Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build all the bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks. You that never done nothin' But build to destroy You play with my world Like it's your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly. Like Judas of old You lie and deceive A world war can be won You want me to believe But I see through your eyes And I see through your brain Like I see through the water That runs down my drain. You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you set back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion' As young people's blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud. You've thrown the worst fear That can ever be hurled Fear to bring children Into the world For threatening my baby Unborn and unnamed You ain't worth the blood That runs in your veins. How much do I know To talk out of turn You might say that I'm young You might say I'm unlearned But there's one thing I know Though I'm younger than you That even Jesus would never Forgive what you do. Let me ask you one question Is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness Do you think that it could I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul. And I hope that you die And your death'll come soon I will follow your casket In the pale afternoon And I'll watch while you're lowered Down to your deathbed And I'll stand over your grave 'Til I'm sure that you're dead.------- Bob Dylan 1963
Saudia Arabia and South Korea Join Forces for Solar Power
The $380 million deal indicates a commitment to clean energy--and to regional collaboration.
Saudi Arabia and South Korea are ramping up their alternative energy production--and working together in the process. The two nations have united, as the Polysilicon Technology Company (PTC) has contracted South Korea's Hyundai Engineering and KCC Engineering and Construction Corporation to build a polysilicon plant on Saudi Arabia's Gulf Coast, enabling production of 3,350 metric tons of polysilicon, a material that turns sunlight into electricity.
“KCC is a very strong partner with tremendous technical and R&D capabilities and have great interests in investing in the kingdom," said Walid Al-Shoaibi, chairman of the Saudi partner of the PTC, the Saudi Mutajadedah Energy Company (MEC). "They have existing polysilicon plants operating in Korea which will allow them to add significant value to the execution and operation of the project ensuring its success and timely start up.”
The project is scheduled to be complete by 2017 and could cost up to $1.5 billion. The two countries plan to to expand their collaboration in the future.
“The Polysilicon Project in Jubail is only our first step. PTC intends to expand the plant to an annual capacity of 12,000 metric tonnes as well as continue further downstream into the manufacturing of Ingot and Wafers” said Ibrahim Al-Humaidan, CEO of PTC.
Such collaborations may make Western leaders slightly uncomfortable, however, as a commitment to clean energy and engaging regional partners signals a step toward greater independence from the West.
August 15, 1977: the night before Elvis Presley died, at 11:16 p.m. an Ohio radio telescope called the Big Ear recorded a single pulse of radiation that seemed to come from somewhere in the constellation of Sagittarius at the 1420 MHz hydrogen line, the vibration frequency of hydrogen, the most common molecule in the universe -exactly the signal ET-hunters had been instructed to look out for. The signal was so strong that it pushed the Big Ear's recording device off the chart.
A new analysis of deep lake sediment suggests that the breakup and melting of massive icebergs in the North Atlantic may have triggered one of the most widespread and intense droughts in the past 50,000 years known as Heinrich Stadial 1. The megadrought, which struck between 15,000 to 18,000 years ago, dried up large expanses of the monsoon regions of Africa and Asia, including Lake Victoria, the world's largest tropical lake with severe consequences for Paleolithic cultures.
Arabs themselves are overthrowing dictators, hurting Osama Bin Laden's rhetoric that people in the Middle East are beholden to oppressive outside forces, argues a former CIA official [GALLO/GETTY]
The fires were still smoldering in Tunisia, and violent clashes with Egyptian security forces were just beginning when I got a call from a journalist friend, the first of many such calls from reporters covering the "national security" beat in the US. "Your stomach must be in a knot," he said.
For a second, I had no idea what he meant. Far from being upset, I was overtaken with the euphoria felt by many at the sight of North African Arabs, among whom I had lived for many years, finally bestirring themselves to throw off the authoritarian shackles which had held them in thrall for so long.
This was something I had anticipated as an imminent development beginning literally over 20 years before, and had long since begun to despair of ever seeing in my lifetime. But now, at last, here it was beginning.
