by Lyndon LaRouche and Marsha Merry

Printed in the American Almanac, 1993

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Creating a Mideast Oasis

The following proposal for guaranteeing peace in the Middle East, abridged here, was made July 12, 1990 by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., candidate for U.S. Congress in the 10th Congressional District of Virginia.
This is the appropriate time to revive the content of ``peace through economic development'' plans in the Middle East. Some may object that this is a revival of what was described as the new Marshall Plan proposal of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and for reasons related to Peres's sponsorship of these ideas, many will say today that an ``Oasis Plan'' of that sort is out-of-date and unrealistic, and is therefore not a politically practical proposition. Peres is out of the prime ministership and, for the moment, is not seen as likely to return. The quest for peace, however, goes beyond individual politicians or personalities. A political settlement in the Middle East must necessarily be linked, if it is ever to succeed, to economic cooperation and the mutual sharing of the fruits of development. Peace must be built on the vital common interests of all peoples of the Middle East.

The second major difficulty, in the absence of political will to move toward negotiations, lies in the volatility of the international financial situation, notably the increasingly critical financial situations of the United States and Great Britain, both of which have rapidly become the economic basket cases of the OECD. The structure of the dollar-based world monetary system which emerged out of Bretton Woods and the post-Bretton Woods floating currencies arrangement is no longer viable; the instability of the dollar system is affecting the entirety of the world economy. The ideological determination of the present leaders of the United States and Great Britain to impose upon the entire world the particular type of free-market ideology which has successfully ruined the British economy altogether and has plunged the United States into a near hopeless condition of bankruptcy, is aggravating the problem qualitatively. Nor can the United States reverse this trend under presently dominant monetary and banking practices. The Soviet Union is facing an even more acute productive breakdown crisis and is not interested at the present time, if ever it was in the past, in choosing a pathway to peace and development in the Middle East.

These problems make it unlikely that either of the two still-powerful but declining superpowers will help channel efforts toward resolution of the Middle East conflict; more likely they will seek an arrangement within a ``no war/no peace'' situation. Therefore, it will be understandably argued that the superpowers, and the nations under superpower influence, will refuse or neglect to allow the conditions needed for Middle East economic reconstruction to emerge. Economic reconstruction does not mean small scale economic assistance programs, the rescheduling of debts, or other programs and forms traditionally associated with the external financial policies of international institutions. Economic reconstruction means emphasis on infrastructure building.

Yet, in spite of all possible objections--those raised above, or the additional objection that a political settlement must precede cooperative economic programs--despite all ideological, strategic, and other objections, the fact remains that the price of not implementing what I would call an Oasis Plan for the Middle East, a peace settlement based on the Oasis Plan, will be almost inconceivable not only for those living in that area, but for all those outside as well.

The Mideast: a Thirty Years' War scenario

In this more general context, we have the Middle East conflict and other conflicts affecting Africa and Asia. The form of North-South warfare discussed above--as proposed most vigorously by the Anglo-Americans, but supported in the environmentalist arrangement with Moscow--divides the developing sector into regions, and poses the question of future wars in the form of regional out-of-area deployments by multinational Northern armed forces.

There are utopians in the Northern Hemisphere who think that population wars are desirable--wars of devastation which lead to mass reduction of population and to elimination of nations, in the horrible aftermath of short or prolonged wars. They see the Middle East as a cockpit, in which this population and environmental management policy might be introduced. In attempting to impose their hegemony, they consider a controllable conflict or war in the Middle East as acceptable and possibly useful under certain circumstances. A conflict could take a variety of forms: conventional war, or localized conflicts leading to the ``Lebanonization'' of the Middle East. An escalation into more lethal forms of warfare, such as ABC warfare between the logical antagonists, cannot be excluded, nor can the fact that the great powers have prediscounted this aspect of conflict. To varying degrees, any such conflict so set in motion will have devastating effects in terms of population, social stability, and mental health throughout the region. The aftermath of war would be worse than the war itself; ``Lebanonization,'' the decomposition of states, social structures, and civil society leading to chaos and misery.

