Monday, November 05, 2007

Thanks for Nothing, Henry

Here's a nifty little illustration of the fundamental truth observed over 2,500 years ago by the Buddha that all actions have consequences. Following trains of consequences is a little like a game of follow the string. In this particular case, the string ends with what that old CIA hand Chalmers Johnson would call "The Sorrows of Empire."

1. Early in the last century, Henry Ford perfected the technique of assembly-line manufacturing and made the personal automobile affordable for everyone in America who wasn't dirt poor.

2. For the first 30 years or so of the age of easy motoring (1920's--1950's) we were able to supply all the gasoline that all those cars needed from domestic oil supplies. But as time went on there were more and more cars, and domestic oil production peaked in 1970, and has been declining ever since, never to return to its former levels. We became dependent on imported oil to keep the wheels turning.

3. Manufacturers could have made other kinds of cars besides gas buggies. The technology needed to make electric cars, for example, has existed from the earliest days of automotive development. But too many people (auto makers, oil companies, tire manufacturers) were making too much money to permit a disturbance in the status quo.

4. A large part of the foreign oil upon which we have become dependent comes from the Middle East, a region whose people, as time went on, developed a growing antipathy toward us, and began to hate our attitude toward them, their religion, their demands for sovereignty, and especially their petroleum resources.

5. We found it necessary to establish a global empire, primarily to control the exploitation and flow of petroleum resources.

6. To maintain the empire we needed allies in the Middle East and elsewhere, and even though the government of the U.S. has paid lip service to the ideals of democracy and freedom, we have been undiscriminating in our choice of allies. Many of them are and have been brutal military dictators who stop at nothing to maintain their own power and enormous wealth. Ferdinand Marcos, the Shah of Iran, the Somoza clan, Papa Doc Duvalier...the list goes on and on.

7. We have lavished these erstwhile allies and "lovers of democracy" with money and weapons, and in one particularly inauspicious case, with the means to acquire nuclear weapons.

8. Now we're in a bad spot. The dictator Musharaff is going to fall in Pakistan, a pseudo-nation cobbled together from remanants of India just a few decades ago, and one of the most volatile and divided societies on earth. Whoever inherits Musharraf's government will inherit his impressive nuclear weapons along with the modern means (thanks to our generosity) of delivering those weapons.

9. Musharraf's inheritance very well may be passed to militant Islamists.

As Hardy used to say to Laurel, "This is another fine mess you've gotten us into." Thanks for nothing, Henry Ford.

If Bush and Cheney end up with their fat tits in the wringer in Pakistan and the larger Middle East, it serves them right. "You got what you wanted, assholes." is what I'll have to say about it. "You got an empire, and you got the consequence of empire, which is that inevitably you're going to make a lot of new enemies."

The problem is, the rest of us are in the same pot of soup they're in.

Nice job, guys. What are you planning to screw up tomorrow?

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