Sunday, December 02, 2007

Credible defectors... and war with Iran?

There are some insights I'd like to share, first on the elections in Russia ...

...and then on cogent criticism of the U.S. administration by former supporters.

In particular, nearly a year ago, Scott Ritter's Target Iran: The Truth about the White House Plan's for Regime Change was published, and he's been sounding the claxon of impending war ever since. A former Marine Corps intelligence officer, Ritter served as chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 when he left as a pointed critic of the Clinton administration's commitment to weapons inspection and its Iraq policy. Before the United States' 2003 invasion, Ritter disputed the Bush administration's claims regarding weapons of mass destruction under Saddam's control and predicted that, instead of the quick and easy war being promised, Iraq would turn into a quagmire, though not necessarily of the type he envisioned. His analyses have been embraced by both the right and the left at various points. (God bless contrarian curmugeons.)

I'll quote extensively below, from a recent interview with Ritter... while diagreeing with him in dour ways. But, by all means, go read it yourself.

I refer folks to THE GLOBALIST whenever they have interesting articles. This time: ahead of Russia's parliamentary elections, it explores Vladimir Putin's bizarre crackdown. And, against the backdrop of the Annapolis summit this past week, they explore the Bush Admin’s innovation: a diplomacy-free foreign policy that relies almost exclusively on military means. Alas, a subtitle - “What will it take for the United States to become as skilled at diplomacy as it is at waging war?” - exposes a flawed premise, since we have (alas) also become very, very bad at waging war.

Excerpt: “One disappointing development is that optimism about the democratizing influence of the Internet is increasingly coming into question. In their report former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan Reporters sans Frontières concluded that “all authoritarian regimes are now working to censor the Internet.””

(Addendum: While I share the widespread worry about Putin’s authoritarian moves, which have been even more blatant and anti-freedom than the neocon putsch in America, I do want to remind folks of one thing - that Putin quashed moves to amend the Russian constitution to allow unlimited presidential terms. Thus, he must leave office and attempt the role of “leader” behind the scenes. Still autocratic, yes, and deeply disturbing. And yet, the public acceptance - and precedent - of cyclical reversion of official power is a terribly important thing. Symbolically, at least. Even if hypocritical, it pays homage to the virtues of law, in a land where political instincts still reflexively turn toward the Man. We can hope.)

what-happenedIn the continuing tragicomedy of former Bush henchmen standing up... former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will publish a memoir in April titled What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. In an excerpt by his publisher, McClellan in the Valerie Plame scandal: “The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There was one problem. It was not true.

“I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself.”

And another once-friendly (and highly credible) critic weighs in.

See “Bombs Away?” - an important article in the Detroit Metro-Times, interviewing an irascible but devastatingly on-target intelligence analyst who worked for the Bush Administration, zeroing in on the momentum that is building, for a U.S. attack upon Iran.

(Now that most daily papers and TV outlets are consolidated in a few hands, we must look beyond daily papers - from Seymour Hersh's reporting in The New Yorker to articles in The Nation - and the picture emerges of an administration that is determined to attack Iran. John H. Richardson's "The Secret History of the Impending War With Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to Know" in the November issue of Esquire magazine is particularly eye-opening. Richardson, using two former high-ranking Middle East experts who worked for the White House as his primary sources, warns that the Bush administration is "headed straight for war with Iran" and that "it had been set on this course for years."”

Let's take a look at Scott Ritter's Target Iran. He portrays himself as the straight-shooting analyst unconcerned by who supports him or whom he offends.

In the interview, Ritter addresses the Bush Administration’s run-up toward war with Iran, adding that: “there's nothing that has occurred that leads me to believe the Bush administration has changed its policy direction. In fact there has been much that's occurred that reinforces the earlier conclusions that were based on good sources of information. We take a look at items in the defense budget, the rapid conversion of heavy bombers to carry bunker busting bombs on a specific time frame, the massive purchasing of oil to fill up the strategic oil reserve by April 2008. Everything points to April 2008 to being a month of some criticality. It also matches my analysis that the Bush administration will want to carry this out prior to the crazy political season of the summer of 2008.”

(DB note: I had not known about the filling of the Strategic Reserve. Yes, it disturbingly suggests preparations for war. But there’s another interpretation. Some years ago, when oil was much cheaper, the Bushadmin sold oil from the SR. Now they are buying, when prices are high. (Helping thus to keep them high.) This is the exact opposite of what governments are supposed to do. But just fine, if (say, hypothetically) you are an agent of the oilcos and certain petro-powers.)

It is a very important article, offering us hope that the alternative press will step in, where mainstream journalism has let democracy down. Still, where Ritter utterly collapses is in answering the question why?

Why are Bush-Cheney and the Neocons pushing this agenda. Here’s his appraisal: ”It's not just supporting Israel. It's not just taking down Saddam. It's about geopolitics. It's about looking down the road toward China and India, the world's two largest developing economies, especially the Chinese, and the absolute fear that this resurgent Chinese economy brings in the hearts of American industrialists and the need to dictate the pace of Chinese economic development by controlling their access to energy. And controlling central Asian and Middle East energy areas is key in the strategic thinking of the Bush administration.”

Sorry, but I just don’t get this. It’s back to the old “get the oil” explanation, reflexively touted by Michael Moore and others, as a left wing catechism of lazy thinking. It doesn’t hold up, when you examine the net outcome of our Alcibiadean foray into Iraq -- a trillion wasted taxpayer dollars, depletion and demoralization of the U.S. Army, expenditure of nearly all our international goodwill... all in order to achieve absolutely zero increase in our control over the oil supplies of the Middle East. Let alone any augmentation of American leadership in a unipolar world.

Yes, the standard answer to this failure, on the left, is to say “They meant to get oil, but the neocons proved incompetent!” A facile explanation that ignores just how competent the Bush Cabal has been , at achieving other goals. Like whipping their domestic opponents from pillar to post.

Indeed, ponder just how preposterous it is, to maintain the standard illusion of Neocon goals --say that their aim has been to augment American power, wealth, and leadership in a unipolar, U.S.-led world. Unipolar U.S. leadership was precisely the situation that George W. Bush inherited when he entered office. Only Russia, China, France and the Saudis seemed to grumble at that situation, and rather impotently.

In fact, the overall effect of the last seven years has been diametrically opposite to the goals that Ritter ascribes to the Bush team, and that Neocon philosophers have claimed. Not only has American influence and popularity plummeted, and our dependence upon irascible sources of foreign petroleum increased, but the destruction of the U.S. military (and its turn-of-the-century reputation for invincibility) has helped foster the rise of new “poles” of influence, far more willing to challenge America than at any time since the Cold War.

Indeed, I kept hoping Ritter would be asked this question about the coming War with Iran. With what forces are we supposed to fight this large, regional power, many times the size of Iraq and vastly better organized?

