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Laelth's Journal
Laelth's Journal
September 11, 2014

Yes, this is all about energy--Syria, Iraq, IS, and the President's Speech.

Yesterday, the President announced his intention to escalate our campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in both Syria and Iraq. The doves of DU, as we all should expect, are outraged. I've seen calls here for complete American isolation and American energy independence. I've also seen anguish over what appears to be a never-ending war against "terror" and expressions of horror that the United States is, once again, engaging in a war of choice against an alleged enemy that has done us no harm.

Frankly, I am sympathetic to all of these arguments, but the truth is rather more complex. This is all about energy, as many DU posters acknowledge and concede. Energy matters. Japan, which has no oil or natural gas resources of its own, gets 80% of its energy from the Middle East. Our allies in Western Europe (the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and a lot of other countries) lack sufficient energy reserves of their own to sustain their energy consumption. The United States, for better or for worse, has become the guarantor of the free flow of energy from the Middle East to our allies. We can not fail in this task, for, if we do, our allies' economies will crumble, and our own economy is so intertwined with that of our allies that if we were to allow Russia (the bogeyman, here) to control the price of energy flowing to our allies, our own economy would suffer, and it would suffer dramatically. We insure the free flow of oil and natural gas out of the Middle East. In exchange, the world has agreed to allow energy to be traded in our currency, USD, and this has made us rich and powerful. We must resist any attempt by any nation or power who proposes to trade energy in any other currency. Our ability to fund our national debt is directly tied to the world's trading energy in USD. It would be very stupid for us to become isolationists and only worry about our own energy needs in this environment (as the President fully understands).

So, we must stay involved in the Middle East, and we must insure the flow of energy to our allies. We continue to do so. That's what the conflicts in both the Ukraine and Syria are all about. We initially supported the overthrow of Syria's Assad regime for this very reason. Our European allies asked us to facilitate a pipeline from Northern Iraq (through Syria) to the Mediterranean, so as to relieve the pressure of the Russian monopoly on natural gas flowing to Western Europe. We wanted to oblige, and we began preparing to topple Assad's regime (a Russian and Iranian surrogate state) in order to relieve that pressure and allow the needed pipeline. We probably encouraged Saudi Arabia to support IS for this purpose. Then something strange happened. Cameron, the UK's Prime Minister, took the issue to Parliament, asking Parliament to back a war in Syria against Assad's regime, and the UK's Parliament bucked him. They refused to authorize war, and President Obama was left holding the bag. He backed off from war against Syria, and we did not escalate. In the end, I think this was a good thing, but it embarrassed Obama, and it did not resolve the central problem--Russia's monopoly on energy sales to Western Europe.

Then we chose another route. We pushed for an independent Kurdistan, and we convinced Turkey to allow a pipeline through their country to move energy from Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq to the Mediterranean. This has worked. The envisioned pipeline is up and working and Europe now has access to Middle-Eastern energy through Turkey. I don't know what we promised the Turks in order to get this concession (probably our refusal to support a populist revolt against Turkey's current regime), but at this point in time even Israel is backing an independent Kurdish state, and the United States is also doing so (in private, at least). Note that when Israel makes a move in the Middle East, it's almost certain that whatever they are doing has the full backing of the government of the United States.

We should all acknowledge that the current conflict in Ukraine is about the same underlying issue (Russia's monopoly on the flow of natural gas to Western Europe). There our initial strategy also failed. We backed a right-wing coup in Ukraine to release the pressure on Russia's energy monopoly (significant natural gas flows through Ukraine to Western Europe), and we have almost created WWIII as a result. The Ukranian conflict has yet to be resolved. I give the President credit for not engaging us in the war in Ukraine (yet), but this conflict could escalate and require our involvement (Goddess forbid). Nevertheless, the Ukraine conflict has now taken a back seat (and we have not become more involved) because the Kurds are now shipping energy resources to Europe though Turkey. Russia's monopoly has been broken, and our allies are pleased about that.

As it stands, we don't need Syria for our pipeline. Turkey is taking care of that for us--so long as we maintain an independent Kurdistan, and that's what the current action against IS is about. IS was threatening the Kurds (they even captured a major dam in Kurdish territory), but IS has been driven away from the dam and is now retreating. SA and its gulf-state allies have withdrawn their support for IS. Now, IS has no rich backers. They have limited funds and are in retreat on all fronts. IS is not a threat to the U.S.

But we're still going to engage in limited military action against them. Why? Because IS has no allies left, and because the drums of war are beating. In order to fend off the constant charge that Democrats are "weak on defense," the President must do something (if for no other reason than to protect our electoral interests in the 2014 mid-terms). We can't look soft. We have to look strong, and the President has decided to project that image.

Can you blame him? Can you blame any politician in a republic or constitutional monarchy for insuring that the price of energy is low? If you were the head of a nation, and you allowed energy prices to double in your country, what would you think would happen? Most likely, you and your party would get voted out of power and you might not see power again in your nation for a generation. European politicians are deeply concerned about Russia's energy monopoly. We, their ally, have tried to help them escape this monopoly. That's what this is all about.

I don't like the fact that it's so easy to gin up support for war in the United States, but I give the President credit for doing something (if only to protect Democrats who are running for office in 2014), while at the same time circumventing Russia's energy monopoly and keeping the United States out of any full-scale, troops-on-the-ground war over this issue.


Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Wills Point, TX
Home country: USA
Member since: Sat Oct 16, 2004, 02:36 PM
Number of posts: 32,017

About Laelth

I am a native Georgian who's currently hiding out in Texas. I am a liberal, and I am extremely proud of the imperfect (but evolving) republic that we call the United States of America.
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