Chapter Five NSSM 200, Pages110-122


 It seems well understood that the impact of population factors on the subjects already considered development, food requirements, resources, environment adversely affects the welfare and progress of countries in which we have a friendly interest and thus indirectly adversely affects broad U.S. interests as well.

The effects of population factors on the political stability of these countries and their implications for internal and international order or disorder, destructive social unrest, violence and disruptive foreign activities are less well understood and need more analysis. Nevertheless, some strategists and experts believe that these effects may ultimately be the most important of those arising from population factors, most harmful to the countries where they occur and seriously affecting U.S. interests. Other experts within the U.S. Government disagree with this conclusion.

A recent study [Choucri, Nazli, Professor of Political Science, M.I.T. - "Population Dynamics and Local Conflict; A Cross-National Study of Population and War, A Summary," June 1974] of forty-five local conflicts involving Third World countries examined the ways in which population factors affect the initiation and course of a conflict in different situations. The study reached two major conclusions:

1. ". . . population factors are indeed critical in, and often determinants of, violent conflict in developing areas. Segmental (religious, social, racial) differences, migration, rapid population growth, differential levels of knowledge and skills, rural/urban differences, population pressure and the special location of population in relation to resources in this rough order of importance all appear to be important contributions to conflict and violence...

2. Clearly, conflicts which are regarded in primarily political terms often have demographic roots: Recognition of these relationships appears crucial to any understanding or prevention of such hostilities."

It does not appear that the population factors act alone or, often, directly to cause the disruptive effects. They act through intervening elements variables. They also add to other causative factors turning what might have been only a difficult situation into one with disruptive results.

This action is seldom simple. Professor Philip Hauser of the University of Chicago has suggested the concept of "population complosion" to describe the situation in many developing countries when (a) more and more people are born into or move into and are compressed in the same living space under (b) conditions and irritations of different races, colors, religions, languages, or cultural backgrounds, often with differential rates of population growth among these groups, and (c) with the frustrations of failure to achieve their aspirations for better standards of living for themselves or their children. To these may be added pressures for and actual international migration. These population factors appear to have a multiplying effect on other factors involved in situations of incipient violence. Population density, the "overpopulation" most j often thought of in this connection, is much less important.

These population factors contribute to socio-economic variables including breakdowns in social structures, underemployment and unemployment, poverty, deprived people in city slums, lowered I opportunities for education for the masses, few job opportunities for those who do obtain education, interracial, religious, and regional rivalries, and sharply increased financial, planning, and administrative burdens on governmental systems at all levels.

These adverse conditions appear to contribute frequently to harmful developments of a political nature: Juvenile delinquency, thievery and other crimes, organized brigandry, kidnapping and terrorism, food riots, other outbreaks of violence; guerrilla warfare, communal violence, separatist movements, revolutionary movements and counter-revolutionary coupe. All of these bear upon the weakening or collapse of local, state, or national government functions.

Beyond national boundaries, population factors appear to have had operative roles in some past politically disturbing legal or illegal mass migrations, border incidents, and wars. If current increased population pressures continue they may have greater potential for future disruption in foreign relations.

Perhaps most important, in the last decade population factors have impacted more severely than before on availabilities of agricultural land and resources, industrialization, pollution and the environment. All this is occurring at a time when international communications have created rising expectations which are being frustrated by slow development and inequalities of distribution.

Since population factors work with other factors and act through intervening linkages, research as to their effects of a political nature is difficult and "proof" even more so. This does not mean, however, that the causality does not exist. It means only that U.S. policy decisions must take into account the less precise and programmatic character of our knowledge of these linkages.

Although general hypotheses are hard to draw, some seem reasonably sustainable:

1. Population growth and inadequate resources. Where population size is greater than available resources, or is expanding more rapidly than the available resources, there is a tendency toward internal disorders and violence and, sometimes, disruptive international policies or violence. The higher the rate of growth, the more salient a factor population increase appears to be. A sense of increasing crowding, real or perceived, seems to generate such tendencies, especially if it seems to thwart obtaining desired personal or national goals.