With only two or so heavy combat brigades left, that are at any level of readiness for national land war, the Army and Marines are in no position to take on anything new, or even to keep going under current burdens. The Navy, still potent and professional, simmers with resentment toward the this administration, a loathing rumored to be so actinic that there is talk of “work-to-rule” passive resistance, especially if very much of the Fleet is sent - as sitting ducks - into the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf.

Only the Air Force appears to be both ready and willing - perhaps even eager - to do the administration’s bidding.

And, yes, at the sole whim of the Commander in Chief, the bombers may fly. A plethora of pinprick shocks may rain upon Persia, under the age-old delusion that a proud nation will thus be cowed into submission. Even though history - along with our own reaction to the horror of 9/11 - teaches us that air assaults, all by themselves, tend to strengthen national cohesion and resolve, rather that weaken it.

WhoWonTheIraqWarNow add to this another likely outcome of such an attack - the engendering of rage and sympathy throughout the Muslim world. What about the much-touted Sunni-Shiite rift? Right now, the press makes much of this division within Islam, and it does seem fierce at the ground level, in Iraq. But I have never been convinced that this schism is all that bilious at the higher reaches of national and clerical power. Anyway, it will vanish when America starts raining bombs on yet another Muslim nation.

The chief effect of this attack will be to unite Islamic peoples under a common banner. Something that is never mentioned, even as a possibility, by the press, or the State Department or even the administration’s critics. (Not to mention some of our regional “friends” who may be urging Bush to attack, but for very different reasons than they speak aloud.) So, shall we fight to thwart the nuclear ambitions of Iran, only to see Pakistan’s arsenal of nukes fall under control of the Wahhabis and the Ayatollahs?

Still, Ritter is a voice of sanity, promoting an idea that I proposed at the CIA in 2002... reaching out to the Iranian people. Making nice. Depriving the Ayatollahs of an outside enemy, so that the natural fractures in Iranian society will again start pushing that great nation toward what the young people and middle class and educated folk all want. Freedom and peace. (Why, if Bush wanted to reverse ideology and suddenly support nation-building and regional transformation in that region, did they choose not to support democracy in the one large Middle Eastern nation that already had some? Along with a deep tradition of friendliness to America? The choice of the least likely ground (Iraq) to try planting these seeds should be re-examined with a cynical, even paranoid eye.)

Ritter continues: “The same can be said in Afghanistan and the entire central Asian region. We keep putting our hopes on allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, which produced 14 of the hijackers who slaughtered Americans on 9/11. Pakistan, which was the political sponsor of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and continues to have ties to radical Islamic terror organizations. These are our allies? And we call Iran the enemy? We've got it backward. The Iranians are actually the ones we should be working with to oppose dictatorships like Pakistan and irresponsible governments like Saudi Arabia's.”

About Bush himself, Ritter worries: “Here's a man who speaks of World War III and the apocalypse and he has his hand on the button and he talks to God. I don't know, if it's a show, its a dangerous show, if its real, we should all be scared to death.”

Go read the whole article, then cram it in front of your Ostrich friends. I’ll leave off with his comment on an especially worrisome question. If we go about attacking Iran... would larger powers intervene?

“I don't think the Russians or the Chinese would become involved. They don't need to. All they have to do is sit back and wait and pick up the pieces - because it is the end of the United States as a global superpower. That's one thing I try to tell everybody. The danger of going after Iran is that it is just not worth it. What we can lose is everything, and what we gain is nothing. So why do it?”



Anonymous said...

William Lind had a recent article about what is going on in Iraq now and how that relates to a potential war with Iran.
Here's a hypothesis. What if the Iranians had determined, rightly or wrongly (and I suspect rightly), that the Bush administration has already decided to attack Iran before the end of its term? Two actions would seem logical on their part. First, try to maneuver the Americans into the worst possible position on the moral level by denying them pretexts for an attack. Telling their allied Shiite militias in Iraq to cool it would be part of that, as would reducing the flow of Iranian arms to Iraqi insurgents and improving cooperation with the international community on the nuclear issue. We see evidence of the latter two actions as well as the first.

Second, they would tell their allies in Iraq to keep their powder dry. Back off for now, train, build up stocks of weapons and explosives and work out plans for what they will do as their part of the Iranian counter-attack. Counter-attack there will certainly be, on the ground against our forces in Iraq, in one form or another. In almost all possible counter-attack scenarios, it would be highly valuable to Iran if the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias could cut the Americans' supply lines running up from Kuwait and slow down their movements so that they could not mass their widely dispersed forces. In John Boyd's phrase, it would be a classic Cheng-Chi operation.

Pat said...

I've mentioned "Last Act Urgency" before - the overwhelming need to make a huge splash before going down (aka the Samson Complex)- and have diagnosed Der Bushmeister as being seriously at risk for it. No, as having a bad case of it.

I'm going to say the attack on Iran will come between the November 08 election and the new President's inauguration for certain, if it doesn't happen earlier.

I'd suggest writing or calling or emailing your Congresscritters, but I know for a fact where mine stand on each and every issue that could possibly come before them and am sick of getting letters saying "Dear Patricia, thanks for your input..." and repeating the party line.

But if you want a time frame for the attack on Iran, there it is.

Anonymous said...

From Zorgon the Malevolent (login now not working, who knows why)

Dr. Brin mentioned:
they explore the Bush Admin’s innovation: a diplomacy-free foreign policy that relies almost exclusively on military means. Alas, a subtitle - “What will it take for the United States to become as skilled at diplomacy as it is at waging war?” - exposes a flawed premise, since we have (alas) also become very, very bad at waging war.

Provably false. America is superb at waging 2nd generation war. When faced even with a third-generation warfare military (Nazi Germany) we still won, by sheer overwhelming industrial-military mass. That's what the Powell Doctrine boils down to. America still has a 2nd generation military so we use overwhelming force to compensate for America's lack of 3rd generation warfare capability. And it works.

But without a doubt, America's current military can whip any other 2nd or 3rd generation military on the planet. Our army can beat any other army. We're great at being an army and doing traditional army stuff. Nobody has ever done it better. The big problem is that the world has moved away from armies. The world has abandoned 3rd and 4th gen warfare, and shifted into 4th generation warfare in the 21st century: and now big professional armies are a liability rather than an asset. Read William S. Lind's articles and Martin Van Creveld's seminal book The Evolution of Warfare, as well as Colonel Boyd's classic briefing Patterns of Conflict to find out more about that. In 4GW, the larger your military, the worse you lose, because the conflict is mainly moral rather than tactical, as Col. Boyd (America's greatest military theorist) warned about modern warfare.

Martin van Creveld, one of the most widely-read and respected military theorists alive, describes the challenge of 21st century 4th generation warfare succinctly:

In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old – even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife – will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces – whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on – things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.

In other words, he who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters’ skids.

Van Creveld, Martin, "Why Iraq Will End As Viet Nam Did."