To avoid a conflict which would be ruinous for all peoples and nations of the Middle East, an effective series of common interest proposals must be made in accord with the rights of all parties. Debate around such proposals is inherently healthy and confidence-building.

Although to some, an Oasis Plan seems an unlikely proposition under the present circumstances, the price of failing to implement such a program will be staggering. Therefore, there is no obstacle so great, nor so difficult, that we should not seek to overcome it in order to further economic cooperation of the type indicated here.

Economics of an Oasis Plan

The only method to get economies going, even more so, to set the conditions for a vast regional economic cooperation area, is to replace Lombard-style central banking by methods of national banking oriented toward the production of manufactures, typified by the national banking of the administration of the first American Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, or the work of Friedrich List and like-minded thinkers in Europe in the 19th century.

Governments can generate credit successfully on condition that the flow of this credit generated by the government's monetary processes is restricted to national investments that are inherently sound, such as large-scale infrastructural investments.

Just as the Arab countries cannot raise, train, and employ the large numbers of youth coming onto their work markets without policies of productive expansion, Israel cannot accommodate its new and augmented population without a major transformation in infrastructure--it is just economically untenable. As far as Israel is concerned, the economic problem cannot be solved with new housing alone; what is needed is new infrastructure in the form of transportation networks, energy production and grids, water management, and so forth. For Israel and for Jordan, what comes to mind immediately are projects such as the Dead Sea development program raised years ago.

A channel from the Mediterranean into the Dead Sea is such a project. It would perform the function of concentrating industrial and technological efforts, and would provide a pole of attraction for mining and metal-processing industries, for example. The industries would concentrate around new areas of water management and energy generation--nuclear power--as the basis for an industrial boom in the region whose fruits would be shared amongst the peoples who live from Jordan, and the Dead Sea region, all the way down to the Gulf region. The production of so valuable a commodity as water, using high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactors as energy basis, is the obvious central proposition for that region.

This, then, could be the beginning of a greening of the Middle East on a larger scale than was initiated in Egypt years ago, made even more urgent by the growing water crisis affecting all countries of the region. By entering into cooperative agreements on economic development, a group of local powers in the region can, along with chosen Northern partners, create a powerful dynamic: economic common interest on which political agreements may be premised.

As part of the same package, projects recently discussed for a high-speed rail link between Dakar and Djibouti, over 120 years in design, could be implemented, changing the prospects for the Sahel region, North Africa, and the sub-Saharan nations. The otherwise impossible is thus made possible: the reversal of desertification and the beginning of development. The opening of large-scale water projects in Africa, including the rational use of the excess rainfall of Zaire for the nations to its north, are among the things to be done. Even though these are somewhat beyond the range of the Middle East per se, they are nonetheless part of the idea of the project which immediately affects it.

These kinds of projects, which I have been proposing over the years since 1974, should be the anchors for political solutions. Again, I have been told repeatedly that an economic-based solution is not possible without first having a political solution. My experience of the past 16 years in particular, and my study of the experience of the years before this, tells me that those who have insisted upon a political solution first, before considering an economic alternative, have failed. That experiment has failed. We must have the economic basis established, and then establish the political agreements on the grounds that they are imperative to setting up the necessary economic cooperation and to achieving the benefits of that economic cooperation.

In summation: We must have these solutions as the alternative to the kind of malthusian and neo-malthusian formulas imposed as the so-called peace plan by the superpowers upon the Middle East. Otherwise, we get hell for all concerned.

The opposition to an economic solution comes mainly from two sources. First, from the environmentalist fanatics--the Nazis of the 1990s are the environmentalist fanatics, including the animal rights fanatics, who are determined to destroy Judaism and Christianity and Islam for the sake of the pagan Mother Earth goddess whom they worship. The other opponent is the ideology of Adam Smith: the assumption that we must perpetuate the present monetary and financial structures, which rather ought to be swept from the face of the Earth.