2. Populations with a high proportion of growth. The young people, who are in much higher proportions in many LDCs, are likely to be more volatile, unstable, prone to extremes, alienation and violence than an older population. These young people can more readily be persuaded to attack the legal institutions of the government or real property of the "establishment," "imperialists," multinational corporations, or other often foreign influences blamed for their troubles.

 3. Population factors with social cleavages. When adverse population factors of growth, movement, density, excess, or pressure coincide with racial, religious, color, linguistic, cultural, or other social cleavages, there will develop the most potentially explosive situations for internal disorder, perhaps with external effects. When such factors exist together with the reality or sense of relative deprivation among different groups within the same country or in relation to other countries or peoples, the probability of violence increases significantly.

4. Population movements and international migrations. Population movements within countries appear to have a large role in disorders. Migrations into neighboring countries (especially those richer or more sparsely settled), whether legal or illegal, can provoke negative political reactions or force.

There may be increased propensities for violence arising simply from technological developments making it easier e.g., international proliferation and more ready accessibility to sub-national groups of nuclear and other lethal weaponry. These possibilities make the disruptive population factors discussed above even more dangerous.

Some Effects of Current Population Pressures

In the 1960s and 1970s, there have been a series of episodes in which population factors have apparently had a role directly or indirectly affecting countries in which we have an interest.

El Salvador-Honduras War. An example was the 1969 war between El Salvador and Honduras. Dubbed the "Soccer War", it was sparked by a riot during a soccer match, its underlying cause was tension resulting from the large scale migration of Salvadorans from their rapidly growing, densely populated country to relatively uninhabited areas of Honduras. The Hondurans resented the presence of migrants and in 1969 began to enforce an already extant land tenancy law to expel them. El Salvador was angered by the treatment given its citizens. Flaring tempers on both sides over this issue created a situation which ultimately led to a military clash.

Nigeria. The Nigerian civil war seriously retarded the progress of Africa's most populous nations and caused political repercussions and pressures in the United States. It was fundamentally a matter of tribal relationships. Irritations among the tribes caused in part by rapidly increasing numbers of people, in a situation of inadequate opportunity for most of them, magnified the tribal issues and may have helped precipitate the war. The migration of the Ibos from Eastern Nigeria, looking for employment, led to competition with local peoples of other tribes and contributed to tribal rioting. This unstable situation was intensified by the fact that in the 1963 population census returns were falsified to inflate the Western region's population and hence its representation in the Federal Government. The Ibos of the Eastern region, with the oil resources of the country, felt their resources would be unjustly drawn on and attempted to establish their independence.

Pakistan-India-Bangladesh l970-71. This religious and nationalistic conflict contains several points where a population factor at a crucial time may have had a causal effect in turning events away from peaceful solutions to violence. The Central Government in West Pakistan resorted to military suppression of the East Wing after the election in which the Awami League had an overwhelming victory in East Pakistan. This election had followed two sets of circumstances. The first was a growing discontent in East Pakistan at the slow rate of economic and social progress being made and the BengaIi feeling that West Pakistan was dealing unequally and unfairly with East Pakistan in the distribution of national revenues. The first population factor was the 75 million Bengalis whom the 45 million West Pakistanis sought to continue to dominate. Some observers believe that as a recent population factor the rapid rate of population growth in East Pakistan seriously diminished the per capita improvement from the revenues made available and contributed significantly to the discontent. A special aspect of the population explosion in East Pakistan (second population factor) was the fact that the dense occupation of all good agricultural land forced hundreds of thousands of people to move into the obviously unsafe lowlands along the southern coast. They became victims of the hurricane in 1970. An estimated 300,000 died. The Government was unable to deal with a disaster affecting so many people. The leaders and people of East Pakistan reacted vigorously to this failure of the Government to bring help.

It seems quite likely that these situations in which population factors played an important role led to the overwhelming victory of the Awami League that led the Government to resort to force in East Pakistan with the massacres and rapes that followed. Other experts believe the effects of the latter two factors were of marginal influence in the Awami League's victory.

