Sunday, August 24, 2008


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Geopolitics is a complicated and dangerous game. Geopolitics is always about power. But here is the gist of what is happening at the present time: O.I.L. As Linda McQuaig has written, "It's the crude, Dude."[1]

At the end of the 19th century, the Royal Navy decided to switch from coal mined in Wales to oil pumped in Mesopotamia and Persia. Thus, oil became a "strategic resource". Oil has been known since prehistory in that region: In Persia, temples were built around outcroppings of oil-bearing rock that were mysteriously burning with "eternal fire". The problem for the British Empire was to secure a supply of oil for the Royal Navy when Persia and Mesopotamia were not part of the British Empire. How?

How indeed?

The answer, of course, was to make them both part of the British Empire. "You got it. We want it." Since Persia was an ancient empire predating Alexander the Great, and Mesopotamia was part of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire, something creative was needed. Something came along. It was called The Great War. Today we call it the First World War. There may have been other reasons for WW I, but oil, far from the Western Front, was certainly an important reason behind the slaughter. The Ottoman Empire actually did quite well during the War, but it went down with its allies the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mesopotamia became British Iraq. Anglo-Persian (renamed British Petroleum in 1954) pumped black gold in the land of Zarathustra as it had been doing since 1908. The Ottoman Empire was reduced to Anatolia. It became Turkey.

The British Empire bit off a little more than it could chew with The Great War. It would take one more World War to finish it off. Power shifted from London to Washington in 1939. That great power shift may have been the main reason for the Second World War. It was the main event of the 20th century. While oil was important before WW II, oil became even more important after. In the last sixty years, the world economy has been built on oil. Today, petroleum fuels ships, railroads, trucks, cars and planes; it is used to make fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides, plastic, and cosmetics; it heats our offices, and our homes; it is burned to generate electricity.

Oil is useful.

While oil is important to you and me, it is of paramount importance to the Department of Defence (A.K.A. The Pentagon). For the DoD (which was called the Department of War until 1949)[2] requires lots of oil to enforce the U.S. world wide empire which is the successor to the British Empire. In fact, the DoD is the world's largest consumer of petroleum.[3] Shades of the Royal Navy! Oil is much much more important to the DoD than it is to you or me. That is the main reason oil is a "Strategic Resource" and it explains why the United States is so interested in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the lands around the Caspian Sea.[4] The current invasion of and struggle to control Iraq has nothing to do with securing the supply of "imported oil" to fuel your SUV. War has to do with feeding the five-sided monster on the Potomac which cares not one whit about you, or me, or your SUV.

Oil is more than mere money. Oil is power. Things are not as simple as they once were. Today, there are many interests competing with the DoD to control oil and gas production, distribution and consumption: Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India, along with Japan, Europe, North America and everyone else. Even you are competing when you fill 'er up. Forget about the "War on Terror" and Muslims. They just happen to live where there is oil: Oil is mostly needed to feed the monster.

some of the players

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