Geopolitics - June 18
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Antonia Juhasz, Foreign Policy in Focus
The number of Americans who believe that the war in Iraq was a mistake has surpassed the number who felt the same way about Vietnam during that war. At the same time, a much quieter U.S. military build-up is underway on another continent. The ultimate objective of the two efforts is the same: securing Big Oil’s access to the regions’ oil. The impact in Africa will likely be the same as in Iraq: perpetual occupation, instability, and growing anti-Americanism.
In recognition of "the emerging strategic importance of Africa," in February 2007 President Bush ordered the creation of AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command. AFRICOM, like CENTCOM (Central Command) and EUCOM (European Command), centralizes all authority for the U.S. military operating in the African region under one command structure. AFRICOM also transfers many duties that previously belonged to nonmilitary US agencies - such as building schools and digging wells - to the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense. While fighting terrorism in Africa is the primary reason given for the establishment of AFRICOM, oil appears to be the more pressing motivator.
(17 June 2008)
Iran's Ahmadinejad says oil price artificial
The current high price of oil is artificial and the market is well supplied with crude, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday, pinning the blame on the sliding dollar.
... Ahmadinejad, who is president of OPEC's number two producer, has repeatedly said that the current high price of oil is not based on fundamentals and driven largely by the weakness of the dollar.
... Again showing his disdain for the greenback, Ahmadinejad reaffirmed his proposal to create a completely new currency which OPEC countries could use in oil transactions.
(17 June 2008)
Brzezinski: Russia after BTC pipeline
Russia's clash with the former Soviet republic of Georgia is a move to control the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Zbigniew Brzezinski told the U.S. Senate.
Brzezinski testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Central Asian and European energy issues. The hearing, "Oil, Oligarchs and Opportunity: Energy from Central Asia to Europe," looked into Russian control over oil and gas reserves and pipelines in the region.
(13 June 2008)
Garrisoning the Global Gas Station
Challenging the Militarization of U.S. Energy Policy
Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch
American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of "national security," requiring the threat of -- and sometimes the use of -- military force. This is now an unquestioned part of American foreign policy.
On this basis, the first Bush administration fought a war against Iraq in 1990-1991 and the second Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003. With global oil prices soaring and oil reserves expected to dwindle in the years ahead, military force is sure to be seen by whatever new administration enters Washington in January 2009 as the ultimate guarantor of our well-being in the oil heartlands of the planet. But with the costs of militarized oil operations -- in both blood and dollars -- rising precipitously isn't it time to challenge such "wisdom"? Isn't it time to ask whether the U.S. military has anything reasonable to do with American energy security, and whether a reliance on military force, when it comes to energy policy, is practical, affordable, or justifiable?
How Energy Policy Got Militarized
The association between "energy security" (as it's now termed) and "national security" was established long ago. President Franklin D. Roosevelt first forged this association way back in 1945, when he pledged to protect the Saudi Arabian royal family in return for privileged American access to Saudi oil. The relationship was given formal expression in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter told Congress that maintaining the uninterrupted flow of Persian Gulf oil was a "vital interest" of the United States, and attempts by hostile nations to cut that flow would be countered "by any means necessary, including military force."
To implement this "doctrine," Carter ordered the creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, specifically earmarked for combat operations in the Persian Gulf area. President Ronald Reagan later turned that force into a full-scale regional combat organization, the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM. Every president since Reagan has added to CENTCOM's responsibilities, endowing it with additional bases, fleets, air squadrons, and other assets
... In reality, the use of military force to protect foreign oil supplies is likely to create anything but "security." It can, in fact, trigger violent "blowback" against the United States. For example, the decision by the senior President Bush to maintain an enormous, permanent U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia following Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait is now widely viewed as a major source of virulent anti-Americanism in the Kingdom, and became a prime recruiting tool for Osama bin Laden in the months leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks
... And these are but a few examples of the losses to American national security produced by a thoroughly militarized approach to energy security. Yet the premises of such a global policy continue to go unquestioned, even as American policymakers persist in relying on military force as their ultimate response to threats to the safe production and transportation of oil. In a kind of energy "Catch-22," the continual militarizing of energy policy only multiplies the threats that call such militarization into being.