The very fact that the present monetary system is insolvent creates the opportunity for establishing alternatives, in the form of Hamiltonian national banking. Therefore, if we are sufficiently determined, and as determined as fear of inaction motivates us to be, then all men of good will shall move seriously on an Oasis Plan for the Middle East, and use that plan as the basis for a political solution to the Middle East conflict. In the long run, it is the only alternative to a Thirty Years' War and a lasting Dark Age, in the Middle and Near East.

Water and Transport Define Development

The following proposal for water and transport development in the Middle East, abridged here, was made Aug. 21, 1990 by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., candidate for U.S. Congress in the 10th Congressional District of Virginia.

First, let us look broadly at the tactics which we might call the tactics of economic geography.

One could define the proper approach to development of the Middle East if no persons lived there presently, as if, for example, we were planning the settling of Mars, an uninhabited planet, by aid of an artificial environment and so forth. We could define the future cities, the future topography of Mars, from the standpoint of its geography, and a few principles of topology.

The primary considerations which we would bear in mind for the Middle East--presuming nobody lived there, but we were going to settle people there--would be fresh water, power, transportation, and the location of urban centers.

This does not mean you have to have the water there. You simply have to know you need the water and you have to decide on the proper courses by which the water will be transported, or distributed, such as to make the average square kilometer of land most fertile, or most fecund. This does not mean a uniform distribution of water; this means what we might call the equivalent of a least-action distribution of water, to get the highest average value of land, not the highest uniform value of land.

We also know that we require a certain amount of power per square kilometer, to develop that square kilometer to a certain level of productivity for various kinds of land-use, such as reserve land, wilderness land (those are two different kinds of land uses), pasture land, as opposed to agricultural land in agriculture, forest land, land use for private habitation, land use for commercial functions, or land use for heavy or light industrial functions. In each of these cases, we require a somewhat different density of power supplied, per hectare or per square kilometer, and per capita.

Then, transportation: We require a least-action pathway of transportation in terms of ton-miles per hour, as one parameter, to be used. We generally find that transportation will tend to follow the course of water. Water transport, rail transport, highway transport, and air transport, are all interrelated in terms of their relative functions within an economy. The transportation of materials, the transportation of power, and so forth, all tend to follow most conveniently a least-action pathway, which tends to bring these various modes of movement into a convergence along certain lines of movement, just as water is moved along certain lines of movement. These two, and water, tend to converge.

The network of water flows and transport flows, and the network of required energy flows, define certain nodal points in the entire landscape which are the proper sites of present or future urban centers. Urban centers are characterized as nodes of transportation and, also, nodes of distribution of power. That is the way a healthy physical economy functions.

I will just give one example of what this leads to, in the Middle East.

The Dead Sea Canal

It has been long discussed that there should be a canal cut from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, and that the water flow from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea would improve that area, particularly if we lined the canal with a number of nuclear plants. The nuclear plants do not merely use water, distilled or processed from the salt water flowing in, for their own functions, but they are generally producers of water.

In some parts of the Middle East, we have a very high cost for water. We can produce water, with the aid of high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) nuclear reactors, much more cheaply--at a fraction of what it costs to deliver presently. Since water is the main bottleneck for development in the region, the supply of water by the optimal method--that is, taking advantage of high temperature nuclear reactors--is the best method.

Thus, we have a course. This water course, from the Mediterranean and Dead Sea, becomes an industrial pathway; it becomes, for purposes of economy, also an area of urban development, of industries, and some agriculture in the area close to the water. This is more efficient.

The Essential Principle: Man's Creative Reason

The essential principle underlying this, is the relationship of man to nature. Man is unlike any other creature in that man's relationship to nature is defined by the potential for creative reason in man.

By creative reason we mean specifically the powers of discovery, which are associated with the discovery of valid, new, scientific principles; valid, new, principles of natural science. We also mean principles of discovery, creativity, as they are associated with the classical forms of art. But it is sufficient, for our purposes here, to identify the notion of scientific and technological progress.

Essentially man's successful history of survival, is determined by the exercise of this power of scientific creative reason: the ability of man to generate, to transmit, and to assimilate efficiently, advances, or lessening of imperfection, in man's knowledge of the principles of nature.

