Catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, which has displaced millions of persons over the last several weeks, submerged huge portions of the country, and crippled much of the nation’s infrastructure, is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis that requires an urgent international response. But it also may have national, regional and global security implications.
“Environmental stresses, when combined with the other socio-economic and political stresses on Pakistan, have the potential to further weaken an already weak Pakistani state,” the Congressional Research Service observed in a new report (pdf) this month. “Such a scenario would make it more difficult to achieve the U.S. goal of neutralizing anti-Western terrorists in Pakistan. Some analysts argue that disagreements over water could also exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan.”
The new CRS report “examines the potentially destabilizing effect that, when combined with Pakistan’s demographic trends and limited economic development, water scarcity, limited arable land, and food security may have on an already radicalized internal and destabilized international political-security environment.”
The CRS report does not come out and say so, but it points clearly to the conclusion that a U.S. foreign policy that gave greater emphasis to relief and reconstruction would have much to recommend it, even (or especially) from a national security point of view. See “Security and the Environment in Pakistan,” August 3, 2010.
As is often pointed out, Congress does not permit CRS to make its publications directly available to the general public.