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Getting tough with the petro-elites

Thorsten Benner and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Internation Herald Tribune
The world’s fastest growing source of oil is West Africa. The United States imports more crude from West Africa than from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined; Angola has become China’s biggest supplier; the European Union imports almost one fifth of its oil from Africa.

The African petrodollars, however, benefit only kleptocratic elites. Angola is a case in point. Five years after the end of the civil war, people are still waiting for a development dividend from the country’s oil riches while Luanda’s elite is awash in oil cash.

The word is out on the “oil curse.” But there is nothing (super)natural about the mismanagement of Africa’s oil revenues. It is the direct result of the longstanding partnership between oil producing states, oil companies and consumers. As long as Africa supplies the oil, no further questions asked.

The Group of 8 industralized countries has finally started to challenge the one-dimensional realpolitik approach. Under German and British leadership the issue of transparency and good governance in Africa’s oil producers will feature prominently at the approaching Heiligendamm summit meeting.

The bad news is that the G-8’s proposed remedy is insufficient.

Thorsten Benner is co-founder and associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin. Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, author of “Oil and Politics in the Gulf of Guinea,” is a fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and at GPPi.
(10 April 2007)

Global security: a vision for change

Paul Rogers, openDemocracy
The United States’s global military strategy serves a control paradigm. What the world needs is sustainable security.
…These three elements – Africom, missile defence, and prompt global strike – combine with more troops and many new weapons for the war on terror to form what might best be called the “control paradigm”. In a dangerous and uncertain world, the world’s only superpower simply must have the means to remain dominant – and dominance requires military force.

The fact that the war on terror is already failing in Iraq and quite possibly Afghanistan; that a war with Iran would be catastrophic; and that al-Qaida continues to develop and thrive, as the bombs in Casablanca and Algiers on 10-11 April 2007 indicate – all this means very little. More generally, the possibility that there might be far greater problems ahead is simply not to be considered.

A different future

As it happens, two new reports from British policy groups present views that sharply contrast with this powerful orthodoxy. The first is the Global Strategic Trends Programme, 2007-2036 from the ministry of defence’s main in-house think-tank – the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) at Shrivenham; it focuses to a considerable extent on new weapons and technologies, but it also looks up to thirty years ahead and sees issues such as climate change, the wealth-poverty divide, energy-market instability and urbanisation as important factors that could lead to further conflict. The one limitation on this kind of thinking is that the DCDC naturally draws its remit from defence ministry; it is therefore concerned primarily with ensuring Britain’s security through its armed forces, and far less with the wider actions that might be necessary to counter these trends.

Though such an outlook might not be shared by all military personnel, a surprising number do recognise the limitations of military power. The leadership of the present British government is emphatically of a different view; Tony Blair’s speech on HMS Albion on 12 January revealed him to be resolutely committed to “hard power” …

The second report is the Oxford Research Group (ORG’s) Beyond Terror: The Truth About the Real Threats to Our World, published on 11 April. It also focuses on long-term security issues. The ORG defines four interlinked, evolving global problems: climate change; the widening socio-economic divide involving mass marginalisation; conflict over energy resources, especially oil; and the overwhelming tendency of the United States and some of its partners to see such issues as primarily military problems.

The Oxford Research Group argues that there needs to be a shift of thinking towards “sustainable security” in place of the current control paradigm. This would include emphasis on a far more radical approach to preventing catastrophic climate change; a worldwide effort to promote trade reform and other forms of economic cooperation to aid sustainable development in the south; and a determined effort to break the oil addiction, both to curb carbon emissions and to reduce competition and conflict.

The idea of sustainable security embodies a fundamental principle: that the centre of a human-security policy is the security of all people and their needs. But it goes further by analysing future dangers and seeking to ensure that policies are developed which can confront those dangers in their earliest stages. It necessarily involves the kinds of approaches that go way beyond defence forces to embrace such issues as trade, economic development and environmental management.

This might seem a tall order in current conditions, as the war on terror nears its seventh year. Yet what can also be said is that the next five years present a very positive opportunity for new thinking. Issues such as climate change, social inequality and economic marginalisation are rising rapidly up global and national agendas. Furthermore, the “long war” is proving such a hopelessly flawed example of traditional military approaches as to create a far greater chance of intelligent alternatives being taken seriously.

