On Thursday, March 3, 2011, Dr. Timothy Brown, Director for the Americas, Centre International du Reserches et d'Etudes Sur le Terrorisme, gave a talk entitled "From SLOCs to Locks - A Geostrategic Exercise in Connect-the-Dots, from China to China."
Dr. Brown began his lecture by discussing his own experiences abroad, as a Consul General in French Antilles, as an interpreter for King Phumiphon Adunyadet in Thailand in the 1960s, and his deployment to observe the Thai Rural Development program in Vietnam, and the time that he headed up the special liaison office, a unique State Department office in Honduras.
He then explained that "geography is always a key element of national security policy" - a fact well understood by students in the IWP geography and strategy class. Dr. Brown then emphasized the fact that oil is a key element in our national security, and that SLOCs, or strategic lines of communication choke points, are key. He reviewed the most significant SLOCs for oil - the Suez Canal, Djibouti, Hormuz, and the Straits of Malacca.
Dr. Brown reviewed the Southeast Asian conflicts in the 1960s and 70s, and explained the particular strategic importance of the Straits of Malacca. In addition, he brought to life the history of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front in El Salvador, and explained some of the history of the region, sharing photos, clandestine letters, and personal experiences.
He suggested that the "new Southeast Asia" is much closer to home - in the Caribbean/Latin America area. In particular, he discussed the vulnerability of SLOCs near Florida, and the Bahamas, as well as the Panama Canal. He mentioned Nicaragua as the only other real place in the region that a sea level canal can be built, and that the US has relinquished its control over this canal. He also explained the fact that China owns land in the Bahamas, which is near a US underwater testing facility for submarines, and that the US has given up much of its territories in this region.
Dr. Brown concluded by noting that this area is very important in terms of geopolitics, and there must be a greater awareness of this significance among US policy makers.