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The Obama Dirty Energy Doctrine - Part 1: A Petroleum-Based National Security Policy

By Burkely Herrman - Interesting Blogger, November 3, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Already, I am mad as hell, and can’t take it anymore. Then, the President of my home country goes before the UN, and tells them that we are an imperialist country. In this speech, part of what outlined the new Obama Doctrine, noted the following American policy for the rest of his 3 years in office:

“…let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presiden[cy]…The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region…We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy. We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people….when it’s necessary, defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action. And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction…we’ll continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity…these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region…Now, the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.”(1)

While I was shocked by the blatant directive to protecting natural resources as a core interest, it was not surprising to see him on the side of international capital. The last part of the quote, when he said that those calling America an empire were spreading propaganda, made me laugh out at his absurdity, but it deeply troubled me. After all, this new doctrine reminded me of the previous presidential doctrines like the Eisenhower, Truman and Carter Doctrines, along with the Wikipedia article titled, the Obama Doctrine, as well. I wasn’t the only one to be critical of this speech. Kevin Goztola, the independent journalist who tirelessly covered the trial of Chelsea Manning, wrote on his blog, Dissenter, that Obama’s speech was “a neoconservative foreign policy speech” that President Bush II could have given in the midst of the Iraq War. Goztola continues, writing that “there will be no wavering in decision-making to engage in intervention…Obama articulated a defense of a decision to pursue a war in Syria that America did not fully execute…This is neoconservative doctrine in its purest form…Now, America has drone bases to make war permanent. It has a massive surveillance apparatus that Obama is more than willing to defend and utilize against any country in the world that threatens its power.”(2) Journalist and creator of the investigative documentary and book, Dirty Wars: The World is Battlefield, Jeremy Scahill, was even more critical in an interview he gave on Democracy Now!: “He basically came out and said the United States is an imperialist nation and we are going to do whatever we need to conquer areas to take resources from around the world…it was a really naked sort of declaration of imperialism…[saying that] America is an exceptional nation. He then defended the Gulf War…[saying] that the motivation behind it was about oil and [that]…we are going to continue to take such actions in pursuit of securing natural resources for ourselves and our allies…[In the wide view] President Obama has been a forceful, fierce defending of empire and I think that is going to be the enduring legacy of his presidency is that he was an empire president.”(3) In connection with this is the track of his spoken word album Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations, Cornel West tells the listener that the US is not only an empire, but that just like blacks, after 9/11, many Americans feel unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence and hated, which is why they are scared. This feeling is what the Obama administration, international capital and others want to stir up in the American people by pushing forward a dirty energy doctrine guaranteeing that profits for these energies continue, which hurts not only people of this country, but the people of the world by justifying it under the pretext of fighting terrorism to some extent. This article has a major focus on fossil fuel energies including oil, natural gas, tar sands, etc… but nuclear power, despite its dirty energy as well, which someone else can pick up if they wish to do so.

The domestic energy policy of the Obama administration has a deep influence on the foreign policy of the United States. The words of Daphne Wysham of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network wrote after the state of the union this year make one think about the reality of this strategy. She wrote that Obama’s words criticizing climate change will be meaningless if he continues to push “for dangerous energy development deep offshore in the Gulf, in the Arctic and via continued fracking for oil and gas” as noted by Norman Solomon.(4) As I wrote in May 2012 in Dissident Voice that “President Obama is on the side of Big Oil and is subsequently an “oiled” President”(5) which is connected to my reaction to his 2012 state of the union. At the time, it seemed clear that Obama was promoting increased oil & gas drilling, wanting “energy independence,” basically saying that “oil is needed no matter the environmental costs,” and that there must be the use of “every available source of American energy,” a.k.a. his all-of-the-above energy policy. (6) This policy in part is about as Nafeez Ahmed notes correctly is that the US government is promoting “fracking and exploitation of shale gas and oil”(7) and Robert Pollin adds to this, noting on The Real News Network that this energy policy is about increasing rapidly “natural gas and oil exploration, drilling, production, to expand rapidly” which threatens Obama’s own climate deadlines.(8) While it is important to note that Obama clearly wants a market-based solution to climate change which “brings in a little bit of renewable energy but overwhelming[ly] supports continued fossil fuel usage, increased natural gas use, supporting the industry fantasy of clean coal and calling for business-friendly “free trade” as noted on White Rose Reader.(9) Finally, there is a section of the Wikipedia article titled Energy policy of the Obama Administration, noting that in March 2010, Obama outlined a new “energy security” plan including higher fuel efficiency standards, more hybrid vehicles and most importantly: “a decision to expand domestic offshore oil and gas exploration in Alaska and off the southwest coast of the United States.” As the Wikipedia page noted, after this, the White House noted how the administration would “boost domestic energy production, diversify America’s energy portfolio, and promote clean energy innovation.” Let us also recognize that the good friend of Obama and billionaire Warren Buffett would profit regardless of the approval or disapproval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is very significant.(10) This is something the Obamacrat speakers at the pseudo-protests against Obama in February, and the big environmental organizations have not realized in part by not looking beyond Keystone XL meaning they aren’t focusing on the other dirty energy pipelines under construction like TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, Enbridge’s Midwestern pipeline, the Spectra pipeline and many others.(11) Additionally, it must be noted that these organizations, the Big Unions, and the Democratic Party additionally hurt the struggle against dirty energies like natural gas.(12)

