Summary of key points – 5 articles


I need someone to read these 5 articles and summarize the main points in a document.

For example:

Source #1

– Point (page #)

– Point (page #)

– Point (page #)

Source #2

– point (page #)


Each article should have 8-10 supporting ideas or statements.

No need to rewrite in your own words – please copy the statement exactly as it appears in the article and note the page number!!

HIV, AIDS and security:
where are we now?
Over the course of the past three decades, HIV/AIDS has emerged as one of the
greatest single causes of death and suffering on the planet.1 The impact of the
disease has been felt not only in the lives, lifestyles and livelihoods of millions
of individuals and their families, but across whole societies as well. Over the last
decade in particular the societal impact of HIV/AIDS has been widely discussed in
terms of national and international security. The key moment in this development
was the UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting in January 2000, and its subsequent
passing of Resolution 1308. The Security Council’s intervention appeared to act
as a catalyst, changing the way in which the disease was thought about. It seemed
to establish a new consensus over the disease, raising its international profile and
enhancing the possibilities for action to combat its impact and further spread.
This article is partly a retrospective assessment of this securitizing move: ten
years after UNSCR 1308, what has changed? Between 2000 and 2005 there was a
widespread assumption, reflected both in the International Relations literature and
in statements by key policy-makers, that HIV/AIDS had become well established
as an international security issue. We suggest that in fact the strength of the international consensus over HIV/AIDS as a security issue tended to be overstated;
that within a few years that consensus seemed to have dissipated (not least in
the Security Council), and significant doubts had emerged over the evidence
for the supposed links between HIV and security. In other words, we suggest
that the securitizing move made by the UNSC in 2000 was at best only partially
successful. Although there are some examples of HIV/AIDS appearing to have
been framed as a security issue with possible policy implications, in other contexts
the move appears to have had limited effect. After examining the manner in which
this consensus was made and then broken we develop two arguments. First, we
suggest that while links between HIV/AIDS and security do exist, they are more
complex than was believed ten years ago. The fears articulated around the time of
the Security Council’s intervention—of militaries and conceivably whole states
This article was first presented as a plenary address to the annual conference of the (Australian) National Centre
for Biosecurity in February 2009. We are grateful to staff at the centre, and especially to Christian Enemark,
for their support in this. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research
Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme—Ideas Grant 230489 GHG. All
views expressed remain those of the authors.
For details, see UNAIDS, 2008 AIDS epidemic update (Geneva: UNAIDS/WHO, 2008).
International Affairs 86: 1 (2010) 225–245
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
collapsing under the burden of the disease, and of the inexorable spread of HIV
in areas of high conflict—were overstated; but there are risks, and they are still
present. Second, we examine the consequences of the attempt to securitize HIV/
AIDS and suggest that although there have been a number of positive developments over the last decade, many of these cannot be wholly explained by securitization. At the same time, the tendency of some actors to treat HIV/AIDS as a
security issue has created a number of new tensions.
Making a consensus: from Washington to New York
The idea that AIDS poses a potential threat to security has been around for a
sur­prisingly long time. As early as 1987—at which time only eleven sub-Saharan
African states had reported over 100 cases, and many of the states which now have
the highest prevalence levels had still reported under 100—a US Special National
Intelligence Estimate examined the implications of the AIDS pandemic for the
region in detail.2 While the report noted that much of the information about the
disease’s spread in Africa was at that stage ‘anecdotal or based on small medical
research programs lacking a strong epidemiological basis’,3 there were clear
concerns about the strategic and security implications of AIDS. Those concerns
focused on two issues. The first was the now common set of claims about the ways
in which AIDS threatens the security and stability of states: its disproportionate
effect on elites; the economic consequences of lost productivity, reduced tourism
and long-term demographic change; the implications for military capabilities; and the possibility of regional tensions being heightened by the reaction of
­neighbours to a state with high prevalence levels. The second issue, now absent
from the discourse around AIDS and security but reflective of the very different
times in which the report was produced, was the effort apparently under way
by the Soviet Union to use the pandemic to stir up anti-US sentiment in the
region by disseminating the idea that ‘the United States developed and caused the
spread of AIDS’ and ‘exploiting black African sensitivities to racism and so-called
Western imperialism’.4 For both these reasons, the report argued, US interests
were at stake.
During the 1990s the AIDS–security linkage began to become more pro­minent
in Washington policy circles, although some of those involved in pushing forward
the case have complained that the Clinton administration was somewhat slow
in the uptake.5 The argument was gaining ground nonetheless. A 1992 report
published by the Institute of Medicine did much to dramatize the threats posed to
the US by infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS.6 The same year a ­Department
Central Intelligence Agency, ‘Sub-Saharan Africa: implications of the AIDS pandemic’, SNIE 70/1-87 (1987,
approved for release May 2001).
CIA, ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’, p. 1.
CIA, ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’, p. 17.
Kenneth Brown, quoted in Barton Gellman, ‘The belated global response to AIDS in Africa’, Washington Post,
5 July 2000, p. A01.
Joshua Lederberg, Robert E. Shope and Stanley C. Oaks, Jr, eds, Emerging infections: microbial threats to health in
the United States (Washington DC: Institute of Medicine/National Academy Press, 1992).
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
of State memorandum entitled ‘The global AIDS disaster: implications for the
1990s’ described AIDS as a ‘time bomb’ with severe economic, political and
military ramifications.7 Two years later Laurie Garrett’s influential The coming
plague put forward similar arguments.8 In June 1996 a Presidential Decision Directive called for a greater degree of coordination in the US government’s response to
the security threats posed by infectious diseases. As part of this effort the National
Intelligence Council produced a National Intelligence Estimate on ‘The global
infectious disease threat and its implications for the United States’ (declassified in
2000). Although the report’s scope was wider than HIV/AIDS, that was one of
its key foci. Many of the claims that had appeared in the 1987 CIA report were
repeated, particularly the concerns about the impact on militaries (now seen to
include international peacekeeping forces), social cohesion and the potential for
conflict, and the possibility that ‘disease-related embargoes and restrictions on
travel and immigration will cause frictions among and between developed and
developing countries’.9
Reflecting these earlier discussions within the US, the Clinton administration
was behind the first major push to assert the claim that AIDS was a security threat
on the global stage. The key moment in this process came in January 2000 when,
under the US presidency of the UNSC and during a month-long focus on Africa,
the Council met to discuss the impact of AIDS on peace and security in Africa.
Richard Holbrooke, Clinton’s ambassador to the UN, played the central role in
getting the issue onto the Council’s agenda. Although Holbrooke has dated his
awareness of the security implications of AIDS back to a 1992 trip to Cambodia,10
the immediate precursor to the UNSC’s involvement was his visit to southern
Africa in December 1999. He then set about persuading key figures in the US
administration and in the UN that AIDS should be discussed by the Council. In
Washington he found a willing supporter in Al Gore, then Vice-President, who
personally presided over the first Council session on the issue. Within the UN there
was, initially at least, more scepticism. Gwyn Prins quotes Senator Russ Feingold’s
recollection of a telephone conversation between Holbrooke and Kofi Annan in
December 1999. Holbrooke demanded a Security Council session on HIV/AIDS.
‘We can’t do that,’ the Secretary-General reportedly replied; ‘AIDS isn’t a security
issue.’11 Steve Sternberg, the original source of the story, said that ‘the Security
Council meeting, held in January 2000, would change that notion forever’.12
Certainly Annan’s own view seems to have changed rapidly. On 10 January 2000,
less than a month after his sceptical telephone conversation with Holbrooke, the
Department of State, ‘The global AIDS disaster: implications for the 1990s’, Washington DC, 1992.
Laurie Garrett, The coming plague: newly emergent diseases in a world out of balance (New York: Farrar, Straus &
Giroux, 1994).
National Intelligence Council, ‘The global infectious disease threat and its implications for the United States’,
NIE 99-17D (1999, released Jan. 2000).
Richard Holbrooke, ‘Battling the AIDS pandemic’, Global Issues: An Electronic Journal of the US Department of
State 5: 2 ( July 2000), pp. 9-11.
Gwyn Prins, ‘AIDS and global security’, International Affairs 80: 5, Sept. 2004, p. 941. See also Harley Feldbaum,
‘The history of the HIV/AIDS–security nexus and its impact on global health’, PhD diss., London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2008, esp. ch. 5.
Steve Sternberg, ‘Former diplomat Holbrooke takes on global AIDS’, USA Today, 10 June 2002.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
Secretary-General told the Security Council that ‘it is entirely appropriate that the
Council should be devoting its first session [of the new millennium] to the problem
of AIDS’.13 Gore was even clearer in signalling the significance of the Council’s
initiative. In his opening address he thanked the members of the Council for
their willingness to greet the dawn of this new millennium by exploring a brand-new
