Saturday, May 28, 2005

Appeasement Reprised, Part II

With Friends Like These…

Reports of the death of King Fahd highlight the nature of appeasement in the 21st century, reminding us that the House of Saud has been one of the primary beneficiaries of Western appeasement for the last fifty years.

The party line goes something like this: “Saudi Arabia is a friend of the United States in the War on Terror.” No amount of evidence to the contrary can shake this story; America and Saudi Arabia are like a middle-aged couple in a loveless marriage staying together “for the sake of the children."

During the classical period of appeasement in the 1930s, Britain and France at least had the good sense to appease their enemies.

What in the world are we doing, appeasing our “friends”?

My previous post on this topic concluded that the memory of the Great War fueled the appeasement of the dictators between the Wars. To some extent, it still provides fuel for appeasement; deep in the collective unconscious of the West the trenches and No-Man’s-Land of 1914-18 cry out to us: “Don’t ever let this happen again!”

But there is a more proximate trauma that drives our policies. It is actually a combination of two traumas: the first is the War in Vietnam; the second is the struggle for civil rights. These are the defining issues of the 1960s. Vietnam left America shell-shocked, driven by media-generated defeat to an inordinate fear of war, particularly asymmetrical warfare against guerilla-type insurgencies. The fight for civil rights generated a lasting cultural insecurity which came to define all conflicts with non-whites and non-Westerners as “racist”, and thus immoral.

These two unresolved traumas form a lethal combination when applied indiscriminately by the MSM to the war against the Islamists. To The Annointed this is but a reprise of Vietnam: a fight against an underdog, one who hides among civilians and strikes without warning, humiliating his mighty foe. It is a racist war, against “brown” people of a different religion, perpetrated by the White Man, the source of all evil.

Like a malaria plasmodium, the Vietnam/racism organism is always present in the bloodstream of the body politic, erupting occasionally under the stress of circumstances into the full-blown fever of appeasement. President Clinton repeatedly acted upon his compulsion to grovel before the “brown” people of the world and apologize for the misdeeds of his ancestors. Our current President is less susceptible to this affliction, but the Bush administration is not immune. Hence the “Religion of Peace” mantra, and Secretary Rice’s statements affirming the sacred status of the Koran.

So, as Chamberlain had Ypres in the back of his mind, Bush and Clinton have Tet and Selma. The former gave us Anschluss, Abyssinia, and, finally, Munich; the latter gave us the first attack on the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, and the attack on the Cole. In 1935 Pierre Laval looked on while the Germans reoccupied the Rhineland; today Jacques Chirac looks on while the Iranian mullahs acquire nuclear weapons.

All of these shameful events involve caving in to dictators in order to postpone problems a little while longer; all the democratically elected leaders involved have found appeasement to be an absolute political necessity. The time thus gained is bought dearly, and when the bill comes due in a later administration (or a later generation), the payment exacted is always devastating.

If a mushroom cloud rises over Rome or Tel Aviv or Chicago one day, the same media that drive the current appeasement dynamic will cry for the heads of those who failed us. And historians will look back to our time, as we do to the 1930s, and ask, “Why didn’t they do something about it when they could have, back in 2003 or 2005?” And it will be a good question.

But there remains the other question: Why are we appeasing our “friends”?

I submit that we are not appeasing our friends, we are once again appeasing our enemies, and simply refusing to call them that. We are buying a little time with the foolhardy practice of paying off the sheiks to attain “oil stability”, even as their cronies and cousins finance and foment jihad against us the world over.

I submit that we have not yet seen our version of 1939. When we do, it will make 9-11 pale by comparison.

11 comments:

Oengus Moonbones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baron Bodissey said...

I can't help but agree with you. I wish that we could take the necessary action without the stimulus of massive loss of American lives. But it just doesn't seem politically feasible.

But maybe the "hidden war", all the covert special ops, can have the desired effect. I try to remain optimistic...

Engineer-Poet said...

One part of the war is refusing to finance the enemy.  In this case, it means buying less oil (ideally none).

