Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet - Part 2 of 3


So it goes that..
Natural resources have historically propelled nations into hysteria over acquisition of rich lands and turned men into greedy gold-diggers. Given a state government's control over military forces, can a government, {whether democratically or otherwise elected} be trusted by its people to resist the temptation to use military force in pursuit of foreign energy? Resource nationalism entrusts many responsibilities to a nation’s governors, especially in an age when the growth and success of a nation is symbiotic with its production and consumption of energy. The decisions made by those entrusted to, could lead to either the protection of a nation’s resources as exemplified by Vladimir Putin, or the advancement of personal agenda, as is evident with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. To apply military power to forcefully obtain foreign energy and to endanger civilians is to misapply a nation’s resources and interests. There is worldwide stipulation that President Bush's main motive for seizing control of Baghdad was to either directly obtain energy resources or to break the political and economical systems down, only to play a controlling/highly influential part in the rebuilding of Iraq's national oil legislation. This stipulation is backed by documents in The National Energy Policy passed by the Bush administration in 2001, specifically calling for "a more assertive government role in helping American energy companies overcome barriers to investment in foreign oil and gas ventures"(24).

It would seem that the efforts of the government in national energy management would be directed towards finding alternatives to foreign energy sources in-state, rather than finding methods to ‘bargain’ for more foreign energy. Later, in his 2006 State of the Union address, as Klare notes, Bush acknowledged America's addiction to oil and called for accelerated efforts in finding energy alternatives, although government spending tells a different story. While former President Bush may have spoken these words, the country’s military presence in Baghdad spoke louder about the interests of the administration. Even worse, the administration rallied public support under the guise of protecting Americans and the rest of the world from a tyrant hoarding weapons of mass destruction. The invasion required a substantial deployment of troops from the U.S. and its allies, some of whom remain in the oil rich lands of the Middle East. The average American or British citizen may understand the need for oil and even be aware of its diminishing supply, but they may not have supported the invasion of Iraq had they known that their country was invading another and imposing its political system on its people, with the intent to unfairly rob it of its natural resources.

Perhaps they would have, we may never know, for a vote is not democratic if it is based on misinformation. The lesson in this case is that resource nationalism could simply be a misleading term to describe state robbery and misapplication of national power to obtain natural resources, and that those who govern must be held up to the revealing light in whenever the governance is questionable.

Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet brings to mind the natural resource curse described by Joseph Stiglitz in Making Globalization Work, as having afflicted nations such as Nigeria, Venezuela and Sudan. These nations, although rich in natural resources, are populated by a majority of poverty-stricken people. The profits from the country’s boundless resources are distributed among corrupt government officials or the brutally selfish insurgents who overthrow them, or are carted back out in personal foreign investments and to Swiss bank accounts. To the low and middle class citizen of any country that is wealthy in natural resources, the biggest cause of concern is whether those who manage the wealth of a shared land will also share the harvest.

Ironically, the same laws created to give a person the right to own property, maybe the same laws that allows a tycoon or supersized institution to acquire all the land on which natural resources sit. Nonetheless, one can be hopeful, that if the resource nationalism were in place, the state would be inclined to distribute the profits somewhat equitably, rather than relying on the unlikely philanthropy of the private hands that seize the resources for their sole interests.

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