definition of world security. Today marks the first time, after more than 4,000 meetings
stretching back more than half a century, that the Security Council will discuss a health
issue as a security threat. We tend to think of a threat to security in terms of war and
peace. Yet no one can doubt that the havoc wreaked and the toll exacted by HIV/AIDS do
threaten our security.14
Later in the same discussion Gore argued that
AIDS is not just a humanitarian crisis. It is a security crisis—because it threatens not
just individual citizens, but the very institutions that define and defend the character of
a society. This disease weakens workforces and saps economic strength. AIDS strikes at
teachers, and denies education to their students. It strikes at the military, and subverts the
forces of order and peacekeeping.15
Many of those issues were discussed again later that year when the Security Council
passed Resolution 1308, focusing on the threat HIV/AIDS posed to international
peace and security. The Resolution argued that that the HIV/AIDS pandemic, if
unchecked, ‘may pose a risk to stability and security’ and that its spread was ‘exacerbated by conditions of violence and insecurity’, and expressed particular concerns
over the risks to peacekeepers.16 The unanimous adoption of Resolution 1308
seemed to indicate a recognition (at least among the 15 members of the Council)
that AIDS constituted a security threat. Given the Security Council’s status within
the UN, and in world politics more broadly, its findings set the agenda for many of
the subsequent debates around HIV/AIDS as a national security issue. Its actions
in 2000 appeared to represent a powerful securitizing move, framing HIV/AIDS as
a threat to national and international security rather than as a ‘mere’ development
or public health problem. In doing so the UNSC could be seen to be acting as a
policy entrepreneur both within the UN system (for example, influencing actions
of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UNAIDS) and outside it (for
example, in the G8). The Council returned to the issue in 2001, 2003 and 2005.
Interest in HIV/AIDS as a national security problem continued in the wider UN
context too, in much of the work conducted by UNAIDS and the Department of
Peacekeeping Operations, while in December 2004 infectious disease (including
HIV/AIDS) was highlighted as a new ‘biosecurity’ threat by the High Level Panel
on Threats, Challenges and Change established by the Secretary General.17
S/PV.4087, 10 Jan. 2000, p. 4.
S/PV.4087, 10 Jan. 2000, p. 2.
Vice-President Al Gore, Statement in the Security Council on AIDS in Africa, 10 Jan. 2000, http://www., accessed 27 Jan. 2006; cited in Laurie Garrett, HIV and national security: where are the
links? (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2005), p. 14.
UNSC Resolution 1308, July 2000, p. 2,, accessed 12 Oct.
Report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, A more secure world: our shared responsibility
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
It is possible, then, to interpret the UNSC’s intervention as the critical move in
constructing an international consensus around HIV/AIDS as a national security
problem demanding international attention and action. This move rested on a
series of arguments which, expressed in various ways, became the orthodox set of
linkages to which scholars and policy-makers alike pointed in arguing for attention to be paid to the AIDS–security nexus, specifically:
that uniformed militaries (including peacekeepers) were especially vulnerable
to HIV and might act as agents in the spread of the disease (this argument was
based on some empirical evidence, but more importantly on the identification
of a range of risk factors specific to uniformed militaries);
that state stability was at risk in high prevalence areas: economies might be
devastated by the disease, while the social fabric of a nation could be ripped
that conflict (including the post-conflict phase) created significant risks for the
spread of HIV (there was some empirical evidence for this, and also a range of
readily identifiable risk factors).
HIV/AIDS was certainly moving rapidly up the agenda in the early 2000s, and a
plethora of new policy initiatives emerged. Within a few months of Resolution
1308 came the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (which explicitly
included HIV/AIDS); the General Assembly conducted a Special Session on HIV/
AIDS in June 2001; in 2002 the G8 established the Global Fund to Fight HIV/
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and in 2003 the Bush administration launched
the President’s Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), by far the largest
national initiative to combat the global effects of HIV/AIDS. The disease’s profile
was almost unprecedented for a health issue. There was a clear and widespread
sense of emergency and an almost universally recognized requirement for largescale and sustained global action.
In this context it was natural that in the first half of the decade the Security
Council’s actions, with Resolution 1308 serving as the formal expression of its
concern, were interpreted by many as a scene-changing intervention. Peter Piot,
the executive director of UNAIDS, saw it as a ‘milestone in the response to the
epidemic’.18 The AIDS–security linkage was seen in policy statements from major
western governments and UN agencies; in academic articles, including those
published by establishment outlets such as International Security and the International Institute for Strategic Studies; and in statements and reports from a range of
NGOs and civil society organizations. Many took the view that this new perspective created the potential to gain a much higher international profile (and as a
consequence greater resources) for the pandemic.19 Others, however, highlighted
(New York: United Nations, 2004), pp. 26–8,, accessed 12 Oct. 2005. See also
introductory comments by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, esp. para. 8.
S/PV.5228, 18 July 2005, p. 5.
e.g. Denis Altman, ‘AIDS and security’, International Relations 17: 4, 2003, pp. 417–27; P. W. Singer, ‘AIDS and
international security’, Survival 44: 1, 2002, pp. 145–58.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
the possible dangers of treating AIDS as a security issue.20 Either way, all agreed
that something really significant had happened.
Unmaking a consensus: doubts creep in
A decade on, the consensus that HIV/AIDS is a security issue (and that it ought to
be treated as such) seems somewhat less robust. First, it is now clear that the degree
of consensus was overstated from the beginning. There were doubts within the
Council from the outset over the adoption of Resolution 1308, and subsequent
actions both within and outside the Council have suggested that there is less than
universal agreement on the status of HIV/AIDS as a security issue. Second, there
has been a re-examination of the evidence underpinning the linkages identified
above. In many cases the evidence has been found wanting, or the connections
have turned out to be more complex than was originally supposed (an issue to
which we return in more detail in the following section). This uncertainty has in
turn further undermined what agreement there was initially.
On the face of it, the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1308 would appear to
be definitive evidence of a consensus (in the Council at least) on the major securitizing claims. Yet there is ample evidence to suggest that the Resolution was a
controversial one which the US had to steer skilfully through to adoption. Of
the permanent members, Russia, China and France were all initially opposed to
discussing HIV/AIDS in the Security Council, although they were ultimately
persuaded to support the Resolution.21 Even the UK—the one permanent
Council member that publicly backed the Resolution—had private qualms. In the
final days of negotiation over the wording of the Resolution the UK Foreign and
Commonwealth Office (FCO) was concerned about the danger of exceeding the
Security Council’s remit. A telegram from the FCO to the mission in New York on
13 July noted: ‘We remain concerned that the text as it stands does not obviously
fall within the Security Council’s competence. [text removed] . . . Nevertheless
you should continue to support the US by shortening and amending the text.’22 A
similar message was included in the following day’s telegram.23 We also know that
many of the countries that contribute most troops to UN peacekeeping operations were opposed to the Resolution. The UK mission’s report on the meeting
of 17 July at which Resolution 1308 was adopted notes: ‘Only four non-Council
­ e.g. Marcella David, ‘Rubber helmets: the certain pitfalls of marshaling Security Council resources to combat
AIDS in Africa’, Human Rights Quarterly 23: 0, 2001, pp. 560–82; Colleen O’Manique, ‘The “securitization” of
HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa: a critical feminist lens’, in Sandra J. MacLean, David R. Black and Timothy
M. Shaw, eds, A decade of human security: global governance and new multilateralisms (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006);
Stefan Elbe, ‘Should HIV/AIDS be securitized? The ethical dilemmas of linking HIV/AIDS and security’,
International Studies Quarterly 50: 1, March 2006, pp. 119–44.
Sternberg, ‘Former diplomat Holbrooke takes on global AIDS’; Prins, ‘AIDS and global security’, p. 941.
Telegram from the FCO to the UK mission to the UN in New York, 13 July 2000 (released to the authors
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000).
‘We remain concerned that the resolution does not obviously fall within the Security Council’s competence.
We agree, therefore, that the statement [in the Security Council session] should be as short as possible.’ Telegram from the FCO to the UK mission to the UN in New York, 14 July 200o (released to the authors under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000).
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
members spoke, perhaps reflecting the opposition of many troop contributors to
the resolution.’24
Despite these doubts, Holbrooke was successful in overcoming the opposition. As always, the US was able to exercise a large degree of influence over the
Council. In this case, however, it was aided by the performance of Dr Peter Piot,
the director of UNAIDS, who played an important and active role in the Council
meetings and in the attempts to securitize HIV/AIDS more generally.25 The US
effort was also helped, no doubt, by the special status of HIV/AIDS as a global
issue. Few states would wish to be seen to oppose action to combat it. Certainly no
state would want to bear the political costs of unilaterally blocking international
