Oil and Empire

John Michael Greer describes the relationship between oil supplies and international power. This is not fun reading if you are an American who believes that we can prosper with the same thinking about energy that dominated the 1900’s. Excerpts below.

Link: The Archdruid Report: The Future that Wasn’t, Part Two:

The basis of American power was geological, rooted in the accidents of paleoecology that left immense deposits of crude oil in half a dozen American states, and can be measured by the fact that in 1950 the United States produced more crude oil than the rest of the world put together. Winston Churchill famously remarked that the Allies had floated to victory in the First World War on an ocean of American oil, and the Second depended even more dramatically on oil production, with oil-poor Germany and Japan overwhelmed by the tanks, ships, and planes of oil-rich America and Russia.

By the first wave of energy crises in the 1970s, however, the geological basis for American ascendancy no longer existed, because most of it had been pumped out of the ground and burnt. I’ve argued elsewhere that the American political class in the Seventies faced a difficult choice between a transition to sustainability and a high-tech, high risk nuclear society, and ended up choosing neither because the costs on both sides were too high. Since then, political and economic gimmicks and a willingness to burn through our remaining resources with reckless abandon have papered over the hard reality of American decline.

It’s in this context, I’ve suggested, that the neoconservative adventures of the last decade needs to be interpreted. By the end of the 1990s, it was very likely clear even to the most recalcitrant members of America’s political class that trusting the free market to find a long-term solution to America’s energy dependence had failed. It’s a matter of public knowledge that investment banker Matthew Simmons, one of the first voices to raise an alarm over peak oil in the 1990s, was brought in as a consultant to Vice President Cheney immediately after the 2000 election. The march to war that followed can best be understood as a desperate attempt to keep the dream of empire from collapsing completely by giving America control over Iraqi oil reserves.

It was a bad plan, pragmatically as well as ethically, and the incompetence with which it was put into effect has not exactly helped the situation. Still, I’m far from sure that those Americans who talk about their eagerness to see the troops come home from the Middle East have quite grasped what they are asking for. For the last sixty years the American way of life has depended on wildly unequal international relationships that guarantee the 5% of the human race that lives in the United States access to more than 30% of the world’s energy and other resources.

Empires, Freedom, and Liberty

Below is an excerpt from a speech by anti-big government libertarian Lew Rockwell. This speech was delivered on October 28, 2006, at "Imperialism: Enemy of Freedom," the Mises Institute Supporter’s Summit. He mentions that fall-out from the Iraq invasion may tarnish good Republican causes, such as free markets. Don’t read this if you believe US foreign policy is in good hands.

Link: How Empires Bamboozle the Bourgeoisie – Mises Institute.

What must a person forget in order to believe in the unity of interest between US foreign policy and the American people? They must forget that the United States was born in revolt against not only the British Empire but also the very idea of empire itself. They must forget that the only way the US Constitution was adopted was the promise that it would not act imperialistically at home or abroad. They must forget the warnings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and many other leaders of the 18th and 19th centuries. They must forget about the history of failure of our own imperial wars in the 20th century, in which guerrilla armies have consistently beat back our regular troops.

Every American is right to be mighty angry at the Bush administration. Bush originally campaigned against the big government of Clinton and called for humility in foreign policy. And what did the Republicans do with their political capital? They squandered every last bit of it on an imperial adventure. In so doing, they further discredited other causes with which the Republicans are linked in the public mind, including the cause of free markets. War is all they have to show for themselves, and it’s a disgrace.

And at this late stage in the Iraq conflict, the Bush-run state is asking us to forget even how the Iraq war began. Recall that the idea was to bomb Baghdad, create shock and awe, decapitate the head of state, and then watch as the rest of the country celebrated their liberation from Saddam. Today, Iraq is a country in ruins. Death and violence are everywhere. The reconstruction is going nowhere. Almost 10% of the population has fled. The only immigrants coming in are those swearing to kill.

And yet I read the headline of the New York Times, which quotes what is passed on as some sort of revelation from the military commanders in Iraq. They have decided that the future of Iraq depends heavily on taking Baghdad, cleaning out its rebels and dissidents, and enforcing this through massive violence.

Folks, this is how this war began. And it is how this war is ending.

But let me say something in defense of the US military commanders in Iraq who concocted this latest scheme. There is something intuitively plausible and honest about the statement that if a government can’t control its own capital, it cannot control the rest of the country.

In fact, I propose that the same approach be used domestically. Before the federal government makes any more attempts to bring their proposed utopia to the rest of the country, let them eliminate poverty, crime, gang war, hate, despair, abuse, corruption, and injustice in Washington, D.C. Once that city is cleared of all such vice, we can talk about moving on to other parts of the country.

I think we can safely predict a quagmire.

The United States has no business attempting to run a government in Iraq, halfway across the world. A policy maker who claims to be surprised by the resistance is feigning ignorance of the heritage of the US. We are all rebels in our hearts. Anyone who longs for freedom must be.