Tuesday, July 31, 2007

World War II Counterfactuals

I'm not sure why I continue to engage in debate on the Guardian's group blog "Comment is Free". The standard of discussion is pretty poor, which is disappointing on the occasions when the article itself is intelligently written and on an important subject. Many of those who post comments below the articles are semi-bigoted, aggressive, hopelessly ill-informed and thoroughly unwilling to reflect seriously with the relevant subject or to engage with it in its complexity. Instead a manichean worldview of brave Western powers up against backward Muslim extremists usually prevails. Think teenage neo-conservatives on crack and you've got the general flavour.
I guess I still post comments below the more interesting articles mainly to engage with the article's author as they sometimes get involved in the discussion, but also because I find that even debating with people of the type I describe above can force you to think carefully about your opinions, ensure that your knowledge of the facts is verifiable and so on, and that can only be a good thing.
Anyway, I mention this because on one of the threads this afternoon there was an American spewing forth the old classic about how "we saved your limey assess in World War II" and I felt my response to him was worth sharing here. This view of the US role in WWII is, in a more subtle form at least, by no means the preserve of US jingoists. Many others, e.g. British "Atlanticists", seem to think the US marched in and defeated Hitler single-handed as the rest of the world looked on in awe and wonder. Here's the response I gave:
"I love the old "we saved your limeys worthless "arses" in WWII" [sic] stuff so I can't resist responding.

First, who's "we"? Perhaps you were alive back then, but if not, lets save the credit for those who've earnt it, eh?

Second, if the UK hadn't stood alone during the Battle of Britain - withstanding a massive terror-bombing campaign on civilian centres and beating the Luftwaffe against all odds - there'd have been no bridgehead for D-Day, no Western Front and no challenge to the Nazis in North Africa. Germany would have been free to concentrate on the USSR, the few miles between their furthest advance and Moscow would probably have been bridged, and Western Eurasia would have been conquered - branded with a great big swastika.

At that point, the US may well have sued for peace in favour of a balance of power with Fascist Eurasia, rather than fight a war it'd probably have lost.

Third, if the USSR hadn't fought as it did, losing over 20 million souls (13 per cent of population) in the fight against Hitler (to the UK's 450,000 (0.9 per cent) and America's 418,000 (0.3 per cent)) the conquest of Russia would have probably precipitated the conquest of the Western front and, again, the US sues for peace. I'd say the Russian people of the time deserve a bit of credit for that.

A little history shows that it took many nations and peoples to beat the Nazis - the US, the UK, the USSR and many more besides. The war wasn't fought in Hollywood, with the cavalry coming to rescue the damsel in distress or whatever. It was fought in the real world, which is a rather more complex place."

Europe, Israel and Palestine

Over at the blog of Time.com editor Tony Karon, guest contributor Saifedean Ammous nails the fatuous demand that Hamas should recognise Israel's "right to exist":

"When looking at the current situation in Palestine, an observer will find an illegal Israeli occupation that has been festering for 40 years, combined with illegal ethnically-exclusive colonies built on stolen Palestinian land, and the world’s only ethnically-segregated road network, where many routes can only be accessed by Jews. An internationally-illegal apartheid barrier surrounds Palestinian towns and villages, not only cutting them off from one another, but also cutting off farmers from their lands, children from their schools, patients from their hospitals and workers from their jobs. Israel controls all of the Palestinians’ openings to the outside world, stifling not only Palestinians’ freedom of movement, but also their economy and trade. One of the world’s strongest armies, the IDF, is regularly unleashed on civilian populations in Palestine, murdering thousands and killing innocent children with complete impunity. The Israeli government has as its Deputy Prime Minister an unabashed Fascist who openly and regularly calls for ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Arabs as a solution to the conflict. Israel continues to deny millions of Palestinians their legal right to return to their own homes from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948, restricts land-ownership to Jews only, and has discriminatory racist laws in countless areas from marriage to immigration.