Such bravery, such discipline – in a word, such nobility – expressed by ordinary citizens in countries for which I had developed a strong affection over many years filled me with what I can only describe as a reflective pride.
But then, just as quickly, it dawned on me: Ah, of course. As a longtime practitioner and promoter of US counter-terrorism policy, mustn't I be dismayed at the prospective loss of the allies and partners upon whose cooperation we had relied for so many years? It was a perfectly understandable presumption, and a perfectly reasonable question. And the answer, quite simply, was "no".
My satisfaction in seeing the start of the democratic uprising now spreading with almost unimaginable speed across the Arab world was occasioned not just by my empathy for the Arabs, but upon a fundamental grasp of the true interests of my own people.
The fact of the matter is that for those seized by the long-term struggle to deal with the scourge of terrorism in the Islamic world, the "Arab revolt" is the best possible news; and for the terrorists themselves, it is the worst that could happen.
For an American to begin to understand why, it is necessary to understand the inherent contradiction which has lain at the heart of the Faustian bargain upon which American counter-terrorism policy in much of the Arab and Muslim worlds has been built.
Make no mistake: It is a Faustian bargain which I, myself, have embraced. Those who must take actual responsibility for the lives of those whom they have sworn to protect – must live in the world as it is, and not as they would have it.
In war, one must seize the help of allies where one can find them. The fact that western powers were forced to cooperate with Stalin during World War II did not make him or his regime any less odious; and the fact that the democracies subsequently had little choice but to acquiesce in their eastern ally's enslavement of Eastern Europe did not afford much comfort to the enslaved.
A minimum requirement of decency, however, is that when one makes a bargain with the devil, one at least takes account of the moral cost in doing so.
In the case of the so-called war on terror, however, the contradiction has gone even further than that. All those engaged in the struggle have recognised that mere tactical success – capturing or killing terrorists – cannot bring about a lasting solution to the problem.
The solution to the problem of Islamically-inspired terrorism can only be provided by Muslims themselves. The long-term challenge is not posed by the terrorists – they can always be dealt with, and their Takfiri-inspired madness carries with it the seeds of its own destruction.
The real challenge is in the latent sympathy which exists among Muslim populations for those who are at least willing to stand up for the downtrodden, the humiliated, and the dispossessed – even if their methods or their ultimate goals carry little appeal.
It is this broad-based sympathy among some – and the ambivalence felt by many others -- which makes it difficult to isolate and eradicate those maniacally devoted to hatred and destruction, and which provides them a ready pool of new recruits.
If there is a counter to the underlying appeal of terrorism, then, it is in providing an alternative means of redressing the legitimate grievances which the terrorists exploit for their purposes. If those grievances include injustice, humiliation, and brutal repression by western-backed regimes, then the best means of countering and isolating the extremists lies in appeals to international justice, social empowerment and democratic reform.
If the West were actually to engage in a war of ideas, to try to address the fundamental causes of resort to terrorism, it would begin by addressing its policies in these areas.
Policy over public relations
I vividly recall attending a White House meeting in 2005, organised specifically to discuss the so-called "War of Ideas," and means of countering the "terrorist narrative".
As the senior official responsible for countering terrorism overseas, I recall having earnestly explained the importance of policy over public relations, making the case that our problems with the Muslim world were not based on some colossal misunderstanding which could be rectified with a clever public relations campaign.
I pointed out the centrality of democratic reform for what we were trying to do, and cited the inevitable tensions which we would have to acknowledge and to manage if we were to push forward President Bush’s "freedom agenda" while trying somehow to maintain cooperative intelligence relationships with the very same repressive regimes which our democratisation policies would have to be designed, in effect, to undermine.
I recall just as vividly the blank stares with which these statements were greeted. As I look back on it now, it seems clear that the stares I solicited did not mask incomprehension: What they conveyed was active hostility.
In the Bush White House it was forbidden to speak of "root causes" of terrorism, as this would suggest some degree of legitimacy on the part of those who should only be thought of as mindless killers.
