The New ‘Great Game’ and Limited Resources

Stephen Lendman

Posted Jun 6, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Resource Wars - Can We Survive Them? - by Stephen

Near the end of WW II, Franklin Roosevelt met with
Saudi King ibn Saud on the USS Quincy.  It began a six
decade relationship guaranteeing US access to what his
State Department called a “stupendous source of
strategic power, and one of the greatest material
prizes in world history” - the region’s oil and huge
amount of it in Saudi Arabia.  Today, the Middle East
has two-thirds of the world’s proved oil reserves
(around 675 billion barrels) and the Caspian basin an
estimated 270 billion barrels more plus one-eighth of
the world’s natural gas reserves.  It explains a lot
about why we’re at war with Iraq and Afghanistan and
plan maintaining control over both countries.  We want
a permanent military presence in them aimed at
controlling both regions’ proved energy reserves with
puppet regimes, masquerading as democracies, beholden
to Washington as client states.  They’re in place to
observe what their ousted predecessors ignored: the
rules of imperial management, especially Rule One -
we’re boss and what we say goes.

The Bush administration is “boss” writ large.  It
intends ruling the world by force, saying so in its
National Security Strategy (NSS) in 2002, then updated
in even stronger terms in 2006.  It plainly states our
newly claimed sovereign right allowed no other country
- the right to wage preventive wars against perceived
threats or any nations daring to challenge our status
as lord and master of the universe.  Key to the
strategy is controlling the world’s energy reserves
starting with the Middle East and Central Asia’s vast
amount outside Russia and China with enough military
strength to control their own, at least for now.
These resources give us veto power over which nations
will or won’t get them and assures Big Oil gets the
lion’s share of the profits. 

In Iraq, the new “Hydrocarbon Law,” if it passes the
puppet parliament, is a shameless scheme to rape and
plunder the country’s oil treasure.  It’s a blueprint
for privatization giving foreign investors (meaning US
and UK mainly) a bonanza of resources, leaving Iraqis
a sliver for themselves.  Its complex provisions give
the Iraqi National Oil Company exclusive control of
just 17 of the country’s 80 known oil fields with all
yet-to-be-discovered deposits set aside for foreign
investors.  It’s even worse with Big Oil free to
expropriate all earnings with no obligation to invest
anything in Iraq’s economy, partner with Iraqi
companies, hire local workers, respect union rights,
or share new technologies.  Foreign investors would be
granted long-term contracts up to 35 years,
dispossessing Iraq of its own resources in a scheme to
steal them.

That’s what launched our road to war in 1991 having
nothing to do with Saddam threatening anyone.  It
hasn’t stopped since.  The Bush (preventive war)
Doctrine spelled out our intentions in June, 2002. It
then became NSS policy in September getting us
directly embroiled in the Middle East and Central Asia
and indirectly with proxy forces in countries like
Somalia so other oil-rich African nations (like Sudan)
get the message either accede to our will or you’re
next in the target queue. 

With the world’s energy supplies finite, the US
heavily dependent on imports, and “peak oil” near or
approaching, “security” for America means assuring a
sustainable supply of what we can’t do without.  It
includes waging wars to get it, protect it, and defend
the maritime trade routes over which it travels.  That
means energy’s partnered with predatory New World
Order globalization, militarism, wars, ecological
recklessness, and now an extremist US administration
willing to risk Armageddon for world dominance.
Central to its plan is first controlling essential
resources everywhere, at any cost, starting with oil
and where most of it is located in the Middle East and
Central Asia.

The New “Great Game” and Perils From It

The new “Great Game’s” begun, but this time the stakes
are greater than ever as explained above.  The old one
lasted nearly 100 years pitting the British empire
against Tsarist Russia when the issue wasn’t oil.
This time, it’s the US with help from Israel, Britain,
the West, and satellite states like Japan, South Korea
and Taiwan challenging Russia and China with today’s
weapons and technology on both sides making earlier
ones look like toys.  At stake is more than oil.  It’s
planet earth with survival of all life on it issue
number one twice over.

Resources and wars for them means militarism is
increasing, peace declining, and the planet’s ability
to sustain life front and center, if anyone’s paying
attention.  They’d better be because beyond the point
of no return, there’s no second chance the way
Einstein explained after the atom was split.  His
famous quote on future wars was : “I know not with
what weapons World War III will be fought, but World
War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” 

Under a worst case scenario, it’s more dire than that.
There may be nothing left but resilient beetles and
bacteria in the wake of a nuclear holocaust meaning
even a new stone age is way in the future, if at all.
The threat is real and once nearly happened during the
Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962.  We later
learned a miracle saved us at the 40th anniversary
October, 2002 summit meeting in Havana attended by the
US and Russia along with host country Cuba.  For the
first time, we were told how close we came to nuclear
Armageddon.  Devastation was avoided only because
Soviet submarine captain Vasily Arkhipov countermanded
his order to fire nuclear-tipped torpedos when Russian
submarines were attacked by US destroyers near
Kennedy’s “quarantine” line.  Had he done it, only our
imagination can speculate what might have followed and
whether planet earth, or at least a big part of it,
would have survived.

