Energizing Peace

Natural gas pipelines, not military supply lines, could pave the way for stability in power-starved Central Asia.

The lessons of geography appear to be ignored by policymakers in Washington D.C. these days. The Obama administration is pursuing tenuous negotiations with Iran regarding its supply of low-enriched uranium, in the hopes of taking the first step to erase the longstanding animosity between the two countries. It is also rethinking its Afghanistan and Pakistan policy to emphasize reconstruction and economic development. These two strategies are unfortunately disconnected -- despite the fact that Afghanistan shares a 600-mile-long strategic border with Iran.

Neither a "surge" of troops and aid in Afghanistan, nor negotiations over Iran's nuclear program without addressing its regional isolation, will bring Central Asia much closer to stability. The United States must support a policy that addresses the major deficiency all these countries share in common: a lack of clean, affordable energy for their poor populations. Only natural gas pipelines, not military supply lines, can do this.

The United States has so far been ambivalent about using Central Asia's natural resources to guide its policy, confounding the prospects for pipeline development. Yet without an energy infrastructure, individual U.S. reconstruction programs are going to struggle to get off the ground. For example, the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) established in Pakistan's tribal areas, which provide goods produced in these areas with duty-free access to the U.S. market, will have little impact without a steady energy supply to fuel local industry. Pipelines and power lines can be a much more significant economic stimulus. By providing energy for power-starved nations, they can empower microeconomic activity through lower fuel and electricity costs.

Natural gas pipelines can also provide an impetus for a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran. Two proposed pipeline routes currently offer the greatest opportunity to solidify regional integration and create lasting stability: the route from Iran via Pakistan to India (IPI), and from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India (TAPI). But thus far, the U.S. had sought to hinder international commerce with Iran, lobbying only for pipeline routes that avoid Iranian territory. It actively lobbied against the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) project - even despite its tacit acceptance of the pipeline that runs between Iran and Turkey. This Iran-Turkey pipeline, which traverses Turkey's volatile Kurdish region, also exemplifies how security along such infrastructure can be adequately provided, even in conflict zones.

The IPI pipeline might represent the most promising confidence-building measure with Iran. Furthermore, recent discussions surrounding TAPI actually route it through Iran as well. If this turns out to be the case, it will force the U.S. to accept that the stabilization of Pakistan and Afghanistan requires a rapprochement with Iran. Since demand for gas in South Asia continues to skyrocket, the U.S. should encourage both projects and actively link their implementation to its conflict resolution strategy for the region. Détente with Iran need not wait for a nuclear breakthrough.

Furthermore, depending on the route of the pipeline, Afghanistan could earn as much as $100 million per year from transit fees of pipelines, providing a necessary boost for Afghanistan's perpetually aid-dependent government.

These pipelines will aid, not hinder, America's efforts to provide economic relief to Pakistan as well. Even with the fairly high prices for gas Iran offers to Pakistan, IPI could save the country between $652 million and $1.17 billion annually, depending on the price of oil.  This is approximately the same amount as the Kerry-Lugar legislation would deliver in non-military aid each year to Pakistan. According to government reports, Pakistan currently has an energy shortfall of between 3000 and 4000 megawatts (MW), while India's shortfall is estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 MW. For this reason, the development of energy projects were a focus of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent visit to Islamabad - however, the talks reportedly ignored the regional context of this issue.

Finally, given concerns about climate change, natural gas pipelines offer donors an opportunity to limit the output of carbon emissions. Natural gas is likely to be the cleanest and most cost-effective fuel to meet Pakistan and India's energy shortfall. Apart from its use in power plants, natural gas is also being used in the transportation sector. The significance of compressed natural gas (CNG) in India was highlighted as early as 1998, when the Supreme Court ruled that all commercial vehicles in New Delhi should switch to natural gas by 2001 due to pollution concerns from diesel and petrol engines. Pakistan already has more than a million cars on CNG and ranks third in global CNG use after Brazil and Argentina. What's more, while oil is still largely transported across the globe by a fleet of more than 38,000 pollution-causing marine tankers, 93% of the world's gas continues to be supplied through pipelines.

