The gift of U.S. universal hegemony seems to have arrived early inside the Beltway. Like impatient children, neo-conservative aficionados have shaken the box, ripped the wrapping and are dreaming of a brave new world where they will both rule and profit. With hegemonic anxiety, CNN’s Lou Dobbs, the nation’s preeminent business news journalist, recently whined rhetoric about Iran, with "Why do they need nuclear power?"
You may have already heard this question from neo-conservative know-it-alls. I know I have. The first time was in the Pentagon, when I worked the North Africa policy desk under Doug Feith and Bill Luti. It annoyed me, as I was still under the illusion that sovereignty of others mattered to the U.S. Today, of course, I am more accustomed to Washington’s disrespect for state sovereignty, whether in France, Germany, Russia, Iraq, Taiwan, or Alabama and South Carolina.
But in the spirit of the season, perhaps there is a positive way to see this query as to why country X needs nuclear power, more goats and fewer sheep, or whatever. In truth, this unnatural concern for what other sovereign nations need or don’t need is nothing short of heartwarming. And we have a great humanitarian organization to thank for it, too. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies! They published a backgrounder on Iran and nuclear weapons, earlier this year, which contended:
Iran claims to seek a nuclear energy-generating capacity to keep pace with the electricity demands of its growing population. But such claims don’t hold up: The oil and gas-rich nation announced the discovery of the world’s second largest oil field on July 14th (estimated at 38 billion barrels), and had an estimated 90 billion barrels in reserves even before the recent discovery. Given Iran’s failing economy (16% unemployment, 40% of the population under the poverty line) and the abundance of petroleum resources, a nuclear program is unnecessary and wasteful.
It’s not like they might actually want to sell or hold in reserve their oil and gas, and develop cleaner or more sustainable energy sources! What kind of national craziness would that be! George? Dick?
Clearly, I’m not in the same league as FDD Distinguished Advisors Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey, or even FDD Non-Distinguished Advisors Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle or Frank Gaffney, but two things occur to me. It is really our business? And who made us the oracle of how much and what kind of domestic energy is needed or not needed in Iran?
While these questions are not insightful, the answers might be.
Is it our business? Well, actually, in the case of Iran, no, it’s not. Instead, the Russians have the business. They are building the nuclear plants, a long-lasting and highly profitable process, I might add. Now, long-lasting and profitable are important words for American companies, and it’s really too bad the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act has prevented American companies from profiting in Iran. Sanctions are a new kind of spiked shoe, except when activated, they poison our own feet instead of capping our opponent. Even Rosa Klebb, with all of her loyalty and dedication to SPECTRE, would not have worn these babies. This of course doesn’t mean the American Enterprise(?) Institute wouldn’t order them up in droves.
And how do we know how much energy is needed anywhere? Well, we know because of the careful analysis and deep research done by highly qualified and highly placed people in government circles. Consider the detailed work that was done to justify the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, and to gain World Bank funding. Now here was a project to behold. Set aside the fact that we couldn’t get the pipeline project moved forward and funded with the Taliban in charge. Set aside the current maneuverings of the United States puppet in Kabul, former UNOCAL consultant Hamid Karzai, to do what the Taliban couldn’t. Hold the cynicism for a second, and try to understand how American politicians and their closest friends know just what energy is needed, why, when and how, anywhere in the world.
While holding that cynicism, also try to forget real world market factors. Lack of security remains a primary barrier to global funding for the trans-Afghanistan pipeline, but it is not the only one. Oil and gas prices, and the existence of other functional outlets for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gas are also factors. The current deal in the works includes Pakistan, with an option to go to India. Because Washington experts and insiders from the AEI to the White House so enjoy pronouncing who needs what energy, why, when and how, it is enlightening to look at the original pipeline project, which from the beginning included India.
The original project called for an extension of the pipeline across Pakistan into India, to the city of Dabhol. Dabhol is significant, because it is the site of the idle Dabhol Power Project, brought to you by the equally idle and definitely uglier Enron Corporation.
A major "selling point" of the original project was to provide cheap gas to run Enron’s $3 billion power plant. If you want the timeline, it is really good reading.
I use this example to show you how U.S. government key players, whether Clinton Era or Dubya era, play the game of market oracle. For India, gas-driven Enron turbines would produce almost 3000 MW of power to local Indian economy. Power that, had it been produced, would have profited very little, given the sorry state of national electrification and central energy management in India. A scientific (as opposed to political/fund-raising) branch of the U.S. government reports,
…all of [India State Electricity Boards] are bankrupt … Almost all of this is due to power theft (often referred to as “non-technical losses”) and a pricing structure that heavily subsidizes agriculture. Of all the electricity generated in India, only about 55% is even billed and slightly more than 40% is regularly paid for.
Uncle Sam "Slick" and Auntie Beltway "Backshish" actually understand nothing about who needs what energy, and couldn’t care less. But they do understand precisely what they and their cronies need to do to profit from publicly funded monstrosities, domestically and globally. And if they can’t profit from it the easy way, then threats and military deployments are in order. Enter George W. Bush, rainmaker extraordinaire. Tehran understands perfectly what went on in Afghanistan, and what is going on in Afghanistan today. Map the U.S. military bases against the pipeline map, and you see that the U.S. fascism — muscular national socialism — is on the march. Thus neo-fascist mouthpieces everywhere opine, "Why do they need nuclear power built by Russian contractors, when they could have Enron and Halliburton and Bechtel with U.S. military protection work on a nice publicly funded gas fueled electrical plant for them?"
Iran’s publicly funded socialist economy is undoubtedly wasting as much as India’s in the creation of white elephants. But beyond the national or regional security façade, it is only the feeling of being shut out of this potential hog trough that so annoys modern American imperialists in the Bush/Cheney administration. At least now we are both annoyed.
Let me sum up. You can find and experience real market forces driving local and global economies, unleashing real creativity, generating real solutions to real problems all over the world. You really can, as Brad Edmonds illustrates so wonderfully in the case of another typical government monstrosity. But don’t expect them under this year’s Christmas tree. In 2003 and 2004, you won’t find real market forces discussed on Lou Dobbs Tonight, you won’t scare up freedom at the American Enterprise Institute, and you can’t have either in George W. Bush’s America.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.