Now we’re back to square one, but this time a rogue
administration, with 19 months left in office, marauds
the earth endangering all life on it.  It claims a
unilateral right in its Nuclear Policy Review of
December, 2001 to use first strike nuclear weapons as
part of our “imperial grand strategy” to rule the
world through discretionary preventive wars against
nations we claim threaten our security, because we
said so. 

Orwell would love words like “security” and
“stability” meaning we’re boss so other countries
better subordinate their interests to ours, or else.
To avoid misunderstandings, we spell it out further.
The May, 2000 Joint Vision 2020 claims a unilateral
right to control all land, surface and sub-surface
sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and
information systems.  It gives us the right to use
overwhelming force against any nation challenging our
dominance with all present and future weapons in our
arsenal including powerful nuclear ones.

Here’s the danger.  The Bush administration
effectively threw out the 1970 Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) over 180 nations are
signatories to including the US.  Under NPT’s Article
VI, nuclear nations pledged to make “good faith”
efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons because having
them heightens the risk they’ll be used endangering
the planet.  That doesn’t concern Washington now
developing new ones, ignoring the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty.  It’s no longer hampered by the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty either, and it rescinded
and subverted the Biological and Toxic Weapons
Convention. In addition, it won’t consider a Fissile
Material Cutoff Treaty preventing additions to present
stockpiles already way too high, and spends more on
its military than the rest of the world combined,
plans big future increases, and is unrestrained using
the weapons it has.

As things now stand, that’s an agenda for disaster
according to former NATO planner, Michael McGwire.  He
thinks “a nuclear exchange is ultimately inevitable”
by intent, accident or because, sooner or later,
terrorist/rogue groups will get hold of nuclear
weapons or materials and use them.  Harvard
international relations specialist Graham Allison
agrees in his 2004 book, “Nuclear Terrorism,” saying
“consensus in the national security community (is that
a) dirty bomb (attack is) inevitable,” and/or one with
nuclear bombs, unless all fissionable materials are
secured.  At present they’re not.

This raises the specter Noam Chomsky developed in his
2003 book, “Hegemony or Survival.” Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez admired it enough to hold it up
during his impassioned September, 2006 speech before
the UN General Assembly.  In the book, Chomsky cited
the work of Ernst Mayr he called “one of the great
figures of contemporary biology” who said human higher
intelligence is no guarantee of our survival.  He
noted beetles and bacteria have been far more
successful surviving than we’re likely to be,
especially since “the average life expectancy of a
species is about 100,000 years” or about how long
we’ve been around. 

Mayr feared we might use our “alloted time” to destroy
ourselves taking planetary life with us.  Chomsky
observed we have the means to do it, may recklessly
try them out in real time, and if so, may become the
only species ever to deliberately make ourselves
extinct.  Chomsky went further in his 2006 book,
“Failed States,” addressing the three issues he
believes are of greatest concern - “the threat of
nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that
the government of the world’s only superpower is
acting in ways that increase the likelihood of
(causing) these catastrophes” by its recklessness. 

In the book, Chomsky raises a fourth issue heightening
the overall risk further.  He wrote the “American
system” is in danger of losing its “historic values
(of) equality, liberty and meaningful democracy”
because of the course it’s on.  And in his newest
book, “Interventions,” he quotes Albert Einstein and
Bertrand Russell saying 50 years ago when waging
nuclear war was unthinkable under Dwight Eisenhower:
“Here, then, is the problem which we present to you,
stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an
end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?”

The Environmental Threat to Our Survival

Human activity has consequences for the environment.
It’s been mostly negative in the face of technological
advances that should be as friendly to the earth as to
the profits industrial corporations get from them.
Instead, the opposite is true because Wall Street only
cares about next quarter’s bottom line, Washington
wants unchallengeable military dominance and the right
to use it freely, and threatening planetary life from
wars or ecological havoc is someone else’s problem
later on - provided there is one. 

