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Fletcher: It’s oil, just not how you might think

February 7, 2012
Stephen Fletcher , The Alpena News

Property and money often are behind many political disputes across the world that ultimately, turn to war. Toward that end the U.S. Department of Defense is just the natural end point for diplomacy that couldn't be accomplished by the U.S. State Department first.

Being a diplomat is like being a salesperson. You are trying to convince someone to buy your idea that will give your citizens some advantage. To be a successful salesperson you must size up your prospect and then pitch them your line with a spin on it that makes it clear to them that yours is the product that will fulfill their needs. That is the State Department at work.

If the prospect doesn't like your sales pitch then you hire some bikers to break some legs (that's the Defense Department) and soften them up some for diplomacy. If others observe the second step then sometimes they will buy your program without any problem.

If you start at Syria and go east you have the string of real estate that is Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China. Of these nations, India is firmly in our camp. Syria is in civil war, Iraq and Pakistan have kicked us out, Iran won't let us in and China is a major growing economic power in competition with the U.S. for world economic dominance.

For decades all of these countries have been ruled by men and the role of women is less than that of men - with the exception of in India. Our chief salesperson for the past 12 years has been female.

Although both Secretaries of State during that time frame have been exceptionally smart and capable people, we haven't been terribly successful with persuasion in these countries.

Some of the pontificators smile smugly and all-knowingly and say, "It's all about oil." It is in part, but really it's all about economic positioning - China's economic positioning.

When a crime is committed on TV, the question often asked is, "who benefits?"

China and India didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol because the largest amount of energy resources in each of those countries is coal. Coal is a more difficult fuel to attain emission standards with than oil or gas. China needs oil and gas. Its most convenient source is Indonesia, but the supply there is too small for its demand. It needs other sources of supply.

In order to build a pipeline from the Middle East to supply China you must cross the countries named above. There are some problems with the neighbors.

In my atlas there are four notations that jump off the page at you referring to Chinese border regions. They are: "Area occupied by Pakistan claimed by India"; "Area claimed and occupied by India: status disputed by Pakistan"; "Area occupied by China and claimed by India"; and "Area occupied by India and claimed by China." What a mess. Three nuclear nations in a land dispute with one another.

The U.S. would like to keep a land barrier between the oil and China in order to keep oil costs for China at least as high as they are for the U.S. It would be much cheaper for China to ship by pipeline than by ship if they could only build the pipeline.

Iran is already pals with the Chinese under the banner of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." As we pull out of Iraq, we leave with one neighbor, Syria, in a state of upheaval and another neighbor and ancient enemy, Iran, in a militarily superior position. As we pull out of Afghanistan and are kicked out of Pakistan we give up the last blocking pieces in a land barrier separating China from oil.

I am saying that as we pull out China will expand her sphere of influence to attain economic gain. This move gets oil for China but also somewhat isolates India. The result is two win situation for China.

So, in the end, it was all about oil, but not in the facile, glib way in which it was meant. It wasn't about our oil. It was about China's oil and economic well-being.

When we got pushed out of Pakistan, it left us with no good way to supply troops in Afghanistan and we will have to leave there. To deepen the rift with Pakistan we ceased $700,000.000 in foreign aid.

Remember, the sequence of events that forced our ouster from Pakistan was a friendly fire incident on the Pakistan-Afghan border. This was followed by our being expelled from an air base in Pakistan and border crossings being closed to us. Then we turned up the unfriendliness by cutting off the foreign aid.

Who takes it in the neck? The American worker because we just helped China become more efficient in fossil fuels.

This all has to be viewed as failed U.S. economic diplomacy.

Fourth century Chinese writer Sun-tzu said in The Art of War, Planning a Siege: "The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities ... It is best to win without fighting."



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