In the face of this travesty of justice, what is the only thing that the Europeans do? Demand that the oppressed, the Palestinians, only elect political parties that “recognize Israel’s right to exist” as a precondition for sitting on one table and discussing what to do about all these travesties.
Let us first bear in mind that the idea of Hamas—or any Palestinian political party for that matter—recognizing Israel’s “right to exist” is a patently meaningless idea that makes as much sense as Manchester United Football Club recognizing Tanzania’s “right to exist”. Nowhere is it written that nation states have a “right to exist” themselves. What is meant by “recognition” in an international setting is what happens when countries exchange embassies and establish diplomatic relations. Nowhere but in Palestine has the idea of a non-state entity recognizing a state ever been seriously discussed. Further, the imbeciles who repeat this canard conveniently ignore that Israel is not merely “not recognizing Palestine’s right to exist”, but actively, deliberately and comprehensively destroying any chance of a Palestinian state ever existing. But, for the morally-superior Europeans, Hamas’ “recognition” of Israel is the thing that bothers them the most about Palestine/Israel today, and not all of the crimes listed above. The kicker, of course, is not just that this is a morally and logically absurd position, but that Israel’s actions are the root of the conflict, and not whether Hamas recognizes Israel. This recognition won’t change anything on the ground and won’t affect the lives of anyone in any way, but the walls, settlements, killings, checkpoints and Israel’s racist policies will. Only when these are ended can there be peace, regardless of what Hamas “recognizes” or declines to “recognize.”"

Ammous' article concerns the EU approach to the Israel/Palestine issue, and poses an uncomfortable challenge to those on this side of the Atlantic who subscribe to the self-flattering "liberal EU / neo-con US" dichotomy:

"The tragic aspect of Europe’s policy with regard to Palestine today is not just that is practically indistinguishable from the policy of the US, but that it comes bundled with great self-righteousness and an unshakable belief that it is not only the correct policy, but is also vastly morally superior to anything anyone else is doing."

Click here and see how Ammous develops this point. Its an excellent article and well worth a read.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Liberties of Boris Johnson

My new UKWatch article, "The Liberties of Boris Johnson", examines the Libertarian politics of the Tory candidate for London Mayor.
An excerpt:
"...the central philosophical creed of the capitalist West – Liberalism – has since the industrial revolution operated as the religion of bourgeois privilege rather than as the principled expression of human equality and freedom that it was originally conceived as. Domestically and internationally, the prescriptions of liberty, democracy and the free market have been applied in highly selective fashion by those in power. Johnson-style Libertarianism is simply a more obvious manifestation of this. The limits of his politics and of his valuation of liberty are an expression of similar limitations that run throughout our political discourse. In this sense, and contrary to his image, Johnson is no maverick. He is firmly embedded in a long established political culture and tradition."
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Still Time For War With Iran

Monday’s Guardian cites Washington sources who believe that military action against Iran is still being given serious consideration by the White House. It had been thought that administration figures such as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates had persuaded President Bush to put less emphasis on the military option. Today’s report suggests that the pro-war camp, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney, is now winning the internal argument.

It would appear that reports of the
death of the Bush/Cheney Presidency have been greatly exaggerated. The world has eighteen months of this administration left to endure and little reason to assume that the incumbents intend to go quietly.


This latest report comes after news last week that a third US aircraft-carrier battle group – led by the USS Enterprise - is now on its way to the Persian Gulf

As the
Guardian reported, "The Fifth fleet battle group will join what is already the US Navy's biggest show of force in the Gulf since the Iraq war began in 2003."

If this looks like sabre-rattling, that's because it is. The US Navy says that ""[The carrier] Enterprise provides navy power to counter the assertive, disruptive and coercive behaviour of some countries".

"Some countries", meaning Iran?

""These operations are not specifically aimed at Iran ... we consider this time unprecedented in terms of the amount of insecurity and instability in the region," Denise Garcia, a navy spokeswoman, said, citing Somalia, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan."

Well since Somalia, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan all have US backed regimes in place, I think we can safely assume that the US doesn't see any of them as countries that need aircraft carrier battle groups on their doorstep to curb their "assertive, disruptive and coercive behaviour". In fact, we might almost take Washington’s bothering with no more than a derisory, half-assed denial as tantamount to confirmation that this show of force is indeed aimed at Iran. One thing we know about this administration is that when it really wants to
lie about something, its prepared to make a considerable effort.

The Pentagon says that the Enterprise is being sent as a replacement for one of the carriers currently stationed in the Gulf, and that there will be no overlap where there are three carriers off the coast of Iran simultaneously. But of course, the fact that the Enterprise is now heading to the Gulf means that precisely such an overlap will become an option for the US in the very near future.

