Locked Out

Forget ethnic hatred, lack of sea access is the real reason South Sudan is tearing itself apart.

The Jan. 23 ceasefire agreement between rebels and the South Sudanese government may have pulled the world's youngest state back from the brink, but it's hardly out of the woods. Sporadic fighting continues on the ground and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons must now attempt to reconstitute their lives. President Salva Kiir's decision to charge former officials with plotting a coup, meanwhile, could easily derail the fragile peace agreement. As rebel leader Riek Machar, who called the allegations "baseless," hinted on Jan. 29, those who have been charged are "important in the peace process."

Looking back, various explanations have been offered for how South Sudan got into its present mess: The impetus for violence has been portrayed as ethnic, or tribal, or at the very least political. Other observers have linked the current crisis to the new state's unpreparedness for independence. But what if it is also geographic -- a partial product of isolation from the world's major commercial routes and the baseline level of prosperity they ensure? Viewed through such a lens, the recent reigniting of conflict in South Sudan -- and the country's continued struggle to maintain stable oil exports -- is indicative of the difficulties faced by many new countries that share certain geographical traits as landlocked states.

The portion of the globe covered by landlocked states is on the rise. Prior to the 20th century, the number of landlocked states was trivial -- 10 in all. By the end of World War II, the number had soared to 30. Of the 24 new states that have joined the United Nations since 1991, fully 60 percent are landlocked. Today, over one-fifth of the world's states have no direct access to the sea.

In recent decades, carving out new countries has become an increasingly common solution to protracted intra-state conflict; more often than not, such divisions have produced new states without coastal access. But while creating new states may solve immediate political problems, it tends to give rise to others. For one thing, landlocked states lag significantly behind their coastal counterparts in economic terms. Despite globalization and significant advances in transportation and communication technology, location still matters: Half of the 20 lowest scorers on the United Nation's Human Development Index are landlocked states.

In part, landlocked states struggle economically because of difficulties they face in accessing international markets. According to a research team led by Columbia University development economist Jeffrey Sachs, average per capita exports in landlocked states are equivalent to half the value of those of neighboring states with access to the sea. Likewise, Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann has found that transport costs from landlocked states are 50 percent higher than from maritime states in most regions of the world. The higher costs derive, in part, from greater average distance to ports, as well as from the need to cross multiple borders, navigate customs, and pay tariffs -- not to mention bribes and illegal fines imposed by corrupt customs practices in the transit states. In addition, busy ports with limited capacity tend to give priority to their own state's trade, causing even longer delays for the trade of neighboring landlocked states. 

But it's not just about access to ports. Landlocked states also face greater governance and economic reform challenges than coastal states. Of all the new states to emerge from the former Soviet bloc, the landlocked ones possess the lowest indicators of political and market reform. They also have weaker links to NATO and the E.U., in part because of Russia's ability to use transit routes as leverage to keep these states firmly within its orbit.

Lack of access or limited access to the sea can be a source of conflict. Part of Iraq's calculation in invading Kuwait in 1990, for example, was Baghdad's desire to expand its sea coast, which at a little more than 16 miles long, is quite small for a major oil exporter. Similarly, Russia's interest in wresting control of the disputed region of Abkhazia from Georgia stemmed in part from the region's large sea coast. Following the Soviet breakup, Russia was left with limited sea access, especially in the winter when most of its ports are frozen and cannot accommodate oil tankers. Likewise, Bolivia cut natural gas flows to Argentina in 2004 -- causing a severe disruption of electricity in neighboring Chile -- in an attempt to coerce Santiago to negotiate the return of Bolivia's coastal access, lost to Chile during the War of the Pacific at the end of the 19th century.

Landlocked oil exporters face an additional set of challenges, particularly when they must rely on the state they split off from for transit. Since oil is generally a major source of revenue for the producing state, the transit state has tremendous leverage over its landlocked neighbor. Following the Soviet breakup, for example, Moscow has continually attempted to block, minimize, or control the transit of the oil and gas exports of former Soviet states, using various means -- ranging from supporting coup attempts to blowing up pipelines -- when producers in Central Asia attempted to build pipelines that circumvent transit through Russia.

And so it is for South Sudan, which has a long history of conflict with its northern neighbor. Making matters worse, some of the border disputes have not yet been resolved, with the oil producing regions of Bentiu and Malakal having changed hands multiple times in the post-independence period. Betting the survivability of South Sudan on its ability to cooperate with Khartoum, in other words, was an extremely risky thing to do.

So what can be done to mitigate the challenges faced by landlocked states? First, the international community should think long and hard before it establishes any new ones. In many cases, the minting of landlocked states provides only a temporary solution -- and conflict reignites down the road. When the creation of a new state is unavoidable, borders should be drawn such that both entities have sea access carved out. 

In addition, international legal treaties that govern the rights of transit, such as the U.N.'s Convention on Transit Trade of Land-locked States, need to be revised to accommodate existing landlocked states and to reflect today's modes of trade and transportation. The majority of these treaties and agreements were established in the early 20th century, and focus on ensuring the right of travel along railways and roads. Revisions in these treaties should reflect the need for access to airspace and seaports. Moreover, the security of transit for oil and natural gas pipelines should be guaranteed in these revised U.N. treaties. 

As the recent conflict in South Sudan demonstrates, establishing landlocked states that are dependent on the state they seceded from will most likely just kick the conflict down the road. Various U.S. administrations have vigorously supported the establishment of new landlocked states: President Barack Obama's personal support for the independence of South Sudan and President George W. Bush's push for recognition of Kosovo's independence, to cite two examples. But given the harsh realities faced by landlocked states, future administrations should be careful not to let good intentions get the best of them.