The current maldaminstration simply hasn't realized that the world has moved away from armies in the 21st century. (The Pentagon has realized it -- they're not stupid -- but the Pentagon dare not downsize to change with the times, since that would mean losing their precious budget, and with it their influence and prestige.) From now on, it's 4GW all the way. The U.S. military is not much use fighting a 4GW. The problem isn't that the U.S. military is very bad at fighting war -- the U.S. military is a superb army that's peerless at fighting big set-piece battles -- it's that any army that tries to fight a 4GW will only make things worse. You need a Force Other Than An Army to carry out the Pentagon's "Operations Other Than Warfare," which the Pentagon's own planners admit is what's facing us as far as the eye can see throughout the rest of the 21st century. Read the Pentagon's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review for more details.

Dr. Brin claims:
Sorry, but I just don’t get this. It’s back to the old “get the oil” explanation, reflexively touted by Michael Moore and others, as a left wing catechism of lazy thinking. It doesn’t hold up, when you examine the net outcome of our Alcibiadean foray into Iraq -- a trillion wasted taxpayer dollars, depletion and demoralization of the U.S. Army, expenditure of nearly all our international goodwill... all in order to achieve absolutely zero increase in our control over the oil supplies of the Middle East.

Unfortunately this is provably false. Our military interventions in the Middle East are all about oil and only about oil. (So are all our peace brokering efforts, by the way. The Arab Oil Embargo made sure of that.) Does anybody think for a minute that America would send all those troops and tanks and bombers 8,000 miles across the world to a third-world hellhole if it didn't have oil? How much military intervention does America do in Africa? South America? Polynesia? Because those places don't have massive oil reserves. The mideast does. At bottom, that's the only reason America gives a damn about what goes on in the middle east. Oil. That's it.

The estimated value of the current oil reserves under Iraq is 30 trillion dollars. That's at $90 a barrel. When oil rises to $150 a barrel (which it should soon), that value will rise to $45 trillion. Soon it'll go up to 60 trillion, then 100 trillion, and so on. Spending 1 trillion dollars to make sure no one else can access Iraq's oil is a bargain. It would be cheap for American planners even if the Iraq war cost 10 trillion, or 20 trillion. At the rate the price of oil is rising, even 40 trillion or 50 trillion in the long term is a pittance to pay to make sure no one else can access Iraq's oil. (At 250 billion per year for the U.S. military in Iraq, it'd take us 40 years just to spend 10 trillion. Care to guess how much the Iraqi reserves wil lbe worth in 2047? 500 trillion? 750 trillion? More?) And, of course, America has just signed a bunch of agreements establishing permanent bases in Iraq, forever. So not only will we control Iraq's oil today, but for the foreseeable future.

Since it's so flagrantly obvious that spending 1 trillion and a mere 4000 American lives (about one days' worth of casualties on Iwo Jima) to control Iraq oil worth, conservatively, a future value of from 200 to 700 trillion dollars, makes such obviously clear sense, the only real quesiton is: Why does Dr. Brin continue to fanatically deny this obvious logic? No first world country would give a damn about the middle east if it weren't for their oil, and everyone realizes that...except Brin, apparently. Some people just have a blind spot. I guess that's his.

And if Dr. Brin thinks we don't control Iraq's oil, riddle me think, Batman -- as long as the U.S. military is in place in Iraq, how many other countries can pump oil out?

A: None. Case closed, end of discussion.

The question "Why Iraq?" has an equally obvious answer. Saudi Arabia has Mecca, the religious center of Islam. An attack on Saudi Arabia would be viewed as a religious war and would likely start an uprising throughout all Islamic countries. Iran doesn't have the internal sectarian divisions of Iraq (Shia vs. Sunni vs. Kurds) so it would be much harder to control militarily. Dubai and Qatar and the UAE don't have nearly as large oil reserves as Iraq. So if the U.S. wants to prevent other countries from controlling mideast oil, the only logical place to start is by invading Iraq.

The prospect of an Iran invasion remains worrisome. Fortunately, we have a remedy: impeachment. Reid has already threatened it. After being impeached, the criminals in the White House could be tried for treason if they order an attack on Iran. Treason is a capital crime.

Problem solved.

Dave X said...

About the oil, Even if we don't steal a bit of Iraq or Iran's oil, but rattling the sabers Bush & his oil cronies can exert an upward pressure on oil prices, increasing the value of stocks they already have control over. If they can sustain high prices long enough, they can get the capital in place to do a profitable job of extracting tar sands, shale oil, or whatever. Back in the 70's the dirty oil industry got burned badly over OPEC, and they are reluctant to re-invest unless they can get better guarantees. A generational GWOT or GSAVE or whatever can help guarantee profitability. It isn't about stealing the oil, it is about preventing competitors from selling it.

David Brin said...

Pat, your timetable for the Iran attack (after the 11/08 elections) is psychoanalytical... a final spasm aimed at showing off macho power and in yer-face defiance of his replacements. Accompanied by what I’ve called the “Pardon Tsunami”. That is, unless the spasm carries all the way to provoking an End of Days.

But that assumes we are dealing with a solitary maniac. Hm, plausible. But there is also the Cabal Hypothesis. That we have been ruled by a tight-knit conspiracy of would be feudalists and thieves, who stand behind each Bushite decision. Yes, the Pardon Tsunami is till inherent. But not, perhaps, a spasmodic post-election manhood-substitute.

More money is wagering on an Iran Attack as a method to bollix the 08 elections. A desperate gamble aimed at either shifting their results or at least deepening the rift of Culture War, so that a Democratic Presidency can be bankrupt, harried and worthless.

Or, you could go down the paranoid thriller path that I have been promoting. Not so much because I believe it’s necessarily true, but because I am appalled that it is never even discussed. Since the one relentless achievement of the Bush Administration has been to topple and destroy US influence in the world, ruin our ground forces and reserves, fritter our finances, shatter internal cohesion and make us hated, I have simply asked that people ponder -- just ponder -- the fact that this achievement has been to uniformly successful, at all levels and in all directions, for it to be explained by simple “incompetence.” The neocons may be mad and vile, but they are smart.

Hence, the coming attack may have little to do with US politics or macho personalities. It may simply be the best way to finish off Pax Americana, for good. Send the US Navy into a trap. Put the nail into the coffin of the “American Century.”

Zorgon said “But without a doubt, America's current military can whip any other 2nd or 3rd generation military on the planet. Our army can beat any other army. “

Um, sorry, Zorgon, but that is simply untrue. It is not even remotely close to true. The US Army, Marines and Reserves have been torn to shreds. They no longer train for national war at all. WOrse, their reputation for formidability is evaporated. Gone.

Z is also off base re: “3rd gen war”. A lot of money and attention from very bright guys has goine into revising doctrines and weapons. That is one reason WHY the Army can no longer fight national war. I’ve been to Ft. Irwin and seen this transformation, 1st hand. Our soldiers are very good. But this transition is based upon a false premise -- that this kind of conflict... an unwelcome invasion followed by nation building amid a civil war... can be done at all.

But yes, we have been sent into a situation designed to ruin our reputations for invincibility and high moral ground. Those reputations were worth divisions.