It can happen. But will it? If prophecy can be defined as “suggesting the possible”, then the world could do with a few thoughtful prophets just now.
(12 April 2007)

The Limitations and Necessity of Naval Power

George Friedman, Stratfor
It has now been four years since the fall of Baghdad concluded the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We have said much about the Iraq war, and for the moment there is little left to say. The question is whether the United States will withdraw forces from Iraq or whether it will be able to craft some sort of political resolution to the war, both within Iraq and in the region. Military victory, in the sense of the unfettered imposition of U.S. will in Iraq, does not appear to us a possibility. Therefore, over the next few months, against the background of the U.S. offensive in Baghdad, the political equation will play out. The action continues. The analysis must pause and await results.

During this pause, we have been thinking about some of the broader questions involved in Iraq — and about the nature and limits of American military power in particular. We recently considered the purpose of U.S. wars since World War II in our discussion of U.S. warfare as strategic spoiling attack. Now we turn to another dimension of U.S. military power — the U.S. Navy — and consider what role, if any, it plays in national security at this point.

Recent events have directed our attention to the role and limits of naval power. During the detention of the 15 British sailors and marines, an idea floated by many people was that the United States should impose a blockade against Iran. The argument was driven partly by a lack of other options.

Neither an invasion nor an extended air campaign seemed a viable alternative. Moreover, the United States’ experience in erecting blockades is rich with decisive examples: the Cuban missile crisis, barring Germany’s ability to trade during World War II or that of the American South during the Civil War. The one unquestionable military asset the United States has is its Navy, which can impose sea-lane control anywhere in the world. Finally, Iran — which is rich in oil (all of which is exported by sea) but lacks sufficient refinery capacity of its own — relies on imported gasoline. Therefore, the argument went, imposing a naval blockade would cripple Iran’s economy and bring the leadership to the negotiating table.

Washington never seriously considered the option. This was partly because of diplomatic discussions that indicated that the British detainees would be released under any circumstances. And it was partly because of the difficulties involved in blockading Iran at this time. ..
(10 Apr 2007)

Bush family does a Moon dance

Bill Berkowitz, Inter Press Service via The Asia Times
OAKLAND, California – When former president George H W Bush takes the stage to deliver the keynote address in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ultra-conservative Washington Times newspaper in mid-May, it will not be the first time he has spoken in support of one of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s enterprises.

And whatever fee Bush will realize from his appearance is only one aspect of what author Kevin Philips has termed Moon’s “close” relationship with the Bush family. ..

The Bush family/Moon relationship dates “to the overlap between [H W] Bush’s one-year tenure as CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] director [1976] and the arrival in Washington of Moon, whose Unification Church was widely reported to be a front group for the South Korean Central Intelligence Agency [KCIA]”, Phillips wrote in his best-selling book American Dynasty, Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush.

During a time when the activities of the KCIA were the subject of a US congressional investigation – dubbed Koreagate – Phillips pointed out that “within Washington councils, Bush was a powerful voice against any unnecessary crackdown on the US activities of allied intelligence services”.

“One of George H W Bush’s first tasks as director of the CIA was managing the ‘Koreagate’ scandal, in which the government of South Korea and its intelligence agents had waged espionage against the US government,” said Fred Clarkson, the author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy – which includes a chapter on the Moon organization.

During the 1980s, Moon’s Washington Times consistently supported the Ronald Reagan-Bush team in its version of the events surrounding the Iran-Contra scandal. According to Clarkson, “The Moon organization was part of the private supply lines to the Nicaraguan Contras, the Washington Times was given special access and provided consistently flattering coverage and the newspaper also set up a special fund for private funding of the Contras.”

In 1996, the relationship became decidedly financial when the former president traveled to Latin America to help Moon launch Tiempos del Mundo (Times of the World). At the time Bush called Moon’s flagship US publication, the Washington Times, “an independent voice” and assured the crowd that “Tiempos del Mundo … [will be] the same thing”. According to published reports, Bush received at least US$100,000 for his participation in that event. ..
(14 Apr 2007)