Friday, September 22, 2006
Michael Klare on Removing Oil from the EquationEverything that rises must converge, says one of my favorite Southern writers - no, just one of my favorite writers, - Flannery O'Connor. And everything does seem to be converging in our present world crises. I speak of war, blood, oil, terrorism, fear of terrorism, more war, oil crisis, more blood, more fear. For anyone who still maintains that the Middle-Eastern wars have nothing to do with oil - and I know you're out there! - I recommend the writer whom I offer in today's Daily Quote sidebar, Michael T. Klare.
Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, who has written a book called Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (Owl Books). I haven't yet read his book, but I have read many of his columns on Tom Engelhardt's excellent website, Tomdispatch. Most of his writing there is on the subject of his book; he writes in a clear sane voice, without diatribe, and his ideas on policy would lead to a president capable of any level of thinking about the future (or, the present, for that matter) hiring him on the spot.
The quote offered today is from his column in Tom Paine yesterday, Taking Oil Out of the Equation. He offers us a clear history of what he calls "the relationship between America’s oil dependency and contemporary Middle Eastern terrorism," and states that "it is necessary to know something about the historical trajectories of both."
If you want fodder for argument with any obdurate sparring partners who still have their heads in the sand, maintaining that our military actions are for the purpose of bringing democracy to an evil people who hate freedom, this will do very nicely. We all need to be aware of the historical facts that are influencing the events of our sorry contemporary history in the Middle East.
... American claims that the war in Iraq and other facets of the U.S. military presence in the region have nothing to do with oil will fall on deaf ears in the Middle East so long as the United States remains dependent on Persian Gulf oil, continues to stand by its alliance with the Saudi royal family, and retains its belief in the legitimacy of using military force to protect the flow of oil. However obscure to ordinary Americans, these bedrock features of our policies in the Gulf policies are common knowledge to virtually all Middle Easterners and constitute the core elements of their understanding of their basic world outlook. This explains, for example, why Middle Easterners are more likely to believe what Osama bin Laden and his associates have to say about current affairsthan what American officials routinely dispense as news. Clearly, it is high time that we acquire a similar grasp of the underlying realities.This column offers a simple and clear introduction to the "underlying realities" of our past history in the region. Klare's policy for the future would be to adopt a lower profile in the Middle East, distance ourselves from the oil regimes, and reduce our reliance on military force to protect our energy supplies, and his answer to the natural question: can we actually do this? follows here:
Yes we can—but only if we can gain greater control over our craving for imported oil. This means using less petroleum (through conservation measures, higher fuel efficiency requirements, lower speed limits, and so on), employing more substitutes (especially ethanol), and relying on mass transit. The greater our self-discipline at home, the stronger will be our capacity to fashion a new strategy in the Middle East—one that allows us to repudiate the Carter Doctrine and withdraw our forces from the region, thereby robbing the terrorists of their principal recruiting appeal.Nothing we haven't heard before, is it? It is, however, what we have heard from many in the environmental world, placed here in the context of understanding, and winning, the "war on terror." As Klare concludes:
No matter how hard we try, we cannot prevail in the "war on terror" so long as we continue to ignore the oil dimensions of the conflict. Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants understand full well that America’s presence in their backyard is driven by our addiction to Middle Eastern oil, and that so long as we do nothing to curb this addiction we will continue to embrace policies that will generate ever more recruits for al-Qaida. Only through self-discipline and the elimination of our oil dependency can we break this cycle and so win the war against terror.
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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