“Unfortunately this is provably false. Our military interventions in the Middle East are all about oil and only about oil. (So are all our peace brokering efforts, by the way. The Arab Oil Embargo made sure of that.) Does anybody think for a minute that America would send all those troops and tanks and bombers 8,000 miles across the world to a third-world hellhole if it didn't have oil?”

As Reagan would say. “There you go again.” And I respond. SHOW ME THE OIL!

Have you any idea how much oil we could have simply BOUGHT with a trillion dollars? Everybody puts their hands over their ears shaking their heads shouting “Oil! Oil! It’s GOOTTA be oil!” It is a mantra of faith and it defies every bit of evidence before our eyes.

The nation at stake is not Iraq... or iran. It is America. The resource at issue is not oil. It is the cultural influence of Pax Americana. The point of this war is to destroy the latter. WHICH IS PRECISELY WHAT HAS HAPPENED. Whereas

Zorgon, show me the “control”! If peace does come to Iraq and their oil flows again, do you honestly believe we’ll “control” it? In a country where everybody, even our friends, hate us? Sometimes cynics are blindly stupid. If the Iraqi govt orders us to leave, we will have to leave, and we will have as much control over that oil as we have in... um... Saudi Arabia. There is not even a remotely plausible scenario in which the USA will get to pump (without paying) enough oil out of Iraq to pay for a SMIDGEN of all this!

We share one bit of ground. Yes, taking Iraqi oil OFF the market was a plausible war aim. SInce that has actually happened. Take a look at who profited. Not America. But our puppeteers.

“A None. Case closed, end of discussion
My ten year old tries this trick.. Feh. Your are yowling, not arguing. Show me oil. Any oil.

David Brin said...

Um, I was grouchy. Sorry. Consider the above rephrased 3 point nicer. ;-) Zorgon is smart. If blinkered.

Hawker Hurricane said...

Dr. Brin

The oil is in the ground in Iraq. As long as it is not being pumped out and sold, it is still there. There's more than one form of control. Preventing it from being sold is control just as much as selling it is. And the price of oil depends on how much is on the market; the U.S. has taken the world's 2nd largest oil reserve off the market, benefiting everyone eles who has oil to sell... including the nation with the largest oil reserve, the 'pals' of the Bush Administration (and number one sponser of the Manchurian candidate scenario), Saudi Arabia.

If there was no oil in Iraq, there'd have been no invasion. No one would care if Saddam abused his people, he wouldn't have had money to even try to get WMD's, and Iraq wouldn't have been made a seperate country from Syria in the 1920's.

Woozle said...

Without having read the whole post, I just wanted to mention that this whole scenario -- with Bush decimating US military power and prestige, then starting a(nother) war -- reminds me of the subplot in the last (I think) season of Babylon 5 where Centauri ships, unbeknownst to the Centauri military, were randomly attacking and utterly destroying unarmed merchant vessels and then disappearing, and generally pissing everyone off. (This is heightened by the fact that it takes some time to gather sufficient proof of who the attackers were; Centauri officials, honestly ignorant of the plot, deny everything.)

The climax comes [ I presume everyone has seen this by now, but if not then **WARNING! SPOILERS!** ] when the Emperor Regent -- who turns out to be under the control of the Drakh, who are of course behind the whole thing -- sends the Centauri defensive fleet away and lowers the planetary shield just in time for the homeworld to be utterly defenseless when the Allied fleet arrives to take vengeance.

I don't know if subsequent (fictional) events -- the attack is used as justification for a new policy of isolationism -- offer to shed any light on Bush's strategy. If we look at the US as the metaphorical Centauri Empire, there are certainly a number of actions which could be "justified" by such an event, but I don't see what Bushco gains that they didn't already have (unless the goal is wrecking the US as much as possible, repeatedly).

Or have they already used this strategy successfully? The US "lowered its shields" in the summer of 2001, when military interception of hijacked planes suddenly required direct approval from Rumsfeld, and multiple warnings of an impending attack were carefully ignored.

So... have Bush & Co. been sold a vision of a brave new world with, say, an Islam-flavored petrocracy, where those who cooperate usefully will be offered reasonably palatable positions and the rest of us will be serfs? That's the only context I've been able to think of in which their actions make sense.

Or do right-wingers really believe their own rhetoric? (Ok, time to finish reading and stop rambling...)

Woozle said...

P.S. to Zorgon: I tried about 6 times to post under my Blogger/Google ID, and it kept saying "wrong password". I even logged into using that user/pass, and still couldn't post... then something weird happened, and I pressed the browser's "back" button, and suddenly it let me post... so maybe try logging in to Gmail?

Mark said...


While the claims that Iraq and Iran are "only about the oil" are clearly misguided and overstated, your counter-attack is just as bad. You keep coming back with the same, poorly thought out response "show me the oil."

Saying the conflict is about oil is NOT the same as saying it is about stealing oil. The neocons think of the world as a Risk board and regions that have lots of oil are sources of great power. It isn't about getting the oil, but controlling the oil.

You keep bringing up that we aren't getting more oil from Iraq, but who cares? The point (from the neocon perspective) is the bad guys are no longer controlling the oil fields and using the revenue and power do bad things.

You are good at characterization and getting into the heads of people you don't agree with. Think about this some more. Your counter attacks on the oil thing are getting old and lazy.

(Sorry if this comes across overly strong or rude, but I just don't get why you continue to repeat what you do.)

BTW, I've heard several times that the neocons were looking for an enemy long before 9/11 and were deciding between Iraq and China and had actually chosen China. (The thought is they need some enemy to stay in power, but from an internal perspective and from the perspective of American power.) The VP office kept sending folks to Taiwan to say we would recognize them (to stir up trouble) and then the State Department would find out and send folks to tell them, no we won't. If true, this doesn't play well with the Saudi theories except as a secondary cause.

Zechariah said...

Anybody wanna see a Chimp whup humans in a contest of intellect?

David Brin said...

See now, that’s why you guys get it. This “contrary” site is about exploring stuff (well, also ranting about anything that’s got a ahir up muy butt, that too.) So you grasp why I am pushing the Manchurian Possibility. NOT because it is necessarily true, or what I believe to be true. But because it fits the observed facts disturbingly well and there are no counter-indicators!

Well, there is one. I simply cannot believe that the skilled professionals of our intelligence agencies, who watched out for exactly this kind of thing, during the Cold War, have allowed themselves to be so cowed by neocon appointee-masters... or so blinkered by assumptions... that they cannot take a serious look at a scenario that might be demolishing the United States of America before our eyes.

Investigations whould have begun the moment Bush ordered every American civilian out of the sky, for several days... while whisking out of the country on luxury charters scores of friends, relatives, countrymen and material witnesses from the country that raised and succored and taught our attackers all of their values. A single act that should have triggered emergency subornation protocols.

And maybe it did! Maybe investigations have been made... and cross-checks to make sure those first investigations weren’t suborned. And followups, each time these fellows made yet another decision whose sole outcome was the progressive dismatlement of American power, influence and moral standing. In fact, I have to assume that all of these careful checks have been made, repeatedly.

