The big end of the year recap story of 04 will not be Bush reelected, but peak oil. After years of underground speculation, the specter of Die Off in our time, right around the corner, is being debated even on the business pages.
Of course, the tyranny of the present discounts any perspective that demands radical change, but the reality of peaking production and escalating demand (especially in China and in India where oil use increased by more than 5% this year) is hard to ignore and the consequences are just a little bit scarier than even four more years of one of the worst US administrations ever.
The mother of all depressions, transportation stroke, a Fortress America trying to keep horrific catastrophe outside the walls. The specter of global-scale problems such as peak oil and global warming - even the Bush administration finally this year had to recognize that burning fossil fuels is leading to dangerous warming of the planet, and new disturbing climate science postulates run away warming - puts a much different lens on present day events such as Iraq.
If these global-scale problems are going to be the hallmark of the 21st century and in turn generate much more severe societal breakdown and turbulence, then we must make a conscious attempt to rid ourselves of lingering 20th century lens bias or at least add this global-scale appreciation to understanding how events and policy formation today will effect us tomorrow.
Iraq is a very good example. It’s the crude, dude. No WMDs; no link with terrorism; no danger to the US or even it’s Middle East neighbours - could Iraq have been an illegal war? Not just technically; not just fudged UN resolutions; not just impotent UN when something had to be done about Saddam. Saddam on hindsight was a mouse or rather, the danger from Iraq was wildly overblown. Saddam was only an excuse.
Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has put a motion before the Organization of African Unity to marshal a force to bring badly needed democracy to the United States. Sorry, just kidding, but the notion that the war in Iraq was white hats liberating Iraq and bringing democracy to the Middle East is ludicrous.
This years awakening to the reality of peak oil must force a reappraisal of US actions in Iraq. Of course, there was a bundle of reasons for war, ranging from somewhat legitimate fear of open enemies of the US such as Saddam’s Iraq; through domestic political, Bush Admin personal and ideological reasons; post 911 hysteria / shock and awe deterrence; military-industrial complex and oil business opportunities; non-oil geopolitical reasons (Israel); and certainly most importantly, a range of control of oil geopolitical reasons.
Factoring in the peak oil specter, especially into re-evaluating the evidence of Bush Admin (PNAC/neocon) premeditation, and a scary new vista of 21st century resource wars emerges.
Iraq was a grab for oil, a first preemptive move in the endgame for oil. It was dangerously, criminally illegal because Iraq was a cynical and premeditated attempt to control oil for America’s future. As we move over the peak to the rapidly sloping fall off of oil production, seizing control of Iraq - whatever the pretense - will certainly be perceived as the choice of a military instead of possible cooperative, science-based approachs, and will increasingly be seen as such with disturbingly uncertain future consequences in a world were the rule of law has been seriously compromised.
In perhaps the best op-ed so far focusing on the differing American policy choices given peak oil, including the grab the oil policy, Robert Freeman delineates this unappreciated most important choice for Americans today:
“To date, we have chosen the second alternative: to secure oil by force. The evidence of its consequences are all around us. They include the titanic US budget and trade deficits funding a gargantuan, globally-deployed military and the Patriot Act and its starkly anti-democratic rescissions of civil liberties. There is little time left to change this choice before its consequences become irreversible.
“As long as the US chooses the Grab the Oil alternative, the implications for national policy are inescapable. The combination of all these facts fixed supply, rapid depletion, lack of alternatives, severity of consequences, and hostility of current stockholding countries drive the US to have to adopt an aggressive (pre-emptive) military posture and to carry out a nakedly colonial expropriation of resources from weaker countries around the world."
While peak oil enjoyed a break out in 04, and even though most Americans know in their heart of hearts that Iraq was about oil, Americans, this election, have yet to really make the connection. And they do not yet remotely appreciate that the US must lead but at the same time subsume itself in rapidly developing a global-scale governance and cooperation framework necessary to deal with emerging global-scale problems.
Given this bigger picture a Kerry win in November might be worse then Bush reelection because what is really needed is a catalyst to escape business as usual thinking about a future that promises immense dislocation. A very educational big Bush loss after reelection might be that needed catalyst. Those that remember Watergate will recall that the hardballer Tricky Dicky won reelection in 72 and then the fun started. There is still a lot to come out about Iraq and its not too late yet to reverse from the grab the oil policy path.