And as for Faustian bargains, well, no one was willing to concede that we had made one, much less attempt to manage it. It didn’t take many such encounters to demonstrate that effective US engagement in a war of ideas in the Muslim world was a non-starter.
'War of ideas'
To the extent that any such attempts have been made, they have been confined to bland attempts at public relations, focusing on messages that are distinctly beside the point, reflected in photos of smiling Muslim-Americans extolling the religious tolerance of their adopted country.
And as bad as the George W. Bush administration may have been in this respect, the Obama administration, the President's smooth rhetoric notwithstanding, has arguably up to now been worse.
In fact, any American effort to engage in a "war of ideas" in the Muslim world, even if effectively waged, could and would have been of only marginal importance.
The real counter-narrative to that of the terrorists is being seen now, in the streets of Sfax, Kasserine, Alexandria, Port Said, Benghazi and Zawiyah.
There, and throughout the Middle East, ordinary citizens are revealing the lie which lurks at the heart of the terrorist appeal. That narrative suggests that the Muslims are condemned to a life of injustice and humiliation, that their fate is controlled by unaccountable forces, and that among those are the repressive regimes which could not exist without the support of western oppressors.
Rebuking Bin Laden
What the Arabs are demonstrating now is that they can, in fact, be the masters of their own fate; that they themselves carry the means of redressing the injustices and humiliations that have been visited upon them.
True democratic empowerment is the best means by which the message and the tactics of the Takfiris can be rendered irrelevant. And what is most compelling is that the Arabs and the Muslims are not being empowered by others: They are empowering themselves.
The struggle is by no means over. Indeed, it has only fairly begun. Its logic remains to be played out in other parts of the region.
And indeed, its promise could yet be betrayed: Revolutions are often hijacked, and the noble sentiments behind them often suborned by opportunists who do not share the values which gave them rise.
Still and all, it is morning again in the Arab world, redolent with the promise not just of a democratic future, but one liberated from the spectre and the fear of terrorism.
The Osama Bin Ladens and the Ayman Zawahiris have much to fear in the current course of events. They are being relegated, precisely by those whom they would pretend lead, to the dustbin of history.
Robert L. Grenier is Chairman of ERG Partners, a financial advisory and consulting firm. He retired from CIA in 2006, following a 27-year career in the CIA’s Clandestine Service. Mr. Grenier served as Director of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) from 2004 to 2006, coordinated CIA activities in Iraq from 2002 to 2004 as the Iraq Mission Manager, and was the CIA Chief of Station in Islamabad, Pakistan before and after the 9/11 attacks.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Foreign Policy Journal — Michael Lind writes a top-9 list of “most annoying sky-is-falling clichés in American foreign policy” under the headline “So Long, Chicken Little” in the March/April issue of Foreign Policy, with his second pick being, “The world must adapt quickly to the end of fossil fuels”, including the advent of Peak Oil. He characterizes Peak Oil as being “the point at which more than half the world’s petroleum supplies will have been exhausted and begin a long decline”. But, he says, the “menacing date” at which Peak Oil will be upon us has “repeatedly been pushed forward into the future by the advent of new technologies. For instance, thanks to innovative ways to tap into previously inaccessible or prohibitively expensive sources, natural gas will soon be available in much larger amounts than anyone imagined only a few years ago.” Lind’s bottom line is that it’s fearmongering to say that “we’re about to run out of the stuff.”
Lind makes a valid point within the whole two paragraphs he devotes to the subject: It’s true we’re not about to run out of the stuff. Unfortunately, in making that point, Lind illustrates that he doesn’t understand what Peak Oil really means, and irresponsibly repeats a common misconception that couples as a strawman argument and serves to divert attention away from a discussion that really needs to be had. Peak Oil doesn’t mean “we’re about to run out of the stuff”, and if Lind ever bothered to listen to the “Chicken Littles” who attempt to raise awareness of its serious consequences, and who rather point out that there will always be oil in the ground, he would know that. Peak Oil does not refer to “the point at which more than half the world’ petroleum supplies will have been exhausted”, but to the peak of oil production. That’s not the same thing.