attempts to address the pandemic. The adoption of Resolution 1308 was not, then,
simply the result of universal agreement on the securitizing claims. Even in the
US case it has become clear that the desire to get AIDS onto the Security Council
agenda was not solely a foreign policy consideration motivated by concerns over
international security, but reflected a domestic agenda as well. US Vice-­President
Al Gore saw the need to bolster support among those concerned with HIV/
AIDS in the US prior to the November presidential election in which he was the
Democratic candidate and saw the Security Council’s discussions as a platform for
this. Moreover, Richard Holbrooke, who had aspirations to be Gore’s Secretary
of State, saw this as an opportunity to enhance his own reputation on the international stage.26
In subsequent years, and certainly since 2005, the Security Council seems to have
backed away from the AIDS issue. Although it was stated following Resolution
1308 that AIDS had become a ‘core issue’ for the Security Council,27 it now seems
to have dropped off the agenda entirely. The pattern established by the Council’s
2001, 2003 and 2005 meetings on HIV/AIDS has not continued and there has been
no formal Council discussion of HIV/AIDS since 2005. It may be that the Council
felt that it had already achieved its goal of highlighting the scale of the problem
and addressing the specific issue relating to UN peacekeeping personnel. Yet the
jettisoning of HIV from the Council agenda, coupled with a context in which the
pandemic in Africa was getting no better,28 sends out some very awkward signals
for proponents of the security discourse. Wallensteen and Johansson have noted
that at the turn of the millennium the Security Council had begun to see ‘security’
in a wider context, resulting in ‘thematic Resolutions’ not only on HIV/AIDS but
also on other issues such as women and children. But, they go on to argue, this
trend virtually disappeared as a result of the increased focus on terrorism (and the
Telegram from the UK mission to the UN in New York to the FCO, 17 July 2000 (released to the authors
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000).
Alan Ingram, ‘HIV/AIDS, security and US strategic interests in Nigeria’, Review of International Political
­Economy 14: 2, 2007, p. 515.
See Feldbaum, ‘The history of the HIV/AIDS–security nexus’, ch. 5. We are grateful to Harley Feldbaum for
discussing this point further with us.
UNAIDS, ‘AIDS now core issue at UN Security Council’, press release, 19 Jan. 2001.
It was only in the 2008 UNAIDS report on the global pandemic that for the first time indications of stabilization were apparent in some African countries, though this was far from universally the case: UNAIDS, 2008
AIDS epidemic update.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
resulting return to more ‘traditional’ security concerns) which followed the events
of 11 September 2001.29 If this is so—and the record of Council Resolutions since
2001 seems to support the claim—it may be that HIV/AIDS became the subject
of a Security Council Resolution not only due to the agency of Holbrooke and
others but also because it happened to arise during a window of opportunity. The
year 2000 offered perhaps uniquely fertile soil for attempts to frame AIDS as a
security issue.
Away from the Council, the signs of universal agreement on the securitizing
claims were scarcely more convincing. It is certainly the case that the security
dimensions of HIV/AIDS have been a feature of policy statements from a variety
of different sources, including states and multilateral bodies such as UNAIDS,
the Global Fund and the G8. Yet it is questionable how many governments and
agencies actually see and respond to the pandemic primarily in security terms. As
we argue in the final section of this article, security seems to have been only one
of the motivations for the proliferation of global initiatives to tackle the AIDS
problem. In many ways it appears to be less significant than others, perhaps most
notably international development. Comparisons of the approaches taken by the
US (the prime instigator of securitization) and other states certainly suggest that
security is not in all cases the dominant frame.30
The fragile agreement over HIV/AIDS as a security issue was further undermined by a second set of developments: namely, concerns over the empirical
evidence supporting the claims. As seen above, HIV/AIDS was first identified as
a security threat by the policy community, in particular by intelligence agencies
such as the CIA. In some cases, most notably the CIA report of 1987, the evidence
on which the purported links were based was recognized by the authors themselves
as being incomplete. By the middle of the decade that had begun with the high
points of a Security Council discussion and Resolution 1308, doubts were beginning to be expressed in the academic community, not least by Tony Barnett of
the LSE and Alex de Waal of Harvard, over the evidence supporting these claims.
In an influential 2005 report to UNAIDS, circulated to members of the Security
Council, Barnett and Gwyn Prins argued that: ‘Since the passage of Resolution
1308, year-on-year there has been an increasing flow of publication [sic] on the
subject of AIDS and security … this is largely a literature of “inverted triangles”
… balanced on narrow footings in terms of high quality hard evidence.’31 For
Barnett and Prins, however, it was not simply the thin basis of evidence available,
but the nature of that evidence and the way it had been used which were problematic. In particular they criticized the widespread use of ‘factoids’ in the literature
on HIV and security:
Peter Wallensteen and Patrik Johansson, ‘Security Council decisions in perspective’, in David M. Malone, ed.,
The UN Security Council: from the Cold War to the 21st century (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2004).
e.g. Alan Ingram, ‘Global leadership and global health: contending meta-narratives, divergent responses, fatal
consequences’, International Relations 19: 4, 2005, pp. 381–402.
Tony Barnett and Gwyn Prins, HIV/AIDS and security: fact, fiction and evidence, report to UNAIDS, 2005, p.
7,, accessed 8 Oct. 2009. A version of the report was also published (London:
LSEAIDS, 2005).
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
‘Factoids’ are the intellectual viruses of quick and dirty synthetic studies. They are soft
opinions that have hardened into ‘fact’. The term describes pieces of data that look credible
at first glance but which are insecurely grounded in evidence. They achieve this status as a
result of a form of pyramid selling by recycling through publications, grey literature and
reports of meetings.32
It may well be that the Barnett and Prins report bolstered the resolve of those who
were opposed to the issue being on the Council agenda in the first place, but at the
very least it posed awkward questions over the strength of the case made.
Barnett’s work then moved on to focus on the issue of HIV and state fragility.
In a series of papers in the second half of the decade he developed a powerful
critique of the link, suggesting that there was no direct relationship between high
levels of HIV and state fragility.33 Meanwhile, in 2005 Alex de Waal presented a
paper on ‘HIV/AIDS and the military’ to a seminar organized by the Netherlands
Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague. In this
he argued that the ‘received wisdom’ concerning high HIV levels in the military
required greater scrutiny.34 De Waal’s scepticism was developed more fully the
next year in an article he wrote with Alan Whiteside and Tsadkan Gebre-Tensae.
Their conclusion was that ‘the oft-cited claim that soldiers have prevalence rates
two to five times higher than the civilian population is unsustainable and should
no longer be cited …[and] there is remarkably little good evidence for conflict
accelerating the spread of HIV/AIDS’.35 In the AIDS and security field, however,
de Waal is perhaps best known for his leading role in the AIDS, Security and
Conflict Initiative (ASCI).36 As lead author of its concluding 2009 report, de Waal
brings together a wide range of fieldwork, new data and reports commissioned
by ASCI to criticize the generalized assumptions of the early years of the decade:
‘The agenda has moved from the general to the specific . . . earlier more alarmist
relationships that were assumed to exist between national-level state security and
HIV and AIDS are not borne out by the evidence.’37
De Waal is careful not to dismiss the link entirely, however, instead arguing for an
‘intermediary [level of analysis] between macro-level assumptions and micro-level
behavioural and biomedical approaches’.38 Local government structures, which are
often primarily responsible for directly delivering services to the population, may
be more immediately affected than national governments by HIV/AIDS. Work on
the case of South Africa, for example, has suggested that the ‘hollowing out’ of
Barnett and Prins, HIV/AIDS and security, p. 7. It should be noted, however, that at least one of the major case
studies used by Barnett and Prins to exemplify this phenomenon has subsequently been shown to have a rather
more robust footing in the evidence than they find.
Tony Barnett and Indranil Dutta, HIV and state failure: is HIV a security risk? (2007), http://asci.researchhub.ssrc.
org/hiv-and-state-failure-is-hiv-a-security-risk/resource_view, accessed 11 Nov. 2009.
Alex de Waal, ‘HIV/AIDS and the military’, background paper to expert seminar and policy conference,
‘AIDS, security and democracy’, Clingendael Institute, The Hague, 2–4 May 2005.
Alan Whiteside, Alex de Waal and Tsadkan Gebre-Tensae, ‘AIDS, security and the military in Africa: a sober
appraisal’, African Affairs 105: 409, 2006, p. 216.
For details on ASCI, see, accessed 11 Nov. 2009.
ASCI, HIV/AIDS, security and conflict: new realities, new responses, p. 12,
asci-hub, accessed 11 Nov. 2009.
ASCI, HIV/AIDS, security and conflict, p. 12.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
government capacity is starting to be felt in local municipalities.39 Yet this insight
has not to date been widely reflected in the debates over the securitization of AIDS
in either the policy or academic communities, both of which have tended to focus
on national governments as crucial to the stability of states.
It is clear that the second half of the decade was marked by much more uncertainty over HIV/AIDS as a security issue. The apparent consensus over many
of the claims which underpinned securitization has come under strain both in
academia and in the policy world. What was originally seen as the securitization
of HIV/AIDS now appears more as a securitizing move which has been at best
only partially successful.
