August 7, 2002
By Mike Shannon
Richard Nixon was, among other things, a mean spirited paranoid
who deserves every ounce of contempt that he is so often remembered
with. With that in mind, I compliment him with great reservation.
However, truth be told, he was not without his uses. The primary
one for the purpose of this discussion is his legacy-enhancing
trip to China. While it would be overstating the case to credit
this wholly unexpected stroke of genius with the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR, it would be equally historically
inaccurate to dismiss it as not being a part and parcel to
The reason for the epoch changing success of this initiative
was that broke a stalemate in strategic relations that had
by almost universal acclaim come to be thought of as unbreakable.
By forcing the Soviets to consider the prospect - however
farfetched it might have been - that the Chinese would align
themselves militarily with the US the status quo was shattered.
This terrifying possibility of being confronted on both borders
by hostile forces gave the gentlemen of the Politburo no alternative
other than to dramatically over stretch their military resources.
A development which directly contributed to the eventual collapse
of their thoroughly anorexic economy.
While the strategic foresight that inspired the trip was
realpolitik at its finest, only a bona fide commie hater like
Dick Nixon could have carried it off. Any Democratic/leftist/liberal/pinko,
President or otherwise, who had the nerve to attempt even
suggest such blasphemy would have been swallowed whole by
the right wing: they would have been lucky to only have been
impeached. With Tricky Dick at the wheel, many on the right
to do nothing more than sit quietly in the back seat in stunned
silence as Mr Nixon drove off with his unlikely coup.
There exists a similar opportunity for our current President
to play such an unexpected trump card. A move which would
also lead directly to a realigning of global power structures.
A move which would enhance the security, both militarily and
economically, of the United States. And all without a shot
With the dismemberment of the International Communist Movement
Islamic fundamentalism has taken its place as the premier
threat to American/western interests. While the danger posed
by the latter is vastly different in scale - as horrendous
as the loss of life was on September 11 an attack by the Soviet
Union on New York would have been incalculably more devastating
- it obviously remains a formidable one. But whereas the Soviet
Union was a military force that had the capacity to inflict
cataclysmic damage on the United States, the Islamic extremists
seek to wreak untold damage on our economic systems.
The key to their doing so lies in their ability to impact
the smooth functioning of the world's oil markets. That they
have the potential to do this is a unfortunate coincidence
of theology, geology and geography. Were it not for overlap
between where this movement's most militant adherents reside
and the states in which the majority of the world's reserves
of exportable oil lie, the struggle with Islamic fundamentalism
would be waged within the confines of the umma. Making it
of peripheral interest to the United States. If that were
only so, people would still be calling the Windows on the
World for dinner reservations.
As a parallel effort to meeting the threat posed by the Islamic
extremists the most potentially productive long-term strategy
would be to minimize the central point of contention. If these
people wish to be left to themselves we should make every
effort to oblige them. In one important way we have already
taken steps to accomplish this. And it is with rich irony
that we have turned to our former archenemy to assist us in
Although for a number of sensitive geo/political considerations
it has not been trumpeted as another epoch changing breakthrough,
our vastly improved and expanded relations with Russia have
in many ways marked the beginning of the end of the predominance
the Middle Eastern -- OPEC states have on world energy politics.
But just as the meeting of Nixon and Mao marked the first
step journey of ten thousand miles so too is there a long
way to go in the shifting of power in the global oil business.
Finding oil is the easy part; expanding the infrastructure
necessary to extract, store, transport, refine and distribute
the stuff is where the going gets tough. Although this development
is well underway - the NY Times reports, Sunday August 4,
that Russian production has now risen back to its pre-USSR
breakup levels, making it once again second only to Saudi
Arabia in daily output - it will still be a full decade at
the least before the effects of the transformation are fully
In the meantime and in order for this process to become fully
actualized another crucial step must be taken. A step that
puts Mr Bush at a strategic juncture similar to the one Mr
Nixon found himself at three decades ago. And like Mr Nixon,
Mr Bush is in a uniquely advantageous position to take America
and the world down a new road. What it's going to take is
the vision to grasp the long-term benefits to American society
as a whole and the guts to implement it.
Switching our primary source of oil from a Mid-eastern/OPEC
dominated few to a more diverse, more stable and more US friendly
based source is only part of the solution. Even if our supply
of oil was unassailably stable both in quantity and in price,
all the latent problems of carbon based energy usage would
remain at hand: diminished air quality, contribution to global
warming and most importantly, a finite pool from which to
draw. To paraphrase Einstein - you can't solve the problems
of tomorrow using the same methodology that created the condition
in the first place. A new and decidedly different approach
is what is so sorely required.
As a certified member from birth of the Texas oilocracy George
Bush is uniquely qualified to guide the United States into
a future based on renewable sources of energy. Whereas someone
such as Jimmy Carter, although eminently well intended, came
across as an idealistic, cardigan sweater wearing dreamer,
if Mr Bush would mount the bully pulpit and denounce the strategies
and policies of the past as ones that have served their purpose
and now must be discarded and thereby throw the weight of
the Presidency behind this initiative he will perform a service
of immeasurable benefit. Announcing to the world that from
this day forward the United States would leave no stone unturned
in a national drive for real and sustainable energy independence
would be the mark of a visionary and statesman. If only he
had the good sense and the courage to do it.
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