The result of this, is an increase in population-density, or potential population-density, which means, that in terms of production of the material means of survival, and development of man's condition--we might call it an improving standard of living--that the productive power of the average individual has increased in physical terms, in terms of technology, and physical production. Thus, we have a per capita increase in man's power over nature. At the same time, this per capita power is reflected in man's power per hectare, per square kilometer, over nature. The power to produce is correlated with the consumption of power. Thus, we see that the relations we describe--the geographical relations, water, power, transportation, and the location of urban centers, and so forth--reflect a deeper principle, the principle of man's relationship to nature, a relationship which is determined by the essential distinction which sets man apart from, and above, all the beasts: the powers of creative reason.

One must be informed in this proceeding, in constructing a proper plan of development, by reference to the method which I have employed in my own work. For example, I reference construction on the basis of the Lagos Plan of Action for Africa which I prepared some years back, and other plans of development, or as we have done in terms of plans for the development of Argentina, or the Ibero-American Common Market as a whole. In part, indicative of the method to be used, is what I have done in defining the development plan for the Pacific-Indian Ocean Basin as a whole.

This method is a method which I have learned from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. It is rather important to emphasize as a matter of practical consideration, that I learned this method first between the ages of 14 and 16, in choosing Leibniz over all other leading philosophers of France, Germany, and England, of the period of the 17th and 18th centuries.

This relationship to Leibniz was deepened from the age of 16 on, by my undertaking to defend Leibniz against the principles of the anti-Leibnizian, Immanuel Kant. My work in economic geography and physical economy began essentially at the age of 25, in recognizing the essential fallacy, the bestialization of man, inherent in Prof. Norbert Wiener's notion of information theory. The attempt to apply that notion of information theory to man, as somehow corresponding to the nature of human intelligence, or intelligent behavior, was bestiality, and I recognized this as being coherent with the fallacy of Kant in Kant's attack on Leibniz.

I have mastered the Leibnizian-Socratic method in these ways; mastered it from a very early age in adolescence, the age of the secondary school years where the formative development of the intellect occurs--rather than in a university, it occurs in the so-called secondary school age years. Therefore, I had mastered this method at the time most propitious for any person who wishes to master it; and thus, I have a certain excellence, a rather unique excellence, by virtue of others neglecting to do the same thing. One must say that in undertaking this kind of approach which I have indicated above, one must reference my work.

I would especially recommend a study of the elementary considerations of my method which is available now in a short book, In Defense of Common Sense, 1989, and reference also to a series of studies complementing that and treating some more advanced problems relevant to economics, among other things, called Project A.

The Oasis Plan: Man-Made Rivers And Growth Corridors Span the Deserts

by Marcia Merry

The Oasis Plan outlined by Lyndon LaRouche refers to a program encompassing already-proposed water management, transportation, and other projects, combined with the large-scale use of nuclear power to desalinate water, to establish a system of reservoirs and man-made freshwater canals and rivers throughout the Middle East-North Africa region. By this means, along with agricultural and industrial facilities, and the related provision of social infrastructure--housing, schools, health care, towns, cultural centers, etc.--the foundation is provided for economic development and durable peace.

We present here a summary picture of the priority projects for the region, and also a summary account of the means to provide the critical inputs for realizing these projects, from the output potential of the ``Productive Triangle'' region of central Europe.

Power to Make Water

First, consider what we can do with nuclear energy. Take a hypothetical case: Imagine an agro-industrial colony in the middle of a desert, in a location not conveniently reachable from a variety of freshwater management projects now on the drawing boards, but adjacent to salt water from the sea.

We take half a dozen high-temperature nuclear reactor (HTR) modules, of the type which today can be produced on assembly lines. We put together these modules into a power plant producing 1-2 gigawatts of electric generating power and an additional 1-2 gigawatts of usable heat output. We apply a portion of that electric and thermal output to desalinating seawater, using a combination of existing processes, at the rate of 70-100 cubic meters per second. This provides ample fresh water for the domestic, irrigation, and industrial needs of a self-sustaining agro-industrial colony of 1 million people--in the middle of a desert! The rest of the HTR power we use for pumping between the sea and the location of our colony (at an elevation of, let us say, 400 meters). A few more nuclear units cover the electricity and process-heat requirements of the colony itself.

