Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It Comes Down To Resources

Realpolitik (German: real “realistic”, “practical” or “actual”; and Politik “politics”) refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on practical considerations, rather than ideological notions. Some pundits believe that realpolitik is the reason we are involved in the Middle East, to access their enormous oil resources.

And they are totally right. Getting control of resources has been the geopolitical rule since before people even knew the earth was round. Offensive war is an expensive proposition, so it better pay dividends, otherwise why do it? Our global military is not for defense; we have ballistic nuclear missile subs to flatten any attacking country.

No, our military is there to provide a softer touch, a constant reminder to the world that we are the alpha dog. It's saying, "Don't mess up the order of things because when things get messed up, we lose money." And it works, for the most part. But not everyone is happy with our dominance, especially when that dominance means we're in their back yard, vis-a-vis oil in the Middle East.

The blowback we experienced on 9/11 was orchestrated by Saudis hanging out in the hinterland of Afghanistan. According to Dan, this was done because they didn't want us in the area. Yet we are in hundreds of other places across the globe and do not elicit terrorist bombings, so can that REALLY be the reason? I don't think so.

What makes the Middle East different? Well, many are oil funded, Islamofascist, welfare states, so perhaps we should break this down.

Oil is the number one export from the region by a wide margin. As such, we send billions upon billions of dollars to the Middle East every year for our favorite resource. You would think that they would be singing our praises, since we give them so much money. Look at China, they love us. But without America, the Middle East wouldn't make nearly as much money as they do now. Yet they claim we are the devil.

Which brings me to Islamofascist. The Qur'an is the constitution in Saudi Arabia, making most Americans unconstitutional just by living. So it's clear we have an ideological impasse, as their countries sanction wife beating and forbid drinking, and most Americans would be uncomfortable in a culture like that. The real leaders in these Islamic nations are the religious figures, and despite all the money we send them, they must condemn us for our wicked, sinful ways while they take our stacks of cash.

Which brings me to my third point: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and others are strong welfare states. This is inevitable when your country has one valuable natural resource and not much else, as this high concentration of wealth cannot support a country without heavy redistribution. The result of this economic one-trick pony is an atrophy of other business ventures in the region. Why build a factory when you can just pump oil out of the ground? They don't even do any refining over there, they just don't need to to stay solvent.

So what does this mean for us? Well for starters, we're dealing with resource rich, intellect poor nations. It's not their fault, but it leads to an imbalanced state, with little private money to fight government overreach. This wealthy government can run rampant without consequence, as the oil market isn't drying up any time soon, and the people of the Middle East get harsh religious governments.

What I'm getting at is that due to the opiate-like effect oil has on a nation, the Middle East is economically underdeveloped. The private sector has little money, by which I mean little resources, and thus has little power. So even if your average Saudis wanted a less strict legal system, they have no recourse, no money, no resources, no power. This desperation is expertly twisted by their religious leaders into hatred towards the United States, as if we are to blame for their shitty lives. But it's not our fault, we're just trying to buy some oil.

So what does this mean for Afghanistan? First, it has no real economy to speak of, and no real government, so the Taliban rose to power--it had no real challengers. The Taliban also controlled one of Afghanistan's few exports: opium. Farmers of opium poppies were able to make a little money under the Taliban regime, so they didn't want to change to an anti-drug system.

The governor of one region of Afghanistan estimated that two out of three people supported the Taliban because they were involved in the drug trade, and American supported forces are against drug production. So it's no wonder we're having so much trouble there, they need money, but we are trying to cut off one of their few markets.

But no one is going to live under the Taliban's iron fist if there is a better option. We just have to show them that option, first by legalizing poppy growing. By bringing the poppy economy into the light we will empower people across Afghanistan. They will no longer need to rely on the Taliban, and the Taliban will lose their main revenue stream. They will see the benefit of peace over insurgency is more money, more resources.

So it does come down to resources. Afghanis need enough resources to survive, yet we tell them their most valuable crop is illegal. They turn to the Taliban because they have no other options. By legalizing poppies we will cut the Taliban off at the knees, and encourage economic growth. With the Taliban out of the way, Afghanistan can stabilize and develop an economy, which will encourage further stabilization. Afghanis will fight to keep the government structure that allows them to make the most money. But this humanitarian effort is not without economic reward for America too.

Afghanistan, though resource poor, is valuable in it's proximity to oil rich nations, making it the perfect place for a pipeline. So using realpolitik reasoning, it is in our vital interest to stabilize Afghanistan in order to deliver oil more efficiently to us and our trading partners. And if we have to stabilize and democratize a few nations along the way, so be it, but really it comes down to resources.

No comments:

Post a Comment