Building a new consensus: recognizing complexity
We suggest that the picture emerging is not one of there being no link between
HIV/AIDS and security, but rather one indicating that we require a more nuanced
understanding of this link. Moreover, we argue that the initial fears expressed over
the security consequences of high HIV prevalence rates were overstated and not
applicable in all circumstances. Again, what is needed is a better understanding,
this time of the circumstances under which HIV can impact on national security.
One of the most important reasons why the relationship between HIV and
security is difficult to understand is that it is complex. This should have come as no
surprise, since HIV generates not one but many epidemics, its impacts manifesting
in diverse ways across different cultures and societies.40 Whereas much of the literature on HIV and security in the early part of the decade portrayed the epidemic
as one event encompassed by a single, grand narrative, the reality appears considerably more diverse with regard both to the nature of the epidemic and, more
especially, to its social consequences. It is only more recently that the complexity
in the relationship between HIV and security has been addressed. To illustrate
this we re-examine the three key linkages raised earlier in this article as central to
linking HIV and security: prevalence rates in the uniformed services (including
peacekeepers); the impact of high prevalence rates on state stability; and the link
between conflict and the spread of HIV.
Prevalence rates in armed services
At the time of UNSCR 1308 in 2000, it was accepted wisdom that the HIV prevalence rate within militaries in sub-Saharan Africa was between two and five times the
rate of civilian populations, and that this disproportionate vulnerability impacted
(or had the potential to impact) upon their operational capacity, thereby making
HIV/AIDS a national security issue.41 In 2005, however, UNAIDS admitted that
Kondwani Chirambo and Justin Steyn, ‘AIDS and local government in South Africa: examining the impact of
an epidemic on ward councillors’, ASCI Research Report 25, Feb. 2009.
In 2006, for example, Whiteside et al. identified five different types of HIV epidemic, each of which had
different implications for prevalence rates in the military: Whiteside et al., ‘AIDS, security and the military in
Africa’, p. 208.
For example, UNAIDS, Technical update: AIDS and the military, May 1998 (Geneva and New York, 1998);
UNAIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention and care among armed forces and UN peacekeepers: the case of Eritrea (Geneva and
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
‘little reliable information is available on levels of HIV infection among uniformed
services. Few countries conduct systematic screening and public health surveillance systems are often weak.’42 Nevertheless, in 2006 UNAIDS again repeated
its belief that militaries ‘are at risk of contracting HIV, and that AIDS impacts
on their effectiveness’.43 The claim that ‘among male population groups, military
and police report the highest risk behaviour and number of partners’ and that this
‘can seriously affect military readiness’ remains present on its website to this day.44
Serious questions have been asked over the origins and generality of this assertion. The widely cited figure of prevalence two to five times as high as that of
civilian populations appears to have originated in a single study from the early
1990s. As Whiteside and colleagues argue, ‘While there was some evidence for
this (with respect to HIV) in the early 1990s . . . it was uncritically accepted and
repeated and is in fact demonstrably incorrect today [2006].’45 Although there are
reasons why prevalence rates in armed forces might be higher than in the civilian
population, equally there were interventions available to the military which could
reduce risk by raising awareness.46 Depending on the success of these interventions, prevalence rates might vary considerably. Nor is a straightforward comparison between the adult civilian population and the armed forces satisfactory: age
profile, location and socio-economic status are all potentially significant variables
in terms of risk of infection, and militaries are generally not representative of the
general population by any of these measures.47 Crucially, however, prevalence in
the armed forces appears now to depend on a variety of factors including demography, structure, recruitment patterns, military ethos and training, delivery of
awareness programmes and access to condoms, alcohol and drug abuse, and the
stage and nature of the epidemic.48
Moreover, even if HIV were more prevalent in a country’s armed forces, the
impact upon their operational effectiveness would vary depending on factors such
as the availability of replacements, discipline, and the significance of other security
forces (including police and private security companies) in a given emergency.
Nor is it apparent that the weakness of a state’s armed forces is a causal agent in
either internal or external aggression. It appears far more likely to be a contributory factor, and even then secrecy over combat readiness and HIV prevalence
New York, 2003), p. 8; National Intelligence Council, ‘The global infectious disease threat’; Lindy Heinecken,
‘Facing a merciless enemy: HIV/AIDS and the South African armed forces’, Armed Forces and Society 29: 2, 2003,
p. 784; Robert L. Ostergard Jr, ‘Politics in the hot zone: AIDS and national security in Africa’, Third World
Quarterly 23: 2, 2002, p. 343; International Crisis Group, HIV/AIDS as a security issue (Brussels, 2001), pp. 9–13, ii.
UNAIDS, On the front line, 3rd edn (Geneva, 2005), p. 11.
UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board, AIDS, security and humanitarian response, UNAIDS/PCB(19)/06.7
(2006), p. 9.
UNAIDS, ‘Security and humanitarian response to AIDS’,
SecurityHumanitarianResponse/default.asp, accessed 13 Nov. 2009.
Whiteside et al., ‘AIDS, security and the military in Africa’, p. 202.
See Colin McInnes, ‘HIV/AIDS and national security’, in Nana K. Poku, Alan Whiteside and Bjorg Sandkjaer,
eds, AIDS and governance (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), pp. 93–114, and ‘HIV/AIDS and security’, International
Affairs 82: 2, March 2006, pp. 315–26.
For example, HIV is far more prevalent in young adults, which is the age range for the majority of the armed
forces, than in the adult population as a whole: ASCI, HIV/AIDS, security and conflict, p. 34.
ASCI, HIV/AIDS, security and conflict, p. 33.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
may limit the impression of weakness.49 What these reflections suggest is that
uniformed services (including peacekeepers) may be at greater risk of infection
under certain circumstances, and that a high prevalence of HIV in the security
forces may contribute to national security problems, but that both these possibilities are dependent on a wide range of variables, and the simple causal relationship
suggested at the beginning of the decade does not accurately reflect the reality.
HIV and state stability
In his address to the UNSC’s January 2000 session on HIV/AIDS, UN SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan argued that ‘AIDS is causing socio-economic crises which
in turn threaten political stability’.50 The effects of the disease on economies and
on governance were frequently highlighted by the UN and other commentators
as potentially destabilizing. For these commentators, economic decline due to
high HIV prevalence may increase income inequalities and poverty, exacerbating
or creating social and political unrest. Equally worrying was the unusually high
prevalence of HIV among skilled professionals, including civil servants, teachers,
police and health workers, which threatened to undermine the institutions that
make a state run effectively.51
Although it was perhaps understandable that a link was drawn between high
prevalence and state instability in the early years of the decade—after all, state
failure had been an international motif of the 1990s zeitgeist, and a set of risk
factors were clearly identifiable—this link was clearly speculative since there had
at that time been no example of a state failing as a result of high HIV prevalence.
Ten years on, there is still none. Indeed, there is a noticeable lack of a correlation between those states with the highest levels of HIV in Africa and those that
are most fragile.52 Although Laurie Garrett has pointed out that the extended
event horizon of the disease means that the full social and economic impact may
be seen in decades, not months or years,53 with the epidemic well into its third
decade in Africa there seems to be little sign yet of states failing because of HIV.
One of the major findings of the ASCI project was that there was no direct causal
linkage between HIV and state fragility. Indeed, it was argued that the use of the
concept ‘state fragility’ may actually undermine the effectiveness of ­international
De Waal, ‘HIV/AIDS and the military’, p. 4. See also McInnes, ‘HIV/AIDS and national security’, pp. 98–101.
UNSC press release SC/6781, p. 1. See also Lee-Nah Hsu, ‘HIV subverts national security’, report from United
Nations Development Programme, South-East Asia HIV and Development Project, Aug. 2001, p. 5.
See e.g. UN Secretariat, The impact of AIDS, report by the Population Division, Department of Economic and
Social Affairs, 2 Sept. 2003 (New York: United Nations, 2003), pp. xiii, xiv, chs 4, 8; ICG, HIV/AIDS as a
security issue, pp. 9–13; Ostergard, ‘Politics in the hot zone’, p. 344; S. Verstegen, ‘HIV/AIDS: waking up to the
challenge’, working document prepared by Conflict Research Unit, Clingendael Institute, for the Netherlands
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Special Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, March 2005, pp. 14–15; Mark Schneider and
Michael Moodie, The destabilising impact of HIV/AIDS (Washington DC: Center for Strategic and International
Studies, 2002), pp. 5–6. For an extensive review of the literature on the economic impact of HIV/AIDS, see
Vinh-Kim Nguyen and Katherine Stovel, ‘The social science of HIV/AIDS: a critical review and priorities for
action’, report prepared by the Social Science Research Council Working Group on HIV/AIDS, Oct. 2004,
pp. 22–38.
ASCI, HIV/AIDS, security and conflict, p. 27, table 2.1.
Garrett, HIV and national security, p. 21.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
responses: ‘fragile states’ are not all fragile in the same way, or for the same reasons.
Attempts to address HIV/AIDS must therefore recognize this diversity.54
Yet clearly high HIV prevalence creates the potential for negative economic and
social impacts in some of the weakest states on earth. How, then, can we explain the