There may be some question of how the domestic all-of-the-above energy policy relates to international foreign policy of the American empire. One needs to look no further than the National Security Strategy which outlines the major “national security” concerns of the current administration (and the elite), and the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. The latest National Security Strategy of the Obama administration, issued in May 2010, seems to echo the words of the recent UN speech [important sections are bolded]:

Our development of new sources of energy will reduce our dependence on foreign oil…We must continue to transform our energy economy, leveraging private capital to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies that will cut greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, increase use of renewable and nuclear power, reduce the dependence of vehicles on oil, and diversify energy sources and suppliers…We must continue to transform our energy economy, leveraging private capital to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies that will cut greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency, increase use of renewable and nuclear power, reduce the dependence of vehicles on oil, and diversify energy sources and suppliers…all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy…The United States has important interests in the greater Middle East. They include…counterterrorism cooperation, access to energy, and integration of the region into global markets…As long as we are dependent on fossil fuels, we need to ensure the security and free flow of global energy resources. But without significant and timely adjustments, our energy dependence will continue to undermine our security and prosperity. This will leave us vulnerable to energy supply disruptions and manipulation and to changes in the environment on an unprecedented scale…U.S. leadership in the G-20 will be focused on securing sustainable and balanced growth, coordinating reform of financial sector regulation, fostering global economic development, and promoting energy security…In the Americas, we are bound by proximity, integrated markets,energy interdependence, a broadly shared commitment to democracy, and the rule of law…We will stimulate our energy economy at home, reinvigorate the U.S. domestic nuclear industry, increase our efficiency standards, invest in renewable energy, and provide the incentives that make clean energy the profitable kind of energy.”(13)

While this strategy seems to speak under the cloak of supporting “clean energy” and renewables, the National Security Strategy for the Arctic Region is even more explicit. This strategy, only issued recently (back in May), almost reads like a report of a big energy company as it promotes increased oil & gas drilling, even though it acts like the US will protect the environment, which is a big joke. Here is an important sample from the strategy:

“As portions of the Arctic Ocean become more navigable, there is increasing interest in the viability of the Northern Sea Route and other potential routes, including the Northwest Passage, as well as in development of Arctic resources…It is imperative that the United States proactively establish national priorities and objectives for the Arctic region…The Arctic region’s energy resources factor into a core component of our national security strategy: energy security. The region holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet U.S. energy needs. Continuing to responsibly develop Arctic oil and gas resources aligns with the United States “all of the above” approach to developing new domestic energy sources, including renewables, expanding oil and gas production and increasing efficiency and conservation efforts to reduce our reliance on imported oil and strengthen our nation’s energy security. Within the context of this broader energy security strategy, including our economic, environmental and climate policy objectives, we are committed to working with stakeholders, industry, and other Arctic states to explore the energy resource base, develop and implement best practices, and share experiences to enable the environmentally responsible production of oil and natural gas as well as renewable energy…Protecting the unique and changing environment of the Arctic is a central goal of U.S. policy.”(14)

First and foremost, the speeches and policy of the Obama administration seemed to repeat what was noted in the National Security Strategy. Back in May, in a speech before business leaders, Obama said that not only are investors-rights agreements important to implement in Central America, but also it is US policy that there are “rules in place that allow the free flow of energy back and forth.”(15) This pattern continues back to 2011, when Obama made remarks regarding the Middle East and North Africa, implying the US would not tolerate an energy supply being cut off: “We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.”(16) A post on the trying-to-appeal-to-the-youth White House blog by the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Malbus, noted that if there are major disruptions in the flow of energy like oil, natural gas, or electricity, it can “cause major economic havoc and negatively affect both our national security and international stability.” (17) The rest of what he said is basically a joke because the Pentagon is the world’s biggest polluter as noted by liberal (and somewhat Obama-loving) site called AlterNet, Project Censored, the radical Earth First! Journal and many others.(18) This fact is often ignored by the big environmental groups and many others, but is still a great call to action that could unite the fledgling antiwar movement and the stronger environmental movement which would be great for this country.

