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NITA: The Wrong War For The Wrong Reasons

Not Important? Think Again
Sanders Research Associates
31 October 2002

The Wrong War For The Wrong Reasons

It is becoming clear that America’s War on Terror is not an enthusiasm shared by many other countries. France and Russia have manoeuvred effectively so far in the United Nations to short circuit American demands for a free hand to deal with Iraq. This is not, in our opinion, mere posturing. An important but missing ingredient in the public debate on Iraq has all along been the vital interests of other concerned countries, not least of them Iraq itself.

The US political economy is built on foundations of cheap oil, cheap space, and cheap money. The three are linked. Consider, for example, the energy required to cool workplaces and dwellings in the US southwest and the credit required to build and acquire them The US is a large and growing importer of oil and natural gas (PDF Link) to feed this need, a fact that is straining its relations with her neighbour Canada, whose gas she is burning, courtesy the NAFTA Treaty. Juxtaposed against this is the fact that global oil (and for that matter natural gas) production is within a few years of peaking. Being finite, this is a resource that serves its owners better by being conserved in the ground rather than being burnt more rapidly than absolutely necessary.

It should be clear that there are legitimate national interests on both sides of this issue, but these are obscured by the diversion of the War on Terror. This is no more than an attempt to delegitimise opposition to war by casting the issue in a moral light and diverting the discussion from the relevant to the irrelevant. The fact that the US is allied in this endeavour with Israel is an advertisement virtually nowhere in the world but Capitol Hill and the world Zionist community. Elsewhere, Israel is seen for what it is: a heavily subsidised imperial outpost engaged in the brutal suppression of an indigenous population. Uncomfortably, they are not aborigines, but rather people not too unlike you and me. Is this what the Americans have in store for the rest of the Middle East?

Russia, China and France are in effect being asked (as is everyone else) to accept American administration of the world’s oil supply. The “you’re either with us or against us” mantra is not calculated to make this palatable. It is rather calculated to make it seem inevitable. Quite apart from the principle of the matter, Russia is owed $10 billion by Iraq, and like France has a vital interest in the Iraqi oil industry. But more importantly, by refusing to ratify the Kyoto Treaty, the US is sending a very clear message. It sees no reason to incur an economic and political price for curbing its energy demand. On the contrary, given the example of the North American natural gas industry, the outlook is for continued American profligacy.

Having been able to put this one over on the rest of the world for fifty years, it seems as if the US thinks that it can continue to do so for the next fifty. The problem is, when you are the world’s only superpower, you have no friends, only enemies.

An Open Letter to the Financial Times

Last week we wrote to the FT in response to a column by Gerard Baker. Baker’s piece was a putdown of anti-war opinion that itself offered no reason for war other than the fact that the Americans seem to want it.. The thick layer of condescension and sarcasm within which his non-argument was wrapped only served to mask the intellectual void that he was serving up. We would gladly link to his piece here, but the FT has made it available to subscribers only, and we don’t want to encourage other people to waste their money. On the other hand, we don’t think that Baker’s belligerence should go unremarked either, so here is our letter.

The Editor
The Financial Times
Sir,

Gerard Baker’s column in the 24 October FT “Iraq Comes First” notably fails to provide any explanation for attacking Iraq other than the lame excuse that the rest of the world just doesn’t understand America after 911. On the contrary, the time that Mr. Baker spent in Washington in recent years appears to have inhibited his understanding of the rest of America rather badly. What other explanation is there for his and your paper’s failure to pick up on the biggest financial story of the decade? The US Federal government cannot account for more than $3.3 trillion in spending since fiscal year 1997. This arguably makes the Enron fiasco and the S&L debacle look like pre-school antics, but I don’t suppose that this would deter Mr. Baker from ignoring it. As for Iraq, a thoughtful pause to consider the divergence of national interests highlighted by the proposed seizure and administration of her oil fields by a military power dependent on cheap oil and foreign credit would be interesting, but again I don’t suppose that would deter him from ignoring the question. His dismissal of concerns about the Israeli lobby as “thinly disguised anti-Semitism” would be risible were it not so tiresome, but then I suppose one shouldn’t get too irritated at propaganda thinly disguised as journalism.

Chris Sanders
Sanders Research Associates Ltd.

Safire rhymes with satire

The FT’s sarcasm pales in comparison to belligerence of American pundit William Safire. Safire is an ex-speechwriter for Richard Nixon who has gone on to turn his turgid and pompous prose to the service of another politician, Israel’s Ariel Sharon. Having secured for himself the position of Sharon’s mouthpiece in the Washington press corps (I wonder how much competition for that there was, really?), Safire regularly blasts anyone and anything doubtful of or inconvenient to the cause of Greater Israel. Being thoroughly confused himself about the fact that Israel is not in fact, the United States, one should perhaps not be too critical of his other intellectual and logical lapses. On the other hand, he really outdoes himself here. Demanding that the UN hold Iraq accountable for non-compliance with its resolutions of course begs the question: what about Israel’s non-compliance with other UN resolutions? He denounces Iraqi “nuclear blackmail” although the consensus of expert opinion is that Iraq has no nuclear weapons. Now Israel has anywhere from 100 to 400 nuclear warheads with the aircraft, missiles and submarines to deliver them. Who is blackmailing whom here? Safire gives us the answer: those countries that don’t support the US, Israel and Britain won’t get a share of the post conquest oil bonanza. On the other hand, we strongly suspect that they won’t get a share anyhow, but why be churlish?
http://www.iht.com/articles/75134.html


A sword put in water rusts

After enduring Safire, it is a relief to read someone with both experience and intelligence. Martin Van Creveld is one of Israel’s most prominent military thinkers and judging from what he has to say about the Intifada and its likely outcome, also one of more pragmatic and intelligent than the people running the IDF. Crevelds’ prognosis is that Israel is heading for defeat at the hands of the Palestinians. They have nothing to lose and the Israelis have everything to lose.
http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/stories/s511530.htm


Fox gives Bush a two fingered salute

Mexico currently occupies one of the rotating non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Regarded as a safe pair of hands by the US, Mexico is not following Washington’s line on Iraq. Washington is losing friends fast.
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/28/international/americas/28MEXI.html?ex=1036772897&ei=1&en=80c4ae68e96a8e75

ENDS

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