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Slouching toward Bethlehem: The new American Empire


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"The Second Coming"

-- W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

What are the true goals of the neo-conservatives behind the Bush administration?

By neo-conservatives, I refer to the PNAC cabal represented most prominently by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

By now, I hope we can agree that the war on Iraq was not about WMDs, not about Iraq-sponsored terrorism, and not about liberating the Iraqi people. So, what were the real reasons, and how might they relate to a master plan by the neo-conservatives?

I believe there were at least two “narrow” reasons that partially (but not wholly) explain the war:

  • Generate profits for corporate cronies bankrolling the Republican Party (in industries such as oil, weapons, construction and banking)
  • Knock down one of Israel’s rivals (Israel has long been wary about Iraq)

In addition, I believe there were several strategic reasons that partially (but not wholly) explain the war:

  • Provide a central U.S. Middle East military base to replace Saudi Arabia (which had been problematic as a Muslim holy land)
  • Boost Bush/Republican popularity through a visible (if fictitious) “war on terror”, taking out a notorious and embarrassing enemy of the U.S. (Hussein) in the process
  • Show everyone in the world who’s boss (audience to include Arabs/Muslims; North Korea; China; Europe; etc.)

These five narrow/strategic reasons are important individually, and aggregate into a fairly compelling argument for war, from the Bush administration’s perspective. But I sense they are loose piece parts of a larger vision –- a vision of startling coherency, once glimpsed.

Two articles by William Greider pose the question that I believe is answered by the Bush administration’s neo-conservative vision. The first, published last weak, is about the possibility that the U.S. may be entering a period of low-grade, but prolonged economic depression. The second, published last September, suggests that the U.S. is at The End of Empire for economic reasons.

The solution to Greider’s worries, I believe, is the true neo-conservative vision and justification for the Iraq war. It is the creation of a new kind of American Empire –- one that resembles the Roman Empire in its projection of power and in its ruthless conquest by any means necessary.

The “old” American Empire was like a political party. It was all about enticing the rest of the world to our side, a far more pleasant place than the dark, evil, Communist Soviet Empire. We did good works in the end because good works were good message. With historically stunning restraint, we even let the Arabs keep title to their oil wells –- as long as they cut us in on great deals at the expense of their own people.

Now the world has changed. The Soviet Empire is destroyed. Now the U.S. is threatened by terrorism that could easily escalate to the use of WMDs. Equally troubling, 15 years of trade deficits have put us increasingly at the economic mercy of creditors outside the country. Economic power traditionally associated with the U.S. is really held by huge multinational corporations that aren’t really “U.S.” entities anymore. World oil supplies are entering their twilight years, threatening all industrialized nations. China and other large emerging powers threaten longterm U.S. economic hegemony.

But the U.S. hand is not as weak as it seems. Not if this country is willing to reinvent what it means to be an American Empire: reinvent it in terms the Romans would admire.

The confusion we are undergoing in trying to understand the Bush administration is understandable: its actions don’t make sense in traditional American terms. But its actions make complete sense if you see them in terms of a radically different American Empire: an empire that simply rules by power.

The question to ask in understanding the neo-conservative vision is simple. What would the Romans do?

The Romans would obviously invade Iraq. Not for the sh!t-eating reasons served up by the Bush administration, but for much more basic reasons: that’s where the oil is.

In short, it’s not about Halliburton: it’s about us. It’s about our having the power to take what we want. And it’s about our doing just that –- finally.

The Romans would wonder what took us so long.

Welcome to the new American Empire.

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Originally posted by Kilmer17

All of this ignores the simple truth. That if we really wanted it. We could just take it. No army or country or coalition of countries could stop us if we really wanted it.

Of course, that's not our intention.

Now there's a ****y American attitude!

I don't think we could win a war against the combined forces of everyone else do you?

Long Live King George!

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You see Jack, that's what a President does when he leads by his convictions and beliefs and not by the polls. I know it's hard for Dems to grasp, but this is what leadership looks like. BUsh has been getting blasted by the right for his condemnation of Sharons attacks. He could easily say forget it and let the two sides bash each other into oblivion.

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Kilmer,

He has been saying forget it in the last couple of days. If you don't think this Bush guy isn't ruled by polls you are only fooling yourself.

If he wasn't ruled by polls why did he feel the need to lie to the American people to get there support for the war in Iraq when he clearly didn't need it?

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Nice try Jack.

Show me where Bush lied.

For the record, I hope the Dems continue to run with this. It bolsters Bush's support.

Also, show me where the Dems said Saddam DID NOT have WMDs. I can show you page after page where they claim he did.

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You want a vision of what the next 50 years will look like? Check out the following story on the natural gas supply crisis. Despite a 25% increase in drilling in the past year, prices have nearly doubled, as supply has dwindled to the lowest level since records began being kept in 1976.

