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July 23, 2011
Games People PlayBy Greyhawk
If you'd bet me a dollar at the beginning of this year that the United States would jump into another country's civil war based in part on a domino theory argument I'd have taken that bet. I'd owe you a dollar now - but before I handed it over I'd consider arguing that we aren't really involved in Libya's civil war... but that would be a bluff, and unless you were a complete idiot I'd be wasting my time.
Unfortunately for you we didn't make that bet - because you're going to need that dollar and a lot more. "Crude Oil Advances for Second Day on U.S. Supply Drop, Europe Debt Talks" reads this Bloomberg headline. And for you CNN viewers out there, "advances" means price rise, actually caused by something not mentioned in that story from just a couple days ago.
Greece has nothing to do with it - but if you'd have bet me a dollar at the start of this year that because of a war begun in part on a domino theory argument President Obama would open America's strategic oil reserves - and then we'd start exporting fuel...
Of course, whether burned in Giuseppe's Fiat, Pierre's Citroen, Suzy's Prius or Sally's SUV that previously reserved for national emergency only oil has to be replaced. While paying the cost for that has been kicked down the road a few weeks, to do it the president's going to need your dollars and mine, perhaps more than we can spare. (Especially with our gas prices going up, too.) That said, here's a helpful hint for those American parents not on government assistance: if you let the hems out of last year's uniforms, the kids won't need new ones for school this year.
If you make those money-saving adjustments with the TV tuned to CNN, you might even hear our president blaming the whole thing on (nudge wink) "speculators." (If I'd bet you a dollar at the start of this year that the president would be repeatedly using the same code word for Jews that Hitler did in his declaration of war on the United States, would you have taken the bet?)
Enough of all that - here's the deal. America and her European allies jumped into (what we'd bet would be) a one-week to ten-day (or so) war in Libya to eliminate long-time international pariah Muammar Qaddafi. (While announcing we were just "protecting civilians.") What we got was a lesson in why he'd been a "long time" pariah - along with a reminder that it's not as easy to bomb someone out of office as the most bright-eyed of airpower advocates would have us believe. Any non-brain dead senior leaders in the US military know this from experience, having learned the hard lessons of the failure to eliminate Saddam Hussein via cruise missile throughout the 90s (and paying the price for it in the last decade) - but in the Obama era the opinion of defense professionals is viewed with deep suspicion. However, the words "airpower advocates" and "defense professionals" can be written with quotation marks, too - and the sort of people deserving of those warning flags around their job descriptions thought the whole Libya thing was just about the ginger-peachiest slam dunk of an idea they'd ever heard. Grab a six pack, order a few pizzas, get the gang together and watch the whole thing live on the big screen in the situation room over the course of a weekend, plus an afternoon or two.
Italy was on board. Libya's former colonial masters depended on Qaddafi and company for nearly a quarter of their oil supply, but they had a 90 day reserve on hand - more than enough to get through a few days of war, and a few lean weeks (if needed) to get that supply flowing again. Kudos to them for lasting to just about exactly that three month point before suddenly developing "humanitarian concerns" about the endeavor last month.
"I believe an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities is required in order to create effective humanitarian corridors," while negotiations should also continue on a more formal ceasefire and peace talks, he [Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini] said.
Of course, Italy was just the canary in the coalmine feeling the impact of the loss of the Libyan oil supply.
Later that afternoon President Obama announced he was opening the US strategic reserves, to "keep pump prices in the United States down this summer." At least, that's what Americans were told about the deal. It would have been nice if that were true - nice even if the president's detractors were right in guessing he did it just to score popularity points. But the rest of the world got the grown-up news.
Note that the US contribution was approximately half of the total. (For a list of IEA member nations, click here.) That announcement was at least a bit more truthful than what the White House vomited up for American public consumption - except for that bit about expecting "increased production by major oil producing countries" - which was merely hope, and never happened, and "bridge the gap" became a bridge to nowhere.
But that was last month's news - this month's news (except, is it really news if no one really reports it?) was the result of that action. The "soft landing for the world economy" turned out to be the oil prices rise headline quoted above (although obscured there with garbage about Greece thrown in, and no mention of Libya).
In fact, the release of strategic stockpiles had exactly the opposite effect than what was hoped for:
That's today's news (from the British Financial Times), headlined "IEA calls halt to emergency oil release" - a story chock-full of Orwellian goodness. (The release of reserves was so successful they've all promised not to do it again!) The strategic reserves bought us a couple extra weeks of bombing time - but none of those bombs hit Qaddafi. Now we've got empty oil tanks to fill; demand kicked down the road is still demand, and more than a few suppliers are looking forward to cashing in on this bit of lethal international folly.
Don't worry, whether you've been following this news or not (or whether your favorite news source has let you in on it or not), eventually you'll get a choice in all this oil business: pay the cost or do without. Of course, Greece is a separate but concurrent issue, as is the American debt ceiling, and a host of other problems that serve to remind us of another domino theory that's a lot more realistic than any daydreams about the fragile flowers of an Arab Spring...
Which explains why news that
The U.S., the U.K., Italy and France now say they're willing to accept an outcome in Libya that would allow Muammar Qaddafi avoid exile or a trial on war crimes charges...
...comes three days after the US denied negotiating with Qaddafi at all. Meanwhile, the Libyan rebels are begging for weapons to march on Tripoli: "rebels believe they can march on the Libyan capital within "days" with "a bit of help" from friends..."
Days, not weeks, as the odds makers say. Perhaps they believe they could, but certainly they don't like the writing they're seeing on the wall.
Added: Thanks. And this...
"The most cynical investors are placing side bets on where the next US military action will be, as it seems to take ever-greater crises to trigger an exploitable panic."...is damned interesting, too. I'd hate to have to bet my future on that, though, as I've already confessed to not being a betting man. (But obviously if we don't bet our own futures, someone else will.)
Posted by Greyhawk / July 23, 2011 8:33 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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