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Issue #1595      May 29, 2013

Culture & Life

The energy wars of the 21st Century

Towards the end of the 20th century certain capitalist political pundits and futurologists started tossing around the term “the energy wars of the 21st century”. They had become aware that the Earth’s energy resources were not infinite and that whoever controlled them could dictate terms to the rest of the planet. Or so they thought.

It was not the first time that capitalism had been down this road. In the early years after WW2, when the US enjoyed a monopoly of nuclear bombs, American politicians and military leaders time and again tried to use the threat of atomic war to “make the Reds retreat”. But they did not take into account either the fortitude of the Reds or the anti-war attitude of the world’s people.

For the people were in no mood to have another world war and the capitalists discovered that advocating war – especially nuclear war – did not go down well with ordinary people. In an effort to change this troubling mindset, big business interests persuaded the popular magazine Collier’s to run a major multi-page feature on how the US could inflict a “first strike” attack with hydrogen bombs on the USSR, and how after the attack the Russian people would rejoice at being freed from the horror of socialism.

Collier’s at the time was in the same class as such popular mags as The Saturday Evening Post, Life, The New Yorker and Esquire. But they badly misjudged the mood of the people with their full colour depiction of H-bombs exploding over Moscow. As soon as the special edition appeared, people began cancelling their subscriptions, advertising collapsed and it was not long before the mag folded. Only the Dulles brothers, General Douglas MacArthur and other very reactionary politicians openly advocated nuclear war (and nutters like Soviet “dissident” Solzhenitsyn).

MacArthur was the hawk who wanted to “nuke” China when US forces in Korea found themselves being rolled back from the Yalu River. President Truman, himself a nuclear hawk, had to choose between starting WW3 or sacking MacArthur. Fortunately for humanity, common sense prevailed and he sacked MacArthur. Collier’s artists could paint pictures of happy Russian peasants in the aftermath of their fictional nuclear war proclaiming ecstatically “Now we can go to church again!”, but most people tended to look upon depictions of the world after a nuclear war in much the same way as Nikita Krushchev did: “The living would envy the dead.”

But of course, this was the era of above ground nuclear weapon tests, when soldiers were issued with dark glasses so they could observe tests from so close to ground zero that their clothing was ruffled by the blast. Then they walked over the radioactive ground where the bomb had gone off and picked up bits of fused rock as souvenirs. Meanwhile the mushroom cloud drifted over neighbouring farms, towns and even cities.

The realisation in the ’50s that the USSR possessed intercontinental ballistic missiles that could put nuclear warheads on to anywhere in the USA – at will – was a serious setback for imperialism’s war hawks. But while it gave the advocates of all-out nuclear war pause, it left the field open still for the advocates of smaller, “tactical” wars. In fact, since then the US has gone to war on an almost annual basis.

Actually, that is a slight exaggeration. I believe it is not quite annual, more like every 14 months. But, hey, that is not much better, is it? In fact, when President George W Bush came out in favour of what he called “permanent war” he was really only expressing his support for the status quo.

Today, the imperialist powers – USA, Britain, France, Germany – along with their clients and hangers on are waging predatory wars against resource rich countries across Africa, Asia and South America. They do so under a cloak of supporting or defending democracy, of only wanting “regime change” that will benefit the people of the country concerned. But in fact, they seem to have moved to a new strategy that encompasses the concept of the “failed state”, by the simple expedient of destroying a country’s capacity to function. In this “failed” condition, it cannot effectively resist imperialism’s looting of its resources.

At the same time they are attempting to gain control of other countries’ resources, by subversion, trade agreements, threats or corruption. The US encourages and funds subversion against oil-rich Venezuela, maintains the royal dictators in power in such places as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen. They have put gangs of religious fascists in power in countries like Libya, because these gangs will sell them oil at bargain prices in return for a free hand to loot the country and exercise their own fanaticisms.

And of course they are constantly planning how they can isolate socialist governments from supplies of essential energy, fomenting coups or wars in African countries with oil reserves or other valuable resources. As well, they regularly rehearse how they can “interdict” shipping – especially oil tankers – travelling to China, the DPRK or Vietnam. Australian naval and military forces are an integral part of these planned military adventures.

Deliberately making a target out of our largest trading partner can hardly be viewed as being in Australia’s best interest. But our interests are not of much significance to US imperialism. Our only value to the US is whether they can make use of us – either diplomatically (a reliable vote at the UN), or in supplying troops for US military adventures, including the mooted energy wars (to make them look “international” rather than just American), or as a base for US global surveillance operations or of course as a source of raw materials.

We used to be a British colony. Later we became an American client. What we need to be is independent.   

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