Monday, December 26

Pepe Escobar bats one out of the park, but do pipeline politics really run the world?

There are a few people in this world who can be hilarious when they get really angry -- John Batchelor, George Monbiot, Pepe Escobar, Mark Steyn come immediately to mind as examples. When sufficiently provoked they can fashion humor into a weapon so pointed it would kill if it were made of less amorphous stuff.

I credit Batchelor's "A Goose Had to Die" monologue, aired in all America's major radio markets, as a factor in John Kerry's loss in the 2004 presidential election. The monologue was side-splitting funny, but Batchelor was nearly beside himself with fury that Kerry had attempted to overcome his East Coast Liberal Effete image by tramping through woods in hunting gear and taking pot shots at innocent wildlife for the benefit of a press gaggle.

For this wonderful way of expressing outrage I'm sometimes willing to overlook whatever lapses in logic I perceive when people with such a gift for expressing their feelings discuss foreign policy matters -- and I have overlooked much over the years regarding Pepe Escobar's logic. But for his Christmas Day offering (Playing Chess in Eurasia) Escobar has written up his latest take on pipeline politics, which he sees as the keystone of foreign policy/defense issues, and which spits out so many truths it's priceless. The hilarity is that his version of what's really going on in the world makes the mainstream media reports on current events seem written by Baghdad Bob.

I hesitate to quote from Escobar's writing because every passage is interlocked so reading it is really an all-or-nothing proposition, but to get you in the swing I'll quote from the part subtitled All Hail the Gas Czar:
[Vladimir] Putin's plan is deceptively simple; Gazprom "takes over" Western Europe and thus neutralizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Exhibit 1 is the Nord Stream, a $12 billion, twin 1224-km pipeline, respecting extraordinary complex environmental guidelines, launched last September. That's gas from Siberia delivered under the Baltic Sea, bypassing problematic Ukraine, straight to Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark and the Czech republic (10% of the entire EU annual gas consumption, or one third of China's entire current gas consumption). Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder heads the Nord Stream consortium.

Exhibit 2 is the South Stream (the shareholder agreement is already signed between Russia, Germany, France and Italy). That's Russian gas delivered under the Black Sea to the southern part of the EU, through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia. Instrumental in the deal was the quality time Putin spent with his close pal, former Italian prime minister Silvio "bunga bunga" Berlusconi.

Nord Stream drove Washington nuts. Not only did it redesign Europe's energy configuration; it forged an unbreakable German-Russian strategic link. Putin, better than anyone, knows how pipelines hard-wire governments. South Stream is driving Washington nuts because it beats Nabucco hands down, and it's way cheaper. Talk about a geopolitical -- and geoeconomic -- battle.

Washington -- alarmed at what the Germans deliciously dubbed the "modernization partnership" with Russia -- is left to promote European "resistance" to Gazprom's onslaught, as if Germany was Zucotti Park and Russia was the NYPD. Again here's Pipelineistan infused with political reverberations. For instance, Germany and Italy are totally against NATO expansion. The reason? Nord and South Stream. The formidable German export machine is fueled by Russian energy; the motto might be "Put a Gazprom in my Audi."

As William Engdahl, author of the seminal A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order, has observed, the "Nord Stream and South Stream are poised to leap out of the world of energy security and choreograph an altogether new power dynamic in the heart of Europe." (18)

Putin's road map is his paper, "A new integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making," published by Izvestia in early October (19). It may be dismissed as megalomania, but it may also be read as an ippon -- Putin loves judo -- against NATO, the International Monetary Fund and neo-liberalism.

True, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of "snow leopard" Kazakhstan was already talking about a Eurasian Union way back in 1994. Putin, though, makes it clear this wouldn't be back In The USSR territory, but a "modern economic and currency union" stretching all across Central Asia.

For Putin, Syria is just a detail; the real thing is Eurasian integration. No wonder Atlanticists started freaking out with this suggestion of "a powerful supranational union that can become one of the poles of today's world while being an efficient connecting link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific Region." Compare it with US President Barack Obama and Hillary's Pacific doctrine (20).
The question is the extent to which the reality Escobar conveys is accurate. Do pipeline politics really rule the world, or at least the decision-making of the biggest players on the world stage?

Well, in 2008 Monbiot penned a column for the Guardian titled, The US missile defence system is the magic pudding that will never run out: "Poland is just the latest fall guy for an American foreign policy dictated by military-industrial lobbyists in Washington."