There had also been talk of a third carrier battle group arriving in the Gulf earlier in the year but, according to historian and analyst
Gareth Porter, the idea was stamped on by Admiral William Fallon, then Bush's nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM) region which includes the Middle East. According to Porter's sources Fallon "vowed privately [that] there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM".

Porter continued: "Fallon's refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch".

Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, "You know what choices I have. I'm a professional." Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box.""

The problem is that "the crazies" include
Cheney, perhaps the most powerful vice-president in US history, probably more powerful than Bush, certainly more powerful than Fallon, and a law completely unto himself. The recent sight of Cheney standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier 150 miles from the Iranian coast, bellowing threats at Tehran, need not be seen as a display of over-compensation for strategic impotence, as Iran takes advantage of Western blunders to extend its power across the region. Don't imagine for a moment that Cheney will tolerate the Iranian advance, or that he won't be prepared to consider extreme measures (even, according to Seymour Hersh, the nuclear option) to either put Tehran back in its box or even to topple the government there altogether. Regime change in Tehran is a long-standing mission of Cheney's cabal, and the urgency of that task from their point of view has increased massively in recent years, in direct proportion to Iran’s regional empowerment.

Imperial credibility

Recall that the neo-conservative plan was to forge a new Middle East settlement on the anvil of US military power. Iraq was to be a demonstration act (in that sense, a classic case of terrorism) with those who failed to collapse at the masters feet, quivering with "shock and awe", to be dealt with in subsequent exertions of industrial-scale violence. The result was to be a region transformed into one populated entirely by client states and dotted with US military bases. China, India and other global powers would be left having to accept access to desperately needed energy reserves on Washington's terms, and global dominance would be secured for a “
New American Century”.

Instead, the invasion of Iraq has been a demonstration, not of America's power but of its impotence, with the greatest military machine in all history humiliated by a few thousand tribesmen and ex-Iraqi Army personnel, augmented by a small but lethal cadre of foreign fanatics and armed only with improvised explosives and relatively light arms. To suffer defeat in such circumstances is no small matter for a global hegemon. Power after all depends on "credibility", that is to say, others believing in your readiness and ability to subject them to your will, brutally if necessary.
Michael Ledeen – a scholar close to the Bush administration – is reported to have put it this way: "Every ten years or so the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business". After Iraq, Cheney et al must be more conscious than ever of the need to send such a message to the world.

Washington's thinking in the wake of 9/11 provides an illuminating precedent.
Mark Danner notes that "Henry Kissinger, a confidant of the President, when asked by Bush's speechwriter why he had supported the Iraq war, responded: "Because Afghanistan was not enough." The radical Islamists, he said, want to humiliate us. "And we need to humiliate them."

In other words, the presiding image of the war on terror — the burning towers collapsing on the television screen — had to be supplanted by another, the image of American tanks rumbling proudly through a vanquished Arab capital."

So what of the current image: of countless US soldiers "
burning in their tanks" to borrow the sinister phrase of the long forgotton Ba'ath propagandist "Comical Ali"? What of the image of an imperial hyperpower so unable to effectively subjugate a crippled third world country than it now finds itself trying - and failing - to re-conquer the capital city, over four years after President Bush declared “major combat operations” to be at an end? What new image, in the minds of statesmen like Kissinger and Cheney, will be needed to replace these in the interests of maintaining imperial prestige and “credibility”? “Shock and awe” in Tehran?

They wouldn’t, would they?

In arguing that such a move is unlikely, three principle arguments tend to be made. The first is that the US is tied down in Iraq with barely enough troops to lose that war, let alone start another. But from what is known or reasonably suspected of the
Iran plans, there is no suggestion of a major troop deployment, much less a boots-on-the-ground occupation. The US Army may be tied down in Iraq, but the Navy and Air Force are not, and it is they – it is said – that will lead the assault, in the hope that the ensueing chaos will prompt US-friendly elements within Iran to rise up and remove the leadership. Recall that it was mainly US air power and Special Forces, allied to local elements, that overthrew the Taliban in the autumn of 2001.

Secondly, it is argued that with Iraq forcing Bush’s poll ratings to historically low levels the White House could not possibly sanction another war. But Bush and Cheney are not up for re-election, so unpopularity can do little more than hurt their feelings. Furthermore, when the Republicans got a thumping in the congressional elections of November last year – which was widely understood as a message from the voters to draw down or end altogether the US involvement in Iraq – the White House responded by increasing troop numbers. This is an administration quite happy to do as it pleases. US casualties in any air war on Iran are likely to be low. And
leading Democrats may well support air strikes. So the political fallout is likely to be minimal.

