Putting the Geostrategy back into Geogreen

The 500-Mile-Per-Gallon Solution,” by Max Boot, Los Angeles Times, 24 March 2005, http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-max24mar24,0,114126.column?coll=la-news-comment-opinions (from South Dakota Politics).

Max Boot joins Tom Friedman‘s Geo-Green strategists.

While high oil prices aren’t much of an economic drag, they cause real harm

In absolute terms, today’s prices are still half of the 1970s peaks, and the U.S. economy has become much less dependent on petroleum since then. (Computers run on electricity, not gasoline.) But imagine what would happen if Al Qaeda were to hit the giant Ras Tanura terminal in Saudi Arabia, where a tenth of global oil supplies are processed every day. Prices could soar past $100 a barrel, and the U.S. economy could go into a tailspin. As it is, high oil prices provide money for Saudi Arabia to subsidize hate-spewing madrasas and for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

(Max is more concerned about Iran than I am, but even here he has a good point. Iran must develop a normal economy, and high oil revenue will warp that process. Anyway…)

Neither Congressional Democrats nor Congressional Republicans seem interested in a real solution

Both Democrats and Republicans know this, but neither party is serious about solving this growing crisis. Democrats who couldn’t tell the difference between a caribou and a cow grandstand about the sanctity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though 70% of Alaskans are happy to see a bit of drilling in this remote tundra. Republicans, for their part, pretend that tapping ANWR will somehow solve all of our problems. If only. A government study finds that, with ANWR on line, the U.S. will be able to reduce its dependence on imported oil from 68% to 65% in 2025.

Green environmentalism alone won’t help, because of Rising Asia

How to do better? Biking to work or taking the train isn’t the answer. Even if Americans drive less, global oil demand will surge because of breakneck growth in India and China.

The solution is structural… reduce the need for oil, everywhere, permanently.

The Middle East, home of two-thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves, will remain of vital strategic importance unless we can develop alternative sources of automotive propulsion and substantially decrease global, not just American, demand for petroleum. An ambitious agenda to achieve those goals has been produced by Set America Free, a group set up by R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney and other national security hawks.

They advocate using existing technologies — not pie-in-the-sky ideas like hydrogen fuel cells — to wean the auto industry from its reliance on petroleum. Hybrid electric cars such as the Toyota Prius, which run on both electric motors and gas engines, already get more than 50 miles per gallon. Coming soon are hybrids that can be plugged into a 120-volt outlet to recharge like a cellphone. They’ll get even better mileage.

Happily, even South Dakota has a role to play

Add in “flexible fuel” options that already allow many cars to run on a combination of petroleum and fuels like ethanol (derived from corn) and methanol (from natural gas or coal), and you could build vehicles that could get — drum roll, please — 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. That’s not science fiction; that’s achievable right now.

What’s stopping us? Twelve billion dollars.

There is, of course, a catch. Moving to hybrid electric cars won’t be cheap. Automakers would have to retool their wares, gas stations would have to add alcohol-fuel pumps, parking lots would have to add electric outlets. Set America Free puts the price tag at about $12 billion over the next four years. It sounds like a lot of money, but it could easily be financed by slightly raising U.S. gasoline taxes (currently about 43 cents a gallon), which are much lower than in Europe and Japan. Higher taxes could also be used to encourage more domestic oil exploration and production, given that petroleum will never be entirely eliminated as an energy source.

I would rather spend twelve billion now than continue maintaining Saudi-Occupied Arabia.

People Power Bahrain

Mass March Urges Reform in Bahrain,” Reuters, 26 March 2005, http://xtramsn.co.nz/news/0,,11965-4230769,00.html (from Informed Comment).

The Shia Nova rolls on, this time in an important U.S. ally. A large Shia demonstration against the government of Bahrain gathered a crowd of 80,000, this in a country as populous as South Dakota.

Tens of thousands have marched in one of Bahrain’s largest opposition demonstrations to demand democratic reforms in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state.

Bahrain is a small Kingdom in the Persian Gulf
Nearby are predominately Shia Iran, Iraq,
and Saudi-Occupied East Arabia

Friday’s peaceful march, called by the Shi’ite-led opposition, follows unsuccessful talks with the government on constitutional reforms to give greater powers to parliament’s elected assembly, which is on an equal footing with a state-appointed chamber.

Bahrain, the Gulf’s banking hub and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has introduced some reforms, but the opposition, led by the country’s majority Shi’ite Muslims, want more rights in the small Sunni-ruled island state.

As ghastly as it is, I have to agree with Ur-Left blogger Juan Cole. This is great news. Cole gives some background, showing it to be basically a disagreement over the last election and its rules. And the rally leaders seem like good guys.