Natural gas development offers a unique opportunity to tackle strategic, diplomatic, and environmental goals at the same time. Even in the world's most turbulent region, there is a possibility for renewed trade along what ancient merchants knew as the Silk Road.

 If we genuinely want to stabilize this crisis zone without a heavy American footprint, new energy-based Silk Roads are the solution.


The Myth of Deutschland Über Alles

When the Berlin Wall came down, the world cheered -- and the West Germans sipped lattes. Part of an FP series, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Given the record of German nationalism -- actually aggressive chauvinism -- in the first part of the 20th century, you might have thought that the Germans would have obsessed about reunification ever since 1949, when West Germany and East Germany were established as separate states. That is, that they would behave like the French after the Germans grabbed Alsace and Lorraine in 1871: N'en parler jamais, y penser toujours -- never talk about getting it back, but think about it always. But nationalism isn't what it used to be -- at least not in Western Europe.

By the time the Berlin Wall was breached in 1989, both Germanys had pretty much accommodated to permanent partition. In West Germany, the chattering class no longer talked about "Deutschland über alles," but about "détente über alles." Advocating reunification was seen as a kind of reactionary no-no, as Cold War mentality smacking of "rollback." The more popular idea was to support rapprochement, not reunification -- in other words, to create a setting that made life in two separate states tolerable, and so reunification unnecessary, while lessening West Germany's excruciating military dependence on its western allies. If the two Germanys found a way to get along, the thinking went, they might be able to dispense with the hundreds of thousands of foreign troops on their soil and, of course, their nuclear weapons.

That was the long-term vision. There was hardly anyone in West Germany's chattering class (encompassing a large part of the political establishment) who did not assume the permanence of both the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet empire. This state of affairs was the inversion of the old dictum about Alsace and Lorraine: "Talk about reunification always, but don't actually think about it." This is why the West Germans were so surprised when the wall came down -- and their brethren spilled across in droves.

Unforgettable is the poster the East Germans held up in those heady days: "If the deutsche mark doesn't come to us, we will come to the deutsche mark."

But to keep the East Germans out, we -- the West Germans -- went in. With our deutsche marks and with annual subsidies totaling about 4 percent of German GDP ever since, we aimed to improve economic conditions enough to entice the former East Germans to stay home. If such assistance to our less fortunate brethren was a form of nationalism, it was defensive -- in the way all rich Western countries prefer to keep out large numbers of poor immigrants.

On the other side of the wall, I am not even sure the "Easties" wanted reunification as such. They just wanted basic human rights: the right to travel, to move around freely, and to get rid of, as it were, wall-to-wall surveillance by the Stasi state.

There is a tragically funny joke going around these days to make the point:

A Pole, a West German, and an East German are sitting in a West Berlin cafe, when a good fairy comes in, giving each of them one wish.

The Pole says, "I want every Pole to have a brand-new BMW so they won't steal them in Germany anymore."  

The fairy: Done.

A few minutes later the Pole receives a cell-phone call from a friend in Warsaw: "You won't believe this. An enormous traffic jam. Thousands of Beemers are clogging the roads."

"And you?" the fairy asks the East German. He answers, "I want the wall back." A couple of seconds later, fearsome thunder resonates across the city, like an earthquake. The wall is back.

"And now you," the fairy says to the Wessie. "Oh," he sighs, contentedly, "I just want a decaf latte."

So much for German nationalism, circa 2009. It will probably take the fabled 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert before the denizens of the two Germanys become truly one nation.

Nationalism was a spent force then, in 1989, and it is a spent force now -- welling up only in soccer stadiums when one national team fights a highly ritualized pseudo-war against another. No need to shed any tears about this surprising turn of events. Europe -- and Germany in particular -- saw enough nationalism in the 20th century to almost destroy the entire continent. Today it is Beemers and lattes that carry the day. And a "prost!" to that, which is German for "cheers!"