apparent absence of a link between HIV and state failure? UNAIDS has suggested
that the link is indirect, combining with or exacerbating other factors more
obviously associated with state instability,55 while in their Jaipur paradigm Barnett
and Whiteside offer a more subtle understanding of the link, suggesting that it is
only if such states also have both low social cohesion and high levels of poverty/
unequal distribution of wealth that they may be at high risk of instability.56 Other
factors may also explain the poor correlation. These include the ability of states or
the international community to respond, not least through aid or the provision of
anti-retroviral therapies (ARTs); the possibility that the effects of HIV may be felt
at the local or community level, where failure is not usually considered in measures
of state stability; the tendency not to include unpaid costs of labour (especially
that of women and children) in macroeconomic analyses of state performance;
and the focus of state failure indices on short- to medium-term changes, not longterm ones.57 In 2006 Whiteside and colleagues concluded that: ‘The HIV/AIDS
epidemic erodes institutional capacity, creates poverty and despair and intensifies
dependence on international aid. These are all serious pressures which jeopardize
the development of sound democratic governance and can intensify crisis.’58 What
has become apparent is that we do not fully understand whether and how this can
lead to state failure.
Conflict and the spread of HIV
As Stefan Elbe wrote in 2002, ‘armed conflicts and their participants constitute an
important vector of HIV/AIDS, a virus responsible for killing more than ten times
as many people in Africa as the conflicts themselves’.60 Similarly, a US Institute for
Peace report baldly stated that ‘no one denies the role of conflict in the spread of
the virus’.61 Perhaps the most significant contribution on this point, however, was
Tony Barnett, ‘HIV/AIDS and state fragility’, ASCI synthesis paper, 2009,
working-papers/ASCI%20Synthesis%20Paper%20State%20Fragility.pdf, accessed 11 Nov. 2009.
e.g. UNAIDS, AIDS, security and humanitarian response, p. 8.
Tony Barnett and Alan Whiteside, ‘The Jaipur paradigm: a conceptual framework for understanding social
susceptibility and vulnerability to HIV’, South African Medical Journal 90: 0, 2000, pp. 1098–101.
See e.g. ASCI, HIV/AIDS, security and conflict, pp. 24–7.
Whiteside et al., ‘AIDS, security and the military in Africa’, p. 216.
Our understanding of conflict here includes the post-conflict phase, where violence or the potential for
violence still exists and reconstruction efforts have yet to return a state to ‘normality’.
Stefan Elbe, ‘HIV/AIDS and the changing landscape of war in Africa’, International Security 27: 2, 2002, p. 174.
See also e.g. Duane Bratt, ‘Blue condoms: the use of international peacekeepers in the fight against AIDS’, International Peacekeeping 9: 3, 2002, p. 72; Jeff Gow, ‘The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa: implications for US policy’,
Health Affairs 21: 3, 2002, p. 65; Nancy B. Mock, Samba Duale, Lisanne F. Brown, Ellen Mathys, Heather C.
O’Maonaigh, Nina K. L. Abul-Husn and Sterling Elliott, ‘Conflict and HIV: a framework for risk assessment
to prevent HIV in conflict-affected settings in Africa’, Emerging themes in epidemiology 1: 6, 2004, available open
access from BioMed Central. Subsequent page references to Mock et al. are from the open access version.
Timothy Docking, ‘AIDS and violent conflict in Africa’, USIP Special Report 75,,
accessed 11 Nov. 2009, p. 7.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
the endorsement of the UN and especially the Security Council. In the preamble
to Resolution 1308, the Security Council argued that the spread of HIV was
‘exacerbated by conditions of violence and insecurity’.62 Evidence for this link
originated from several years earlier. In particular, the first major epidemic of HIV
and AIDS, in Uganda, coincided with the invasion of that country.63 More general
conclusions were drawn from sub-Saharan Africa being an area of high instability
and conflict during the 1970s and 1980s when HIV began to spread.64 Reasons
offered for this link included high HIV prevalence among uniformed services,
which come into greater contact with civilian populations during conflict; human
migration to avoid conflict and returning after conflict; changes in sexual behaviour, especially increased sexual violence towards women; the impact of conflict
upon health provision; and risks which emerge after conflict, especially with
regard to peacekeepers and human mobility.65
By the middle years of the current decade, however, further research suggested
that the links were more complex than first imagined.66 In some long conflicts
little change in HIV prevalence was evident, while in others prevalence actually
declined, suggesting that conflict might in some circumstances act as a brake
on the spread of the disease. Not least, if conflict isolated a region and reduced
the ability of people to move freely, then this directly affects one of the most
significant vectors for the spread of the disease—human mobility. The case of
Angola appeared particularly interesting in this respect. UNAIDS commented
that ‘largely due to the internal armed conflict, the Angolan HIV prevalence
appears considerably lower than in neighbouring countries. This suggests that the
restricted mobility as a result of the conflict may have slowed the spread of HIV
in the country.’67 Similarly, in Burundi prevalence rates in the capital actually fell
during the period of conflict.68 Initially such cases could be presented as exceptions, but as more evidence emerged of lower HIV rates in conflicts, so the picture
became stronger.69 In a major article in 2007, Paul Spiegel (the senior HIV officer
at UNHCR) and colleagues argued that
there is insufficient evidence that HIV transmission increases in populations affected by
conflict. Furthermore, there are insufficient data to conclude that refugees fleeing conflict
have a higher prevalence of HIV infection than do their surrounding host communities …
UNSC Resolution 1308.
Paul B. Spiegel, Anne Rygaard Bennedsen, Johanna Claas, Lauire Bruns, Njogu Patterson, Dieudonne Yiweza
and Marian Schilperoord, ‘Prevalence of HIV infection in conflict-affected and displaced people in seven subSaharan African countries’, The Lancet, no. 369, June 2007, p. 2191.
e.g. Spiegel et al., ‘Prevalence of HIV infection’, p. 2187; Gow, ‘The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa’, p. 65.
For a fuller discussion, see Colin McInnes, ‘Conflict, HIV and AIDS: a new dynamic in warfare?’, Global
Change, Peace and Security 21: 1, Feb. 2009, pp. 99–114.
See e.g. Paul B. Spiegel, ‘HIV/AIDS among conflict-affected and displaced populations: dispelling myths and
taking action’, Disasters 28, Sept. 2004, p. 323.
UNAIDS, On the front line, p. 26. See also UNAIDS, Special report on HIV prevalence—AIDS epidemic update:
December 2005 (Geneva: UNAIDS/WHO, 2005), p. 24.
Spiegel et al., ‘Prevalence of HIV infection’, p. 2192.
In 2005, for example, Alex de Waal argued that the evidence from other African conflicts (Sierra Leone, Sudan,
Somalia, Uganda, northern Ethiopia and ‘even’ the DRC) was suggesting that, far from conflict spreading
HIV, with a number of exceptions the reverse might actually prove to be the norm: de Waal, ‘HIV/AIDS and
the military’, p. 8.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
past assumptions that conflict and displacement increase prevalence of HIV infection were
made from a few surveys, some of questionable quality and others with biased interpretation of results.70
Nevertheless, even Spiegel and his colleagues were unwilling to deny a possible link
between conflict and HIV: ‘Displaced populations and those affected by conflict
are clearly at risk of HIV transmission. Furthermore, to expect that incidence of
HIV infection will be high in survivors of conflict and rape is understandable.’71
The work of Spiegel and others suggested that the link between conflict and the
spread of HIV was not straightforward.72 In particular, the reasons commonly
offered for this link had begun to appear rather more nuanced and subject to
variables than was originally believed,73 while the empirical evidence was highly
varied: in some conflicts prevalence increased, but in others it remained the same
or even dropped. Conflict did not automatically lead to increased prevalence but
was more accurately seen as a risk factor for the spread of HIV. The relationship
was not straightforward but complex, and what was lacking was an explanation
of when and how this risk factor translated into increased HIV prevalence. Just as
HIV epidemics vary between different countries, so do conflicts. The extent to
which conflict is a vector for HIV depends on the specificities of both the conflict
and the epidemic in that state. This level of nuance was missing from the claims
that were being made ten years ago, and was missing from Resolution 1308.
The mixed effects of securitizing HIV/AIDS
The above discussion suggests that the relationship between HV/AIDS and
national security is more complex than was originally suspected. This section
examines the effect of the (partial) securitization on policy responses and discusses
how securitizing HIV/AIDS may create new tensions. The desire to affect policy
responses was central to the securitizing move. Presenting HIV as a security issue
was not simply a recognition of the dangers the epidemic posed for societies; it
was also a deliberate attempt to change the way in which the disease was thought
about, leading to different possibilities for action. Gwyn Prins, for example, has
argued that the prime mover behind the Security Council’s discussion of HIV
in January 2000, the US permanent representative Richard Holbrooke, was
motivated by a realization that traditional approaches to disease rooted in medical
and development paradigms were not working. By reframing HIV as a security
issue, Holbrooke hoped to gain greater political attention and resources to combat
the disease. Holbrooke was not alone at the time in seeing advantages in linking
health to foreign and security policy.74
Spiegel et al.‚ ‘Prevalence of HIV infection’ pp. 2192–3.
Spiegel et al.‚ ‘Prevalence of HIV infection’, p. 2193.
See e.g. Nguyen and Stovel, ‘The social science of HIV/AIDS’, p. 12; Mock et al., ‘Conflict and HIV’, pp. 2–3.
For a discussion of this see McInnes, ‘Conflict, HIV and AIDS’.
Prominent examples from the health community include Gro Harlem Brundtland (director of the WHO),
John Wyn Owen (secretary of the UK health charity the Nuffield Trust) and Ken Shine (president of the US
Institute of Medicine).
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs

Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
Yet the benefits of securitizing health in general and HIV in particular now
appear more complex and nuanced, and a number of potential downsides have
been highlighted.75 Securitizing HIV creates three particular areas of tension. The
first concerns ethics and the extent to which the rights of the individual should
be given priority over the rights and interests of society. Securitizing HIV does
something special here. In making HIV a security issue, a claim is being made
that it is outside the realm of normal politics; and that, as an extreme event, it
warrants extreme response measures, such as the suspension of certain civil liberties.76 So the tension created is between the costs in terms of suspending rights and
the benefits in terms of the public good; and it is tightest over issues such as the
mandatory testing of security forces for HIV. Second, securitizing HIV may help
to secure greater attention and resources, but the question is whether in so doing it
changes the priorities for resource allocation, away from those in need and towards
political benefits. Third, while considerable progress has been made in terms of
how HIV and AIDS are perceived, in particular with regard to the stigmatization of people living with HIV or AIDS, securitizing HIV might run the risk of
creating a new form of stigma: namely, that those living with the disease are not
only health risks but security risks as well. In considering the extent to which
security-based logics have come to underpin national and international responses
to HIV/AIDS, it is important to be vigilant for signs that these potential problems
are becoming apparent.77
However, any assessment of claims about the extent to which links between
HIV and security have influenced such developments is hampered by the problem
of tracing causation: what is being asked is not what has changed, but what has
changed because of securitization as opposed to other possible causes. Given the
difficulties in evidencing the independent effects of securitization, assessments of
the security frame’s contribution to global responses to HIV and AIDS are necessarily somewhat impressionistic. Nevertheless, here we briefly examine the impact
of the AIDS–security linkage on national and global responses, and highlight some
of the areas in which tensions have arisen.
As has been shown above, it was within US intelligence and security communities that the impetus to securitize AIDS first developed. It is no surprise,
therefore, to find that it is within the US that security-based thinking has had
the greatest policy purchase. A number of scholars have examined exactly how
securitization has affected US policy approaches to HIV/AIDS and have argued
that security concerns have been represented in PEPFAR, the centrepiece of US
efforts to address AIDS.78 Alan Ingram has described how the National Intelligence Council’s concerns about the impact of AIDS in ‘next wave’ states combined
with a number of other factors (including criticisms of the lack of US action on
See e.g. Elbe, ‘Should HIV/AIDS be securitized?’.
See e.g. Elbe, ‘Should HIV be securitized?’.
Global Health Watch, ‘Security and health’, in Global Health Watch 2: An alternative health report (London: Zed,
e.g. Ricardo Pereira, ‘PEPFAR as counterinsurgency technology: project, implementation, subversion’, paper
presented at the World Congress of Political Science, Santiago, Chile, 12–16 July 2009.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
international development and lobbying by evangelical Christian groups and black
congressional groups) to motivate President Bush’s launching of PEPFAR.79 A
Council on Foreign Relations report argued that the linking of AIDS and security
was crucial in building bipartisan support in Congress for PEPFAR, a foreign aid
package of unprecedented size.80 Indeed, the perceived benefits to US strategic
interests are behind at least some of the backing PEPFAR continues to receive in
Congress. During the Senate’s debate on the reauthorization of PEPFAR in 2008
Senator Richard Lugar stated:
We should understand that our investments in disease prevention programs have yielded
enormous foreign policy benefits during the last five years. PEPFAR has helped to prevent
instability and societal collapse in a number of at-risk countries; it has stimulated contributions from other wealthy nations to fight AIDS; it has facilitated deep partnerships with
a new generation of African leaders; and it has improved attitudes toward the United
States in Africa and other regions. In my judgment, the dollars spent on this program
can be justified purely on the basis of the humanitarian results that we have achieved. But
the value of this investment clearly extends to our national security and to our national
There is evidence, however, that securitization has not only bolstered overall
support for PEPFAR, but also affected the way in which money is spent. Ingram
notes in his examination of PEPFAR in Nigeria that the Department of Defense
plays a major implementation role through its work in support of the Nigerian
military. For Ingram, this is an example of a broader trend in US policy in which
militaries have come to be seen as ‘strategic points at which to intervene against
the pandemic while promoting security interests across the spectrum of national,
international, global and human concerns’.82 This is clearly reflected in the justification of the Department of Defense’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP)
which involves collaborating with other countries to combat HIV/AIDS among
their militaries on the basis that doing so ‘has clear ties to security interests, regional
stability, humanitarian concerns, and peacekeeping efforts’.83
The involvement of the US military in efforts to combat HIV/AIDS has not
been limited to its work with other national militaries. It has also brought potentially significant advances in other (perhaps less obvious) ways, and in some cases
these may have wider benefits. One example is vaccine research under the Department of Defense’s US Military HIV Research Program.84 This work captured
global media attention when, in September 2009, results of a clinical trial backed
by the US Army (but based in Thailand) of a prime-boost HIV vaccine regimen
were released which suggested that the tested regimen was ‘modestly effective at
Ingram, ‘HIV/AIDS, security and US strategic interests in Nigeria’, pp. 523–4.
Council on Foreign Relations, More than humanitarianism: a strategic US approach toward Africa, Independent Task
Force Report 56 (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2006), p. 65.
Sen. Richard Lugar, ‘Senate floor speech highlights humanitarian duty to reauthorize PEPFAR’, 14 July 2008,, accessed 20 Nov. 2009.
Ingram, ‘HIV/AIDS, security and US strategic interests in Nigeria’, p. 525.
US Africa Command, ‘HIV/AIDS prevention program fact sheet’, May 2009,
asp?art=3589, accessed 20 Nov. 2009., accessed 20 Nov. 2009.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
reducing the rate of HIV infection’.85 The US Army Surgeon-General’s statement
on the trial was striking, and highlighted some of the tensions that can arise when
AIDS policy is linked to security policy. He said: ‘The Army will continue to be an
aggressive sponsor and is committed to developing a globally effective HIV vaccine
to protect US and allied troops from infection and to support the US National
Security Strategy by reducing the global impact of the disease.’86 Others have
found that the targeting of US policy has been affected by geopolitical concerns in
other ways. Denis Altman has explained Vietnam’s inclusion as a PEPFAR ‘focus
country’ as ‘part of a larger American détente with a former enemy’.87 While in
some ways distinct from a direct concern with national security, this example does
suggest that wider foreign policy interests at least play a part in determining where
PEPFAR money is spent.
In the US, then, where over the last two decades HIV/AIDS has become
deeply embedded as a security issue, there is evidence of securitization having a
genuine impact on policy. The key security institutions (such as the Department of
Defense, the CIA and the National Intelligence Council) recognize AIDS as being
within their remit, and are taking steps to address it. Yet there has been little work
demonstrating a comparable impact on the policies adopted by other countries,
whose security policy institutions do not appear to have seized on the issue to the
same extent. In the UK, for example, addressing the global problem of HIV/AIDS
falls clearly within the mandate of the Department for International Development
(DFID) rather than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Ministry of
Defence. Indeed, the UK has created ‘institutional and legal firewalls’ to prevent
security policy concerns from affecting DFID’s work.88
What about those countries that find their own security potentially at risk as
a result of high HIV prevalence levels? Some states, as we have seen, have implemented programmes (often with support from the US Department of Defense)
to limit the impact of HIV/AIDS on their militaries. But not all have taken the
decisive action that might be expected of them: even some states that have a prima
facie reason to be concerned about the security implications of HIV/AIDS have
not made concerted efforts to address it. This includes some of the so-called ‘next
wave’ states, such as Russia and China, which have been of considerable concern to
the US security community.89 Feshbach has argued in the case of Russia that HIV/
AIDS is having some impact on the state, in particular its military forces, albeit
only as a contributory factor alongside larger problems of demographic trends and
Supachai Rerks-Ngarm et al., ‘Vaccination with ALVAC and AIDSVAX to prevent HIV-1 infection in Thailand’, New England Journal of Medicine 10: 1056, 20 Oct. 2009, pp. 1–12. The statistical significance of the results
was later called into question. Jon Cohen, ‘Unrevealed analysis weakens claim of AIDS vaccine “success”’,
Science, 5 Oct. 2009.
Lt-Gen. Eric Schoomaker, quoted in Tiffany Holloway, ‘US Army sponsors first HIV vaccine trial to show
some effectiveness in preventing HIV’, 24 Sept. 2009,, accessed 25 Sept. 2009.
Denis Altman, ‘The political dimensions of responses to HIV/AIDS in Southeast Asia’, ASCI Research Report
5, April 2008, p. 11.
Ingram, ‘Global leadership and global health’, p. 395.
National Intelligence Council, ‘The next wave of HIV/AIDS: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, India, and China’,
ICA 2002-04 D, Sept. 2002.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
generally poor population health. The Russian military, he claims, rejects around
30 per cent of potential conscripts on medical grounds each year. While HIV
infection ranks relatively low as a cause of rejection, far outstripped by ‘mental
disorders’ and drug addiction, the figures suggest that it is a growing problem,
and also that it is linked to high levels of tuberculosis in the military.90 However,
while Feshbach’s report suggests that the Russian state is (belatedly) beginning to
recognize these problems as potential challenges to its future security,91 action to
address the problem (for example through the provision of ARTs) is still at an early
stage of development. In short, the picture Feshbach presents is of a state that has
begun to think about the problems poor health (including HIV infection) is posing
to its security, but has not yet developed a sufficient sense of urgency to devote
serious resources to combating it.
Global-level responses to HIV/AIDS have developed hugely in the last decade.
The profile of the disease has been markedly accentuated, as the proponents of
securitization hoped. In key bodies such as the UN and the G8, HIV (and Africa
more generally) has become an important focus for political attention. HIV is
sometimes referred to in these settings in security language, indicating that it is
no longer seen as solely a humanitarian or development issue and suggesting that
securitization has done at least some of the work in raising the political profile
of the disease. In line with this sharper profile, global spending to address HIV/
AIDS has risen exponentially since 2000. According to UNAIDS, global financing
for AIDS has increased more than tenfold from 2000 to approximately US$13.8
billion in 2008.92 Access to treatment has improved in the developing world, and
the WHO’s goal of 3 million people accessing anti-retroviral therapy has finally
been met (albeit not by the target date of 2005). In 2008 UNAIDS reported the first
decline in AIDS deaths since the virus was first identified in the 1980s.93
Despite these signs of progress, it seems fair to conclude that the security
framing has played a genuinely significant role only in certain areas. Many of the
most important global developments (including the Millennium Development
Goals, the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the creation of
the Global Fund) have not rested primarily on security considerations. Indeed,
one of the ironies of the attempts by Holbrooke and others to show that HIV
is not ‘merely’ a development problem is that it coincided with a resurgence in
efforts to promote international development, expressed most concretely through
the MDGs. While it seems probable that the MDG targets will not be met by 2015,
development itself has become a major focus of political attention, and a major
motivator of international action. Closely related to this have been a number of
international attempts to address the problems facing Africa as a continent, seen
most clearly in set-piece events including the UNSC’s month on Africa, during
Murray Feshbach, ‘Russian demography, health and the military: current and future issues’, ASCI Research
Report, April 2008, p. 14,, accessed 20 Nov. 2009.
Feshbach, ‘Russian demography, health and the military’, p. 6.