Two dozen such HTR desalination centers produce a flow of fresh water equivalent to that of the Nile and Euphrates combined--a man-made river system!

In practice, the size of individual desalination complexes can vary over a wide range, using recently perfected modular nuclear reactor designs (see box). Complete desalination units, including nuclear power sources, can be built in assembly-line fashion on floating platforms for rapid transport and installation. The technology and most of the development work for such mass-produced units is already complete. The German firm Siemens and the Swedish-Swiss combine Asea Brown Boveri have project designs for these units. The HTR modules possess characteristics of stability and inherent safety which make them ideally suited for large-scale use throughout the region.

This application of nuclear power illustrates what can be done more generally, with the quality of productive power which nuclear technology embodies. Apart from the unlimited potential of desalination, it is eminently possible to transfer huge quantities of fresh water from areas with a surplus of such water--above all, the tropical rain regions of Central Africa--into the Sahel, North Africa, and even into the Middle East. Projects to accomplish this, through systems of canals, reservoirs, and pumping stations, have long been on the drawing boards.

The Great Projects

Figure 1 shows regions encircled where, with the necessary energy inputs and some ``geographic engineering,'' water can be channeled from surplus to deficit areas. Other types of projects are also indicated.

Engineering plans exist for the following projects:

  • Transferring water from the Zaire (Congo) basin, out of the Ubangi River system, into the Lake Chad basin to stabilize the lake and provide water resources for Sahel development.

  • Capturing more of the White and Blue Nile rivers to improve the headlands and downriver regions.

  • Developing the groundwater resources from underneath the Sahara, from North Africa across to northern Somalia, and under the Arabian Desert. In particular, the Qattara Depression is shown in northern Egypt, where a huge dry hole is a made-to-order lake bed for seawater to be transferred in via a 35-mile canal from the Mediterranean. In Libya, 1992 saw the opening of the ``Great Man-Made River'' project, in which water is pumped up from under the Sahara and carried by a huge underground pipeline to population centers on the Mediterranean coast which are otherwise running out of water.

  • Improving the flow of the run-off originating in the Anatolian highlands in Turkey, down through the Euphrates and Tigris River basins. The map indicates this by the two-pronged ``Peace Pipeline'' proposal of Turkey, which, even though the proposal has been used as a geopolitical ploy, symbolizes what could be done in terms of making run-off available in other ways--augmented flow, aqueducts, tunnels, etc.--to enhance the region. On the lower Tigris and Euphrates, Iraq has built a ``Third River''--a large drainage canal to carry away the saline irrigation run-off to the Persian Gulf.

  • The centerpiece projects of the entire region are proposed canals that would connect the Dead Sea either to the Mediterranean, or to the Red Sea, or to both, serving as seawater channels, along which nuclear-powered desalination units can provide the water resource base for development corridors throughout the region.

Figure 2 shows schematically the possible routes of these canals.

The Mediterranean-Dead Sea proposals have been discussed for decades. The route through Israel, south of Beersheba, was proposed by Dr. Gad Yaacobi. According to another proposal by Prof. Haim Ben Shahar, former president of Tel Aviv University, the project was more an energy program, not a water source--although recent technological advances in desalination have superseded this view.

Most recently, the Dead Sea-Red Sea proposal has been advanced by Dr. Munther Haddadin, a former director of the Jordan Valley Authority and head of the Jordan delegation for negotiations over water in the recent Multilateral Peace Talks. He has stressed the role of bringing in seawater to raise the level of the Dead Sea, which has fallen dramatically. A higher Dead Sea water column will act beneficially to stabilize the aquifers on both sides of it. Haddadin said in June 1992, ``The days to come and the months to come would probably witness a dialogue over a project like this [Dead Sea Canal] in the multilateral talks, and see how best that level of the Dead Sea be controlled.''