If there is no wide perception of a war, it's going to be hard to get the consensus that serious measures are necessary... unless some other purpose(s) can be accomplished by the same action.  Those purposes aren't in short supply:

1.  Reduce global warming emissions.
2.  Improve US balance of trade to help the economy.
3.  Cut air pollution.

The split between environmentalists and the WoT crowd is not helping here.

Always On Watch said...

History proves that appeasing the enemy never works. Such appeasement serves only to strengthen the enemy; while appeasement is practiced, the enemy has time to regroup and conduct covert operations. Then, when the intolerable point is reached, subduing the enemy is that much more difficult.
We're playing a very dangerous game. A nuclear event, and maybe more than one, is inevitable.

Baron Bodissey said...

Poet — I agree that cutting back on our oil imports would give the Saudis less clout. But since the current price spike is being driven in large part by Chinese and Indian demand, we would not affect their lucrative racket very much, and their hands would still be closed over the world’s gonads.

The best way to rid ourselves of the scourge of Saudi dominance would be to develop alternative energy sources. But that is primarily a commercial operation; all efforts to have the government do the job have failed and are bound to fail in future. The money earmarked for research will always be tracked to the pet pork projects of legislators, and to reward campaign contributors; even absent the corruption, the government has a terrible track record in predicting what will do well in the free market — look at HDTV.

What will encourage the development of new energy sources is for the price of oil to rise to the point where the R&D for new energy becomes profitable. Urban legend has it that Big Oil has already bought up the patents for alternatives, and keeps them on ice in order to benefit its own business. But seriously, can’t you imagine that, say, Exxon would dearly love to get a leg up on the competion with an energy alternative, and corner the market with their new product?

So we need to bite the bullet and let the price rise. Beef up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, call the Saudi bluff, and issue an ultimatum. The world will be in for a rough economic ride while the issue is resolved, but it will be worth it.

Jamie Irons said...

Baron,

I really admire you for pointing out and saying so clearly what very few have the courage to face: that we are only putting off the catastrophe, which I fear will be a fission bomb in more than one city.

(Few people seem to remember that this is what Gary Hart and a Republican (which one I forget) predicted would be the first terrorist strike before 9/11. Then the latter occurred, and it seems to have almost induced a trance-like denial that anything worse could happen.)

But as to the feasible "alternative" energy sources, I'm not sure there are any on the horizon; perhaps a greater use of conventional nuclear power would be a start.

I highly recommend the book "The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, The Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy" by Huber and Mills. Perhaps overly optimistic and speculative in parts, but very fresh and informative, nonetheless.

Jamie Irons

Fjordman said...

I must admit I am slightly disappointed with Bush so far. It is bad enough that Europeans are appeasing. It becomes outright dangerous when Americans do it, too.

Engineer-Poet said...

"... the current price spike is being driven in large part by Chinese and Indian demand...."

This is something we can turn to our advantage, if the Chinese don't get there first (which they may).  We can power much of our ground transport with electricity using GO-HEVs, and electricity can be made from almost anything.  Japan's push for hybrids makes it very easy to go this direction, even converting the existing fleet; if we did that, China and India would have to follow because

1.  Many if not most of the vehicles in international trade would use that technology, and
2.  If they did not they would be vulnerable to supply disruptions far more than we would.

The only reason the house of Saud holds influence over the US government is because of the importance of a steady supply of oil to our economy.  Get rid of that importance, get rid of the influence.  If others maintain their dependence, we destabilize the problem producers and disrupt their output:  their finances go to hell while our military/economic competitors suffer far more than we do, killing two birds with one stone.

Unfortunately, Bush and the Republican Congress are pushing us in exactly the opposite direction.

Baron Bodissey said...

Poet, you and I seem to be on the same page on this. After all, if our economy suffers, so does the rest of the world. If the US sneezes, the world catches cold.

Jamie, the point of alternative energy sources is that they're out there, they're just not cost-effective to develop as long as oil stays cheap. And I'm not talking about solar energy, either -- Isaac Asimov did the math on it one time, calculating how much acreage would have to be given over to sunlight collection to supply our energy needs. He concluded that a land surface the size of Utah would have to be covered with solar panels to power the USA -- and that was at the energy-use levels of the 1970s. I imagine we'd have to throw in California and Texas as well by now in order to sate our energy appetites.