Thirdly and finally, it is noted that a naval build-up in the Gulf does not in itself constitute the commencement of war. The intention may simply be to make a show of force that will incentivise Iran to “
change its behaviour” (a threat of violence which, as well as being a form of terrorism, is also illegal under international law). This is true, but there is also no guarentee that the US – especially the current White House administration - is capable of both escalating and controlling these tensions. The level of instability in the Middle East now is comparable to that in Europe in 1914. Now, as then, one unforseen incident could ignite a chain-reaction through various inter-linked crises and conflicts that leads to a generalised disaster. The US naval build up increses not only the temperature in the region but the liklihood of such a scenario occuring, whether intentionally or not.

Of course, none of this proves that war will occur. But it does show, as I argued
two years ago, that a US attack on Iran remains a distinct possibility; one not to be idly dismissed. That being the case, the sensible thing would be to start looking at possible consequences and asking ourselves, ‘what if the worst came to the worst?’

Consequences of a war

An authoritative
joint report produced last year by 15 organisations - including think tanks, aid agencies, religious groups and trade unions – warned that the consequences of a war would not be constrained by Iran’s borders. As well as resulting in large civilian casualties within Iran itself, Iranian allies in places like Iraq and Lebanon could retaliate against various targets, thus escalating various existing crises and raising the spectre of a regional war. The situation in Iraq in particular could markedly deteriorate even from its current state.

Iran has said that it could launch missile strikes on
600 Israeli targets in the event of Israeli involvement in any attack. The irony is that an Iranian-instigated offensive war on Israel, for all the Western propaganda, remains inconceivable while Israel retains its formiddable nuclear arsenal. But subjected to an aggressive war, Iran could hit Israel with devastating consequences. So much for the purported neo-conservative claims to want to defend the Jewish state.

Within Iran, Tehran hardliners would be strengthened rather than weakened as Iranian nationalism surged. After all, why should the White House believe that what worked for them post-9/11 – when political dissent in the US was practically suspended as the country rallied round the flag - wouldn’t work for Iranian President Ahmedinejad in the event of a US assault? This would only set back the chances of serious democratic reform in Iran. In fact, crackdowns are
already occuring, as the hardliners seize the gift handed to them by Washington.

It is unlikely that the consequences of a war would be restricted even to the Middle East. Disruption to the flow of the
twenty per cent of global oil supply that comes out of the Gulf via the straights of Hormuz (once described by the former Iranian Shah as “the West’s jugular vein”) could send inflationary shockwaves right through the world economy, with unpredictable and possibly severe consequences playing out on a global scale. And this is before we consider the substantial boost to international radical islamist terrorism that a new US imperial war in the Middle East would represent.

It is fair to say that, factoring in its regional and global implications, an attack on Iran could make the disaster of Iraq look like a relatively tame affair by comparison. There’s no way of knowing whether that’s the road we’re heading down, but there are many reasons to believe that it remains a realistic possibility.

The spear-carrier's role

For those of us in Britain, its worth noting that for all the talk of a fresh start on foreign policy under Gordon Brown’s premiership, UK involvement in any attack is far from unthinkable. Two years ago the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that military action against Iran was “inconceivable” (whether he meant it or not is another matter). The
Financial Times reports that Brown’s new Foreign Secretary David Miliband “repeatedly refused to repeat this statement” in an interview with the paper last week.

Though it is perhaps unlikely that British armed forces would be involved in the front line of any action, the UK can be expected to play the important political, diplomatic and military support role that it performed during Israel’s savage pounding of
Lebanon last summer. Britain’s involvement in that war was strongly opposed by the public. In the eventuality of a new war against Iran, that opposition will have to be turned into effective political action if vast new horrors are to be averted.

[For more background on Western-Iran relations, see my recent article "
The Iran hostage crisis in context" or listen to my interview on Nadim Mahjoub's show "Middle East Panorama".]