Because to imagine otherwise is to feel a deep sense of shame. In men and women who swore oaths and who owe everything to the nation and civilization that they have let down. By looking away. By not finding the guts to do what they promised, as soldiers of the Great Experiment, to do on our behalf.

Woozle, the “lowering of our guard” before 9/11 could have been deliberate, or happenstance. I have never been able to get exact numbers of how many FBI etc agents were re-assigned, in 2001, to searching for Bill Clinton “smoking guns”. But this should have been the scandal of the 21st Century.

If you are asking me to flesh this scenario out as a thriller plot? Well, I’d start with blackmail (see: but then follow it with tons of lavish parties and good ol boy perverted fun and more blackmail and let human rationalization take over. “Us” the religious and righteous and chosen of God and natural aristocracy, vs the decadent. Plus plenty of short sighted greed.

And then add this rationalization. Bill Joy’s manifesto that looming technologies threaten to destroy everything. And therefore, civilization needs to be guided by elites who can keep a lid on some of them, for everybody’s sake. Ponder this one! Indeed, it is remotely conceivable that such a threat might exist that -- if proved -- could make ME a renunciator! Reluctantly convinced (as in Stargate SG1) to not tell the people!

(Ponder the illogic of UFO harridans. They screech that the govt - and the ten thousand skilled engineers who have been studying crashed ships -- are refusing to release info for “public protection.” But... if our best and brightest ALL agree on this need... then who the heck are the harridans to scream ‘reveal!” I don’t credit this scenario at all. But mind the logic!)

(BTW I remain pissed at Stargate. They should long ago have told “the people” that Earth now is an interstellar empire. I mean yeesh.)

Mark, sorry, but you’re the one a bit ;-) lazy. You are slipping back into “They are stupid.” Because there are countless other ways to increase american influence in the world and, yes, influence over oil, than by enraging Islam, screwing our allies and destroying our military. Dig it. The choice is simple. If it is about oil (and you may be right) then these guys are total morons, losing their RIsk game while doubling up each bet.

But if they are not super-bizarro-morons, then they must be achieving the staggering accomplishment of demolishing Pax Americana with something akin to intent.

Anonymous said...

My take on the Bushco plan is one of simple Money. They have been funneling a ton of money to themselves in the way of Weapons and Private Contract deals.

This seems like the primary reason for their behavior. This is why I believe that Bush is a VERY successful President. The horror of the situation is that they don't care what happens to the US while pursuing this pillaging.

Why they could not have done so with Afghanistan I can't answer. Oil might be an answer to this; Scale could be another. Perhaps they needed a larger conflict to justify more spending.

Woozle said...

Anonymous's money theory is interesting in light of Bush's pre-election comments about "political capital". Perhaps Bushco's plan is, pure and simple, to find and exploit ways to disburse the wealth of the US government to their "in group", and damn the consequences. (They're "making the government smaller" -- a major conservative goal -- so anything they do towards that end has to be good, right?)

Perhaps the consequences weren't even damned at first; is it possible they didn't have the foresight to see the damage this would cause? Perhaps they "honestly" (to abuse the word a bit) believed going after Clinton was more important than some namby-pamby terrorist wild-goose chase... and then when the terrorist threat turned out to be devastatingly real, they realized they could use it to their advantage. But it wasn't their fault of course, oh no; how can they be held responsible if a serving president behaves immorally in office and then proves damnably difficult to prosecute, thanks to those damnable Democrats and their stupid rules, thus distracting them from focusing on other things? Hey, and while we're here, let's get rid of some of those stupid rules and make it easier for us, the wise and sane conservatives, to choose who goes into office next, so we won't have any more Monicagates tarnishing the reputation of the Presidency and the USA. Keep us honest, responsible conservatives in, and those dishonest, corrupt, perverted liberals out for good!

...and so on. Which I guess is more or less equivalent to "believing their own rhetoric" while being willfully blind to their own hypocrisy... which just about sums up the philosophy of neoconservatism.

It's a nice fairy-tale, one that leaves us without a cunning and vicious villain whose next move we need to worry about. Mere vandalism, not systematic destruction. In the former scenario, the hurricane is all but passed and all we really have to watch out for is aftereffects (e.g. the levees topping out); in the latter, we've just been softened up for the real thing.

So, what cues can we look for to figure out which it is? What testable predictions can we make (and then test) based on each model? That seems to me like the next (and crucial!) thing to do.

Jumper said...

Perhaps the Bush circle really does despise what America has become, and intend to loot the Treasury as much as they can. This hypothesis at least gives us a break from the screaming cognitive dissonance.

Never underestimate the value of the world heroin supply.

Fifteen years ago I attempted to debate some yahoos; I wanted to convey my sense of danger in adopting the idea that America could literally defeat the entire world, arrayed against us. They poo-pooed my attempts. This concept is the end result of our current policy.

The conspiracy sites noted the Bush family purchase of land in Paraguay last year.

David Brin said...

Tell more about the Paraguay thing. Yeesh.

Dang but I hope you guys have it right and that I am wrong. I swear to you, I pray that I am wrong.

Ah, but will anybody note... or remember... or have the right to speak about it... or even be alive... if I prove right?

Tony Fisk said...

Check your Google.

The Paraguay land grab rumours have been doing the rounds since October 2006. Bush is alleged to have bought 100000 acres somewhere. Somebody seems to have rediscovered this, recently.

What evidence is there for a recent increase in the US strategic oil reserve? the official site suggests it has been steady for the past 12 months (currently at 695 million barrels ~ 96% capacity). Bush announced it was to be filled in Nov 2001.

Interestingly, US report plays down Iran threat.

What reaction does the Manchurian scenario get with characters like Lind?

Huh? Hmmm!? ... or silence?

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon again, logon still not working)

If Dr. Brin can't convince us that the Iraq debacle isn’t about oil, he's not going to convince anyone. So he may want to rethink that one.

To defend Dr. Brin here, I think this once again illustrates the limitations of the internet as a conflict resolution medium. There appear to be a series of misunderstandings here, just as there were when Dr. Brin bizarrely criticized me earlier for saying things I never said (viz., that markets are worthless) and agreed with other things I never said (viz., that all corporations are corrupt; they aren't. Some are, but even today, most aren't).

I think Dr. Brin is misinterpreting our realization that oil makes the mideast central to contemporary realpolitik. He appears to think we're making the foolish and oft-repeated left-wing claim that "Iraq is a heist! It's about nothing but stealing their oil!"

That left-wing "oil heist" crap isn't what anyone here is saying. That's silly. (It's silly because how do you get the oil out? What do you do with it? It's dumb. It's like a James Bond movie, it doesn't make sense when you think about it.) What we are saying is that the U.S. has consistently intervened militarily in the middle east solely because oil makes the middle east geopolitically crucial to U.S. interests.

How do we know? What's the proof?