Jared Diamond, for one, studied the way societies fail
or survive in his 2005 book, “Collapse: How Societies
Choose to Fail or Succeed,” that hold lessons for the
planet overall.  He says ecological devastation
brought down earlier failed ones citing one or more
proximate causes:

—deforestation and habitat destruction;

—soil degradation through erosion, salinization or
fertility decline;

—water management problems;

—over-hunting and/or fishing;

—over-population growth;

—increased per capita impact on the environment; and

—the impact of exotic species on native plant and
animal ones. 

In modern industrial states, add to these contaminated
air, water and soil from toxic chemicals, biological
agents and radioactive pollutants creating
irremediable hazards threatening human survival.  And
to these add the inexorable warming of the earth’s air
and surface from fossil fuel burning greenhouse gas
emissions causing:

—arctic ice cap melting;

—rising sea levels;

—changed rainfall patterns;

—increased frequency and intensity of weather
extremes like floods, droughts, killer heat waves,
wildfires, and hurricanes and cyclones.

—a plague of infectious diseases;

—water scarcity;

—agricultural disruption and loss of arable land;

—as many as one-third of plant and animal species
extinct by 2050, according to some predictions; and

—increasing disease, displacement and economic
losses from natural calamities like hurricanes, other
extreme weather-related events, lowering of ocean pH,
reductions in the ozone layer, and the possible
introduction of new phenomena unseen before or never
extreme enough to threaten human life or environmental
sustainability that will when we experience them.

Is global warming a threat to the planet?  The debate
is over beyond increasing state-of-the-art knowledge
further.  The scientific community is almost unanimous
except for outliers in it allied to the Bush
administration, Big Oil or Big Chemical willing to say
anything if it pays enough.  These fraudsters spurn
what scientific academies from all G-8 countries plus
China, India and Brazil acknowledged prior to the 2005
G-8 summit in Perthshire, Scotland.  Their alarming
low-key statement read: “The scientific understanding
of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify
prompt action.  It is vital that all nations identify
cost-effective steps that they can take now, to
contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in
net global greenhouse gas emissions.” 

The Bush administration’s failure to address what’s
now accepted as fact means America may one day face
the dark future Peter Tatchell wrote about last
November in the London Guardian after joining 20,000
protesters at a Saturday rally in Britain’s capital.
They “call(ed) for urgent international action to halt
global warming” with Tatchell disturbed one million
weren’t in the streets demanding it.

He painted a grim picture of life in the UK with a
glimpse of what’s ahead for the US and other nations,
especially in coastal areas, if drastic remediable
action isn’t undertaken soon.  He began by calling
“unchecked climate change….likely to be a thousand
times worse than the horrors of Iraq.  By 2080,
England may no longer be green and pleasant.  Instead,
we’ll probably be living in a brown, sunburnt country
(like the Australian outback or US desert southwest).”

He described a scenario only Hollywood filmmakers
might conceive - scorching drought, unpredictable
semi-tropical downpours, flash floods with coastal
cities waste-deep in water, rising sea levels and
tidal surges turning streets into canals “with much of
low-lying London becoming a British version of
Venice,” and all of London, Manchester and Liverpool
frequently swamped by rising sea levels and tidal
surges.  This is the England he sees in less than
eight decades unless global warming is stopped.

And that’s just “phase one” with a nastier “phase two”
ahead in the 22nd century - “a Siberian-style ice age
blanketing Britain and all of Europe for most of the
year, with blizzards so strong and temperatures so low
that food production will almost cease and our
economies will be just a shadow of what they are
today.”  Already we’ve had a foretaste, he noted, with
recent European heat waves killing thousands and many
more devastated by flash floods. 

Tatchell continued saying most climatologists predict
a two to five degree average global temperature
increase by 2100 as things now stand.  That will
produce all the devastating consequences listed above
an island nation like Britain won’t be able to handle
- loss of “low-lying coastal and river estuary
regions” shrinking and changing the country’s
geography permanently and harming inland areas as

He noted researchers at the government’s Office of
Science and Technology believe “catastrophic mega
floods,” having the negative economic impact of a
major war, can be expected over the next two decades,
and “lower-level floods will become routine causing
around ($40 billion in) damage annually.”  Regular
flooding in a country Britain’s size “could put two
million houses and five to six million people at
constant risk” making homes uninsurable and unsellable
“causing a cataclysmic melt-down in house prices” in
flood-prone regions and a “corresponding astronomical
rise in house prices” in secure areas. 

Further, millions of flooded out refugees will have to
leave unusable homes behind.  With no ability to pay
for new accommodations, they’ll need government help
to get by.  And businesses, too, will suffer.  Many
will have to relocate to safer areas at great cost
meaning job losses will follow making things even
worse.  Power generating plants will be hit as well
including coastal nuclear reactors with potential
calamitous risks from that possibility alone.

