine mineral-rich celestial bodies.  Who owns these “heavenly” resources? According to the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the “Outer Space Treaty”) of 1967, no one owns or can own Space.  While it specifically forbids the installation of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Space, the Treaty glaringly fails to prohibit weaponization of any form altogether.  In 1979, the United Nations tried to deal more specifically with the myriad of resources Space offers.  The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the “Moon Treaty”), attempts to internationalize space discoveries.  While the vague Outer Space Treaty boasts 102 signatories, only 16 nations have ratified the Moon Treaty.  The US, Russia and China are among those who declined to sign.  One can foresee conflicts arising when private companies, or nations, lay claim to the same celestial body. Under these circumstances, how can the UN and its member parties preserve Space and its resources for humankind? Is it realistic to believe that developed nations will give up sovereign rights to valuable resources in the name of humanity? Should nations and private organizations be forced to share resources considering the great investment access to those resources requires? Enforcement of treaties is difficult enough on Earth, so how would a treaty be enforced in Space?

11. Going Rogue: Terrorism and the Struggle for Resource Control

  • Moderators: 2/C Thom Marryott, 3/C Michael Nitz

The plague of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa jeopardizes the region’s stability and control of prized resources. Today, the emerging Islamic State earns millions of dollars each week from captured Iraqi oil fields, while threatening civil control of essential resources such as water and power. In Afghanistan, the Haqqani network seizes millions of dollars in emerald and lapis lazuli mines to finance the destruction of the national government. The Republic of Yemen abdicated to an armed insurgency, its petroleum wealth now up for grabs. In a vicious cycle, the failure of states allows violent groups to commandeer precious resources, funding continuing regional instability The United Nations Institute for Development Economics Research estimates the net present value of economic losses from failed states at $640 billion. These losses promote the spread of global terrorism, demonstrated by groups like Hezbollah, which exploit instability to open new smuggling routes. This roundtable will investigate how rogue international groups exploit natural resources for their own ends; the function of failed states as havens for terrorist activities; and the measures that can be taken to end this cycle and restore stability to troubled regions.

12. Shady Deals: Transnational Crime and Resource Smuggling

  • Moderators: 1/C Mike Johnson, 3/C James Smith

Barrels of oil, precious diamonds, elephant ivory, uranium, and timber flow across international borders amidst the trafficking of weapons, drugs, and people every day, uncontrolled by the sovereign who owns them. These examples represent only a few of the resources and substances that are transmitted by illegal trade networks. Transnational criminal organizations exploit resource rich countries, threaten global security, challenge sovereignty, and intensify world problems. In 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated criminal proceeds from the illegal flow of goods and resources at 3.6% of the global gross domestic product (GDP): equivalent to about $2.1 trillion US. According to the World Bank, transnational crime costs up to 8% of Central American states’ GDP. Meanwhile, criminal organizations tied to Russia and other state allied actors sabotage economic competition in the major resources of gas, oil, aluminum, and precious metals. This roundtable will discuss transnational crime and resource smuggling in four major areas: identification of the major forms of transnational crime and regions of concern; examination of the black market as a series of illegal trade networks; analysis of the political, economic, and social impact of transnational crime and resource smuggling; and consideration for a strategy and method to mitigate transnational crime and resource trafficking, while preserving sovereignty, security, and sustainability.

13. Natural Security: States vs. the Global Commons

  • Moderators: 2/C Woody Dewing, 2/C Jett Watson

How are worldwide resource pools shared and managed? Interests in natural security--defined as the ability for a nation to sustain its resource and energy use--increase every day as gas, water, and electricity prices fluctuate. Every type of political structure addresses the scarcity issue in its own, often drastically different and conflicting manner. The United Arab Emirates, a nation that currently boasts one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, has massive reserves of oil but will deplete its water resources within two generations. In the United States, energy issues such as the multi-billion dollar Keystone XL pipeline or alternative energy investments play significant roles in elections. Possible oil pipelines in Eastern Europe promote tension between Russia and the former Soviet Bloc. This table will seek to address the matters of intra-national resource management for democracies and non-democracies, as well as how nations manage resource issues on the international level. Where do the needs of the individual states surpass the needs of individuals, or of the international community at large? How do states deal with internal and external pressures derived from resource scarcity? Can a nation provide for itself and its citizens without infringing upon commonly owned resources? How do states manage and manipulate their political systems to maintain sovereignty and achieve political ends?

14. The Bottom Line vs. Human Rights: Multinational Corporations, Sovereignty, and the Developing World 

  • Moderators: 2/C Ginny Burger, 3/C Luke Sullivan

Capitalism and human rights have been inseparable throughout history, from the intimate connection between the American South’s cotton industry and the slaves that made it possible, to the notorious factory conditions of the Industrial Age, famously portrayed by Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair.  Today, the sanctity of human rights is still an issue, and continues to be intertwined with economic interests.  As we continually develop into a more global and intertwined economy, with national governments and policies shifting to keep up, this connection between human rights and corporations remains as strong as ever.  A 2013 report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis highlighted the growing power of U.S. based multinational corporations with sales that reach $10.7 billion and a workforce of 34.5 million people.  This type of power influences intergovernmental policies regarding human rights and economic support.  For example, in 2001, the International Monetary Fund’s then Assistant Director, Sergio Pereira Leite, published an official statement regarding IMF’s stance on human rights.  Leite states that the IMF, rather than sanctioning and cutting off aid and economic support to countries found to be in violation of human rights, will instead continue supporting and assisting them financially.  According to the IMF, the shock of denied support and economic sanctions may hurt a nation further, whereas supporting a nation may yield a more stable economic foundation, serving as a much more constructive environment for human rights development.  This roundtable will analyze human rights and its potential connections within four areas of context: the effectiveness of policies regulating military assistance, such as the Leahy Law; the potential human rights violations of multinational corporations or their support and interaction with nations found in violation of human rights; the role of intergovernmental organizations, such as the IMF; and the policies that may directly affect the interactions of multinational and intergovernmental groups.

15. U.S. Foreign Policy in the Age of Resource Scarcity

  • Moderators: 2/C Marc Prather, 2/C Ian Shaw

America’s foreign policy is suffering an identity crisis. The United States’ maritime strategy is threatened in the South China Sea; Russian aggression threatens Eastern Europe; and national boundaries steadily dissolve in the Middle East.  The impact of these compounding threats is further complicated by transnational resource crises.  Americans cry out for freedom from Gulf oil, but its steady supply stabilizes the global economy.  Ukraine begs for assistance from NATO, but Russian natural gas fuels a third of the European continent.  Chinese business investment is rapidly spreading across the African continent while their resources at home are being strained by overpopulation.   At the same time, U.S. oil imports have dropped 44 percent in the past five years and revolutions in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have led to renewed claims of finally reaching energy independence.  How will the United States respond to this changing security environment? How urgent are climate change and food scarcity in the list of national security threats?  Or is the United States returning to an era of isolationism? This roundtable will discuss the future of American foreign policy in a resource strained world from three perspectives: military and armed conflicts; diplomacy and international agreements; and non-governmental organizations and the role of the private sector.

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