What do you folks think of this?
April 25, 2003
It's unfortunate that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is now pretending the US will not establish military bases in Iraq once (or if) a coherent civil administration can be installed there. Establishing bases there has been very obviously Part B of the agenda (Part A being the removal of that vicious prick Saddam Hussein). The Iraq operation has been very much about putting a western police station in a geographically pivotal part of the Middle East. The reason for the police station is transparent: to monitor the activities of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Pakistan, and intimidate freelance organizations within those states who are intent on carrying out a Jihad against the West (and the US in particular).
Well, I said "unfortunate," but what's the alternative? To declare our intentions? Islamiscists of all stripes would go batshit. The Shiites are already going batshit, with a lot of prompting from Mullah Central next door in Iran.
Ironically, a substantial fraction of the American public misunderstands our intentions in Iraq, too. The Progressive / Anti-war / Leftist residue of my generation (the hippies) believes that the war was fought for the benefit of Exxon & Friends. While there's no doubt that America wants that Iraqi oil getting into the global market, there is no need for it to get there via American companies. There would also be not a prayer of protecting the oil extraction infrastucture from sabotage if it was owned and operated by American companies. So there was never any question that oil production would be left to the Iraqis themselves. Whether they can get their shit together to resume production is a question apart from that; and the answer (also in two parts) might well be that A.) even with help it will take the Iraqis a long time to restart their wells, refineries, and port terminals, and B.) that they will never again return to the production levels they enjoyed years ago.
The rest is a terribly important public relations exercise to demonstrate the good intentions of western "Enlightenment" culture -- that is, our attempt to construct a civil society based on the rule of law rather than the caprices of maniacs. It is unclear whether the Iraqis themselves can even function in what we call a free society, but it is clearly the hope of this experiment that they might.
In the meantime, the United States finds itself in a multi-layered predicament at home that hardly anyone in the media is paying attention to, and it goes something like this:
Due to the phenomenon of the global oil peak having been passed around the year 2001, the US economy is unlikely to enjoy "growth" rates of between 2 and 5 percent that have been considered both normative and necessary for the past 100 years of oil-based industrialism. That translates, more or less, into permanent recession. Helluva political problem.
What's more, the United States is not much of an industrialized nation anymore, since we outsourced the making of things to other countries. What is sometimes referred to as "post-industrialism" is really a skeezy blend of suburban sprawl creation (i.e. ongoing misallocation of resources), "service" jobs (tanning parlors and fingernail extension boutiques), mindless motoring, and a massive financial fraud revolving around hallucinated wealth (credit), much of it in the form of mortgages attached to the aforementioned suburban sprawl.
The American people themselves show no sign whatsoever of apprehending the trouble we are in at home, and show every intention of trying to keep the racket going. The big questions are: How long will circumstances permit this illusion to be sustained? How much pain will Americans feel when the credit train wreck occurs? And what kind of extreme social, economic, and political behavior will be generated at game's end?
Here are some of the things to watch out for. The price of a barrel of oil has not gone down since the end of the Iraq campaign. 2003 is turning out to be a piss-poor production year, with Venezuela crippled, Nigeria in chaos, Iraq closed for repairs, and the Saudis pumping at 100 percent of capacity. Global peak is probably behind us. A contest for the remaining oil now ensues between America, Europe, Japan and China. Virtually everybody else is shit out of luck.
This means a great deal of pain in the third world and the semi-third world (e.g. Latin America). It means more extreme oscilliations in price and supply and probable military maneuvering. If the Big Kahuna of Saudi Arabia goes down (that is, gets taken over by religious maniacs), then all bets are off. The US economy -- namely, suburbanites driving thirty-five miles each way to their office at a sub-prime mortage office on the other side of Atlanta -- gets crushed. Otherwise, look for the so-called economy to continue staggering. Look for tremendous fiscal distress at the state level, expressed in things like the inability to fix highways or fund schools. Look for the continued disintegration of the airline industry (and zero action at any level on the reconstruction of a national passenger rail network). Look for the tanking real estate market as saturation and exhaustion finally set in even among the cash-out re-fi for lunch bunch. Look for dismal sales figures from the chain stores. Keep an especially watchful eye on the natural gas situation, since a failure to replenish stocks after a very severe winter could lead to electrical brownouts by the end of the year.
And, of course, be prepared for another terrorist atrocity because despite the clownishness of the color-coded alert system, the danger is real. This is still a free country, easy to move around in, and the world is full of dangerous small arms, explosives, contraband poisons and germs, and an inexhaustible number of lunatics aching to use them.