We're not accustomed to the brutal competition for basic resources, which is the fundamental story of all living creatures throughout time. We were raised in a land of milk and honey, in a fairy tale of plenty, with tales of American virtue and goodness.

Credit the neo-conservatives with getting it first. Fvck goodness and virtue. The next 50 years are going to be about control of dwindling petroleum resources. We just grabbed about 20% of the world's reserves by knocking off a chump dictator and a sand brigade in Iraq.

That's a warmup act. That's the low-hanging fruit. This sh!t will just get worse.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/17/business/17GAS.html

The New York Times

June 17, 2003

Short Supply of Natural Gas Raises Economic Worries

By SIMON ROMERO

HOUSTON, June 16 — The economy has been cool, and so has the spring in much of the country. Nonetheless, the United States is facing its most severe shortage of natural gas in a quarter-century.

Industries like fertilizer and ammonia makers, which use gas to produce their goods, are already laying off workers. And experts warn that a warming trend, in the economy or the weather, could send prices spiking for the electricity that cools homes and runs every sort of business.

"You would have thought that the last big upsurge in prices a couple of years ago was a tremendous wake-up call," said Gwyn Morgan, chief executive of EnCana, a Canadian company that is the largest independent natural gas producer and storage operator in North America. "But for most people it was not."

The market manipulation by companies like Enron has been blamed for much of the price surge of 2000 and 2001, which led to brownouts in parts of California and price spikes for electricity in much of the West and some of the Northeast. But now, like then, most analysts agree, the basic law of supply and demand is at work.

With natural gas promoted as a cleaner-burning fuel than oil or coal, nearly all the electric plants built since 1998 are designed to be fired mainly by gas. So demand is up. And while drilling has increased about 25 percent in the last year, much of it has been confined to old, overworked basins that are not as productive as they once were. Supplies, therefore, have not kept up.

In addition, analysts say that a failure to gauge supply needs and weather patterns accurately in an up-and-down economy has added to the squeeze on supplies.

Prices for natural gas have risen sharply in the last year, reaching a peak at more than $6 per million British thermal units, compared with about $3.65 a year earlier. Stored supplies of natural gas have fallen to the lowest level since the federal government began keeping records in 1976, with levels about 30 percent below the average for the last five years.

The effects of this latest surge in prices have led to renewed calls from the gas industry for the loosening of environmental restrictions on drilling and pipeline construction in the United States. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and the National Petroleum Council are convening a top-level meeting later this month to discuss the shortage and propose solutions.

Last week, the Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, warned the House Energy and Commerce Committee that short supplies of natural gas could contribute to erosion in the economy. Mr. Greenspan emphasized the potentially important role that liquefied natural gas, in particular, could play in American energy imports.

Yet with the richest overseas stores of gas in distant regions like West Africa and Southeast Asia and the energy industry under technical and financial constraints, the difficulty of increasing imports remains considerable.

With few immediate answers at hand, industry executives and analysts talk of elevated natural gas prices for years to come.

"We're already facing the prospect of higher utility bills for consumers and higher energy costs for many businesses," Robert Allison, chief executive of Anadarko Petroleum, said in an interview. "The shortage is going to become a matter of exporting jobs to countries with cheaper natural gas."

The fertilizer industry has been particularly hard hit, since natural gas accounts for 90 percent of the cost of ammonia, the building block for nitrogen fertilizers. Robert C. Liuzzi, chief executive of CF Industries, a farm-supply cooperative based in Long Grove, Ill., said high natural gas prices were the most serious threat to the industry since the energy shocks of the 1970's.

Ammonia manufacturers are not faring any better, with factory closings becoming common. Mississippi Chemical, an ammonia company based in Yazoo City, Miss., filed for bankruptcy protection last month. The company idled a plant in Ohio, cut production at another in Tennessee and shut down a factory in Donaldsville, La., resulting in the loss of 24 jobs.

Charles O. Dunn, the chief executive, cited the "extreme increase and volatility in the price of domestic natural gas" as contributing to Mississippi Chemical's mounting financial losses.

Power generators that are capable of switching their plants to fuels like oil or coal are doing so to mitigate their dependence on gas. But analysts say that this, in turn, is contributing to higher prices for those fuels.

Over all, about 23 percent of the nation's energy needs are met by natural gas. The United States is a large producer of natural gas, second to Russia, and 85 percent of the gas used here comes from domestic wells. But many parts of the country remain off-limits for drilling for environmental reasons.

Gaining access to these areas is a top priority of the energy industry, foreshadowing a more intense struggle between conservationists and natural gas companies. "The sorry thing is that there is gas to be found in this country but we can't get to it," said Mr. Allison of Anadarko, the nation's most active natural gas driller.

Canada, with large reserves and geographic proximity, provides more than 90 percent of the natural gas exported to the United States. But Canadian imports are slowing, too, with some analysts expecting them to decline steadily in the next decade as demand grows at home.

