The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Assisted Suicide

It seems to me that too many geopolitical constraints block our ability to fight an effective kinetic war against Islamofascism. For example, the Saudis are not our friends. They support and encourage Wahabbi/Jihadist thought around the world, and yet we treat them as allies. The world is a complicated place.

It also appears that our self-imposed moral constraints (e.g., no collateral damage, ever) have crippled our ability to defeat an insurgency or more generally, to root out and kill a terrorist enemy embedded in a civilian population that often supports them.

Finally, it is folly to think that we can negotiate with fanatical regimes in any meaningful way, and it is rank stupidity to expect that any agreement reached with these regimes will be honored by them.

There is, in my view, only one strategy that has any hope of burying Islamofascist regimes (no, it’s not helping them to better understand us or working hard to address their “grievances”. It is — to bury them economically, by shutting off the one source of revenue that keeps them going. The western world (and that includes most of Asia) must initiate a War against Oil (WaO).

Over the past few years, I’ve discussed the WaO in a variety of posts, but things are no better today than they were in 2005 or 2001 or 1995, or … 1973 — the date of the first oil embargo. Sure, our congress and executive leadership have given the problem of our addiction lip service, but no real action has occurred. In today’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman, cites congressional resistance to improved mileage standards for vehicles sold in the USA:
What is it about Michigan that seems to encourage assisted suicide?

That is all I can think watching Michigan congressmen and senators, led by Representative John Dingell, doing their best imitations of Jack Kevorkian and once again trying to water down efforts by Congress to legislate improved mileage standards for Detroit in the latest draft energy bill.

Look, I get pork-barrel politics. I understand senators from oil states protecting the windfall profits of oil companies. Ditto for farm subsidies. It’s an old story: Protect my winnings, and I’ll reward you with campaign contributions. I get it. I get it.

What I don’t get is empty-barrel politics — Michigan lawmakers year after year shielding Detroit from pressure to innovate on higher mileage standards, even though Detroit’s failure to sell more energy-efficient vehicles has clearly contributed to its brush with bankruptcy, its loss of market share to Toyota and Honda — whose fleets beat all U.S. automakers in fuel economy in 2007 — and its loss of jobs. G.M. today has 73,000 working U.A.W. members, compared with 225,000 a decade ago. Last year, Toyota overtook G.M. as the world’s biggest automaker.

Thank you, Michigan delegation! The people of Japan thank you as well.

Friedman goes on to note that Toyota (right, the Toyota of Prius fame) is working with the US automakers to submarine any attempt at better mileage standards. Why? So it can sell big trucks (read, high profit trucks), and in a remarkably Machiavellian move, so it can encourage US automakers not to innovate. In their rank stupidity, the executives at GM, Ford and Chrysler will do just that, even as their market share continues to drop.

But all of this isn’t really about the financial health of the US auto companies. If they’re not innovative, they disappear. I can accept that. The hard fact is that any War against Oil begins with reducing vehicular petroleum consumption, and since we seem incapable of bringing alternative energy solutions online quickly, the only real short-term option is to demand better gas mileage.

Consider this, we’ll spend well over 1 trillion dollars fighting the war in Iraq, and we may wind up spending much more deflecting Iran’s fanatic regime, Syria’s band of thugs, and other actors in the middle east. Like it or not, the reason we care so much about that region isn’t freedom for all Arabs or other platitudes. It’s oil. That’s not an indictment, it’s a simple fact. We’re so dependent on oil that we have to protect our interests. But what if we weren’t? What if oil revenues to that region began to decrease over the next 20 years … not a little, but a lot.

But many of the Right argue that it’s not so simple, that alternative energy is too “expensive” or “impractical” or, well, Unamerican. Many on the left are unwilling to compromise, demanding pure green approaches (a good idea) with no period of transition that may demand environmental concessions. The result, a governmental approach to energy policy that has been a travesty through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

To pick up on Thomas Friedman’s phrase, it appears that our country—by virtue of a ineffective energy policy and leadership that lacks the courage to change things—is participating in slow motion assisted suicide. The problem is—no one yet knows who will do the dying.