Tatchell continued with much more painting an overall
picture so dire, Britain no longer will be a fit place
to live in.  But bad as that prospect is, poorer
countries around the world will fare even worse.  One
billion people in river delta areas (the rice bowl
parts of the countries) of India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, and China will see
their land disappear under rising sea water causing a
catastrophic drop in essential food production
unlikely able to be made up.

Sometime around 2100, forests will have died, plankton
will be gone by rising sea temperatures, and “these
two important ‘carbon sinks’ will no longer be able to
absorb dioxide emissions. (In addition, higher) sea
temperatures will also release….vast amounts of
methane….trapped in the world’s oceans….sending
temperatures soaring.”  Further, the disappearance of
polar ice caps will raise sea levels at least five
meters removing vast areas of the earth’s land mass. 

Now, imagine how much worse things may be in the US,
facing future hazards this great, with a land mass 39
times greater than Britain and a population five times
the size. Democrat and Republican leaders ignore the
threat meaning manana is someone else’s problem.

A day of reckoning may be approaching faster than
earlier thought based on information Environment
Editor Geoffrey Lean wrote June 3 in the London
Independent.  His article is titled “Global Warming
‘Is (accelerating) Three Times Faster Than Worst
Predictions’ ” according to new “starting,
authoritative studies.”  One of them by the US
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) shows CO2 emissions
increasing 3% a year now compared to 1.1% in the
1990s.  It’s causing seas rising twice as rapidly and
Arctic ice cap melting three times faster than
previously believed.

The NAS report is even grimmer than this year’s
“massive reports” and worst case scenario by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
suggesting their forecasts of “devastating harvests,
dwindling water supplies, melting ice and loss of
species (likely understate) the threat facing the
world.”  Another study by the University of
California’s National Snow and Ice Data Center shows
“Arctic ice has declined by 7.8 per cent a decade over
the past 50 years, compared with an average estimate
by IPCC computer models of 2.5 per cent.”

Sum it up everywhere, underscored by these most recent
findings, and it spells apocalypse made worse with
many governments having to rule by decree to control
chaos and disorder.  It means democracy, civil
liberties, human rights and most essential amenities
are out the window in tomorrow’s world sounding more
like Dante’s hell on earth because today we didn’t
care enough to prevent it.  Moreover, it’s wishful
thinking imagining new technologies will emerge
solving everything.  Nor will market-based economies
where profits trump common sense.  How could they ever
improve in the future what they’ve only worsened up to

Change cuts both ways though, and despite the
apocalyptic title of his book, “Collapse,” Jared
Diamond notes his sub-title is “How Societies Choose
to Succeed or Fail” saying that better states his
sense of things.  Ending an interview published in the
spring, 2005 issue of New Perspectives Quarterly, he
says “We are in a horse race between the forces of
destruction and….a solution.  It is an exponentially
accelerating race of unknown outcome (with his gut
feeling being) it is up for grabs.”  He continues
saying we have a “fighting chance” to solve a “crisis
of unsustainability….if we choose to do so (but) It
will be fatal to our civilization, or near fatal, if
we don’t.” 

Nuclear Power Is Not the Solution

In the interview cited above, Diamond doesn’t address
nuclear power, but he did in a July, 2005 public
lecture in San Francisco.  Mark Hertsgaard featured
his comments in his August 12, 2005 Tom and
Common articles titled “Nukes Aren’t
Green.”  Diamond surprised his audience saying global
warming is so grave “we need everything available to
us, including nuclear power” to deal with it,
disagreeing with most environmentalists believing
otherwise and then some.

Nuclear power won’t solve, or even alleviate global
warming, according to Helen Caldicott in her important
2006 book, “Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer.” That’s
aside from the catastrophic consequences from
commercial reactor malfunction-caused meltdowns,
terror attacks on them with the same result, or
fissionable material falling into the wrong hands and
used against us. Caldicott explained, contrary to
government and industry propaganda, nuclear power
generation discharges significant greenhouse gas
emissions plus hundreds of thousands of curies of
deadly radioactive gases and other radioactive
elements into the environment every year.

