Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

The Age of Insufficiency

One thing i like about oil prices so close to $100 is the fact that it’s forcing a lot of people to stop and think about our dependence on petroleum. There is so much coming out these days that it’s difficult to keep track of. Micheal Klare has an interesting piece in the Nation that looks at prospects for the end of the Age of Petroleum.

This past May, in an unheralded and almost unnoticed move, the Energy Department signaled a fundamental, near epochal shift in US and indeed world history: we are nearing the end of the Petroleum Age and have entered the Age of Insufficiency. The department stopped talking about “oil” in its projections of future petroleum availability and began speaking of “liquids.”


“Liquids,” the department explains in its International Energy Outlook for 2007, encompasses “conventional” petroleum as well as “unconventional” liquids–notably tar sands (bitumen), oil shale, biofuels, coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids. Once a relatively insignificant component of the energy business, these fuels have come to assume much greater importance as the output of conventional petroleum has faltered.

Portent Indeed.

The article goes on to discuss the various factors such as falling output from old oil fields, especially outside OPEC and countries such as Russia; the instability of the major oil sources such as Africa and the Middle East; US dependency and historic policy; and so forth. The concluding remarks:

And so we have a portrait of the global energy situation after the peak of conventional petroleum, with troops being rushed from one oil-producing hot spot to another and a growing share of our transportation fuel being supplied by nonpetroleum liquids of one sort or another. Exactly what form this future energy equation will take cannot be foreseen with precision, but it is obvious that the arduous process will shape American policy debates, domestic and foreign, for a long time.

As this brief assessment suggests, the passing of peak oil will have profound and lasting consequences for this country, with no easy solutions. In facing this future, we must, above all, disavow any simple answers, such as energy “independence” based on the pillage of America’s remaining wilderness areas or the false promise of corn-based ethanol (which can supply only a tiny fraction of our transportation requirements). It is clear, moreover, that many of the fuel alternatives proposed by the Bush Administration pose significant dangers of their own and so should be examined carefully before vast public sums are committed to their development. The safest and most morally defensible course is to repudiate any “consensus” calling for the use of force to protect overseas petroleum supplies and to strive to conserve what remains of the world’s oil by using less of it.

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“The War we Fought”

I’d previously missed Faisal‘s 6 October post.

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Oxfam just released a report, Africa’s Missing Billions, that in essence says that over the last 15 years, the cost of war has been around US$ 300 billion!

This sum is equivalent to international aid from major donors in the same period. If this money was not lost due to armed conflict, it could solve the problems of HIV and AIDS in Africa, or it could address Africa’s needs in education, clean water and sanitation, and prevent tuberculosis and malaria.[..]The research carried out for this report has estimated that the cost of armed conflict to Africa’s development has been a shocking $284bn since 1990. Although high, this is almost certainly an under-estimate. For a start, this calculation only covers the cost of armed conflict, not armed crime. Further, our calculation only covers periods of actual combat but some costs of war, such as increased military spending and a struggling economy, continue long after the fighting has stopped. Neighbouring countries also suffer economically, due to reduced trade, political insecurity, or an influx of refugees

They’re also using this report to push forward their campaign for a UN Arms Trade Treaty of some sort. Last year the GA voted to begin working on drafting such a treaty. The only “no”? Obviously, the US.

The evidence also suggests that at least 95 per cent of Africa’s most commonly used conflict weapons come from outside the continent. The most common weapon is the Kalashnikov assault rifle, the most well-known type being the AK-47, almost none of which are made in Africa.[..]If armed violence is this costly and most of the weapons come from outside Africa, then Africa desperately needs to stop the flow of arms to those who abuse human rights and ignore the rules of war. As well as looking at the demand for weapons, strong initiatives must be taken to restrict supply. Many African nations, recognising the threat to their development from irresponsible arms transfers, have already made significant efforts towards arms control.However, many African governments feel let down by the international community. They know that the arms trade is globalised, and that national or regional regulations, although absolutely vital, are not enough.

Godspeed.Incidentally, i hear there is (or was?) a Kalashnikov documentary on Jazeera this week. It’s a shame i dont have a tv.

