Friday, November 16, 2007

The Achilles Heel of Empire

For the US, it is oil. If you even give a cursory glance at the article, you'll find that the US military is going through some 340 thousand barrels of oil per day. That's a lot of Texas Tea. Turns out that having upwards of 700 military bases around the globe (the sun does not set on the US), and keeping the machinery of war running in Iraq and Afghanistan is extremely energy intensive. Not only are the various invasions and occupations energy intensive, but they are extremely vulnerable to the potential of supplies or supply routes for necessary petroleum products (and other goodies) - the Iraq occupation alone has a very long "logistical tail" that could be severed by emboldened insurgents or our oil suppliers turning off the spigots.

The article does make mention that the current consumption needs of the military are simply not sustainable over the long haul. I'm personally wagering that even over the short to medium term the current imperial setup is not viable. I've periodically made reference Dmitry Orlov with regard to the eventual post-peak oil crash that we will be experiencing sooner or later, and some lessons that we in the US could learn from the Russian experience after the crash of the Soviet government. One thing Orlov says in particular jumps out as I read about our military's oil habit:
I am also worried about soldiers getting stranded overseas – abandoning one's soldiers is among the most shameful things a country can do. Overseas military bases should be dismantled, and the troops repatriated.
That is a concern that I share as well. Stranded soldiers tend to fare poorly, especially when the governments they represent have bad reputations. Starting the process of dismantling overseas bases, repatriating troops, and abandoning imperial ambitions would actually be useful in terms of our nation's economic well-being, reducing dependence on petroleum, and reduced risk to life and limb. At this juncture, I'm quite pessimistic about any of our current crop of political "leaders" showing the good sense or the courage to even so much as advocate such a thing. One can hope, I suppose.

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