Friday, March 05, 2004

The Hollow Army and the Politics of Oil

The Atlantic Monthly has an editorial discussing how the US Armed Forces have become desperately overcommitted.

Selected quote:
Logically speaking, it's easy to see a solution to the military's problems.

But politically, it's hard, because the solution necessarily involves one or more of the following:

The United States can cut back on its promises and commitments.

Or it can spend significantly more money to attract enough soldiers to a volunteer force.

Or it can find ways other than voluntary enlistment to bring them in.

Some advantages and disadvantages of each approach are obvious; others will emerge only with debate.

But the next President will have to take some or all of these steps.

If Bush gets re-elected, I think we'll see the draft make a comeback.

In a similar vein, the Manchester Guardian has an article on the outsourcing of the US military's duties in Iraq. A security contractor, Blackwater USA (official site) is one of the corporations picking up these duties. The article also says that Blackwater has been doing a lot of recruiting of Chilean military personnel to staff their operations in Iraq.

Turning to local news, gas prices are all the rage here in LA. The average cost of gas in the Long Beach to Los Angeles area was $2.20 per gallon over the last week.

There was a lot of discussion prior to the invasion of Iraq about how this show of force would help the US to secure future supplies of oil. It certainly hasn't paid off on the short term. We'll have to wait and see on the long term outlook.

The political instability in Venezuela today is also leading to panic buying of oil, which should serve to drive up prices in the short run.

The Department of Energy has posted an interesting piece on the energy needs and energy policy of China. China is already the world's largest consumer of coal and the second largest consumer of oil. Last year China's oil use grew by 30%. The James Baker Institute in a paper from 1999 argues that China's lack of domestic refining capacity will lead them to have the same interests as the US and Japan in ensuring the free flow of Middle Eastern oil.

It appears clear that in the next decade China will become the world's largest energy consumer and the world's largest polluter.

So, I still wonder when gas in LA is going to get cheaper...

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