Through these and related projects, significant improvements in the water supply of the Middle East and North African nations could be realized within a few years, with dramatic improvements accruing by the turn of the century.

Man-made Rivers and Lakes

It is crucial that the water flows thus generated not be dispersed in an arbitrary manner, but be organized and concentrated in what could best be described as a ``network of man-made rivers and lakes.'' Water from the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea can be channeled via canals into a series of artificial reservoirs.

Where necessary, water must first be raised through pumping to points from which the water can then flow to reservoirs via canals. The power for this can be supplied by nuclear reactors. Where the creation of canals and reservoir basins requires large earth-moving operations, nuclear excavation can be employed with advantage.

Canals provide both the water flow to fill the reservoirs, and also a transport means. Along the canals and reservoirs we can construct ``nuplexes''--complexes of nuclear power and large desalination units, generating fresh water for a system of smaller and larger freshwater canals (``artificial rivers''). Large-scale use of desalination is complemented by channeling and pumping of fresh water from natural sources.

Instead of simply spreading the fresh water around evenly in an irrigation system, we can create with these rivers a network of interconnected ``green bands'' of development. As opposed to merely isolated ``green islands,'' these green bands become at the same time transportation axes for the movement of goods and persons by ship, rail, and road, and the locations for new towns, cities, and industrial complexes.

The locations and courses of the new rivers and ``green bands'' must be determined on the basis of geographical, geological, and infrastructural considerations, bearing in mind the future growth of population and transport as well as the regime of water flows which will arise through increase in natural rainfall.

The reservoirs of salt water channeled inland from the seas will serve several purposes. First, they supply the desalination plants and various industries along their shores. Second, they provide a means of transport, together with the canals. Third, the water from these lakes enhances the water cycle of the atmosphere; and there are potential hydrostatic benefits for the groundwater.

The ability to provide flows of fresh water in the indicated fashion also gives us the power to modify the climate of the region in a most beneficial way. Evaporation from lakes and reservoirs, and above all transpiration from plants and the other effects deriving from large-scale, irrigated, intensive agriculture in desert areas, greatly enhance the natural processes for generation of rain. Provided that water management and agriculture expand in parallel with the increase in rainfall, this process becomes self-accelerating. The throughput of water among the atmosphere, sea, land, and biomass grows to the point that the deserts finally disappear, and a mild, ``Mediterranean'' climate is established throughout the region.

Inputs from the European `Productive Triangle'

The most essential precondition for the proposals outlined here, is the realization of Lyndon LaRouche's infrastructure development program for the ``Productive Triangle''--the three corners of the spherical triangle defined by the cities of Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. The fate of the Middle East is inseparably linked to generating a new ``economic miracle'' in central Europe via high-speed rail and magnetically levitated rail systems and a renaissance of nuclear energy. Figure 3 shows the core region of the Productive Triangle, and radiating outward, spirals of development corridors along the centers of population and economic activity.

Given the collapse of the U.S. economy, it is continental Europe, together with Japan, which must provide the decisive margin of technology for developing the Middle East. This includes the mass production of nuclear modules and desalination units over the next 15-20 years.

In this context, we must massively upgrade the transport infrastructure between North Africa, the Middle East, and the Productive Triangle in Europe. This must include connections to the southern tip of Spain, a bridge to Sicily, high-speed rail connections to Istanbul, and connections to the Black Sea.

Among the proposed elements of this transport grid are:

  1. Construction of a transport route across the Strait of Gibraltar.

  2. Extension of high-speed freight and passenger rail lines from central Europe into a closed loop around the Mediterranean: over the Gibraltar bridge along the coast of North Africa, over the Suez Canal to Israel-Jordan-Lebanon-Syria, and via Turkey back to central Europe.

  3. Massive upgrading of rail connections through Turkey into Iraq, Iran, and beyond.

  4. Infrastructural development of the Black Sea area, providing for improved rail and sea links to the industrial centers of Ukraine, via the ``Danube arm'' (Line C on the map) to Europe's Productive Triangle, and through the Caucasus.