What Peak Oil means, essentially, is not the end of oil, but the end of cheap oil. Ironically, Lind unwittingly concedes that Peak Oil is upon us in observing the fact that energy companies are developing new technology “to tap into previously inaccessible orprohibitively expensive sources“. Precisely. And it is the reality of Peak Oil that has driven companies to do so. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room. Lind looks upon it, perceives the creature’s form, and then denies its existance.
Peak Oil is often called a “theory”, as though it wasn’t a fact that oil is a finite resource, and as though it wasn’t a mathematical reality that production must peak, just as global oil discovery peaked in the 1960s, and just as U.S. domestic oil production peaked in the early 1970s. That oil production must reach a peak, after which point it must decline, is not some kind of paranoid delusion. It’s a mathematical certainty we’ve already witnessed as historical fact, on the national scale. Global peak oil production is likewise not a question of if butwhen. According to world-renowned petroleum geologist Dr. Colin Campbell, the data shows that the peak of world oil production is already behind us, having occurred sometime between 2005 and 2008.
As Campbell also points out, “Today, 29 billion barrels of oil a year support 6.8 billion people with an energy supply equivalent to that of billions of slaves working around the clock.” To illustrate this point, one need only look at a graph of the human population over time. It is a very modestly increasing line over most of human existence, with a few bumps along the way (e.g. the “black death” in Europe during the Middle Ages), until the industrial revolution – which is to say, until the discovery of oil – from which point, the line takes a dramatic turn and skyrockets upward. The enormous and growing world population is only sustained because of cheapoil. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the consequence of removing cheap oil from the equation.
The U.S. government isn’t exactly naïve about it, either, despite the role of the government in helping to exclude the topic of Peak Oil from mainstream discourse. Former Vice President and Halliburton CEO Richard “The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratic regimes friendly to the United States” Cheney was fully in the know about Peak Oil and its consequences when he headed up the Bush administration’s energy task force, documents from which, released via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, included maps of Iraq’s oil fields and lists of potential contracts. In violation of international law and under manufactured pretenses, the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq, and, in a further violation of international law, privatized its economy so as to free up its oil for exploitation by foreign oil companies. The oil wars have already begun, yet another manifestation of the reality of Peak Oil. Yet denial reigns king, with myths like that there was an “intelligence failure” leading up to the invasion of Iraq serving to veil the grim reality behind a mask of obfuscation.
Peak Oil is not about there being no more oil in the ground. It’s about whether it’s economically viable to get the stuff out. When you can drill a hole in the ground into an underground reservoir and oil gushes out, you can get many times more energy out than you put in. It requires far more energy, however, to build a deep-sea well, or to extract oil from shale or oil sands, than to get an equal amount out as from conventional sources. Eventually, there must come a point in time when there is not enough benefit in extracting oil from the ground. This will not be the point in time when just as much energy is required to get the stuff out of the ground as attained from burning it. That point will never be reached, because well before that happens, the costs must rise so high that nobody is willing or able to actually afford it.
The research and development costs for new technology Michael Lind refers to, required to obtain oil from non-conventional sources, are passed on to the consumer in the form of rising prices. And if you are thinking that a permanent return to and surpassing of the $4.00 per gallon mark seen in 2008 would not disrupt your life too much because you can ride your bike to work, think again. It’s not just about filling the gas tank in your car. Don’t forget your bicycle tires are made from oil. Rising oil prices equates to higher food prices, too. You might be able to walk to the supermarket from where you live, instead of driving, but you still buy food wrapped in plastic (made from oil) that was delivered to the store on a truck (burning oil) from some distribution center, where it was in turn delivered by some form of freight (burning oil) from where it was packaged, where it was in turn delivered by some form of freight (burning oil) from where it was grown on some farm with the aid of tractors, pesticides, and fertilizers (oil, oil, and oil). Couple the consequences of Peak Oil with a failing economy, and you have a recipe for financial disaster, on both an individual and national scale. Anyone who thinks civilization as we know it could not possibly end is simply blissfully ignorant of both historical and present realities, as Dr. Jared Diamond excellently illustrates in his book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed“.
