The Slippery Slope

Is there enough oil? Or is there just enough oil to keep the Bush regime going?

American resolve to make the world safe for Western democracy will increasingly depend on economic control of oil. To that end, the U.S. is locked in feverish competition with China for the remaining oil and gas resources in Central Asia and the Middle East. Another huge reservoir of oil and gas lies under Russian control in Siberia.

News last week that Bush crony Donald Evans is on the short list to become head of Rosneft, the Russian oil giant, could give us added sway over that oil pool. Evans was commerce secretary and is a longtime pal of George W. Bush and one of, if not the main, adviser to Bush on energy matters. To have him running Russian oil would be quite a coup. According to the Russian press, Vladimir Putin is offering Evans the job of being chairman of the firm's board of directors. Evans would become the second major foreigner to manage a big Russian energy outfit. Former German chancellor Gerhard Schr is the new head of North European Gas Pipeline, which will pipe natural gas from Russia to Germany. Schr while chancellor, helped broker that deal.

Under Bush, the U.S. is committed to lessening dependence on foreign oil, especially oil in such faraway places as the Middle East, in favor of closer-by supplies in Latin America and Canada.

In reality, Bush foreign policy aims to make the U.S. more dependent on foreign oil by domination of remaining supplies. There are any number of signs that demonstrate this policy in action. For example, in the name of energy independence, Bush wants to spend billions to build liquefied natural-gas plants along the U.S. coasts to receive and process gas imported from the Middle East and Africa.

The most likely sources of LNG are in Central Asia, principally Turkmenistan, along with Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. Another large reservoir of gas lies in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea. The gas trade binds us more—not less—tightly to the Middle East.

For years the industry has complained that environmental restrictions result in reduced refinery capacity within the U.S. To enhance refining capacity, the energy industries are searching for less expensive sites for refineries abroad, and that leads them to the Middle East, again another indication of growing, not lessening, reliance on faraway sources. With Evans in charge of Russian oil, Bush is but a phone call away from obtaining another enormous reservoir of oil.

Meanwhile, China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, is all over the Middle East and Central Asia, scoring one deal after another. The most recent was last week's opening of a natural-gas pipeline from Kazakhstan. China has gas deals in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Earlier this year it bought Kazakhstan's third-largest oil company.


The Condi Doctrine

Bush energy plans are but part of the administration's foreign-policy doctrine. Largely overlooked in last week's Iraq developments was a fresh rendering of this concept in the form of an op-ed in The Washington Post by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Published on the eve of the Iraqi vote, Rice's piece presented the Bush administration's understanding of the 21st-century world and set forth a policy for dealing with it. Briefly, in this Bush-Rice worldview, nation states have lost their sovereignty and can only achieve stability through institutions of democratic government given to them by the U.S., the world's reigning superpower. Implicit in this view is the administration's determination to act unilaterally to achieve stability. Iraq is the prime example. But Iran and Syria appear to be in for the same treatment.

"The Bush Rice international system thus would consist of one in which the U.S. is accepted by all others as being the pre-eminent military actor," writes Gerald B. Helman, United States ambassador to the European office of the United Nations from 1979 through 1981. "Whether for this or additional reasons, conflict among major states would be unlikely; these states (which would include Russia and China) would be increasingly available, under U.S. leadership, to establish durable global stability that would amount to a balance of power favoring freedom. Those states that are weak or failing, principally in the Middle East, would forfeit the traditional protections of sovereignty so that outside powers can guide them to democracy. By thus abolishing their 'freedom deficit,' the swamps of terrorism would be drained and the world's security enhanced. Within this world, the U.S. would be able to operate largely unconstrained, employing shifting, ad hoc coalitions, monitoring and correcting as necessary national political systems and as a result preserve U.S. security."

It seems a bit far-fetched to think that China and Russia would allow the U.S. to run the world as it pleases. And as Helman points out, if the U.S. tosses aside existing treaties and international organizations in favor of unilateral action, then China, Russia, and others will do the same thing, and the world will be plunged into even more endless bloody turmoil.


Additional Reporting: Michael Roston

 
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