The proof is simple. Remember 1973, when Israel was getting attacked by masses of Egyptian tanks? Ask yourself -- did America intervene militarily?

We did not. (Yes, some U.S. generals rushed TOW missiles to Israel and that helped save their butts, but America did not send its army and navy and air force into a ground war to defend Israel in the middle east in 1973.)

By contrast, look what happened when Saddam invaded Kuwait, potentially threatening the oil fields of Saudi Arabia & Qatar and the UAE and Dubai. The U.S. revved up everything it had militarily and stampeded into the Gulf with more ships 'n troops 'n jet bombers than you could shake a stick at.

What's the difference?


Israel has none. Dubai and Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Kuwait and the UAE have tons.

For all America's talk about supporting Israel, we didn't send troops into the mideast to defend Israel in its desperate hour of need in 1973. But we sure sent a ton 'o troops into the tiny postage-stamp country of Kuwait when Saddam overran it and grabbed its oil reserves & threatened Saudi Arabia's.

The confusion here, I believe, is that Dr. Brin seems to think we're saying "The Iraq war is ALL about the oil! And it's nothing but a heist, a group of thieves trying to steal Iraq's oil!" We're not saying that. Moreover, that's obviously stupid. How could you "steal" all of Iraq's oil? It doesn't make sense. It would take decades to pump it out. It's a crazy left-wing conspiracy theory, like those wacky claims about phaser beams demolishing the WTC towers.

What we are saying is what any person with common sense recognizes. Namely, America intervenes militarily whenever its geopolitical interests are threatened, and control over access to mideast oil is one of America's most crucial national interests. How do we know this? Because America uses a lot more oil than any other single nation on earth. That makes mideast oil crucial to our national interest.

Dr. Brin asked, "Where's the oil?" It's under the ground in Iraq. Dr. Brin doesn't seem to have a grasp of economics, alas -- he doesn't appear to realize that the oil gets more valuable the longer it stays under the ground in Iraq.
Moreover, Dr. Brin's breathtakingly silly suggestion "How much oil could we have bought [with the trillion dollars we spent on the Iraq war]?" reveals in stark clarity Dr. Brin's economic naievete.

Please. Let's think that through.

If America had tried to buy a trillion dollars of oil on the spot market, the markets would correctly perceive this as an effort by America to corner the world oil market. This would create financial chaos. First, the spot price for oil would skyrocket. And not just to $200 or $300 a barrel, but probably to many hundreds or even thousands of dollars per barrel, because other traders would realize something was afoot and they'd try to get in on the action. Efforts to corner commodities markets by purely financial means never work, because the market reacts against it. So if the U.S. was stupid enough to try to buy a trillion dollars worth of oil, we'd suddenly discover that we couldn't buy very much oil at all, since the price would rapidly shoot to the stars. So the answer to Dr. Brin's question "How much oil could we have bought?" is "Not much, because the spot oil price would skyrocket and the world financial markets would disintegrate into chaos."

But wait. It gets worse. Market players would realize that America's effort to corner the world oil market means that we really have hit Peak Oil. That would set off a meltdown in the entire world financial system. We could be looking at another Great Depression as a result.

Now consider what happened when America effectively cornered the market on half the middle east oil reserves militarily, instead of financially.

America doesn't have to admit that we've hit Peak Oil -- in fact, we can deny it, as the people in charge have been doing. This prevents world financial markets from collapsing into chaos. Moreover, America can plausibly deny that the Iraq war even has anything to do with oil -- we can claim it's all about freedom and democracy and blah blah blah. This further calms the oil spot market.

As a result, a military (as opposed to financial) effort to corner half the world's oil reserves has resulted in relatively mild price spikes and no financial chaos in world markets, compared to the chaos a crazy (and stupid) U.S. effort to corner the world oil market financially would have created in the world financial system.

Let us also point out that in dealing with China or some other major oil consumer, America doesn't have to guarantee we can pump oil out of Iraq. All we have to do is deny that nation access to Iraq's oil. It's China's problem how to pump the oil out whenever we allow it -- the crucial issue is that with U.S. ground troops occupying Iraq, we can deny any nation access to Iraqi oil with 100% certainty. That's the important point. That gives us geopolitical leverage. That's the realpolitik Metternich angle.

Dr. Brin asked "Do you really think we could pump enough oil to pay for the Iraq war?" showing once again that he misunderstands what we're saying. That's not the goal. That's the left-wing "oil heist" theory, which is stupid.

What I really think is that with U.S. troops in Iraq and treaties signed for permanent bases, as well as Paul Bremer's infamous General Order 34 in place, America can control access to Iraq's oil for the foreseeable future.

Controlling access to 1/2 the world's oil reserves is a bargain at 1 trillion dollars and 4000 American lives. As mentioned Iraq's current oil servers are estimated at 30 trillion, but remember that those numbers zoom higher the longer Iraq's oil stays in the ground. So the longer America keeps boots on the ground in Iraq, the more valuable its oil becomes, and the more potent a geopolitcal weapon American control of access to Iraq oil becomes. That makes a long-term Iraq occupation a realpolitik win-win for America.

Moreover, let's think geopolitically. China current has America by the balls because they control most of our current account deficit. If China dumps U.S. dollars and gets out of U.S. bonds, we're in big trouble. Do you think China hasn't used this threat behind the scenes? "Play ball with us, U.S., or we'll sink your currency like a rock." But if America can threaten China with shutting off the oil spigot in the future from all those 300 billion barrels of oil under Iraq that China will need to grow economically for the next generation, we've got a standoff. "You piss on our current account deficit by pulling out of dollars, we'll screw you on access to Iraq's oil 15 years from now. Back off, China."

Also, let's not make the mistake of thinking that Dr. Brin is saying the Iraq situation has nothing at all to do with oil. I'm sure he's not foolish enough to believe that. Instead, Dr. Brin is probably just saying that the Iraq debacle isn't a failed "oil heist." He's right about that. That's a dumb left-wing conspiracy theory, like the WTC demolition delusions or the "9/11 was an inside job" fantasies. It doesn't make any sense.

Permit me to shade the middle east situation a little more in colors of gray, because it's clear that there are 2 aspects of U.S. involvement there. One is our support for Israel, which is primarily economic and diplomatic. As I mentioned, America has not yet sent ground troops into combat to defend Israel when Israel has been attacked.

Clearly as the only democracy in the middle east, Israel is a kindred culture. Also, many Israelis are former U.S. citizens, so Americans have many relatives in Israel. This makes our cultural ties to Israel quite strong, as compared, say, to Egypt or Syria. So we'd expect America to support Israel financially and diplomatically. Democracies tend to stick together, especially when a small democracy is threatened by dictatorships.

That's one aspect of America's involvement in the middle east. Obviously, that's not about oil. (However, our big push to get the peace treaty signed in the late 70s did involve at least some concern about oil, given the 2 Arab oil emabrgos.)

However, another aspect of America's mideast entanglement involves our military interventions, and in every single case that has been about oil. Whenever America has put boots on the ground in the mideast after WW II, it's been about oil.