And if you think that hybrid or electric cars are the answer, think again. A lot of energy is required to manufacture a car, and then the electricity used to power these vehicles must begenerated. In most cases, that means instead of burning oil, you are burning coal. And there’s no such thing as “clean coal”. There is only pumping the resultant CO2 gas into underground reservoirs for storage, leaving the problem of what to do with it all for future generations to figure out a permanent solution to.
So maybe you’re thinking biofuels like ethanol can help. Think again. It would be apt to call this a total joke, if it weren’t so unfunny. It requires more energy to make ethanol than you get out of it. Remember, you have to factor in not only the process of producing fuel from, say, corn, but also the fact that to produce that corn in the first place requires immense quantities of oil. Far from being a step towards sustainability, biofuels are a step backwards. It’s institutionalized insanity, really.
There’s nuclear energy, of course. But then you have the problem of having to extract uranium from the ground, which is energy intensive. And then you have to enrich the uranium, and construct a nuclear plant, both of which are also extremely energy intensive. And then you have to do something with the radioactive waste. Current solutions including making weapons from “depleted” uranium (or “DU”, consisting primarily of the isotope U-238), which, despite its name, is still radioactive and, perhaps even more detrimentally to those who inhale aerosolized DU that results from DU munitions striking its target, chemically toxic. Oh, and the half-life of depleted uranium is about as long as the Earth is old, so the mildly radioactive and toxic DU dust the U.S. has left by the tonnage in Iraq, for instance, is going to contaminate the soil and water there for a very long time to come. As for the more radioactive, non-”depleted” nuclear waste, well, it’s quite a bit like “clean coal”. It involves just storing the stuff someplace where we hope it will be contained until future generations can figure out a more permanent solution.
There are the alternative clean energies like solar and wind power, but these are a very long way from being able to replace oil, gas, and coal. The technology is still very expensive, and the infrastructure to be able to replace one electric grid with the other just isn’t there. And it won’t be, so long as people like Michael Lind continue to argue and persuade the public that we needn’t bother to adapt to the end of the age of cheap but unsustainable energy (i.e. “fossil fuels”) on a timely basis (i.e. “quickly”).
And don’t look to the U.S. government to play messiah on this; they’re all too busy in Washington playing geostrategical games to ensure hegemony over energy-producing regions of the world (e.g. Iraq) to bother with such trivialities as transitioning to a sustainable economy and sensible and moral foreign policy.
There is an interesting lesson in the Bible about the psychology of the masses, in the books known collectively as “The Prophets”. Throughout these books, a central theme emerges of the prophets – the political analysts of their day, if you will – foreseeing what was to come, with the true prophets being outcast, marginalized, and ridiculed by the masses of society who preferred to place their bets on what the false prophets had to say, because it sounded more to their liking. Yet if only the people had chosen instead to heed the warnings of the prophets whose assessments were correct, it might have been possible for them to have changed course and created a different future for themselves than the one predicted and finally realized absent such a change of course. By believing the false prophets, the public assured their own fate, making the predictions of the true prophets inevitable and self-fulfilling by stubbornly refusing to acknowledge unpleasant truths, and to change.
The sky is not falling. But Peak Oil is most assuredly upon us, and if we don’t start rethinking our ways and changing our habits now, the consequences will be disastrous. We can choose our future. We can choose to ignore Peak Oil, delude ourselves into thinking that cheap energy will continue to be available into the foreseeable future, and continue on present course; or we can recognize that Peak Oil is a reality, that the end of the age of cheap oil is nigh, and make the changes required, both on an individual and societal basis, in order to prepare for what’s coming and have some kind of framework in place to be able to deal with it and avert, or at least mitigate, catastrophe.
Michael Lind and his mockingly dismissive attitude is representative of perhaps the most serious problem: the self-destructive denial and willful ignorance that plagues our society.
It’s time to wake up to reality, and to act accordingly.
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