2002 September 14 Saturday
US grand strategy, oil, and terrorism

Elements of a grand strategy:

1) Reduce the money flow into the Middle East from oil sales. We need to develop replacements.

1) Fund basic and applied science that can result in alternatives to fossil fuels. In the long run this would:
A) Defund the Saudis and other countries in the Middle East. This would reduce the flow of money for terrorism and for funding the spread of the most extreme flavors of Islam.
B) Reduce CO2 pollution and other types of pollution caused by fossil fuel burning.
C) Reduce import costs.

2) Make it easier for Arab immigrants to secularize than to maintain their Muslim beliefs. We shouldn't be handing out school vouchers that make it easier for them to send their kids to Muslim religious schools.

3) Oppose the Wahhabi influence within Saudi Arabia. Either eventually invade the place or use other means to shift power away from the Wahhabis and toward the Asharis.

US reliance on Middle Eastern oil is not our Achilles' Heel

Some people believe that if we could just reduce American dependence on Middle Eastern oil then we'd be a lot more secure. In this theory its the ability of Persian Gulf oil producers to cut off our supplies that is our Achilles' Heel. This theory ignores a few salient facts:

• If Middle Eastern producers wouldn't sell to us we could just switch our purchases to other countries.
• The Middle Eastern producers need to sell oil and hence would sell to the countries that now buy from other suppliers. So there'd just be a switch in who bought from which supplier. There'd be a modest increase in refining and transportation costs. But it wouildn't be very disruptive.
• The Middle Eastern regimes actually rely on the US for security purposes. They don't want to be invaded by neighbors who covet their oil fields. So they are reluctant to totally stop selling oil to the US.

The whole world's dependence on Middle Eastern oil creates security problems for the US

Why should the dependence of other countries on Middle Eastern oil be a national security concern of the US? Its the money that flows into the Middle East and not the oil that flows out of it that creates the biggest national security problem for the US.

However, since the rest of the world also buys oil from there the benefit we'd derive from reduced American dependence would not eliminate all (or even most) of the national security problems that arise from our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

We need to reduce and eventually eliminate the world's reliance on oil

Shifting to other oil sources will help in the short to medium term

Different alternative energy sources have different political implications

If we develop technologies that make the non-fossil fuel alternatives cheaper then we will have less need to get involved in extended military occupations, a never-ending whining from the Left that we are imperialists, greater resentment of the US in Arab countries. and all the rest that goes with long term military interventions.

If photovoltaics and energy storage technologies (eg fuel cells that can burn hydrogen that photovoltaic electricity produces) can be made orders of magnitude cheaper then we get a return on investment that pays back forever.

We should use military operations to reduce the threat in the short term. But part our long term strategy ought to be to develop technologies that will eventually replace the entire world's demand for Middle Eastern crude. Defund the Saudis. Defund the madrassah religious schools. Defund the terrorists.

Nuclear power is not the right kind of technology for that purpose. Even if nukes could be operated safely in the US and protected from terrorists there are too many other countries where their having nuclear plants would create security threats for us. Plus, some just wouldn't operate the plants in a competent safe fashion.

We ought to develop technologies whose spread would make the world a safer place.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 September 14 06:26 PM 


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