So we have to disentangle those 2 situations. Our support of Israel isn't based on oil, but operation Desert Storm and the current Iraq mess clearly is about oil.

Let me shade the situation even more. I personally believe that the neocons are serious when they rave about creating democracy in the mideast and transforming the middle east dictatorships into free open cultures. It sounds just crazy enough and just sincere enough to be legit. But ask yourself -- why do the neocons care so much about fostering democracy in the middle east?

Why don't the neocons go on a crusade to, say, foment democracy in Burma? Or Zaire? Or Rwanda? Or Haiti?

I'll tell you why. Because Burma and Zaire and Rwanda and Haiti don't have 80% of the world's known oil reserves. The middle east does.

So, indirectly, yes, it's about oil in Iraq. I believe both are true -- the neocons really have deluded themselves into believing that crazy Wilsonian crap about transforming the world, the Project for the New American Century, spreading democracy-capitalism globally at the point of gun, etc. But they're doing it not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because they think they need to control access to the world's oil reserves. And they stupidly think this is the smart way to do it. In reality, mideast democracy = fundamentalist Islam, which means oil gets used as a weapon against the Great Satan, the U.S. Dumb and dumber on the neocons’ part.

Now I'm going to pose some questions to Dr. Brin.

1. If Iraq isn't about oil, why did Paul Bremer issue General Order 34, allowing repatriation of 100% of profits from all Iraqi businesses, and 100% ownership of Iraqi businesses by Americans?

2. If Iraq isn't about oil, why didn't America send tanks 'n troops 'n bombs to stop the genocide and bring demoracy to Rwanda? Why Iraq? Why not Rwanda? Why not Darfur?

3. If Iraq isn't about oil, why did U.S. troops ignore the museums and power plants and hospitals, and send troops straight to guard the oil pipelines the moment rioting broke out when American forces entered Baghdad?

4. If Iraq isn't about oil, why did the U.S. just ram a forced treaty down Allawi's throat compelling Iraq to allow to establish permanent military bases in Iraq and, effectively, making Iraq a U.S. fiefdom?

Let me point out a couple of other basic issues. The neocons’ real enemy isn't some foreign power controlling Iraqi oil, it's alternative energy. If America tried to buy its way out of its energy bind in the financial markets (as Dr. Brin foolishly suggests by asking "How much oil could we have bought [with a trillion dollars]?" it would set off alarm bells throughout the world financial community. Not only would it have created financial chaos worldwide and probably a deep global recession or even depression -- it would've kick-started a massive global R&D program on alternative fuels in a big way, since everyone in the world would now have hard proof that Peak Oil is here and we're seriously screwed unless we get the oil monkey off our backs.

This way, by militarily cornering the market on oil in the mideast, alternative energy R&D is not set off in a big way. Everyone can plausibly deny that Peak Oil is here. That's great for the kleptocrats, since they make their money by chicanery, not innovation. They think zero-sum, while R&D scientists think positive-sum.

Lastly -- Dr. Brin has badly confused intelligence with competence.

Sorry, Dr. Brin, intelligence != competence.

I've worked with plenty of smart folks, many with PhDs. Alas, smarts ain't even remotely the same thing as competence. In fact, some of the smartest people turn out to be the least competent, oddly enough. Competence involves the ability to get things done. Very smart people have a tendency to drift off into a lala land of theory, where they try to figure everything out by pure thought. In the complicated and perverse real world, that usually doesn't work. You must devolve into the ruthless application of logic and brutally apply the scientific method. No matter how clever you are, you must test systems & people to make sure they do what you think they'll do. They often don't. You must disassemble complex systems into their smallest components and work in baby steps. That's the only real way to get things to work. Above all, making organizations work involves people skills. Super-smart people often excel at theory but haven't got the people skills to pick the right subordinates, to delegate enough of the job, and to motivate people in the right ways.

Successful organizations are about people and procedures. Proof? Look at the most effective organizations in the world -- the military group that controls access to American nuclear weapons, the programmers who produce code for the Space Shuttle, businesses like Intel that consistently produce world-class best-of-breed products. When you ask the people in those organization what makes them the best, they all say the same thing: success is all about people and procedures. Not about being "smart."

In particular, see the classic article “Why I never hire brilliant men.”

JFK gathered some of the smartest people ever to come into Washington around him, and they gave us the Viet Nam war. The Lockheed Skunk Works gathered people mostly without PhDs, yet they consistently produced world-class innovations.

Dr. Brin's refusal to believe that the neocons in the White House could consistently blunder and fumble and bumble and bungle because they're "smart" reflects a basic misunderstanding of what makes organizations work and how projects get completed successfully. Raw intelligence remains a very small part of what makes for success in any organization.

Further proof? General Bernard Law Montgomery, the military genius who defeated Rommel, planned Operation Market Garden -- a total military disaster. During the planning stage, subordinate officers raised constant red flags. They subordinates were ultimately dismissed, and Operation Market Garden turned into a huge military disaster. Why? Not because Montgomery was stupid. Not because he was an inept military leader. But because of groupthink and the pathologies that afflict a group. Everyone in Montgomery's staff lockstepped into groupthink, dismissed all objections, and walked over the cliff into disaster. This has happened many times in many organizations, all full of the very best and brightest people.

So, yes, Dr. Brin, not only is it possible that the neocons in the White House bumbled their way to disaster, it's likely. This is how organizations work in the real world when groupthink and theory takes over from reality. The White House represents a classic dysfunctional organization, with a single “strong man” at the top who doesn’t want bad news and refuses to change his mind regardless of new data. That’s a recipe for disaster no matter how smart the people in the organization. In fact, it gets worse when the people are really smart, because they come up with endlessly ingenious justifications for their doomed schemes, and others in the organization buy those incredibly clever but crazy justifications until the whole shebang collapses in disaster.

Don Quijote said...

1. If Iraq isn't about oil, why did Paul Bremer issue General Order 34, allowing repatriation of 100% of profits from all Iraqi businesses, and 100% ownership of Iraqi businesses by Americans?

4. If Iraq isn't about oil, why did the U.S. just ram a forced treaty down Allawi's throat compelling Iraq to allow to establish permanent military bases in Iraq and, effectively, making Iraq a U.S. fiefdom?

If you combine option 1 & 4, do you not have the "left-wing oil heist"?

The only real question at hand is, was it the "Oil Heist" or the Geo-Political strategy the driving force behind the war?

Nate said...

So Dr. Brin, do you think the release of the Iran NIE that says Iran stopped its weapons program in 2003 is a sign of the revolt of the professionals in the intelligence agencies? I imagine they can see the Bush administration is over soon, and has record disapproval rates, and figure out that means the Bushies are weak. Even if this basic fact seems to escape the Congressional Democrats.

And of course, Iran trying to get nukes was an entirely predictable reaction to Bush's whole stupid "Axis of Evil" crap, because North Korea got nukes, and Bush didn't invade them, but we invaded Iraq, which had no WMD (and we knew it).