The 103 US nuclear power plants are also sitting ducks
to retaliatory terror attacks experts say will happen
sooner or later.  It means if one of Chicago’s 11
operating commercial reactors melts down from
malfunction or attack, and the city is downwind from
the fallout, the entire area will become uninhabitable
forever and would have to be evacuated quickly with
all possessions, including homes, left behind and

Caldicott explains much more noting commercial plants
are atom bomb factories.  A 1000 megawatt reactor
produces 500 pounds of plutonium annually while only
10 pounds of this most toxic of all substances are
needed for a bomb powerful enough to devastate a large
city.  She also exposes the myth that nuclear energy
is “cleaner and greener.”  Although commercial
reactors emit no carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary
greenhouse gas causing global warming, they require a
vast infrastructure, called the nuclear fuel cycle,
which uses huge and rapidly growing amounts of fossil
fuels.  Each stage in the cycle adds to the problem
starting with the largest and unavoidable energy
needed to mine and mill uranium fuel needing fossil
fuel to do it.  Then there are the tail millings and
what to do with them.  They require great amounts of
greenhouse-emitting fossil fuels to remediate. 

Other steps in the nuclear fuel cycle also depend on
fossil fuels including the conversion of uranium to
hexafluoride gas prior to enrichment, the enrichment
process, and the conversion of enriched uranium
hexafluoride gas to fuel pellets.  Then there’s
nuclear plant construction, dismantling and cleanup at
the end of their useful life, and all this requires
huge amounts of energy.  So does contaminated water
cooling reactors, and the enormous problem of
radioactive nuclear waste handling, transportation and
disposal/storage.  In sum, nuclear power isn’t the
solution to global warming or anything else. Its risky
technology plays nuclear Russian roulette with planet
earth betting against long odds where losing means
losing everything.

If that’s not bad enough, Caldicott shows how much
worse it is summarized briefly below:

—the economics of nuclear power don’t add up for an
expensive technology, aside from the risks involved,
the pollution generated, and the cost of insuring
commercial plants needing billions in government
subsidies private insurers won’t cover.

—the toll on human health to uranium miners, nuclear
industry workers and potentially everyone living close
to reactors including those downwind from them.

—accidental or terrorist-induced nuclear core
meltdowns, already addressed, in one or more of the
438 operating plants in 33 countries worldwide and
huge numbers of new ones under construction or planned
increasing the danger further.

—nuclear waste storage that in the US will be Yucca
Mountain known to be unsafe as it’s located in an
active earthquake zone unable to assure no leakage or
seepage will occur for the 500,000 years needed to
guarantee safety.

—Newer planned so-called Generation III, III + and
Generation IV reactor designs even more dangerous than
earlier ones now in operation with plans to build
hundreds of them worldwide despite the safety risk.

—the unacceptable madness of nuclear weapons
proliferation assuring eventually a rogue nation or
group will have enough fissionable material for a
crude bomb and will use it with devastating

—the unacceptable threat of nuclear war causing
nuclear winter ending all life on the planet if it

In light of Caldicott’s convincing case, the solution
seems clear for friends of the earth and everyone
else.  Western and allied major nations need a
cooperative joint “Manhattan-type Project” to develop
safe, non-nuclear, non-greenhouse gas emitting,
alternative energy sources replacing ones now used
harming the planet and threatening our survival.  In
addition, conservation must be emphasized and wasteful
western lifestyles must change voluntarily or by law
because there’s no other choice. 

Final Thoughts

This article addresses reckless living unmindful of
the consequences.  It’s about endless wars and
resources they’re waged for.  It’s about gaining
control of what we can’t do without, but must learn
to, or we’ll risk losing far more, including the
planet’s ability to sustain life.  If we reach that
point, it won’t matter except to resilient beetles and
bacteria free at last from us.  Instead of being an
asset, superior human intelligence has us on the brink
of our own self-destruction.  It proves Ernst Mayr
right saying greater brain power won’t guarantee our
survival even though it may have helped him live 100
years till 2005.

The human species teeters on the edge putting excess
personal gratification and living for today ahead of
the long-term consequences of bad behavior.  That
assures one day Nixon and Ford Council of Economic
Advisors chairman Herb Stein’s maxim will bite us.
Back then, he noted “Things that can’t go on forever,
don’t.”  He meant bad economic policy, but his comment
applies to all excesses, especially the worst ones,
and what’s worse than endless wars, the threat of
nuclear ones, and the sure threat ecological havoc
will destroy us if nuclear war doesn’t do it first.

We know this and can explain it in precise, sensible,
scientific terms, but what good does it do when we
won’t heed our own advice.  The privileged are rolling
in good times, but look at the problem this way. We’re
all at Cinderella’s ball and have till midnight to
leave or turn into pumpkins losing everything.  At
this ball, clocks have no hands, so guessing right
plays Russian roulette with planet earth.  This
article asks: can we survive our resource wars?  The
answer is only if we stop waging them and start using
our superior intelligence to protect the earth, not
destroy it as we’re doing now.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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