But there are other possibilties, such as geothermal and tidal energy. And then there's the earth's magnetic field -- more than enough energy there. Just because there's no known way to extract it doesn't mean it can't be done. The interesting thing is that if we could tap the earth's magnetic field, the tradeoff would be that the earth's rate of rotation would gradually slow. Imagine what the Greens would do with that one!

At some point, when oil reaches $100, or $200, or $500 a barrel, it will be worth the while of some consortium of businessmen and brilliant physicists and engineers to develop one of these methods. And I can't wait.

Engineer-Poet said...

"Isaac Asimov did the math on it one time, calculating how much acreage would have to be given over to sunlight collection to supply our energy needs. He concluded that a land surface the size of Utah would have to be covered with solar panels to power the USA -- and that was at the energy-use levels of the 1970s. I imagine we'd have to throw in California and Texas as well by now in order to sate our energy appetites."

I have difficulty believing that the Good Doctor could have been so wrong; roads, roofs and other impervious surfaces already cover a fraction of the USA roughly equal to Ohio (~100,000 km^2), and the sunlight falling on that is several times even our 2003 energy consumption.

Cross-check:  according to NASA's solar energy calculator, a square meter of horizontal area around mid-Kansas gets about 1550 kWh/year of sunlight; 100,000 km^2 would get 1.55e14 kWh/year, or about 530 quadrillion BTU (quads).  US energy consumption for all purposes is running roughly 100 quads.  (Note that 100 quads is the raw energy input, and does not account for waste heat discarded from electric powerplants and such.)

In other words, we could power the entire nation by converting less than 20% of the sunlight that falls on roofs, roads and other impervious surfaces which already exist.  The energy is there and solar cells of the required efficiency already exist; the rest is R&D and engineering (and storage
and transmission and...).

Incidentally, researchers working with quantum dots are claiming a theoretical limit of
65% efficiency
.  At that level you could cover a car with solar cells and power a fairly decent commute just by parking it in full sun - though you'd better like the color black.

"But there are other possibilties, such as geothermal and tidal energy."

Geothermal:  too limited geographically, hot rock eventually cools off, has technical difficulties with minerals in hydrothermal waters some of which are radioactive.

Tidal:  very limited geographic applicability as well.  Some places in the ocean have next to no tides at all, while the Bay of Fundy is over-endowed.

"And then there's the earth's magnetic field -- more than enough energy there."

No there isn't, and what's there cannot be tapped in any event.  (You cannot tap energy from a permanent magnet without destroying the magnet; the energy is stored in the magnetic field in space, which is equal to the integral over volume of the field strength squared.  Removing the energy means draining the magnetic field itself.  Trust me, this is intro-level E&M and I aced it on my way to much higher level field-theory courses; anyone who tells you otherwise is a crank.)

"The interesting thing is that if we could tap the earth's magnetic field, the tradeoff would be that the earth's rate of rotation would gradually slow."

No, that's tidal energy.  The tides are produced by gravitational coupling of the Earth to the Moon and Sun (they pull a little more strongly on the near side than the far side so you get two tidal bulges); tapping tidal energy drags the rotation of the Earth just a bit and slows it down while boosting the Moon's orbit just a hair (you'd probably need millions of years to notice the difference from natural tidal drag).  Tapping the Earth's magnetic field would have no such effect, assuming you could bleed the electric currents in Earth's core to do it.

Engineer-Poet said...

Oh, I forgot:

"when oil reaches $100, or $200, or $500 a barrel, it will be worth the while of some consortium of businessmen and brilliant physicists and engineers to develop one of these methods."

If we can depend on the price of oil staying at $50+, the plug-in hybrid is going to kill everything else within 10 years; at $100, the time limit is how fast new drivetrains can hit the market.

I don't see crude being able to hold a price of $100 or more for the long term; the users who could switch to other supplies would, and most who couldn't would be bankrupt.  When CWT can make synthetic oil from turkey offal at $80/bbl today and claims the ability to process municipal garbage, it's obvious that there are limits to what you can charge for petroleum over the long term.