Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The new Cold War -- over oil

Mark Ames from The eXile writes about the new Cold War starting between the U.S. and Russia. Of course, it is over oil. (What else would it be over?)

The rat of course was the insane hypocrisy of a foaming fascist like Dick Cheney suddenly getting all Amnesty International righteous over a bad regime that does bad things. The fact that Cheney flew straight to Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan right after squirting over Russia's human rights problems turned the rank hypocrisy into a bad black comedy routine, barely fit for even a Tom Green. Kazakhstan is a country where opposition politicians and media aren't merely jailed, exiled or cowed as they are in Russia, but are shot and dumped in forests, Miller's Crossing-style, on behalf of a despot whose family runs the country like its own fiefdom.

Don't hold back, tell us what you really think of Cheney and his buddies in Kazakhstan.

Cheney's speech raised a lot of questions and a lot of debate, but no one asked one of the most obvious questions of all: Why did Cheney choose to flaunt his hypocrisy in everyone's faces? Why not try faking it, the way most Western leaders operate when they mix righteous words with rapacious policies?
The best way to answer this is to go back and retrace how Russia and America wound up in this once-unimaginable situation. It would seem to be a massive policy failure, allowing Russia to become a Cold War enemy again, perhaps the greatest American foreign policy failure of our time. Unless, of course, you put all the blame on Putin's evil little authoritarian shoulders, which is the natural tendency of nearly every American commentator.

They say Americans' memories are short, but that's like saying a Nazi's sense of compassion was fleeting. Americans literally rewrite their memories over and over. Case in point: Just four-and-a-half years ago, Vladimir Putin was treated as a rock star in America. You probably forgot about it, so I'm going to remind you because it's not a pretty memory.

Face isn't everything in international politics, but it is almost everything. Putin went out on a limb for the Americans, going against his base at great political cost -- and Bush and Cheney rewarded him with a six-pack of Screw-You and a bucket of Up-Yours by pulling out of the ABM Treaty and starting up the old Star Wars missile shield programme again. The Russians aren't idiots: they know that the missile shield is an offensive weapon designed to make a nuclear first-strike practical.

This is where the bad blood started. At America's darkest hour, we reached out to Russia and got full cooperation and trust. And literally the second we felt tough again, we announced our intention to build a weapons system that targeted Russia for total annihilation.
I don't think a jackal like Cheney is capable of recognizing hypocrisy. I think he meant everything he said, with a straight face, and that he saw it as both rationally and morally right to chastise Russia's record on democracy while praising Kazakhstan's and Azerbaijan's in the same trip.

Democracy isn't about voting. It's about serving America's interests.

And serving America's interests is more tightly defined a serving the interests of the oil oligarchs in Houston, where Cheney spent the previous 10 years. In fact, it's even more simple than that. It's personal. America's interests are Cheney's interests. Il est l'etat. In that sense, Putin is indeed a genuine menace.

And that's what makes this Cold War so different: Whereas the last one was a mortal struggle over two different systems, this is a struggle between two short, balding, bloodless men, and the oil -- other people's oil -- that made them as powerful as they are today.

With the end of the Cold War, it is easy to forget that the nuclear Sword of Damocles is still hanging over us. As late as 2002, the U.S. had over 10,000 nuclear warheads in active service. Russia had 18,000, of which all but about 8,000 were in the process of being dismanted. Four years later, the U.S. has modernized their strategic arsenals, and every indication is that the U.S. has the ability to deliver those warheads more accurately and with less risk of retaliation than every before. On the other hand, the Russians' delivery systems are in tatters. Likewise China, with between 200 and 400 warheads, has no long-range systems in place, and needs at least two hours to launch even a single missile, putting them in distant fifth place, just behind Britain and France. Nobody, not even Russia, comes even close to being a real threat to the U.S.A.

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