Permissible Arms

Bargaining Chips

Another boring-but-informative (and potentially useful) link dump. Where are my words?

Soldiers smoked late one evening at Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Paktika Province.


Natural Security: the PB&J of my interests.

Posted in energy, united states, us defense, us politics by Karaka on 16 June 2010

I’ve been enjoying Steve Levine’s work over at his new Foreign Policy blog, The Oil and the Glory. Subtitled “the geopolitics of energy,” it hits two of the major interests in my life: energy, and national security/foreign policy. I don’t talk much about my job here, but it involves the energy industry and keeps me very engaged in consumer politics, climate change, and different kinds of energy mechanisms. Levine is pretty much at the intersection of my work and my passion, which makes Oil and the Glory of great interest to me.

In particular I’ve enjoyed his commentary on China’s hybrid car subsidy and on the US and Kyrgyzstan. I’ve even braved FP’s horribly unpleasant commenting system to weigh in:

It’s not as though these actions are operating in a vacuum. The White House and Department of State are likely as concerned about the START treaty and the public ramifications of stepping into Russia’s sphere of influence, as it were. Despite having a base at Manas, it seems clear that the US would defer to Russia’s involvement so as not to upset existing long-standing talks with a much wider effect.

I think it is easy to overstate US involvement in Kyrgyzstan–there was uncertainty, initially after the coup, as to whether the lease at Manas would in fact be renewed, and it is primarily used as a support base for Afghanistan, rather than an influential long-term base for the region itself. It would be a challenge for State to put more resources into assisting Kyrgyzstan in light of all of this. Not impossible. But a challenge.

and Steve responded:

A Washington stress on weapons has been a constant vis-a-vis Moscow across administrations, including in the post-Soviet era. What is different here is that, in most of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the policy attitude was a focus on the independence of the ‘Stans and the Caucasus, and almost an indifference as to Russia’s opinion on the region. You accurately describe the State Department’s state of mind. But it is precisely that state of mind that separates the present from the past. Washington made it appear to the Central Asians and the Caucasus countries that they were part of the grand sweep of history favoring democracy and the market, with the implication that they were to be made safe by the West. The 2008 war in Georgia and the current state of affairs in Kyrgyzstan punctured that myth. The current attitude appears to me at least to be more realpolitik than the past, which claimed to be realpolitik.

Thought-provoking stuff.

Hey, speaking of energy and security, let me re-point you to Natural Security, which I’ve been working my way through in my copious (ha, ha) spare time. I can’t overstate the relationship of our internal energy policy to both our capabilities abroad and at home. It’s why I’m disappointed both that Lindsey Graham walked away from the climate bill, and that Congress/White House aren’t using this bloody oil spill to railroad some efficiency measures and renewables through to legislation. I mean, seriously, as terrible as this spill is, it’s also an ideal platform to achieve some base-level energy austerity mechanisms. Way to waste a disaster, politicians.

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