It further seems possible that much of the violence was stimulated or magnified by population pressures. Two groups of Moslems had been competing for jobs and land in East Bengal since the 1947 partition. "Biharis" are a small minority of non-Bengali Moslems who chose to resettle in East Pakistan at that time. Their integration into Bengali society was undoubtedly inhibited by the deteriorating living conditions of the majority Bengalis. With the Pakistan army crackdown in March, 1971, the Biharis cooperated with the authorities, and reportedly were able thereby to improve their economic conditions at the expense of the persecuted Bengalis. When the tables were turned after independence, it was the Biharis who were persecuted and whose property and jobs were seized. It seems likely that both these outbursts of violence were induced or enlarged by the population "complosion" factor.

The violence in East Pakistan against the Bengalis and particularly the Hindu minority who bore the brunt of Army repression led to the next population factor, the mass migration during one year of nine or ten million refugees into West Bengal in India. This placed a tremendous burden on the already weak Indian economy. As one Indian leader in the India Family Planning Program said, "The influx of nine million people wiped out the savings of some nine million births which had been averted over a period of eight years of the family planning program."

There were other factors in India's invasion of East Bengal, but it is possible that the necessity of returning these nine or ten million ~ refugees to east Bengal getting them out of India may have l played a part in the Indian decision to invade. Certainly, in a broader sense, the threat posed by this serious, spreading instability on India's eastern frontier an instability in which population factors were a major underlying cause a key reason for the Indian decision.

The political arrangements in the Subcontinent have changed, but all of the underlying population factors which influenced the dramatic acts of violence that took place in 1970-71 still exist, in worsening dimensions, to influence future events.

Additional illustrations. Population factors also appear to have had indirect causal relations, in varying degrees, on the killings in Indonesia in 1965-6, the communal slaughter in Rwanda in 1961-2 and 1963-4 and in Burundi in 1972, the coup in Uganda in 1972, and the insurrection in Sri Lanka in 1971.

Some Potential Effects of Future Population Pressures

 Between the end of World War II and 1975 the world's population will have increased about one and a half billion nearly one billion of that from 1960 to the present. The rate of growth is increasing and between two and a half and three and a half billion will be added by the year 2000, depending partly on the effectiveness of population growth control programs. This increase of the next 25 years will, of course, pyramid on the great number added with such rapidity in the last 25. The population factors which contributed to the political pressures and instabilities of the last decades will be multiplied.

PRC - The demographic factors of the PRC are referred to on page 79 above. The Government of the PRC has made a major effort to feed its growing population.

Cultivated farm land, at 107 million hectares, has not increased significantly over the past 25 years, although farm output has substantially kept pace with population growth through improved yields secured by land improvement, irrigation extension, intensified cropping, and rapid expansion in the supply of fertilizers.

In 1973 the PRC adopted new, forceful population control measures. In the urban areas Peking claimed its birth control measures had secured a two-child family and a one percent annual population growth, and it proposes to extend this development throughout the rural areas by 1980.

The political implications of China's future population growth are obviously important but are not dealt with here.

Israel and the Arab States. If a peace settlement can be reached, the central issue will be how to make it last. Egypt with about 37 million today is growing at 2.8% per year. It will approximate 48 million by 1985, 75 million by 1995, and more than 85 million by 2000. It is doubtful that Egypt's economic progress can greatly exceed its population growth. With Israel starting at today's population of 3.3 million, the disparity between its population and those of the Arab States will rapidly increase. Inside Israel, unless Jewish immigration continues, the gap between the size of the Arab and Jewish populations will diminish. Together with the traditional animosities which will remain the prime determinants of Arab-Israeli conflict these population factors make the potential for peace and for U.S. interests in the area ominous.

India-Bangladesh The Subcontinent will be for years the major focus of world concern over population growth. India's population is now approximately 580 million, adding a million by each full moon. Embassy New Delhi (New Delhi 2115, June 17,1974) reports:

"There seems no way of turning off the faucet this side of 1 billion Indians, which means India must continue to court economic and social disaster. It is not clear how the shaky and slow-growing Indian economy can bear the enormous expenditures on health, housing, employment, and education, which must be made if the society is even to maintain its current low levels."

Death rates have recently increased in parts of India and episodes like the recent smallpox epidemic have led Embassy New Delhi to add:

"A future failure of the India food crop could cause widespread death and suffering which could not be overcome by the GOI or foreign assistance. The rise in the death rate in several rural areas suggests that Malthusian pressures are already being felt."