Shaikh Ali Salman, the clerical leader for the rally, addressed the crowd and demanded that parliament be permitted to legislate on its own account and that there be a genuine separation of powers.

Downright Jeffersonian!

Salman emphasized that the reform movement is peaceful and has the best interests of the nation at heart. He said it wants Bahrain to go ahead with hosting the Formula 1 race early in April, and will refrain from demonstrating during it.

My kind of Muslims!

Now, how will America respond? Bahrain is a stable state and a good ally, so we have to treat the government well. But no one can deny the rights of the people. Dr. Cole explains

The US has a naval base in Bahrain and its king has been a helpful ally. Will George W. Bush support Shaikh

Salman or King Hamad? Bush spoke out forcefully against the Syrian presence in Lebanon and in favor of Lebanese democracy. Will he speak out in favor of majority rule and popular sovereignty in Bahrain?

Big Dreams, Small Island

And if he doesn’t, won’t the rest of the Middle East assume he is just hypocritically hiding behind catch phrases like “democracy” to make trouble for the countries in the region like Syria and Iran, which Bush does not like, and which are seen as threats by his expansionist friends in Israel’s Likud party?

I hope Bush uses this to further democracy in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and East Arabia. This may be very good news.

Update: Dawn’s Early Light links to Publius’s reaction. Publius, in turn, sends his users over to Chan’ad Bahraini’s protest pictures. Sadly, no Bahrain protest babes.

Not exactly Democracy Divas

India Works, Pakistan Doesn’t

China pitching for FTA with India,” Financial Express, 25 March 2005, http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=86137 (from The Acorn).

US gives Pak F-16s, India gets F-16s plus plus,” by C Raja Mohan and Pranab Dhal Samanta, Indian Express, 25 March 2005, http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=67213 (from The Acorn).

Behind the Bugti frontlines,” by Sherry Rehman, The News, 26 March 2005, http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/mar2005-daily/26-03-2005/main/main7.htm (from The Acorn).

India is Functioning, Pakistan is Non-Integrating. Again and again, New Delhi seeks to grow the world economy and create a global security regime. Again and again, Pakistan proves it is a failing state.

As India and America grow their security ties stratospherically

On missile defence, the classified briefing given to India by a Pentagon team last month was on the PAC 2 Plus system. This takes care of integration with radar systems being developed now by Raytheon. Such a briefing has only been given to Israel outside the NATO.

The Bush Administration is also proposing a major change in its non-proliferation policy towards India by offering cooperation in the area of commercial atomic energy generation—including nuclear reactor technology—for the first time in three decades.

This comes days after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—she spoke to External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh in Myanmar today—had revealed a package of proposals aimed at addressing India’s security and energy needs.

Having opposed the natural gas pipeline with Iran, the Bush Administration believes it has an obligation to offer alternative options to India. It is in this context that Washington is proposing nuclear energy cooperation.

The Bush Administration is expected to shortly take up the possibility of such cooperation with the US Congress that has put in legislative constraints on the transfer of nuclear energy technology.

To top it all, the Bush Administration wants a dialogue on global issues with India aimed at increasing New Delhi’s role in international institutions such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Group of Eight industrial countries.

And India ponders a free trade agreement with that other rising state, China

China is pushing for a free trade agreement (FTA) with India which, it claims, would result in the biggest free trade region in the world.

Speaking to media persons at a round table on trade with China organised by the Federation of Indian Export Organisation, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Yuxi said that while the Chinese government supported the proposed FTA, the business community and experts needed to have detailed discussions on the issue.

Referring to the recent meeting of the joint study group (JSG) on closer economic co-operation between India and China in New Delhi, Mr Yuxi said the Chinese representatives in the group had advocated the need to go in for an FTA between the two countries. “It is now for the Indian side to take a decision on the issue,” he said.

(In other words, while India is growing its web of security and trade connectivity.)

The Crumbling Islamic Republic
Secessionist Baluchistan in the South-West
Anarchic Tribal Regions in the Center-West
Disputed Kashmir in the North-East
Rump Pakistan in the Middle

Pakistan falls apart

Balochistan’s geo-strategic location has put it squarely back in the new great game for energy and shipping lines, and the colonial administrative structures left intact there since the 19th century feed into the ambiguity about state law that such tribal societies experience. Vital parts of the huge province are in the grip of an open civil war, administered under three crumbling legal systems, but the tragedy is that Islamabad is still sleeping, almost a hundred years removed from the reality of the backwater that could break away Pakistan’s long under-populated flank.