National Security

Bad Bud

Did the military violate its own rules by getting in bed with Budweiser during the Super Bowl?

I like beer, and would wager that most veterans like beer too. Budweiser placed a similar bet last night during the Super Bowl with its ad "A Hero's Welcome," which showed a Norman Rockwell-esque homecoming for Army 1st Lt. Chuck Nadd in his hometown of Winter Park, Fla. -- courtesy of Budweiser.

The ad tugs my heartstrings in the same complex way that standing ovations at Washington Nationals games for veterans do. The applause feels good, and is certainly better than what Vietnam-era veterans faced too frequently at home. Nonetheless, the Budweiser ad should have never been aired. The ad ignores the complicated relationship that veterans have with alcohol, obscuring how much harm booze does to veterans when they come home. And the one-minute spot arguably breaks a handful of government regulations meant to prevent public endorsement of private brands, especially where alcohol and drugs are concerned.

Two main sets of military regulations exist to prevent the Army from getting, well, too buddy-buddy with companies like Budweiser. The first are the military's ethics regulations. Joint Ethics Regulation section 3-209 states that "Endorsement of a non-Federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by DoD or DoD employees in their official capacities and titles, positions, or organization names may not be used to suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment of any non-Federal entity except (the services' official relief societies)." Under this regulation, the Army cannot legally endorse Budweiser, nor allow its active-duty personnel to participate in their ads (let alone wear their uniforms), any more than the Army can endorse Gatorade or Nike.

The second set of regulations relates to the Army's anti-alcohol program, something that has been in place for decades, and has evolved out of the all-volunteer force's desire to have a drug and alcohol-free workplace. Paragraph 3-4 of that regulation, titled "Deglamorization," states that "[i]t is Army policy to maintain a workplace free from alcohol," and that "Alcohol will not become the purpose for, or the focus of, any social activity. At all levels alcohol will not be glamorized nor made the center of attention at any military function." This rule forbids the Army from bringing alcohol companies like Budweiser onto bases to support Army functions, and regulation sharply limits the ways the Army can interact with these alcohol makers and distributors, limiting such interactions to essentially flowing through Army-approved concessions on base (like the base liquor store or Officer's Club).

I sent a detailed list of questions about how, and why, the Army seems to have ignored both sets of policies. An Army spokesman said the ad had been vetted, and that Army officials concluded that Nadd's appearance in uniform while on duty did not constitute "official support to or otherwise partner[ing] with" Budweiser or the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the spot's production. This logic persuaded the Army's top leaders that it would be OK to raise a toast to Budweiser.

Because these are Army and Defense Department rules, and not statutes carved into law, senior Pentagon leaders can generally waive them. However, an option's legality often says nothing about its wisdom. The problems with the ad go way beyond the legal questions, and are in many ways far more serious. Few things unite public health researchers more than the ill effects of alcohol. From its effects in the workplace to its links to domestic violence to its correlation with suicide, alcohol plays a role in thousands of deaths each year in this country.

For post-9/11 veterans, tens of thousands of whom are suffering from PTSD, the data have been unequivocal too.

The National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health found in 2005 that veteran alcohol use surpassed non-veteran drinking. The rates of alcohol use were highest among young veterans aged 18-25, who were also the ones most likely to engage in binge drinking. More recent studies echo these conclusions from the 2005 survey: "Studies show that alcohol misuse and abuse, hazardous drinking, and binge drinking are common among [Afghanistan and Iraq] veterans," said one SAMSHA policy brief, adding that increased combat exposure often increased the frequency and amount of alcohol consumption among young veterans.

According to a recent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, 27 percent of Iraq veterans met the criteria for alcohol abuse and were therefore at higher risk for drunk driving and illicit drug use. The NIH also reported that alcohol and drug use frequently overlapped with military suicide, with booze or drugs involved in 30 percent of Army suicide deaths between 2003 and 2009 and 45 percent of attempts during roughly the same period. That means alcohol is directly fueling the military's ongoing suicide crisis, which has seen more than 1,500 troops take their own lives since the start of the two wars.

A 2011 study by Veterans Affairs and U.C. San Francisco researchers documented an 11 percent rate of alcohol or drug abuse disorder among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seen by the VA. And, more importantly, these researchers found that three quarters of those diagnosed with alcohol or drug abuse also had PTSD or depression, meaning that those with PTSD or depression were four times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than their combat peers. In a more recent study in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that 39 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans screened positive for probable drug abuse -- the same percentage as had existed among returning Vietnam veterans decades earlier.

Despite all this data, the military has a long and complex relationship with alcohol. In past wars, active service members drank on the battlefield. Booze stains the occasional page of many World War I and II veterans' memoirs; "Band of Brothers" veteran Dick Winters writes of his troops' liberation of Hermann Goering's wine cellar at the end of their fight across Europe. In Korea and Vietnam, our troops drank too, often to excess. Such was the nature of war, and the military embraced alcohol as part of the wartime experience.

That changed with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the military instituted policies explicitly banning all deployed troops from consuming alcohol. There was a good reason for those rules, which is the same reason last night's Super Bowl ad went too far. Alcohol can lead to depression, worsen PTSD, and -- in some cases -- accelerate the downward spiral that leads to suicide. Decades of research should have persuaded the Army to avoid getting in bed with Budweiser. Better for at-risk soldiers to hear a simple truth: This Bud isn't for you.