And further:

"Increasing political disturbances should be expected in the future, fed by the pressures of rising population in urban areas, food shortages, and growing scarcities in household commodities. The GOI has not been very successful in alleviating unemployment in the cities. The recent disturbances in Gujarat and Bihar seem to be only the beginning of chronic and serious political disorders occurring throughout India."

There will probably be a weakening, possibly a breakdown, of the control of the central government over some of the states and local areas. The democratic system will be taxed and may be in danger of giving way to a form of dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise. The existence of India as a democratic buttress in Asia will be threatened.

Bangladesh, with appalling population density, rapid population growth, and extensive poverty will suffer even more. Its population has increased 40% since the census 13 years ago and is growing at least 3% per year. The present 75 million, or so, unless slowed by famine, disease, or massive birth control, will double in 23 years and exceed 170 million by 2000.

Requirements for food and other basic necessities of life are growing at a faster rate than existing resources and administrative systems are providing them. In the rural areas, the size of the average farm is being reduced and there is increasing landlessness. More and more people are migrating to urban areas. The government admits a 30% rate of unemployment and underemployment. Already, Embassy Dacca reports (Dacca 3424, June 19, 1974) there are important economic-population causes for the landlessness that is rapidly increasing and contributing to violent crimes of murder and armed robbery that terrorize the ordinary citizen.

"Some of the vast army of unemployed and landless, and those strapped by the escalating cost of basic commodities, have doubtless turned to crime."

Three paragraphs of Embassy Dacca's report sharply outline the effect on U.S. political interests we may anticipate from population I factors in Bangladesh and other countries that, if present trends are not changed, will be in conditions similar to Bangladesh in only a few years.

"Of concern to the U.S. are several probable outcomes as the basic political, economic and social situation worsens over the coming decades. Already afflicted with a crisis mentality by which they look to wealthy foreign countries to shore up their faltering economy, the BDG will 1 continue to escalate its demands on the U.S. both bilaterally and internationally to enlarge its assistance, both of commodities and financing. Bangladesh is now a fairly solid supporter of third world positions, advocating better distribution of the world's wealth and extensive trade concessions to poor nations. As its problems grow and its ability to gain assistance fails to keep pace, Bangladesh's positions on international issues likely will become radicalized, inevitably in opposition to U.S. interests on major issues as it seeks to align itself with others to force adequate aid.

"U.S. interests in Bangladesh center on the development of an economically and politically stable country which will not threaten the stability of its neighbors in the Subcontinent nor invite the intrusion of outside powers. Surrounded on three sides by India and sharing a short border with Burma, Bangladesh, if it descends into chaos, will threaten the stability of these nations as well. Already Bengalees are illegally migrating into the frontier provinces of Assam and Tripura, politically sensitive areas of India, and into adjacent Burma. Should expanded out-migration and sociopolitical collapse in Bangladesh threaten its own stability, India may be forced to consider intervention, although it is difficult to see in what way the Indians could cope with the situation.

"Bangladesh is a case study of the effects of few resources and burgeoning population not only on national and regional stability but also on the future world order. In a sense, if we and other richer elements of the world community do not meet the test of formulating a policy to help Bangladesh awaken from its economic and demographic nightmare, we will not be prepared in future decades to deal with the consequences of similar problems in other countries which have far more political and economic consequences to U.S. interests."

Africa Sahel Countries. The current tragedy of the Sahel countries, to which U.S. aid in past years has been minimal, has suddenly cost us an immense effort in food supplies at a time when we are already hard pressed to supply other countries, and domestic food prices are causing strong political repercussions in the U.S. The costs to us and other donor countries for aid to help restore the devastated land will run into hundreds of millions. Yet little attention is given to the fact that even before the adverse effect of the continued drought, it was population growth and added migration of herdsmen to the edge of the desert that led to cutting the trees and cropping the grass, inviting the desert to sweep forward. Control of population growth and migration must be a part of any program for improvement of lasting value.