As it stands, the military logic is as follows: if even a proportion of all 6,000 FC personnel stationed in Balochistan are transferred to Dera Bugti, to supplement the 600 odd men the FC has posted in Dera right now, they will of course win more than a pitched battle with the outnumbered Bugtis. What the military is finding hard to grasp is that they will still lose the war. Basically, the way the terrain is configured, it is almost impossible to win a final battle against hardened tribals that know the landscape, its secret gulleys, its dips and peaks. Anybody, who has followed the tortuous history of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets can see the parallels between the Salang highway bottlenecks and the negotiating power of the warlords, who routinely bartered their control of the supply route for political and fiscal exchanges. The only difference here is that the Baloch field commanders cannot be broken by cash and compromise, so they remain committed to their political objectives, and in this case they are engaged in battle against their own government, not a foreign power.

Hello and Good Bye

Hello South Dakota Politics fans! SDP was kind enough to link to me, twice!, and I appreciate it.

For getting around this site… In the left column you will find categories, including South Dakota news. The right-hand column has recent stories and comments, including Stephanie Herseth, Republican Hacker? and the Ellsworth thread: Blood or Money?.

And good bye to SDP master-blogger Jon Lauck, who is taking a job working for Senator Thune. Thanks for your inspiration, and good luck in Washington!

French Hawks

France Threatens Military Action Against Syria over Lebanon!,” Naharnet, 26 March 2005, http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/Newsdesk.nsf/Story/CCA1B20FF465EB02C2256FD0003A070F?OpenDocument&PRINT (from Democratic Underground).

Syria’s stupid assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister just earned them threats from an unlikely source

France has reportedly warned the Assad regime against playing procrastination games to sabotage the process of change in Lebanon, saying “otherwise, all doors will be flung open for all eventualities against Syria,” including military action.

The London-based Asharq Al Awsat on Saturday quoted a French official as saying the report of the U.N. fact-finding mission on ex-Premier Hariri’s assassination “is the message we wanted to address to Syria to refrain from preventing the change in Lebanon.”

The newspaper quoted the French official as saying in a harsh language that reflects a French ultimatum: “France has long resisted calls for directly attacking Syria. So do not push us into a situation where we have to change our stance.”

“If the Syrians fail to understand this or if they try to manipulate and procrastinate, they will lose their last chance” the French official said, according to the Saudi-owned newspaper.

France has long supported Wolfowitz Style Occupations — little planning, lots of killing. The French Republic’s opposition to the Iraq was built on interest, not principal — France is willing and able to destroy small countries.

Chirac may prefer having France invade Syria, and so make France and feared as America, than have France look weak and America look strong.

This will be interesting.

Cross-Blog Conversation on the Pakistan F-16 Sale

A post at Dawn’s Early Light is hosting an emerging discussion on America’s planned arms sale to Pakistan. Pakistan, a truly terrible country, has its army working under rules of engagement that allows it to kill Americans. South Dakota’s own Larry Pressler condemned the sale earlier. In this blog, DEL’s Bill wrote:

The US agreement to sell F-16s to Pakistan is the opening public gambit in the US bid to strengthen Indian-US relations. I know this sounds completely backwards, but if you would indulge my argument I think you may find it interesting (http://dawnsearlylight.blogs.com/del/2005/03/del_makes_a_…)

Counting an update, there are already three comments. My first thoughts:

  1. Nitin is right that the China-Pakistan angle is important, but he misunderstands it. PRC-IRP-USA have an old working-alliance going back to Nixon. During the closing decades of the cold war the three worked together to check Soviet power. Nor is America overly concerned about Chinese acquiring technology — Israel regularly works with China as an American proxy. I think Bush’s care for Pakistan relates to this, and particularly the concern that if America abandons Pakistan it will reinforce a Beijing-Islamabad axis.
  2. Robert is right that Rice is courting regional powers. But this was Powell’s aim too, and he was very successful at it. Under GWB America never had better relationships with Russia, India, China, or Japan. It’s this tradition which makes the Pakistan sale otherwise puzzling.
  3. We have to be careful with talk of “containment.” Bush is clearly trying to create a sustainable balance to China. But China is emerging as a force for good. Hedging our bets is not containment.
  4. Bush’s generally pro-democracy push also makes the sale strange. Pakistan is a terrible country, combining North Korean proliferation with Saudi repression with BS Saudi-style diplomacy. If America would be able to secure nuclear installations an Islamist government would be a step up from Musharraf.

Go there now.

Update Asia by Blog’s Simon agrees with me. Imagine if Cicero came down and shouted, “Mad props on your whack statesmanship.” That’s what this is like for me.

I’m with Dan. The first assumption that needs addressing is whether China is a competitor or a potential ally. It’s early days but the latter is more likely, especially given the closer economic ties betweent the two. Next is dealing with “rising India” – in that you’re right that Rice is playing the next decade’s game. Also China and India recognise each other’s rise and our currently undergoing a rapid rapproachment over such issues as the border and Tibet. It’s not about containment, it’s about strategic balance.