  5. Improvement of sea and pipeline connections between Sicily and North Africa (Tunisia), with the eventual option of a tunnel.

War Against the Desert

The process outlined here can be usefully thought of as a ``war against the desert,'' with the goal of attaining eventual ``final and complete victory.'' Fresh water is the immediate ammunition, and the ``frontline soldiers'' are the construction workers and corps of engineers who build the canals, towns, industrial complexes, and railways, and the farmers who work the irrigated land ``conquered'' from the desert. ``Behind the lines'' are the industrial workers and engineers who provide the ``armaments'' for the ``war'': steel, concrete, piping, desalination and power equipment, bulldozers and tractors, and prefabricated housing. Each new piece of territory won from the ``enemy'' must be consolidated, colonized, and converted into a base for further assaults on the ``enemy.'' The measure of firepower is the amount of useful energy which can be applied per square kilometer and per capita, in terms of intensities of agricultural, industrial, and infrastructural activity.

Just as with real armaments, increasing the firepower is a question of the level of technology. In the face of such a formidable enemy as the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, we would be foolish not to employ the most modern arms available--``nuclear weapons,'' such as the high-temperature reactor, combined with advanced desalination technologies and so forth.

The ability to use these weapons of modern technology depends on the education, training, and moral qualities of the soldiers and those who must supply and maintain such weapons. To these are added the scientists and engineers who must constantly develop and perfect new weapons in the course of the war. Ultimately, it is the productive power of society, the expansion of its economic base, which determines whether or not the protracted war against the deserts will end in victory.

Social Infrastructure

Ranking equally with the need for water in the region is the need for provision of housing, health care, education, cultural and religious centers, and all manner of social infrastructure. Despite strife and economic hardship, several local examples of new town development show the way.

For example, in the east Egypt desert, in the 1980s, agriculture complexes were created from the ground up, located at chosen sites convenient to new experimental agriculture development zones. Power was supplied for pumping groundwater. Where for the past 5,000 years only desert brush grew, water was supplied, and soils ``created'' by a scientific sequence of cropping, resulting in humus formation and good yields.

Wholly new towns were designed and built for the new residents, accounting for dwellings, schools, shops, religious and cultural centers, with attention to the architectural features. Now the design and construction of new towns becomes the foremost Great Project of the accords.

Railway Projects

Now these projects must be pursued. An immediate goal is to complete the rail lines along the main routes of Istanbul-Baghdad-Basra-Kuwait, Aleppo-Damascus-Amman-Jiddah-Mecca, Alexandria-Qattara, and Heluan-Bahariyah-Qattara, is more urgent than ever.

Since the conceptual work done by the Arab governments in the 1970s, additional useful projects have been envisaged. Resuming work on the Syrian-Jordanian segment of the old Hedjaz railroad, in connection with a Jordan Valley development project with extended operations at the ports of Tripoli, Haifa, and Aqaba and with the modernization of rail links between these ports, would create a joint region of rapid economic growth that could define mutual, sound interests in peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Furthermore, direct cooperation between the Suez Canal and the port of Aqaba could serve the development of a riparian urban culture along the western rim of the Arabian Peninsula, from Aqaba to Jiddah and Aden, and launch a mirror development on the western rim of the Red Sea, along the eastern African coast from Suez to Djibouti.

The natural extension westward of Egypt's Qattara development project would be the construction of a trans-Maghreb rail route from Alexandria to Oran to Tangier, along the Mediterranean coast of northern Africa, and the construction of another rail link from the Nile to the Lake Chad development project in northern Central Africa.

The creation of a rail ferry link from southern Italy and Sicily to the Libyan port of Tripoli, plus the drilling of two rail tunnels below the Strait of Gibraltar in the west and beneath the Dardanelles in the east (modeled on the Channel Tunnel project under construction between France and Britain), would establish three central connections of modern transport infrastructure among Africa, the Middle East, and the envisaged Productive Triangle in central Europe.