Panama. The troublesome problem of jurisdiction over the Canal Zone is primarily due to Panamanian feelings of national pride and a desire to achieve sovereignty over its entire territory. One Panamanian agreement in pursuing its treaty goals is that U.S. control over the Canal Zone prevents the natural expansion of Panama City, an expansion needed as a result of demographic pressures. In 1908, at the time of the construction of the Canal, the population of the Zone was about 40,000. Today it is close to the same figure, 45,000. On the other hand, Panama City, which had some 20,000 people in 1908, has received growing migration from rural areas and now has over 500,000. A new treaty which would give Panama jurisdiction over land now in the Zone would help alleviate the problems caused by this growth of Panama City.

Mexico and the U.S. Closest to home, the combined population growth of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest presages major difficulties for the future. Mexico's population is growing at some 3.5% per year and will double in 20 years with concomitant increases in demands for food, housing, education, and employment. By 1995, the present 57 million will have increased to some 115 million and, unless their recently established family planning program has great success, by 2000 will exceed 130 million. More important, the numbers of young people entering the job market each year will expand even more quickly. These growing numbers will increase the pressure of illegal emigration to the U.S., and make the issue an even more serious source of friction in our political relations with Mexico.

On our side, the Bureau of the Census estimates that as more and more Americans move to the Southwestern States the present 40,000,000 population may approximate 61,000,000 by 1995. The domestic use of Colorado River water may again have increased the salinity level in Mexico and reopened that political issue.

Amembassy Mexico City (Mexico 4953, June 14, 1974) summarized the influences of population factors on U.S. interests as follows:

"An indefinite continuation of Mexico's high population growth rate would increasingly act as a brake on economic (and social) improvement. The consequences would be noted in various ways. Mexico could well take more radical positions in the international scene. Illegal migration to the U.S. would increase. In a country where unemployment and under-employment is already high, the entry of increasing numbers into the work force would only intensify the pressure to seek employment in the U.S. by whatever means. Yet another consequence would be increased demand for food imports from the U.S., especially if the fate of growth of agricultural production continues to lag behind the population growth rate. Finally, one cannot dismiss the spectre of future domestic instability as a long term consequence, should the economy, now strong, falter."

UNCTAD, the Special UNGA, and the UN. The developing countries, after several years of unorganized maneuvering and erratic attacks have now formed tight groupings in the Special Committee for Latin American Coordination, the Organization of African States, and the Seventy-Seven. As illustrated in the Declaration of Santiago and the recent Special General Assembly, these groupings at times appear to reflect a common desire to launch economic attacks against the United States and, to a lesser degree, the

European developed countries. A factor which is common to all of them, which retards their development, burdens their foreign exchange, subjects them to world prices for food, fertilizer, and necessities of life and pushes them into disadvantageous trade relations is their excessively rapid population growth. Until they are able to overcome this problem, it is likely that their manifestations of antagonism toward the United States in international bodies will increase.

Global Factors

In industrial nations, population growth increases demand for industrial output. This over time tends to deplete national raw materials resources and calls increasingly on sources of marginal profitability and foreign supplies. To obtain raw materials, industrial nations seek to locate and develop external sources of supply. The potential for collisions of interest among the developing countries is obvious and has already begun. It is visible and vexing in claims for territorial waters and national sovereignty over mineral resources. It may become intense in rivalries over exploring and exploiting the resources of the ocean floor.

In developing countries, the burden of population factors, added to others, will weaken unstable governments, often only marginally effective in good times, and open the way for extremist regimes. Countries suffering under such burdens will be more susceptible to radicalization. Their vulnerability also might invite foreign intervention by stronger nations bent on acquiring political and economic advantage. The tensions within the Have-not nations are likely to intensify, and the conflicts between them and the Haves may escalate.

Past experience gives little assistance to predicting the course of these developments because the speed of today's population growth, migrations, and urbanization far exceeds anything the world has seen before. Moreover, the consequences of such population factors can no longer be evaded by moving to new hunting or grazing lands, by conquering new territory, by discovering or colonizing new continents, or by emigration in large numbers.

The world has ample warning that we all must make more rapid efforts at social and economic development to avoid or mitigate these gloomy prospects. We should be warned also that we all must move as rapidly as possible toward stabilizing national and world population growth.

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