Friday, July 01, 2005

A New Era: Resource Wars & Economic Colonialism

There are two fascinating trends emerging in the world today, both largely ignored by the “Mainstream Media”. The first is the realization that resource wars are upon us. The second is a growing worldwide solidarity among opponents of Western hegemony and economic imperialism.

The indicators of the coming era of resource-driven conflict are visible, but they don’t yet slap the public in the face. Peak Oil, the concept that the world production in hydrocarbons will peak and then begin a continual decline, is gradually beginning to show up on the public radar. This is probably because the concept is no longer the exclusive domain of end-times prophets and conspiracy-theory hacks: there is broad acceptance that Peak Oil will happen (USGS, DOE, French Energy Minister, ASPO, Saudi Oil Ministry, etc.), the only debate remaining is over the timing and the rate in production decline. If Matt Simmons (who has met with Bush on this topic) is correct, modern production methods will lead to very rapid production declines after peaking (as we’re seeing in the North Sea this year - a 17% decline).

Aaron Dunlap (of made an important statement about the impact of Peak Oil: “Be aware of peak oil… be afraid of how our world will react to it”. Well, the first signs of how the world will react are already showing, in China, Venezuela and Iran…

China’s 1.3 billion people, and their quickly growing economy are one of the prime movers behind the rapid increase in global demand for oil. China is just now starting to fill their own strategic petroleum reserve, and making overt grabs at oil resources, such as their $18.5 Billion cash offer for UnoCal. China and the US (leaders, at least) both understand that the victor in their eventual economic showdown will be decided by energy access. The real battlefront is kept well out of public view: the two nations are fighting over which direction Central Asian oil and gas will flow. America’s expanding network of Central Asian military bases, international accords and private-sector financing are working to ensure that Central Asian oil flows west along the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline for consumption by the West. China, meanwhile, is struggling to create an eastward-flowing system from the same source—and both are manipulating governments in the region to exclude the other.

In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez and his “New Bolivarians” are at the vanguard of a broader movement against economic imperialism and exploitation policy. No longer content to accept the domination of Western economic forces, the New Bolivarians are looking to nationalize resource wealth and ensure self-determination by exerting control over the very energy resources that the West so badly needs. Chavez, in cooperation with factions in Panama, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, China and elsewhere, holds Venezuela’s massive oil and gas reserves in a new iteration of the Cold War game of Mutually Assured Destruction. Already, he has expressed his lack of interest in increasing oil output as demanded by OPEC, is actively nationalizing Venezuela’s oil infrastructure, and is preparing to divest Venezuela of Citgo in a move designed to enable Venezuela to export their heavy, sour crude to either the US or China--the high bidder gets the oil, and Venezuela wins. Chavez’s policies of using oil wealth to provide medical care and housing to Venezuela’s poor, and his agenda of land reform and wealth redistribution have made him an incredibly popular and powerful figure at home. Already the broad appeal of his Bolivarian model is spreading: Bolivia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Nigeria and other hydrocarbon-rich nations are preparing to follow suit. Chavez’s bold moves are a grave threat to a Western economic system that is dependent on one-way resource flow from the Third World. Perhaps that explains the overtly anti-Chavez US policy, or the failed assassination and coup attempts backed by the US?

If Chavez is really smart, he’ll sell Citgo to the Chinese.

In Iran, a very similar game is playing itself out. I keep hearing on the news how the Iranian people love the West, love the US, and how it is just the Mullahs who insist on their hard-line policies. Excellent propaganda, but false. The Iranian people love economic prosperity--who doesn’t? But they do not make the mistake of thinking that the US will give this to them. As the recent popular vote for “hard-liner” Mahmood Ahmedinijad (pronounced: ahhh-not-gonna-work-here-anymore) shows, when faced with corruption and business as usual or a defiant stance against the established “international system”, the general public around the world is learning that the US does not have their best interest in mind.