Generally speaking, the main trans-Arabian rail routes should be laid out in a two-track mode, at least, and eventually even in three or four tracks, to provide a basic, future-oriented rail grid that could last for the next 100 years. Electrification and broadening of many old tracks from the 1,000|mm gauge to the European standard gauge of 1,435|mm width is necessary to link the entire rail infrastructure of the North African and Middle Eastern regions to the modern rail grid of Europe.

If done properly, concentrated investments in the transport infrastructure, with emphasis on modernized and high-speed railroads, could lay the groundwork for a great region of economic cooperation among Europe, Africa, and the Middle East that would, after a long period of war and conflict, manipulation, and imperialist ventures, finally make the Mediterranean a lake of peace and development.

Energy and Water for the Mideast: the MHTGR

High-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) are an advanced form of nuclear fission reactor that originated as a spinoff of NASA's search for a nuclear propulsion system for manned missions to Mars in the 1960s. Prototype reactors have been operating for years at Fort St. Vrain, Colorado, and in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Designs are now forthcoming for modular reactors (MHTGRs) from General Atomics of California, and Siemens/Asea Brown Boveri. General Atomics proposes a standardized design for an HTGR module, able to produce 350 megawatts of thermal energy, which can be converted to about 140|MW of electricity. The GA MHTGR uses helium gas as a coolant, instead of water. Since helium gas is inert, and has very low neutron absorption characteristics, the MHTGR is top of the line in design safety.

The Asea Brown Boveri/Siemens proposal MHTGR is especially versatile for the Mideast Oasis Plan. The reactor's spherical fuel cell (Pebble Bed Design,) nicknamed, ``the potato,'' can be made in assembly-line fashion, and then the reactor modules that can be ``floated'' into place on barges, and hitched with desalination facilities to cheaply produce fresh water. A thorium cycle can be used, with which Indian engineers have particular expertise.

A unique advantage of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors is that their energy can be used as process heat or steam. Seventy percent of industry's energy needs are of this type. With the advantage of MHTGRs' flexibility in siting, they can be located strategically where they can provide water, electricity, and process heat for industry all at the same time.

How the Middle East Could Feed Itself

The greatest natural resource of the Gaza-Israel-Jordan region is sunlight. By providing water, and making use of the sun, fabulous crop outputs can be obtained through ``soilless'' agriculture, where plants are grown in protected environments either in nutrient water solution (hydroponics) or in air, with a controlled mist to their root systems (aeroponics). These advanced techniques give the highest yields of edible biomass per unit volume of water, and per square meter.

Consider the comparative yields of tomatoes, for example, in conditions similar to the Gaza Strip. In 1,000 square meters (one dunam) in soil culture, under plastic tunnel cultivation, one can grow 8 tons of tomatoes; in soil, under greenhouse conditions, 14 tons. By hydroponics, in greenhouse conditions with tap water, the yield is 14 tons; in plastic bed hydroponics, in saline conditions, 22 tons of tomatoes can be grown.

Variations of these soilless technologies for use in space are sometimes called astroponics. Many improvements in technique have come about from scientists working on the problem of growing food in space, where the entire biosphere for plants will have to be created and controlled by man. NASA has done extensive research into controlled-environment life support systems (referred to as CELSS,) which have direct applications to high-yield agriculture in the desert.

During one NASA test, researchers achieved the dramatic output of 4,760 grams per square meter of edible dry wheat biomass, in contrast to 500 grams per square meter, which is a good average yield for an open wheat field; or in contrast to the 1,053 to 1,450 grams per square meter achieved under other CELSS tests.

The methods for accomplishing high per-square meter yields have been thoroughly studied and demonstrated, for example, in Egypt and in Israel, especially in the Negev Desert. The technologies are ``ready to go.'' There is no reason to wait years to develop the desert sands into soil (which is possible to do over much of the region). Instead, the region can become self-sufficient in food practically the very first crop season that the advanced soilless methods are put into place.

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The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The American Almanac. It is made available here with the permission of The New Federalist Newspaper. Any use of, or quotations from, this article must attribute them to The New Federalist, and The American Almanac.

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