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Costs of War

For all the acres of newsprint devoted to the Iraq war, very little has focused on the reality of the war itself, that is to say, the human cost of the vast tidal wave of violence that was unleashed by the US-led invasion; a wave that courses through the towns and cities of Iraq, with ever-growing ferocity, to this day. See for example, the attempt made by Western politicians and media to marginalise or rubbish the most reliable study yet made into Iraqi civilian deaths caused by the invasion - which estimated a total of over 655,000. These too are, to use the current phrase, 'inconvenient truths'.
Coverage of the violence itself (as opposed to discussion of the politics of the war - which is endless) mostly focuses on the suicide bombings carried out by the Iraqi al Qaeda franchise. But as the abovementioned study pointed out, far more deaths (where there is an identifiable cause) are attributable to coalition violence. Over the last four-years-and-counting we have heard precious little of these deaths - those for which we are most directly responsible - though they take place just the same.
So a new collection of interviews with US veterans of the conflict, published in The Nation, provides a welcome corrective. The Independent comments that:
"It is an axiom of American political life that the actions of the US military are beyond criticism. Democrats and Republicans praise the men and women in uniform at every turn. Apart from the odd bad apple at Abu Ghraib, the US military in Iraq is deemed to be doing a heroic job under trying circumstances.

That perception will take a severe knock today with the publication in The Nation magazine of a series of in-depth interviews with 50 combat veterans of the Iraq war from across the US. In the interviews, veterans have described acts of violence in which US forces have abused or killed Iraqi men, women and children with impunity.

The report steers clear of widely reported atrocities, such as the massacre in Haditha in 2005, but instead unearths a pattern of human rights abuses. "It's not individual atrocity," Specialist Garett Reppenhagen, a sniper from the 263rd Armour Battalion, said. "It's the fact that the entire war is an atrocity."
A number of the troops have returned home bearing mental and physical scars from fighting a war in an environment in which the insurgents are supported by the population. Many of those interviewed have come to oppose the US military presence in Iraq, joining the groundswell of public opinion across the US that views the war as futile.
Journalists and human rights groups have published numerous reports drawing attention to the killing of Iraqi civilians by US forces. The Nation's investigation presents for the first time named military witnesses who back those assertions. Some participated themselves."
Some of these accounts of atrocities will be very difficult to read. But those of us whose governments started the war in which these events took place have little right to the comfort of ignorance. Its hard not to conclude that if everyone in the US and the UK was brought face to face with the reality described by these soldiers then the occupation would end tomorrow.
The testimonies include the following:
"I'll tell you the point where I really turned... [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little two-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs and she has a bullet through her leg... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me... like asking me why. You know, 'Why do I have a bullet in my leg?'... I was just like, 'This is, this is it. This is ridiculous'."
Specialist Michael Harmon, 24, of Brooklyn, 167th Armour Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. In Al-Rashidiya on 13-month tour beginning in April 2003

"Here's some guy, some 14-year-old kid with an AK47, decides he's going to start shooting at this convoy. It was the most obscene thing you've ever seen. Every person got out and opened fire on this kid. Using the biggest weapons we could find, we ripped him to shreds..."
- Sergeant Patrick Campbell, 29, of Camarillo, California, 256th Infantry Brigade. In Abu Gharth for 11 months beginning November 2004

"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, 'A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi... You know, so what?'... [Only when we got home] in... meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then."
- Specialist Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry. In Baquba for a year beginning February 2004

"[The photo] was very graphic... They open the body bags of these prisoners that were shot in the head and [one soldier has] got a spoon. He's reaching in to scoop out some of his brain, looking at the camera and smiling."
- Specialist Aidan Delgado, 25, of Sarasota, Florida, 320th Military Police Company. Deployed to Talil air base for one year beginning April 2003

"A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want."
- Specialist Josh Middleton, 23, of New York City, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. Four-month tour in Baghdad and Mosul beginning December 2004

"I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people. The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with, and everybody else be damned."
- Sergeant Ben Flanders, 28, National Guardsman from Concord, New Hampshire, 172nd Mountain Infantry. In Balad for 11 months beginning March 2004