Monboit launched by arguing that the missile shield idea was nutty to begin with and that putting it in Poland was even nuttier:
The American government insists that the interceptors, which will be stationed on the Baltic coast, have nothing to do with Russia: their purpose is to defend Europe and the US against the intercontinental ballistic missiles Iran and North Korea don't possess. This is why they are being placed in Poland, which, as every geography student in Texas knows, shares a border with both rogue states.

They permit us to look forward to a glowing future, in which missile defence, according to the Pentagon, will "protect our homeland ... and our friends and allies from ballistic missile attack"; as long as the Russians wait until it's working before they nuke us. The good news is that, at the present rate of progress, reliable missile defence is only 50 years away. The bad news is that it has been 50 years away for the past six decades.
The situation with Poland was even weirder than Monbiot might have known at the time; at any rate he didn't mention that the U.S. got the Polish government to bail on a fighter-jet contract with France by promising to build part of the missile shield in Poland. That's why the Poles were hopping mad when President Obama pulled back from the plan after he endured a two-hour breakfast lecture from Putin on the way the world really works.

The point is that by building on Monbiot's observations one could make out a case that defense contractors, not gas and oil companies, run the world. And the more one knows about the Bank for International Settlements the easier it is to assert that central reserve banks run the world.

I myself learned in 2007 that the world is actually run by about five guys who work above a grocery store in Geneva. So these aren't the famous Gnomes of Zurich; these are statisticians who piece together the only data on OPEC oil production that does not come from the OPEC cartel. In other words, they're the radar for the entire global economic system, which operates in a complete fog without reasonably accurate information on OPEC output: all the major decisions by the major governments, central and commercial banks, defense contractors, energy companies -- all of it, hanging on the brain sweat and investigative prowess of a virtual handful of men who spend their working lives playing cat-and-mouse with OPEC spin doctors.

The catch is that all the above is complete nonsense, which one can readily see by noting that the financial crisis of 2008, which brought much of the Western world to the brink of economic collapse, had nothing to do with OPEC, Eurasian pipeline politics, defense contractors or the decisions of central bankers.

Who, then really runs the world? You and I do. Any doubts on this score, consider what actually led to the financial crisis: We knew nobody gets anything for nothing, but even when we saw that our wages stayed stagnant for years we didn't exert ourselves; this was because we could buy whatever we needed dirt cheap from China and buy it on credit. When we saw that Wall Street had turned into a casino we still stayed in there and played. And we turned a blind eye to what pension funds were doing with our money on Wall Street. When we could get a mortgage for almost nothing down we knew there was something seriously out of whack with the banking system but we kept buying and flipping houses, like a game of musical chairs we gambled would never end.

So if you want to drill down to bedrock, what really runs the world, what's always run human affairs, is the idea that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Sure there are some among us with their eyes always on the horizon or looking over the shoulders for what's creeping up from behind. These people are very smart but think what would happen if they were in the majority; it would be chaos because few would be focusing on the here and now. So there's a sound reason why most of us have it hardwired into our brains that taking each day as it comes is the best course in the long run. This said, the shorter runs can be hell for the short-sighted.

How, then, to get by in a world where focusing on the business at hand can produce a dangerous blindness to lengthening shadows? Save for a rainy day. Help your neighbor on the theory that someday he'll return the favor. Don't go looking for trouble. Eat your vegetables. In short follow all the practical survival advice your parents gave you and their parents gave them and their parents before them.

By such means we uphold the sacred tradition to respect the wisdom of our elders even if many of them were idiots, and hope this will attract the compassion of a higher power when our playing ostrich has gotten us in a real jam.

As for the pipeline politics, remember those guys above the grocery store the next time you hear an American politician talking about an emerging threat to the USA. The biggest threat to America is the one that's been making no end of trouble for us ever since Nixon had to shut the gold window. The source of the trouble is our dependence on the Saudis, not for their oil but for their support of the U.S. dollar. If that wasn't the case Washington would be pinning a medal on Putin instead of cursing him because every pipeline deal that shakes OPEC's rafters should be a cause for Americans to rejoice.

1 comment:

Madhu said...

You're no fun! My theory (stolen from you, most likely) is that it's a mad jumble of this and that, to include pipeline politics, pushing and pulling various leaders in various ways as long as we the people are not paying attention.

Ergo, pay attention people.