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Africom, the States’ new unified command for Africa became operational on Monday out of Germany. It’s ostensibly meant to raise Africa’s profile and help coordinate activities that were previously divided among three other -COMs. The command will consolidate not only all military branches and DoD and DoS, but apparently also depts such as trade and agriculture. There has been a decent amount of vocal resistance from African countries. And it’s not just rogues like Nigeria. Even South Africa is not very pleased. CFR has a backgrounder here.

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Apparently the US government seeks to establish a strategic command for Africa (AFRICOM) that would be the aid, policy, military and counterterrorism nerve-center for Africa. The idea is that this will help raise the profile of Africa and improve efforts through coordination and increased attention. Ultimately, more US government drivel:

The Pentagon says AFRICOM will bring its hearts-and-minds campaign closer to the people; critics say it represents the militarization of U.S. Africa policy. Already, the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there. Worried U.S. allies argue that AFRICOM will only strengthen America’s ties with unsavory regimes—including the Ethiopians, who have become U.S. proxies in an expanding civil war in Somalia—by prioritizing counterterror over development and diplomacy.

The command would serve to consolidate the efforts to date:

AFRICOM would take these piecemeal efforts and expand them substantially. The outlines are already visible. In Dire Dawa, a dozen American reservists and Army National Guardsmen on a yearlong tour live together in a four-story house that serves as both base and home. Each morning they raise two flags: Ethiopian and American. With a $1 million budget they hope to build enough schools and wells and bridges to wrestle key local leaders, clan elders and unemployed youth over to their vision of Ethiopia’s future. AFRICOM, with its cadre of officer corps and civilian expertise, could then integrate those smaller efforts with larger strategic objectives across the continent, sharing intelligence and speeding up communications. Amazingly, China now has more embassies and consulates—and thus more listening posts—in Africa than the United States.

Not really all that amazing. The comparative shrewdness of China’s Africa policy has been the subject of much discussion.

Perhaps the biggest source of concern is the recent U.S. track record in the Horn of Africa, where Washington has been pursuing an increasingly militarized policy for more than a year with disastrous results. Twice in the past year, the United States has intervened in Somalia—first by supporting local warlords, then by backing an Ethiopian invasion—to undermine the regime of the fundamentalist Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which Washington accuses of maintaining links with Al Qaeda. Fighting has raged across Mogadishu ever since, killing hundreds of innocent civilians and forcing some 400,000 from their homes, without decisively toppling the Islamists. U.S. and European attempts to create a government of national unity have failed spectacularly.

South Africa is leading a group of countries in opposition to US meddling.

Interestingly, Egypt would be the only non-island country excluded from AFRICOM. (See the map on the DoD site).

There‘s more from the EUCOM website to which AFRICOM will be initially subordinate.

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National Public Radio has a six-part series on Iran and its neighbors that’s up on their website. According to the series, while Iranian leaders have long perceived their nation as the deserving leading power in the Middle East, it has only ever stumbled along trying to get there. It is only recent external factors that have raised the profile and influence of Iran. But this rise, framed as it has been since Safavid rule in opposition to Arab, Sunni neighbors, sparks fears among the rest of the countries in the region.

Naturally, this means that Saudi Arabia, taken to be the de facto leader of the moderate (or Sunni, or whatever the catch-phrase is) counterbalance is supposed to step up to the plate. However, many in Saudia believe this to be unrealistic because of both regional factors, and perhaps more importantly, domestic security and politics of religion. As such, they may, at least until the next US president, bide their time trying to minimize potential military confrontation. Although, with hardliners becoming scarcer in the administration, US policy is likely the continuing application of political and economic pressure.

Israel is framed in nuclear terms.

Syria, is a relationship shaped by common foes: Israel, Saddam’s Iraq and now the US. Iraq, on the other hand, is intertwined with Iran on multiple levels, including religion, history and politics.

Not very in depth. But interesting in that it is less tainted by American perspectives and fallacies than most of what’s in the media.

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FP just released the latest version of its Terrorism index. They surveyed 100 “experts” from various branches of govt, white house staff, intelligence, defense and scholars. Their results are pretty bleak from an American perspective. Not much that’s surprising really.

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