Just read a interesting opinion piece in the The New Republic. Written by Paul Berman, The Death of 1989 postulates the consequences of a Russia acting out of paranoia and makes a convincing case that the world has become a more uncertain place following the Kremlin's push against Georgia.
The entire piece is well worth reading, but, in the end the issue comes down to Oil plain and simple. Oil is the lifeblood on which almost all persons in the world subsist. It brings us our food, it heats our homes, earns us our living, it is as important to modern life as water in a desert, or food in a famine. It is something that people will kill for.
And yet, of course, unlike food and water, Oil is an artificial staple. Our dependence on it is real, the economic laws and realities of the world revolve around it. But this need not be so.
Berman writes in his piece:
We will have to recognize that, for the moment, questions of democratic principle, national security, and the energy crisis have decisively merged. We will need a newly combined policy, then--a reaffirmation of the principles of democratic solidarity, together with an urgent, national-priority effort to develop alternative-energy industries in order to weaken the Putin dictatorship and a series of other petro-enemies of democracy. Now, yes, after the invasion of Georgia, we will end up confirming one aspect of the Russian paranoia. Our goal should be to undo, on environmentalist grounds, the central element of Russia's rather primitive prosperity. An alternative energy program will require a turning away from free-market dogma--one more way in which a new policy cannot be traditionally conservative. The lurch will have to be leftward.
Under normal marketplace conditions, the advantages of Oil now accrue to Russia, and the Middle East. Following its present course, the United States will continue to fight wars to secure Oil, even as the sources of Oil move further from our reach...inside Russia's boarders, or under an Iranian Nuclear Umbrella.
It is as if the whole business were a giant ball game. As Americans, we are good at the game, but at the moment, the field we play on is not favorable to us.
Through a concerted effort, the United States could engage the massive economic engine of its government to change our society's relationship with the natural laws of the market place (just as an airplane engines changes our traditional relationship to the laws of gravity).
By providing artificial stimulus to the "Anti-Oil" energy business- the Government could literally "move the playing field"- the laws of the marketplace, or the rules of the game, would be the same...but the field on which we were playing would be OURS and not theirs.
An entire new industry would be born, one in which we, as a nation, took the lead. Our people would work, our coffers would be full, and, as an added bonus, the world would be cleaner.
I do not agree with Berman that this is a "leftward" idea at all. A true leftest would instead plead that we search for ways to abandon the "Zero-Sum game" of capitalism, and seek instead a cooperative, inclusive approach. While I applaud the sentiment, I can not agree that the human spirit has reached a plateau of maturity that would allow us to take the high road.
It has, after all, worked for us before. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal began it, but the full mobilization of our Government in the cause of World War Two lead our nation back to near full employment, a leading position in manufacturing, science and technology, and the living standards that went with it.
As we look at the present world situation, which shows us ever loosing to those who have the Oil, it's time to hearken back to Roosevelt's words: "For us, this is an emergency, as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, with the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war."