UNAIDS, 2008 UNAIDS Annual Report: towards universal access (Geneva, 2008), p. 42.
UNAIDS, 2008 UNAIDS Annual Report, p. 9.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Colin McInnes and Simon Rushton
which HIV/AIDS was first discussed, and the Gleneagles G8 summit. HIV/AIDS
has fed into both these (linked) foci of attention. The lesson of the last decade may
be that securitization is not the only way of getting attention: ‘developmentization’ may work too.
The deliberations of the UNSC in January 2000, followed by Resolution 1308 later
that year, seemed to mark a change in the way in which HIV/AIDS was framed.
Although the security risks of the HIV/AIDS pandemic had been previously
identified, not least in the US, the actions of the Security Council appeared to
mark the successful securitization of the disease, confirming that it was now recognized as a security risk of such national and international concern that it should be
viewed differently from other emergencies and was worthy of exceptional actions.
In this article, however, we have argued that the political consensus behind the
UNSC’s actions was overestimated, and that it suffered at the hands of critics in
the middle and later years of the decade who outlined the lack of evidence for the
assertions made. Thus by the middle years of the decade the securitization of HIV/
AIDS looked fragile, lacking both political support and a strong evidentiary base.
This does not, however, mean either that there is no link between HIV/AIDS and
security or that the securitizing move failed.
On the first of these points, it has become apparent that the links between
HIV/AIDS and security are far from straightforward and a greater appreciation
of nuances is required. Case sensitivities and intervening variables litter current
understandings of the link. This insight demonstrates a much greater sophistication than was apparent a decade ago, and is also cause for some optimism over the
societal effects of the disease: states are less likely than was previously thought
to collapse because of the burden of HIV/AIDS, uniformed militaries and other
security forces have less to fear from it in terms of their operational capabilities,
and conflict does not automatically lead to the further spread of the disease. Some
of the more dire predictions that were commonplace at the beginning of the last
decade now appear overly alarmist. Nevertheless, the disease continues to spread,
with millions of new infections each year, and large areas of uncertainty persist
over the long-term consequences of this.
On the latter point, the case of HIV/AIDS highlights the fact that securitization
is not a binary condition: there is a spectrum from failed, to partial, to successful
securitization processes.94 Nor are the results of a securitizing move homogeneous.
Rather, some actors have accepted the designation of HIV/AIDS as a security issue
more readily than others. This variation may in part be a reflection of the disease
itself, for its effects are not homogeneous either, depending on context; but it also
suggests that different actors (often at the level of ministries or even individuals)
Ole Waever, ‘Securitisation: taking stock of a research programme in security studies’, unpublished manuscript,
Feb. 2003,
teorije/03%20Literatura/Waever_2003__Securitisation_Taking_stock_of_a_research_programme_in_Security_Studies.doc, accessed 20 Nov. 2009.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
HIV, AIDS and security: where are we now?
were more easily persuaded than others.
What, then, has been the effect of this partial securitization? Some actions
aimed at groups at risk have reflected security concerns. Considerable work has
been done, for example, to educate militaries, including UN peacekeepers and
disaster relief workers, on preventing HIV infection, much of which can be traced
back directly to the (partial) securitization of HIV. Nevertheless, the overall
impression of the impact of securitization is one of disappointment. Despite the
hopes expressed by many a decade ago, securitization has not changed the course
of the pandemic. Where it has had an effect, this has mainly been either at the
margins (e.g. educating military forces) or as a contributory factor in wider developments (e.g. PEPFAR). Indeed, HIV seems to some extent to have lost ground
on the security agenda to other health issues. Pandemic influenza has become a
more pressing concern for governments in developed western states, who find
their own populations at risk from its uncontrollable cross-border spread. The
threat of bioterrorism continues to worry the security community, and is a focus
for major investment. The US has apparently spent between US$50 billion and
US$60 billion on its biodefence programme since 9/11—more than the US$48
billion authorized for PEPFAR for the five years from FY 2009 to FY 2013 (and
considerably more than the US$15 billion spent between FY 2004 and FY 2008).
In a world where myriad health and non-health issues are competing for political
priority, the high profile AIDS currently has cannot be taken for granted. Securitization may or may not be the most effective way of capturing the attention of
policy-makers, but the human and social costs of the disease are such that there is
a clear need to keep AIDS firmly on the radar.
International Affairs 86: 1, 2010
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal Compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Copyright of International Affairs is the property of Blackwell Publishing Limited and its content may not be
copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written
permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
Fueling the Fire
Fueling the Fire
Jeff D. Colgan
Pathways from Oil to War
hat roles do oil and
energy play in international conºict? In public debates, the issue often provokes signiªcant controversy. Critics of the two U.S.-led wars against Iraq (in
1991 and 2003) charged that they traded “blood for oil,” and that they formed
a part of an American neo-imperialist agenda to control oil in the Middle East.
The U.S. government, on the other hand, explicitly denied that the wars were
about oil, especially in 2003. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld argued that the war “has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil,”
a theme echoed by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.1
Political scientists have had remarkably little to say on the issue. Realist
analyses of the causes of war, even those that speciªcally highlight the ability
of states to acquire or extract resources, tend to say very little about oil and energy.2 Among the few scholars who do focus on the issue, there is little agreement. Some argue that “resource wars” are frequent and that oil plays a major
causal role.3 Others cast doubt on the importance of such wars, pointing to the
lack of systematic evidence.4 Policy analysts tend to focus narrowly on “enJeff D. Colgan is Assistant Professor in the School of International Service at American University and author of Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
The author wishes to thank Boaz Atzili, Ken Conca, Alexander Downes, Charles Glaser, Llewelyn
Hughes, Miles Kahler, Rose Kelanic, Elizabeth Saunders, and Caitlin Talmadge; seminar/panel
participants at George Washington University and the 2012 annual meeting of the International
Studies Association; and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of
this article. He is grateful for support from American University and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
1. Quoted in Doug Stokes, “Blood for Oil? Global Capital, Counter-insurgency, and the Dual Logic
of American Energy Security,” Review of International Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2 (April 2007), p. 245.
2. Stephen Van Evera, Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conºict (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University
Press, 1999); and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, “State Building for Future Wars: Neoclassical Realism and
the Resource-Extractive State,” Security Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3 (July/September 2006), pp. 464–495.
3. Michael T. Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (New York: Metropolitan, 2008); Michael T. Klare, Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing
Dependency on Imported Petroleum (New York: Metropolitan, 2004); Thomas F. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999); John W. Maxwell
and Rafael Reuveny, “Resource Scarcity and Conºict in Developing Countries,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37, No. 3 (May 2000), pp. 301–322; Daniel Moran and James Avery Russell, Energy Security and Global Politics: The Militarization of Resource Management (New York: Routledge, 2009); and
Stokes, “Blood for Oil?”
4. Nils Petter Gleditsch, “Armed Conºict and the Environment: A Critique of the Literature,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 35, No. 3 (May 1998), pp. 381–400; David G. Victor, “What Resource
Wars?” National Interest, November 12, 2007,; Emily Meierding, “Oil in Interstate Conºict: One More Thing to Fight About,” paper
International Security, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Fall 2013), pp. 147–180, doi:10.1162/ISEC_a_00135
© 2013 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
International Security 38:2 148
ergy security” as deªned by reliable access to fuel supplies, while missing the
broader relationships between energy and security.5 Systematic analyses of
these relationships are rare.6
The stakes in this debate are high. If scholars and policymakers do not understand whether and why oil leads to war and international conºict, they are
unlikely to avoid such wars in the future or craft intelligent foreign policy.
Policymakers cannot appropriately confront the trade-offs in designing grand
strategy, allocating military resources, or shaping domestic energy policy without grasping both the proximate and root causes of modern conºicts. Yet the
knowledge gap persists. Even years after the 2003 Iraq War, there is still
no consensus on the degree to which oil played a role in that war.7 The debate
continues in part because oil does not have a single, simple effect, and no systematic framework has been available for understanding the multiple ways in
which oil could play a causal role.
I argue that while the threat of “resource wars” over possession of oil reserves is often exaggerated, the sum total of the political effects generated by
the oil industry make it a leading cause of war in the modern era. This assessment is backed by empirical evidence that suggests that oil is frequently a
contributing cause of the onset or conduct of modern international conºict.
Simply put, oil is too important to be neglected in the study of international security. Yet this does not mean that the world is overrun with resource wars. In
presented at the International Studies Association annual meeting, San Francisco, California,
April 6, 2013; and Indra de Soysa, Erik Gartzke, and Tove Lie, “Oil, Blood, and Strategy,” unpublished manuscript, 2011.
5. John M. Deutch and James R. Schlesinger, National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency
(New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2006); and Keith Crane et al., Imported Oil and U.S. National Security (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2009). For critiques of a narrow approach, see Andreas
Goldthau and Jan Martin Witte, “From Energy Security to Global Energy Governance,” Journal of
Energy Security, March 2010,⫽com_content&view
issuecontent&Itemid⫽358; Benjamin K. Sovacool, The Routledge Handbook of Energy Security (London: Routledge, 2011); and Ann Florini and Navroz K. Dubash, “Introduction to the Special Issue:
Governing Energy in a Fragmented World,” Global Policy, Vol. 2, Suppl. S1 (September 2011),
pp. 1–5.
6. Some exceptions are John Dufªeld, Over a Barrel: The Costs of U.S. Foreign Oil Dependence (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Law Books, 2007); Eugene Gholz and Daryl G. Press, “Protecting ‘The Prize’:
Oil and the U.S. National Interest,” Security Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3 (July/September 2010), pp. 453–
485; Llewelyn Hughes and Phillip Y. Lipscy, “The Politics of Energy,” Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 16, No. 1 (2013), pp. 449–469; Charles L. Glaser, “How Oil Inºuences U.S. National Security: Reframing Energy Security,” International Security, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Fall 2013), pp. 112–146; and
Rosemary A. Kelanic, Black Gold and Blackmail: The Politics of International Oil Coercion, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 2012.
7. Stokes, “Blood for Oil?”; Robert Kagan, The Return of History and the End of Dreams (New York:
Random House, 2008); and Frank P. Harvey, Explaining the Iraq War: Counterfactual Theory, Logic,
and Evidence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Fueling the Fire 149
the debates about the wars against Iraq in 1991 and again in 2003, both sides
focused excessively on the extent to which the war was fought over possession
of Iraq’s (or Kuwait’s) oil reserves, rather than seeking a broader understanding of how oil shaped the causal preconditions for war.
To further that understanding, this article has three goals. First, I offer a
framework for identifying and understanding the multiple causal mechanisms
through which oil affects international security. My aim is to identify the
mechanisms that are the basic building blocks of theory; an additional step, beyond the scope of this article, is needed to create testable hypotheses that stipulate the conditions under which each mechanism becomes activated. Second,
I probe the plausibility of the causal mechanisms by offering empirical examples of each one and a systematic assessment of how the mechanisms played a