Back to speeches by Obama, he has made some neoconservative rhetoric supporting an interventionist empire during his time as President. In March 2011, when he announced to the world, the American public, and international capital that his administration was unilaterally, without the approval of Congress, going to war in Libya, saying that the US is “naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenge [unless]…our interests and values are at stake…[additionally] it was not in our national interest to let [the supposed massacre in Benghazi]…happen…I’ve made it clear that I will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary to defend our people, our homeland, our allies and our core interests.”(19) In May, this rhetoric as increased when Obama said the killing of the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, meant that “justice has been done” while implying that Osama started the “war on terror,” forgetting the blowback from the horrible imperialist policies like blindly supporting the Israeli government, implementing murderous UN sanctions on Iraq, and keeping US troops in Saudi Arabia, among other factors.(20) Let us not forget the document outlining Al-Qaeda’s Strategy up to the year 2020.(21) The document is as follows:

1. Provoke the United States and the West into invading a Muslim country by staging a massive attack or string of attacks on U.S. soil that results in massive civilian casualties

2. Incite local resistance to occupying forces.

3. Expand the conflict to neighboring countries, and engage the U.S. and its allies in a long war of attrition.

4. Convert al-Qaeda into an ideology and set of operating principles that can be loosely franchised in other countries without requiring direct command and control, and via these franchises incite attacks against the U.S. and countries allied with the U.S. until they withdraw from the conflict, as happened with the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but which did not have the same effect with the July 7, 2005 London bombings

5. The U.S. economy will finally collapse by the year 2020 under the strain of multiple engagements in numerous places, making the worldwide economic system which is dependent on the U.S. also collapse leading to global political instability, which in turn leads to a global jihad led by al-Qaeda and a Wahhabi Caliphate will then be installed across the world following the collapse of the U.S. and the rest of the Western world countries.

As for countering this strategy (at least in theory), Obama continues as an empire president. While there’s a presidential study directive says that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States,”(22) saying that stopping “the threat” posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army is in “the U.S. national security interest”(23), it is common knowledge there are other aspects are more paramount. As then-National Security Adviser Tom Donolin said in November 2012, the US has a commitment to the “areas of trade and investment and energy…[in] the Asia-Pacific Region.”(24) In the speech that many says outlines an “Obama Doctrine” which was a speech outlining what many analysts called the ‘Asia Pivot,’ or the American empire dedicating more resources toward the Asiatic region:

“As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority. As a result, reductions in U.S. defense spending will not…come at the expense of the Asia Pacific…Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay…All of our nations — Australia, the United States — all of our nations have a profound interest in the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China.”(25)

As one could guess, this did not make the nationalist and imperialist government of the People’s Republic of China very happy at all, and has been part of the reason they have sought help with other countries like the Russian Federation and other countries like Brazil and India. As for other regions of the world, the Obama administration announced in one of its infamous ‘fact’ sheets that “status quo” in the Mideast and North Africa is not good, and that “the core interests of the United States…will be better advanced by a region that is more democratic and prosperous.”(26) As all seasoned observers know, the democracy and prosperity the US government is speaking about is code for governments and situations that benefit the corporate, military and political elite of the United States and the world. Interestingly, while the US says they want an ‘independent Israel’(27), Obama said in 2011 that one of the main US “core interests” in the Mideast other than bullying around other countries, is to secure “the free flow of commerce and safe-guard…the security of the region.”(28) Maybe this is part of the reason that part of the reason the Obama administration thinks “development is…indispensable in the forward defense of America’s interests.”(29) More importantly, this seems all wrapped in the idea that Obama expressed in 2009: “America has a strategic interest – and a moral responsibility – to act…a strong political, diplomatic, and civilian effort on our part can advance progress and help lay a foundation for lasting peace and security…we are launching a new era of engagement in the world.”(30)