Both Venezuela and Iran are interesting examples of the weakness of “American-Style” democracy, and the potential for regional democratic-autocratic blends to do a better job functioning in the interest of the people: Chavez is an excellent example of the enlightened dictator (although he is also a relatively-fairly-elected leader, just like Bush). Because their democracy doesn’t work the way Bush & Co. would like to see it work, Chavez actually has the power to do what is in the best interest of the common man (and he is doing a very good job at that), not what is in the best interest of the controlling elite that has traditionally ruled South America with the indigenous and poor masses under their heel. How Ahmedinijad performs is yet to be seen, but one thing is clear: we are witnessing a world-wide resurgence of an attitude of independence and self-determination. Combine that with our looming energy problems and the stage is set for a new conflict that will redefine geopolitics as we know it.

The 20th century was defined by conflict between fascism, communism and capitalist-democracy. The 21st century will be defined by conflict between colonialism and true independence (both political AND economic freedom), between Empire and self-determination, and ultimately between Hierarchy and Rhizome.


Jeff Vail said...

Chavez "preparing for an asymetric war" against US:

Jeff Vail said...

A related article from the Observer:,6903,1520111,00.html

A teaster: "The US has pre-empted China's attempts to build oil pipelines from the Caspian into China. .."

Jeff Vail said...

...yet another article, this about Bolivian gas reserves and the increasing drive to keep such profits at home.

Diskarapur said...

Have you wondered what the Beijing Poliburo (or their comrades in their internal security or military communities) might think of your notions on "rhizomes" or what-not?
What about the jihadis and mullahs in Iran?

If you (and the rest of us) are lucky, you'll never have to find out.

Q said...

Have you wondered what the Beijing Poliburo (or their comrades in their internal security or military communities) might think of your notions on "rhizomes" or what-not?
What about the jihadis and mullahs in Iran?

If your aim is to seek truth then you should not fear.

FREEDOM of thinking. If you lose that then you have lost everything.

Armadillo said...

"One-way resource flow from the Third World?" You've got to be kidding me? Did Venezuela develop its oil resources with revenue generated by selling arts and crafts to the west? These countries can only exploit their oil with the aid of Western capitalism, which in the case of Venezuela is drying up faster than you can say "nationalisation." Kill the goose that lays golden eggs, and suddenly, your eggs cease to be a weapon.

Jeff Vail said...

I think that the resource flows ARE largely "one-way", as resources tend to flow in hierarchies (resources up, control down). There is certainly an argument to be made that resource-rich third world nations need Western investment and know-how exploit their own resources. But due to the hierarchal model in which this exploitation takes place, it tends to enrich only a very small proportion of the local populace (effectively agents for the Western partner, as in the house of Saud, the Shah of Iran, former Venezuelan leaders, etc.). So most of the resources really do flow one direction--to the "colonizing" western power. Just look at oil rich nations: how many of them enriched their populace by exporting their oil? Britain and Norway did--they partnered with themselves, no outside Western power required. Dubai is doing pretty well, but more from wise commercial regulation than from oil exports. Other than that, the only nations that have really raised their standard of living of the average Joe from exporting oil have been those that have kicked out the Western powers and stopped the one-way flow: Venezuela under Chavez has seen marked improvements for the commoner, as did Iran after the revolution. Sure, in both cases if you were part of the "wealthy local agents of western powers" before the shift, you feel oppressed now, but the situation has been largely positive in both cases for the commoner (literacy rates for Women has trippled in Iran since the revolution, despite the institution of Islamic rule, for example). Compare that to how nations have fared if they keep Western powers involved:

Nigeria: miserably, de-facto civil war

Saudi Arabia: would you want to live there?? Standard of living for the commoner on a one-way slide.

Indonesia: downhill...

Sudan: not so good...

Central Asian States: looking forward to a few generations of US-supported autocratic oppression.

Iraq: enough said...

Resources flow one way, intervention flows the opposite...

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