role in interstate wars from 1973 to 2007. I do not aim to provide comprehensive testing or detailed case studies, but enough evidence to justify more extensive research. Third, I argue that the oil-security relationship needs to be
reinterpreted and viewed far more broadly than it traditionally is. The idea of
resources wars typically captures the lion’s share of the attention, but it is only
one of many plausible causal connections.
I specify three broad pathways leading from oil to international conºict,
each of which encapsulates a number of speciªc causal mechanisms. The ªrst
pathway, “ownership and market structure,” includes causal mechanisms in
which actors seek to alter the structure of the global oil industry to suit their
interests. The second pathway, “producer politics,” captures the means by
which oil income alters the incentives of actors inside oil-producing states in
ways that lead to violent conºict across borders. The third pathway focuses on
“consumer access concerns,” in which states try to manage the uncertainties
and demands of their economic and military requirements for oil. These multiple pathways reºect the complexity of the issue and the wide reach of oil politics for both consumers and producers. All three pathways can lead to conºict
among major powers as well as with minor powers, illustrating the importance of thinking about energy security in ways that go beyond traditional
concerns of oil supply.
Strikingly, I ªnd that between one-quarter and one-half of interstate wars
since the beginning of the modern oil age in 1973 are connected to one or more
of these oil-related causal mechanisms. No other commodity has this kind of
impact on international security. Arguably no other single economic factor,
with the exception of territorial acquisition, plays as signiªcant a role in international conºict as oil does. I hasten to add that not all of these wars are
caused by oil, nor is oil the only causal factor in any of them. Nonetheless, the
International Security 38:2 150
oil industry has shaped the course of many wars in important ways. Shipping
lanes, pipelines, oil-funded insurgencies, and scarcity concerns in consumer
states are all potential sources of international conºict. Oil can cause or exacerbate conºict even in locations quite remote from its production source.
I examine the causal mechanisms in light of a series of transitions under way
in global energy markets, of which three are crucial. The ªrst is the shift in patterns of global oil production away from traditional suppliers in the Middle
East and toward (1) unconventional oil reserves in North America and (2) new
suppliers of conventional oil, especially in Africa. By one estimate, as many as
sixteen developing countries will become oil exporters in the near future, potentially creating a new swath of international security concerns.8 Second, the
age of low oil prices in the 1990s and early 2000s has given way to a new period of higher and more volatile prices, which alters the magnitude of the consequences one can expect from oil-conºict linkages. Third, the relative decline
of U.S. hegemony and the rise of China and other developing states have attendant consequences for the provision of public goods such as security of
shipping lanes and pipelines. I explore the signiªcance of these transitions for
the causal pathways articulated in this article, illustrating the sometimes surprising strategic consequences.
This study concentrates on the role of oil rather than on other energy
sources, because oil is the natural starting point for any analysis of energy and
international affairs.9 The magnitude of its impact is greater than that of any
other resource, in part because oil is by far the most valuable commodity
traded on global markets (as measured by the total value of exports and imports). Unlike natural gas, coal, or uranium, oil is also a strategic resource
without easy substitutes, especially in the transportation sector. Further, the
market for oil is truly global, in that supplies from one region can be shifted to
another relatively easily, which is not necessarily true of other fuels, especially
natural gas. These differences between oil and other energy sources create potential sources of heterogeneity in the analysis. Thus, while it is possible that
other energy sources play important roles in international affairs, some of
which may be akin to the roles played by oil, I focus solely on oil in this article.
8. Michael L. Ross, The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012), p. 10.
9. For an analysis of the geopolitics of natural gas, see Amy Myers Jaffe and Meghan L.
O’Sullivan, “The Geopolitics of Natural Gas” (Cambridge, Mass.: Geopolitics of Energy Project,
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, July 2012); William
Hogan, “Energy,” National Strategy Forum Review, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Summer 2008), pp. 24–27; and David Victor, Amy Myers Jaffe, and Mark Hayes, Natural Gas and Geopolitics: From 1970 to 2040 (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Fueling the Fire 151
The same rationale applies a fortiori to non-energy natural resources. As I show
below, oil’s role is sufªciently complex and important to justify this attention.
The article proceeds as follows. The ªrst section provides an overview of the
three causal pathways. The second section describes each of the mechanisms in
some detail, providing empirical examples and considering how the mechanisms might operate in light of the major geopolitical transitions under way. The
third section systematically considers the extent to which these mechanisms
have been present in recent interstate wars, including the U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conclusion summarizes the argument and
brieºy considers its policy implications.
Overview of the Causal Pathways
Table 1 summarizes three causal pathways from oil to international conºict:
ownership and market structure, producer politics, and consumer access concerns. The three pathways are designed to be collectively comprehensive while
minimizing the overlap between them. The ªrst pathway bears directly on the
question of who is a consumer and who is a producer, and the terms of the relationship between them. The other two pathways are associated with each
type of state’s interests. Each pathway encompasses a number of speciªc
mechanisms. The mechanisms are loosely ordered within each pathway, with
oil being most to least central to the potential conºict.
Table 1 offers the ªrst comprehensive inventory of causal pathways and
mechanisms linking oil to international armed conºict.10 Naturally, future research could identify new causal mechanisms. Nonetheless, this catalog of
causal pathways and mechanisms is meant to help guide the thinking of scholars and policymakers about the impact of oil politics on the probability and
nature of international conºict.
Some broad considerations are necessary before delving into the details of
each mechanism. From the perspective of any individual state, most of the
eight causal mechanisms identiªed in table 1 exist in three forms. Consider an
American perspective. First, a causal chain operates in a direct form, with the
United States as the subject: for example, U.S. actions in the South China Sea
could raise Chinese perceptions of threat, leading to elevated tensions and potential conºict. Second, a causal chain operates in a reverse form, in which a rival’s activities provoke the United States: for example, Chinese actions raise
10. Charles Glaser offers a very useful analysis of the causal role of oil in various threats to U.S.
national interests. See Glaser, “How Oil Inºuences U.S. National Security.”
International Security 38:2 152
Table 1. Causal Pathways from Oil to International Conºict
Causal Mechanism
Ownership and Market Structure
Resource Wars
Oil reserves (or perceived oil reserves)
raise the payoff to territorial conquest.
Iraq-Kuwait, 1990;
Chaco War; Japan, 1941
Risk of Market
Conquest of (or threat) to key
territories in oil market creates a risk
for another state, often an importer,
causing the state(s) to intervene.
U.S.-Iraq, 1991
Oil Industry Grievance
Presence of foreign workers in a
petrostate creates grievances for state
or nonstate actors.
Al-Qaida; Iran hostage
Producer Politics
Oil reduces the domestic
accountability of petrostate leaders,
lowering the risks of instigating wars.
Iraq-Iran; Libya-ChadEgypt
Oil income provides ªnances for
foreign nonstate actors to wage war.
Iran-Hezbollah; Saudis
in Afghanistan
Externalization of Civil
Wars in Petrostates
Oil creates conditions for civil war,
which then leads to foreign
intervention, externalization, or
Libya-NATO; AngolaCuba; Sudan-Chad
Consumer Access Concerns
Transit Route
States’ efforts to secure transit routes
for oil create a security dilemma that
produces or exacerbates conºict.
Sudan; South China
Sea; Strait of Hormuz
Obstacle to
Importers’ efforts to curry favor with
petrostate prevent multilateral
cooperation on security issues.
U.S.-China friction over
Iran, Sudan
U.S. perceptions of threat, leading to elevated tensions and potential conºict.
Third, a causal chain operates in an indirect form, in which an ally’s actions (or
actions taken against an ally) drag the United States into conºict following a
classic pattern of chain-ganging: for example, Japanese or Taiwanese actions to
secure shipping lanes in the South China Sea raise Chinese threat perceptions,
ultimately leading to conºict with the United States and its allies.11 Of course,
this triplicate form of the causal chain is not feasible for all eight causal chains
11. On the phenomenon of chain-ganging, see Thomas J. Christensen and Jack Snyder, “Chain
Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity,” International Organization,
Vol. 44, No. 2 (Spring 1990), pp. 137–168.
Fueling the Fire 153
(for example, only an oil-producer can experience petro-aggression). Still, the
key point is that one must consider not only the causal mechanisms that might
lead a given state into conºict, but also the causal chains that might affect its
allies and rivals.
Table 1 excludes at least two additional ways in which oil might have
a causal impact on interstate conºict. First, it omits indirect causal chains, such
as the role of oil in causing climate change, which in turn could cause armed
conºict.12 Second, this article does not consider the role of oil in shaping the
tactical operations of war, even though it clearly can play a signiªcant role. For
instance, German U-boats sought to deprive Britain of shipments of oil and
other vital supplies in World War II, and fuel shortages constrained German
military tactics at Stalingrad and El Alamein.13 Oil can also play a role as a military technology: in the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force had access
to higher-octane fuel than its German opponents, allowing its planes to
achieve higher speed and mobility.14 Many of these topics are worthy of additional study, but such research lies beyond the scope of this article.15
Causal Pathways in Operation
Each of the eight causal mechanisms identiªed in table 1 can now be explored
in detail.
ªrst pathway: ownership and market structure
Broadly, the ªrst pathway through which oil can cause international conºict is
by acting as an incentive to various actors to alter the structure of the global oil
industry to suit their interests. There are three mechanisms by which actors
might do this: engaging in resource wars, ªghting over potential market
domination, and responding to grievances associated with the structure of the
oil industry.
12. Joshua W. Busby, “Who Cares About the Weather? Climate Change and U.S. National Security,” Security Studies, Vol. 17, No. 3 (July 2008), pp. 468–504; Geoffrey D. Dabelko et al., eds.
Backdraft: The Conºict Potential of Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation, Environmental Change
and Security Program Report (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Scholars, 2013); and Jaroslav Tir and Douglas M. Stinnett, “Weathering Climate Change: Can Institutions Mitigate International Water Conºict?” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 49, No. 1 (January
2012), pp. 211–225.
13. Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power (New York: Free Press, 2008).
14. Ibid.
15. I focus primarily on how oil affects states’ major strategic choices, such as the initiation of war
or key decisions about its conduct (e.g., which territories to occupy or whether and how to initiate
an embargo).
International Security 38:2 154
mechanism #1: resource wars. The ªrst mechanism is the most obvious
and widely discussed causal link between oil and international conºict: resource wars. Oil is a highly valuable, lootable commodity, meaning it can be
exploited relatively easily and proªtably by a new owner. The presence or perception of oil reserves therefore creates a signiªcant incentive for conquest of
the associated territory. The opportunity to capture oil reserves is unlikely to
be the only reason fo…
Purchase answer to see full

We offer the bestcustom writing paper services. We have done this question before, we can also do it for you.

Why Choose Us

  • 100% non-plagiarized Papers
  • 24/7 /365 Service Available
  • Affordable Prices
  • Any Paper, Urgency, and Subject
  • Will complete your papers in 6 hours
  • On-time Delivery
  • Money-back and Privacy guarantees
  • Unlimited Amendments upon request
  • Satisfaction guarantee

How it Works

  • Click on the “Place Order” tab at the top menu or “Order Now” icon at the bottom and a new page will appear with an order form to be filled.
  • Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER DETAILS" section.
  • Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline, and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
  • Click “CREATE ACCOUNT & SIGN IN” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record-keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
  • From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.