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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Paul Wolfowitz: 'Water Engineers Will Be Its Heroes’

Half a century ago, the dream of making the deserts bloom with seemingly unlimited supplies of fresh water was promoted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the man he had once appointed chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis Strauss. In 1953, Strauss had helped author Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” plan. Fifteen years later, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War of 1967, they proposed another nuclear initiative. This one they called “Water for Peace.”

It envisioned the construction of three large-scale nuclear-power plants to desalt seawater—one each for Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. “The sweet water produced by these huge plants would cost not more than 15 cents per 1,000 gallons,” Eisenhower wrote in Reader’s Digest. It would make “the desert lands of this earth bloom for human need” and “promote peace in a deeply troubled area of the world.” Strauss contended the proposal could solve the two main problems troubling the Middle East—a lack of water and the Palestinian refugees—and thereby provide a way out of the “morass in which the powers are floundering.”

Despite gaining political support in some important quarters, not least from then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, the proposal went nowhere. That was partly because “the reasoning was naive, to put it mildly,” as the late Malcolm Kerr, one of the country’s leading Arab experts, put it. There was “nothing,” he wrote, “in the atmosphere of the Arab world that was receptive to another grandiose American scheme.” 
But it also foundered because the economics made no sense...

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