Okay, so North Korea doesn't have any oil either, but the whole "axis of evil" thing was a colossally stupid comment no less.

atolley said...

Hard to add much of value, but I want to reinforce the Iraq Oil meme.

1. All the evidence points to peak oil being correct.
2. Modern industrial life relies on oil as the basis for transportation. There are no other options on the table, especially for aircraft.
3. Major nations are trying actively to secure supplies, whether by contract or by acquisition (e.g. Russia's latest polar foray).
4. The ME remains the worlds largest reservoir, so access to this oil is important.

Strategically, oil reserves are thus important to industrial nations, especially the US. The geopolitical ramifications are undeniable. This is not new, although the oil supply is now becoming critical.

Complementary to all this, the current administration is composed of people with close ties to oil. They have had a record of maintaining the status quo by denying GW and the CO2 link, delaying alternative energy sources with pie in the sky, hydrogen is the future, distractions, pushing for greater oil exploration and opening up areas to same.

Had they been lucky, my guess is that the Iraq oilfields would now be privatized, run by US oil companies (remember the pre-war fuss about Russia and France's UN objections being based on oilfield contracts?) with oil tax revenues being used to offset the war costs (based on the $50bn pre-war estimate). And if the wealth benefits also went to the top administration people, well so much the better.

I really don't see this as anything more sinister than the playing out of the same oil resources scenarios that we have seen for the past 100 years, except that the stakes are getting ever higher as the outcome of a loss gets more critical.

Woozle said...


"If Dr. Brin can't convince us that the Iraq debacle isn’t about oil, he's not going to convince anyone. So he may want to rethink that one."

I'm convinced that it was never about obtaining oil, or lowering domestic oil prices. The suggestion that it is about controlling oil reserves makes a little more sense, but if Iraq remains in chaos, just how much control do we have? I'm not really convinced that it was about controlling the oil either, though the point is still debatable.

"I think this once again illustrates the limitations of the internet as a conflict resolution medium."

Not so much the internet as the blog format.

Just to restate what has been discussed before, Dr.B has been an avid campaigner for improved conversational interfaces on the internet, culminating in his Holocene Chat project.

Meanwhile, I have been attempting to use off-the-shelf software specifically for addressing complex issues via Issuepedia.

You might consider getting an account on Issuepedia and creating a "position" page on any points of view you've been trying to get across (e.g. my own position statement); this is something I wish more people would do, for reasons which I would explain if I weren't typing this in a hurry ;-)

Michael said...

Zorgon: In demonstrating the weakness of the internet, you ironically demonstrate the strength as well.

And indeed, you paint a sufficiently convincing picture NOW that I think I agree with your take on the matter; allow me to attempt to summarize.

1) We went into the ME because it is important, and it is important because of oil.
2) The kleptos profit by taking Iraqi oil off of the market for now - this by lowering supply, but also by potentially acquiring it LATER when it is worth far more.

On other points: I do think that this Iran report is a sign of a quiet revolt in the intelligence community. Doubly so given the way the president is reacting to it.

Mark said...

What Zorgon said.

(BTW, Zorgon, use your email address as your user name for logon.)

David, you can't say I'm just saying the neoncons are stupid because I don't think they are. For all the reason Zorgon laid out I actually think there were good reasons for doing what they did. Now, I think they were wrong, but that isn't the same thing as stupid.

We humans are very good at self deception, particularly in groups of like-minding people.

David Brin said...

First, Zorgon, you are right that today's internet fosters rash misinterpretation and poor discourse.

I go on about this in great detail, in my Google Tech Talk: which you will find illuminating or infuriating or both :

Sill, you are making no sense. The 1973 US did intervene to help Israel (and it was substantial) and that help deeply DAMAGED our sway over regimes like the Saudis!

I never claimed that all people believing "it's the oil" are talking about stealing it. Of course their main theory is about "control." And this method will not control anything. Has not, will not. The instant Iraq is stable enough to resume pumping, that instant they will order our troops OUT!

Anway, I don't have to answer nastiness like the following:

"Dr. Brin doesn't seem to have a grasp of economics, alas -- he doesn't appear to realize that the oil gets more valuable the longer it stays under the ground in Iraq.
Moreover, Dr. Brin's breathtakingly silly suggestion "How much oil could we have bought [with the trillion dollars we spent on the Iraq war]?" reveals in stark clarity Dr. Brin's economic naievete."

Go diddle yourself. Your theory is absolutely loony. We have gained control of absolutely nothing, at the expense of a trillion dollars and all our credibility. There is not a single tangible sign that the "control" you speak of exists, or has even a remote chance of existing in the future. Those "treaties" won't be worth spit, nor will the bases, as soon as a populist OR radical government congeals enough to respond to the popular will (loathing the US) and simply orders us out.

You call me names and ridicule. But every ACTUAL TANGIBLE THING that has actually occurred fits my theory, not yours.

And now the price of your name calling. I have stopped reading about 1/4 or the way down. You are bright but I've had it for today.

Tony Fisk said...

A question regarding the worthy Zorgon's contention that it's about oil. If this is true, then how come Venezuela isn't in the firing line? What does the notion that Venezuela has more reserves than the entire ME say about 'peak oil' estimates?

Oil revenue may well be an adequate motivation for these people (and yes, smart people are not necessarily competent people). But have a close look at the way David keeps pushing the Manchurian theory, not as a 'clear and present danger', but as 'an option that intelligence agencies are paid to consider (like UFO's), but don't seem to be.'.

In short he is trying to consider all scenarios for how the current situation came to be. While this is not so important as fathoming how the US now gets out of it, it is essential in deciding who should be entrusted with that task.

rex007can said...

The war with Iran is just another step towards completely ruining the US and sending the economy into the greatest recession since the 1930's.

This has to happen in order for the NAU to be borne. Corporate interests, which have owned the government for over 30 years, need less trade restrictions in order to make more money. But of course, Mexico is too poor compared to the US to be brought into the Union, so...set up a nonsensical bank system to bankrupt the population while putting the government so far into debt it will become a third world country, and voila, you can make a North American Union with ease because everybody is poor.

How's that for a plan?
Seems to be working just fine.

atolley said...

What about Iran and Oil?

The NIE seems to defuse the imminent reason for war there, yet GWB just shifts the goalposts to maintain beligerance.

Maybe it is all hot air or deflecting attention from domestic issues or maintaining the GWOT meme.

However I was struck by a single line in a recent BusinessWeek article about the commodity grab that there was concerns about China's deals with Iran. Some research recovered several articles in the better mainstream press around 2004/2005 about China's deals to secure significant supplies supplanting Iran's previous best customer, Japan. The US trade reps were making all sorts of noises about how bad this situation was, without actually explaining why, or what it meant to the US. At about the same time the US denounced China's proposed acquisition of a US oil company.

So just possibly, GWB and Cheney want to create some openings for US companies to get at oil in Iran using a similar approach to Iraq.