You can read the full Nation article here.
Whilst the Iraqis are clearly the primary victims, reading the article brings home the inescapable fact that many if not most of the US troops are victims of the war as well, at one level or another. As well as killing and destroying, war also dehumanises, as Sergeant Flanders, quoted above, testifies. Moreover, long after they have gone home, the experiences of these men and women will continue to unpick the seams that would otherwise hold them together emotionally and psychologically. Inevitably these veterans - including those guilty of the worst atrocities - will bear the scars of their experiences for years to come. For many, this will mean the breakdown of their lives, their families, their health and their careers.
And while these multifarious breakdowns occur, the veterans will not necessarily be able to rely on the support of the state that sent them to war in the first place (which is true of British servicepeople as well). This makes rather a grim mockery of the "support the troops" refrain so beloved of politicians whose cynicism appears to extend to using those troops as collatoral for emotional blackmail in order to shut down debate on the wars those men and women have been sent to fight and possibly to die in.
The gory reality of war is not a new revelation. Rather, it is something that those who control the flow of information in our societies would rather we ignored or forgot. But the reality remains, and remains a reality that, via our votes, our taxes and above all our acquiescence, we are ourselves complicit in. With any luck these testimonies will serve not only as a reminder of this, but also as a spur to greater action aimed at ending the status of aggressive war as a favoured foreign policy tool of government.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Iraq: "the oil conspiracy theory"

"...the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it."
Tony Blair, 6 Feb 2003

"The Australian defence minister today triggered a political storm when he suggested that protecting Iraq's huge oil reserves was a reason for the continuing deployment of foreign troops in the war-torn country.

Brendan Nelson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Iraq was "an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world, and Australians ... need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq".
Oil a factor in Iraq conflict, says Australian defence minister, Guardian Unlimited Website, 5 July 2005


To be honest, today's embarrassing remarks from the Australian Defence Minister could be safely filed in the "no s**t" category (together with news of the Bear's lavatorial rituals and the chosen religion of Joseph Ratzinger) if the likes of Tony Blair hadn't been repeatedly insulting our intelligence with their shrill denials that Iraq's having probably the second or third largest oil reserves on the planet had anything to do with the...er..mission to "bring democracy" to Iraq. Methinks the laddie doth protest too much. But given that he, and so many others, insist on maintaining this charade, the bleeding obvious will have to be stated and re-stated. So, let me repeat what I said last year:

"At a point in history where extraction of the world’s finite oil reserves may soon peak and fall away, just as the economies of two of the world’s most populous nations – India and China – are growing at breakneck speed, thus putting massive new demands on those dwindling resources, control over energy reserves constitutes “critical leverage” over one’s rivals, in the words of former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, or “veto power” in the words of Cold War era US diplomat George Kennan, and is therefore a prize that Washington cannot afford to lose if it is to fulfil its aim of maintaining permanent global dominance, as set out in its 2002 National Security Strategy. Securing a long-term military presence in Iraq, which has the world’s second largest oil reserves and lies in the centre of the principal energy producing region, constitutes a decisive step towards achieving that goal."

Noam Chomsky points out, we have no problem recognising these calculations when examining the behaviour of other countries. US Vice President Dick Cheney for example, recently warned that Russia's oil and gas reserves could be used as "tools of intimidation and blackmail". Of course, the very idea of using the energy reserves under US control "as tools of intimidation and blackmail" wouldn't begin to contemplate the merest possibility of crossing Dick Cheney's mind. Cheney's only wish for the Middle East is to see democracy and human rights blossom througho......well, why go on? You know the script.

As Chomsky observes, "it is unacceptable to attribute rational strategic-economic thinking to one’s own state, which must be guided by benign ideals of freedom, justice, peace, and other wonderful things. That leads back again to a very severe crisis in Western intellectual culture, not of course unique in history, but with dangerous portent."

Only in an intellectual culture where fantasies like "democracy-promotion" are taken for reality, and realities like the standard behaviour patters of nation states are derided as conspiracy theories, could the remarks of the Australian defence minister possibly be described as news. But here we are.

For more on this, see my March 2005 piece, "
Iraq, Oil and Conspiracy Theories"

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Survey on UK MIlitary Intervention

Why not take part in a survey, run by a fellow student of mine, on the subject of UK mIlitary intervention, and help add to the sum total of human knowledge in the political sciences? Here's some other good reasons they give for participating.

1. You will help advance knowledge in political science

2. It is an interesting topic in international politics (and you will have the option to receive a link to the research findings)
3. It will only take about 15 minutes of your time (this is a realistic estimate based on piloting)
4. You will have the opportunity to enter a prize draw for an 'iPod Shuffle' (or £50 cash equivalent)
5. Your opinions may influence UK government policy - this survey received over 1,500 responses in its first 10 days and the findings will be published."

Just click ">here and away you go.