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Geopolitics - Sept 2

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Strategic Competition for the Continent of Africa (PDF)

Lieutenant Colonel Gregory C. Kane, United States Army War College
The United States is unarguably the pre-eminent nation in the world. Our economic
strength provides for a high quality of life for most of our citizens, large sums of capital for public and private investment, and the ability to field a highly capable and technically advanced military force. At the same time, the United States has become the largest debtor nation; currently some $7 trillion, has under-funded future governmental obligations, and has worldwide security commitments that stretch our military to the breaking point. In order to meet our future security requirements and sustain our pre-eminent military position, the United States must pursue a
foreign policy that ensures continued economic growth - without which, the government will be forced to reduce our commitments, cede resolution of issues to regional powers, or significantly reduce domestic governmental spending, currently politically unpalatable. And to secure growth, the United States needs to maintain access to natural resources and markets for American products. The largest underdeveloped market remaining in the world is the continent of Africa. We are not alone however, in that competition for Africa. China, a growing economic and diplomatic force in the world, has been aggressively pursuing economic goals on the continent and parlaying those economic ties into diplomatic clout. The competition for Africa has strategic implications for whichever country fails to establish or sustain access to that market.
(Feb 2006)
Another frank document from the U.S. Army War College. This one doesn't seem to have been noticed by any other media yet. Cheers to Scot for alerting us. -AF


Kuwait-China energy ties backed

Reuters via Trade Arabia
Kuwait City - Kuwait's cabinet has approved a bill to endorse a pact for oil and gas co-operation with China, an official statement said.
'The Council of Ministers discussed a draft law that endorses the co-operation agreement in the oil and gas sectors between the governments of Kuwait and China, and the Council decided to approve the draft,' the statement said.
(29 Aug 2006)


Cash-strapped Cambodia eyes black gold

Adam Piore, Christian Science Monitor
US oil giant Chevron is poised to prove Cambodia is sitting on oil reserves worth $1 billion annually.
----
...The amount of oil Cambodia will produce in the coming years is likely to have a negligible impact on world markets. But for this impoverished country of 13 million, still recovering from the brutality of the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese occupation, it could be nothing short of transformative.

"If managed well, this could be a huge opportunity for Cambodia," says Tim Conway, a poverty reduction specialist for the World Bank.

The oil money, says Mr. Conway, "could allow them to make investments in infrastructure, help diversify the economy, and develop schools and resources to help them compete in the region and the world economy.

"The concern is that if it's not handled properly, it could actually make them worse off."
(30 Aug 2006)


Black Gold (and the U.S. self-image)

Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly
Spencer Ackerman reads Peter Baker's Washington Post story about the upcoming visit of Kazakhstan's president and notes that Baker is oddly reticent about mentioning Kazakhstan's vast oil wealth as a motivating factor for playing nice with them:

Similarly, early in the piece Baker notes that other moderate-to-serious tyrannies receiving Bush's thumbs-up are Azerbaijan and Equitorial Guinea, and he also points out Dick Cheney's recent Caspian Sea excursion. But he does this all without mentioning that what all these nations have in common is possession of or access to quite a lot of a certain black, viscous substance that greases the wheels of the global economy and international relations.

....Look: There's a certain ridiculous tap dance in politics and in the media about talking about oil, as if the simple recognition that oil influences foreign policy is somehow a gauche or extreme statement. That doesn't mean that everything reduces to a question of who has oil and who doesn't. But what good does it serve to strenuously pretend that oil has only a trivial impact on U.S. decision-making?

Spencer is right, and this is one of the reasons that Americans are so clueless about how the rest of the world views us. I can understand a reluctance to be associated with the fever swamps of oil-based conspiracy mongering, but the plain fact is that a great deal of American foreign policy is driven by concerns over the stability of our oil supply. The rest of the world is well aware of this, and our blithe pretense that we're not concerned with such grubby issues - it's all about democracy! - is one of the reasons so many non-Americans don't believe a word we say on other issues as well. They probably can't figure out if we're in genuine denial about our own motivations or just being mendacious about them, but does it matter

On our end, of course, most Americans just end up being perplexed. Why do foreigners think we're after everyone's oil? How can they believe such a thing about us? The answer is easy: they believe it because there's a lot of truth to it. But you'd hardly know it if you read nothing but the American press.
(30 Aug 2006)


Welcome to world peace

Charles Kurzman and Neil Englehart, Christian Science Monitor
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. AND BOWLING GREEN, OHIO - World peace was not supposed to look like this. It was supposed to be more - well, more peaceful. But a remarkable global phenomenon is being obscured by headlines about bombs and conflict in the Middle East. The ancient scourge of war has disappeared, at least in the sense of one government's army doing battle with another.

Last week marked 1,000 consecutive days with no wars between nations anywhere in the world, since the night in November 2003 when India and Pakistan instituted a cease-fire. This is the longest episode of interstate peace in more than half a century.

Other sorts of conflicts still rage around the world, but these are not wars of government against government.

...The remnants of war are nasty and brutish, and the world needs to address collective violence wherever it appears. But let's keep these concerns in perspective. The global trend is a hopeful one, if we can avoid making wars out of problems that are not. Perhaps it is time to take a deep breath and pause to appreciate world peace.

Charles Kurzman teaches sociology and Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Neil Englehart teaches political science at Bowling Green State University, with a focus on Southeast Asia and human rights challenges in failing states.
(30 Aug 2006)

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