That leaves the United States with the alternative of importing liquefied natural gas from other countries. Such gas, condensed into a liquid by chilling it, is transported by ship, and currently accounts for only 1 percent of the nation's gas imports.

Yet even raising today's imports to 3 percent of the total is not expected to happen anytime soon, because only a handful of terminals in the United States are capable of processing liquefied natural gas. The largest are in Everett, Mass., near Boston, and Lake Charles, La.

The costs involved in building the terminals, and the reluctance in many coastal areas to have large gasification installations in their vicinity, have kept many such projects from getting off the ground. So have fears that terminals could become targets of terrorism and financial concerns about the health and transparency of energy companies in the business world after Enron's collapse.

For instance, the El Paso Corporation, an energy trader based here, has had to abandon an ambitious project to use buoys and shipboard gasification technology to receive liquefied natural gas at offshore locations.

Yet numerous projects for liquefied natural gas terminals are under consideration, ranging from plans to reopen mothballed terminals built in response to the energy crises of the 1970's to more fanciful ideas. One Houston company, Crystal Energy, wants to use existing offshore facilities to build a receiving installation on the Southern California coast.

Several other terminals could be built and functioning within the next three to five years. Then, the United States may face the prospect of increased dependence on large, but sometimes politically problematic exporters like Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Qatar, Venezuela and Indonesia.

"We're on the verge of discovering that natural gas is almost as important as oil for our energy supplies," said Amy M. Jaffe, associate director of Rice University's energy program. "Once we wake up to this, we'll have to deal with the geopolitical implications of importing natural gas from some of the more unsavory parts of the world."

In the meantime, about the only beneficiaries of the natural gas shortage are companies that can profit from the high prices for the fuel by producing or transporting it in North America. These include huge energy companies like BP, which are considerable gas producers, and a coterie of smaller companies that made a prescient bet on strong demand for natural gas.

Every 10-cent shift upward in gas prices, for instance, translates into a 4 percent gain in cash flow next year for Burlington Resources, which is based here. For EnCana, based in Calgary, Alberta, the same increase results in a 2.5 percent rise in cash flow, according to a study by Deutsche Bank.

"This is the strategy payoff we have been anticipating for many years," Mr. Morgan, EnCana's chief executive, said.

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Originally posted by riggo-toni

Funny to hear that remark from you Jack, only because after reading this, my immediate thought was, "ASF, you're starting to sound more and more like Pat Buchanan..."

Good analysis. I'm starting to agree with Buchanan's analysis of U.S. international relations (and the effect of multinational corporations, which is related). His social conservativism concerns me, so I'm not sold on his entire worldview.

I plan to read Buchanan's "A Republic and Not an Empire" soon, which should give me a more in-depth understanding of his views. I'll post feedback after I've read it.

But if you could marry libertarian social views with Buchanan's international views, that's a pretty good summary of where I'm coming from these days.

I have to admit that this surprises me, as I had previously bought the media's take on Buchanan -- i.e., that he was some kind of dangerous fascist. He's mainly dangerous only to empire-builders and multinational corporations, as I've discovered since.

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Originally posted by Kilmer17

Nice try Jack.

Show me where Bush lied.

For the record, I hope the Dems continue to run with this. It bolsters Bush's support.

Also, show me where the Dems said Saddam DID NOT have WMDs. I can show you page after page where they claim he did.

Turned out Bush was lying about the report that said Saddam tried to buy Uranium from Niger, and now that its out he is gonna blame the CIA and call it some miss communication crap

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Originally posted by Equality 7-2521

Turned out Bush was lying about the report that said Saddam tried to buy Uranium from Niger, and now that its out he is gonna blame the CIA and call it some miss communication crap

Let's be careful about terminology like "Bush was lying." I'm a pretty big critic of this administration, but I don't know that Bush knew he was lying when he made the statements referring to the fabricated uranium transfer.

Since the ordinary definition of lying is "knowingly" lying, I'm not ready to apply it directly to Bush.

I do think it's fair to say that "The Bush administration lied..." or "The president's state of the union speech falsely stated..." etc. It's clear to me that people high in the Bush administration knew it was a lie months before Bush's speech, but their strategy seemed to be to throw as much sh!t at the ceiling as possible and see what stuck. I'm very unclear how much Bush was personally involved in this strategy of deception. Nonetheless, he has responsibility for the entire conduct of his administration, and certainly the content of his own speeches.

This is why an open investigation is desperately needed, because we need to know who knew the Niger allegations were a lie, who allowed the lie to pass, and who fabricated the Niger documents to begin with. All those people need to be fired. If Bush makes that list, then impeach him.

Even though I'm willing to impeach if the evidence shows Bush's awareness of the lies, I'm also willing to extend Bush the momentary benefit of the doubt. He deserves that minimum of respect, since I know of no direct evidence that he was aware of the lies.

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