Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Love me, I'm a Liberal

Alright, this relates to a few older posts, but I've had to wait so that I don't smash things when I write about it.

Last week sometime, Kevin Drum wrote "On the left, "no blood for oil" is childishness", to which I thought Well Duh, it's a slogan Kevin. He then goes on to spin some horror story about a Taliban-like regime taking power in Saudi Arabia and shutting off western oil.

This mirrors something said by Matthew Yglesias a while back, in which he called for "War for Oil". Now, on their own, neither of these two are that important - they're two of the most-read liberal bloggers, but they're still just bloggers, fer chrissakes. The problem, however, is that these two guys are paragons of the Moderate Liberal.

Now, never mind that "No Blood For Oil" was just a slogan, convenient for placards, not policy. The sentiment is obvious enough. The problem is the refusal of American policy on the left or right to think of a serious energy alternative to "War for Oil", as Matt puts it. I mentioned France in the last post. Now, like nuclear power or not, France's decision was spurred by the 1973 oil embargo, when the west finally woke up to the realities of energy dependence. Instead of developing a serious alternative energy program (the last time this was tried was the Carter administration) the US has relied on its military to secure overseas production. Probably the most frightening thing about American rhetoric these days is that, even among Moderate Liberals, it's seen as common sense that America has the right to kill for gas when it goes over $2/gallon. I have images in my mind of Weimar-era Social Democrats saying among themselves "Oh, of course we have to go to war for the Sudetenland. They're german-speaking people, after all. It's in our national interest!"

Less than a week and I've already invoked the Nazis. Godwin's Law surrenders. Moving on....

I think where Matt and Kevin are coming from is a "realist" (scare quotes are deliberate, but that's another post) perspective of the world, where morality is secondary to national interest. Fair enough, certainly Canada has not always acted morally domestically or internationally. But it's worth asking whether continued reliance in Middle East oil actually is in the US's national interests. With the latest funding increase, the Iraq war alone will have cost $250 billion. This is at least an Apollo Program's worth of money, and possibly even a Manhattan Project's worth. Certainly, this much money could easily, if spent properly, make the US dramatically less dependent on oil, if not entirely oil-independent. This doesn't even count the cost of the first Gulf War, or the decade of military actions in the interim. I'm pulling numbers more-or-less out of thin air, but I'd be surprised if the total costs of keeping Iraq down hasn't surpassed $500 billion. One half of a TRILLION dollars, and the Republicans are worried that Kyoto will cost too much? This of course doesn't even count the probably $4 Trillion the US has spent on total defense spending in the same period.

This, I think, is the worst part of the Moderate Liberal complex. They (Kevin and Matt) are so wrapped up in appearing reasonable, sensible, etc. that they miss the point entirely. Yes, nations need to act amorally because that's the world we live in. However, I would argue that an act passes from amorality to outright evil when perfectly good (and possibly better) alternatives to killing are missed because of closed minds. Does anyone think that, if the US has taken the lessons of the 1970s oil shocks seriously and weaned itself off oil, the US would give one damn who ran Iraq, or Saudi Arabia for that matter?

I'm off to work. This is probably the last post for the day.

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