With all of this rhetoric, one may just dismiss it as words that politicians say every so often, and say it doesn’t relate to actual foreign policy. Someone may even say that even if Obama wants increased oil & gas drilling at home, he hasn’t advocated for it abroad. To answer these inquiries it is important to put this into a historic context. State Department officer wrote in August 1945 that “a review of the diplomatic history of the past 35 years will show that petroleum has historically played a larger part in the external relations of the United States than any other commodity.” People’s historian and social activist Howard Zinn expands on this in his bestseller, A People’s History of the United States: noting that one of the major reasons that Roosevelt began the alliance with Saudi Arabia was a “concern for oil [which later]…compete with political concern for the Jewish state in the Middle East,” and that the Truman Doctrine was really about intervening in the Mideast to gain control of “the great natural resources of the Middle East” including oil. Zinn continues, noting that in 1958 that Eisenhower sent “thousands of marines to Lebanon to make sure the pro-American government there was not toppled by a revolution, and to keep an armed presence in that oil-rich area,” that in 1963, U. Alexis Johnson, then the Undersecretary of State told the Economic Club of Detroit that natural resources like “rice, rubber, teak, corn, tin, spices, [and] oil” were part of the reason that powers like the United States were interested in the country while Carter & Reagan both had differing but cozy relationships with the oil & gas industry. One of the critical motivations of the first Gulf War, Zinn argued was that the US wanted to be “a decisive voice in the control of Middle East oil resources” which was even noted inadvertently by the New York Times at the time. As for the second Iraq War, William Rivers Pitt wrote in Truthout that there is an “incredible profit motive behind it all. The President, his father, the Vice President, a whole host of powerful government officials, along with stockholders and executives from Halliburton and Carlyle, stand to make a mint off this war. Long-time corporate sponsors from the defense, construction and petroleum industries will likewise profit enormously.”(31) In part, this was validated by Georgetown University professor David S. Painter in the Journal of American History who wrote:

“oil fueled American power and prosperity during the twentieth century…[meaning that] the U.S. government worked closely with the oil industry to gain and maintain control of overseas oil reserves, reflecting a symbiosis of national security interests and the interests of the oil companies. Maintaining access to oil became a key priority of U.S. foreign policy and involved the United States in regional and local conflicts in Latin America, the Middle East, and other oil-producing areas in ways that distorted development in many countries. Most of the major doctrines of postwar U.S. foreign policy—the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter Doctrines—related, either directly or indirectly, to the Middle East and its oil.”(32)

Someone could make a ridiculous argument this was in the past and in no way applies to present. If you think that is the case, consider Obama’s corporate-intertwined administration and cabinet. (33) Specifically, as noted at the end of an article about Iran’s massive oil & gas reserves, Chuck Hagel’s connection to Chevron was criticized. (34) He sat on the Board of Directors of Chevron Corporation which has committed many crimes against humanity and has received government contracts hilariously noted by the neo-conservative magazine, Commentary, and the right-wing publication, Free Beacon.(35) In Progressive magazine, Allen Ruff added to this in a short investigative article:

Hagel led the charge in 1997 to block ratification of the Kyoto Protocol…The Hagel-Byrd Resolution, co-authored by the coal-friendly Democrat, West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, argued that the Kyoto failed to include developing countries and posed barriers to US economic expansion…Hagel also currently sits on the board of directors of the American Security Project, a Washington-based imperial think tank…Hagel’s current position as Chair of the non-governmental but immensely influential Atlantic Council will most likely be placed on hold…the Washington-based council…[is] an elite foreign policy NGO committed to forwarding US “national interest” and continued Cold War supremacy within the “Atlantic community” and beyond…With Chuck Hagel at the helm, the Council’s attentions have increasingly turned toward Central and South Asia. As part of that pivot, especially toward oil and uranium rich and strategically located Kazakhstan…The council’s Eurasia Task Force has been funded by a grant from the Kazakhstan government…While still in elected office and well before he joined the board of directors at Chevron (today a major investor in Kazakhstan’s Caspian Sea oil fields) or became Chair of the Atlantic Council, Hagel had been the only US Senator to visit all five Central Asian republics. His dovetailing interests and ties to the region have continued since…In May, 2010 Michele Kinman, the deputy director of Crude Accountability…[noted that] Hagel [had a]…clear interest in, and ties to, Caspian oil and gas development, she also pointed to his stated record in support of transparency and anti-corruption.”(36)


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