... This is, of course, not the definition of "energy security," but its opposite. A viable long-term approach to actual energy security would not favor one particular source of energy -- in this case, oil -- above all others, or regularly expose American soldiers to a heightened risk of harm and American taxpayers to a heightened risk of bankruptcy. Rather, an American energy policy that made sense would embrace a holistic approach to energy procurement, weighing the relative merits of all potential sources of energy.
It would naturally favor the development of domestic, renewable sources of energy that do not degrade the environment or imperil other national interests. At the same time, it would favor a thoroughgoing program of energy conservation of a sort notably absent these last two decades -- one that would help cut reliance on foreign energy sources in the near future and slow the atmospheric buildup of climate-altering greenhouse gases.
Petroleum would continue to play a significant role in any such approach. Oil retains considerable appeal as a source of transportation energy (especially for aircraft) and as a feedstock for many chemical products. But given the right investment and research policies -- and the will to apply something other than force to energy supply issues -- oil's historic role as the world's paramount fuel could relatively quickly draw to a close.
Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of several books on energy politics, including Resource Wars (2001), Blood and Oil (2004), and, most recently, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy. A brief video of Klare discussing key subjects in his new book can be viewed by clicking here. A movie version of his book Blood and Oil is now available on DVD.
(13 June 2008)
The politics of global food and energy crisis
Indo Asian News Service
The soaring food prices and the global energy crisis that are glaring at us today have proved many optimists of the past wrong. Some of these optimists had said three decades ago that the world will never have to face the current scenario as had been predicted by some Malthusian thinkers then.
... Many experts say the Bush presidency started the dangerous global fuel-game. Oil economist Mamdouh Salameh, an advisor to the World Bank, recently told Britain's The Independent newspaper that the oil price would now be no more than $40 a barrel had there not been the Iraq war.
Before the 2003 war, Iraq pumped some 3.5 million barrels of oil a day, but this has now fallen to just two million barrels.
... Whatever reasons the economists have, one thing is clear - the world is leading to a major resource-crunch that will have disastrous political implications - and even food riots as seen in some countries.
... [The] Iraq invasion, according to many, was the first "oil war" in human history. The post-war situation shows that it was just the beginning.
(18 June 2008)
Are They Really Oil Wars?
Ismael Hossein-zadeh, Middle East Online
Social upheavals and political convulsions in the Middle East are more likely to be the result, not the cause, of US foreign policy in the region, notes Ismael Hossein-zadeh.
A most widely-cited factor behind the recent US wars of choice is said to be oil. “No Blood for Oil” has been a rallying cry for most of the opponents of the war. While some of these opponents argue that the war is driven by the US desire for cheap oil, others claim that it is prompted by big oil’s wish for high oil prices and profits. Interestingly, most antiwar forces use both claims interchangeably without paying attention to the fact that they are diametrically-opposed assertions.
Not only do the two arguments contradict each other, but each argument is also wanting and unconvincing on its own grounds; not because the US does not wish for cheap oil, or because Big Oil does not desire higher oil prices, but because war is no longer the way to control or gain access to energy resources. Colonial-type occupation or direct control of energy resources is no longer efficient or economical and has, therefore, been abandoned for more than four decades.
The view that recent US military adventures in the Middle East and the broader Central Asia are driven by energy considerations is further reinforced by the dubious theory of Peak Oil, which maintains that, having peaked, world oil resources are now dwindling and that, therefore, war power and military strength are key to access or control of the shrinking energy resources.
... No matter how crucial oil is to the world economy, the fact remains that it is, after all, a commodity. As such, international trade in oil is as important to its importers as it is to its exporters. There is absolutely no reason that, in a world free of the influence of the beneficiaries of war and militarism and their powerful lobbies (the armaments and the pro-Israel lobbies), the flow of oil could not be guaranteed by international trade conventions and commercial treaties.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of the recently published The Political Economy of US Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.
(18 June 2008)
Whatever the merits of Mr. Hossein-zadeh's geopolitical arguments, his analysis of peak oil is severely flawed. His objections against peak oil are based on an oversimplified stereotype of the theory. Consulting original sources would have been enough to avoid this error. -BA