Last week, the Bush administration put on a carnival that mourned the passing of the New American Century, celebrated the sixth anniversary of our national state of emergency and ushered in the institutionalization of the Next World Order. Dubya-Week began last Monday (D-Day) at 1230 pm eastern time (H-Hour) with testimony before Congress by General David Petraeus (our latter-day Lawrence of Arabia) and Ambassador Ryan Crocker (the second coming of Studebaker Hoch).
The week climaxed in an Ides of September address to the nation in which Mr. Bush announced a troop reduction that's actually a renewal of the so-called "surge" and an "enduring relationship" with Iraq that's really a treaty except that it doesn't need to be ratified by the Senate. What Mr. Bush didn't tell us Thursday night was that on Wednesday he'd signed an executive order that extends the state of national emergency we've been living under since September 14, 2001, and that Congress didn't even blink when he told them about it, much less "meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated" like federal law requires them to.
Well, all that is probably okay. By now we're used to Mr. Bush blowing feathers up our skirts about Iraq, and treating the Constitution like a roll of Charmin, and ignoring Congress and Congress letting him get away with it. And in all candor, most Americans will likely get used to the world order Bush has given them, because the first half of this century promises to largely be a repeat of the last half of the previous one.
Brave New World Order
A new world order began when Mr. Gorbachev brought down the Berlin Wall and the United States became the planet's sole superpower. The next world order started about the time a U.S. Army psychological operations unit staged the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad. Subsequent events revealed America's Achilles heel--the military might that brought the U.S. to global dominance is no longer capable of decisively achieving its foreign policy aims.
Nonetheless, the aim of the Iraq invasion did not and has not changed. In his newly released memoir titled The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World , former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan writes, "I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows--the Iraq war is largely about oil." That isn't exactly hot-off-the-presses news. Even the most cursory look at the paper trail of the infamous neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century clearly reveals that the Iraq invasion's purpose was to establish a military base of operations in the center of the Middle East from which America could control the region's oil flow--and ultimately the global energy industry--for virtual perpetuity. That things didn't quite go as planned gave our old Cold War nemeses, Russia and China, the table stake they needed get back in the power politics game. By now, Russia and China have taken on junior partners like Iran and Venezuela to form an ad hoc "axis of energy," one that can present serious competition to the U.S. for the role of world power broker. And make no mistake--the coin of political power in the post-modern world is the kind of power that lights and heats homes and runs industry and moves things from place to place.
Thus it is that Iran's fledgling nuclear industry presents such a threat to American hegemony. The possibility that they might produce a fistful of atom bombs is little more than a mosquito bite in the grand scheme of strategic irritants. Pakistan already has nukes. Its government is as precarious as any in the region, and if there were ever a place where terrorists could go to beg, borrow or steal nukes for themselves, Pakistan would be it.
No, the thing about Iran's nuclear program that keeps Dick Cheney and his big oil pals awake at night is the specter that it could evolve into a world-class nuclear energy industry. That would put its senior partners Russia and China in the catbird's seat for dictating when and how the world transitions from a petroleum-centric energy market to a nuclear/alternative fuel market.
Without control of the energy game, America's bag of national power tricks is pretty much empty. Our military, at least the way we now equip and utilize it, has the effectiveness of a scattergun; if it hits the target we had in mind, it's pretty much by accident.
Cold War II
In 2006, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that America is engaged in World War III. It's more accurate to say, though, that we've embarked upon a second Cold War with Russia and China. The threat from radical Islam is genuine enough, but our so-called Global War on Terror mainly provides a geographic venue for proxy struggles, and the portrayal of jihadi terrorists as the number one threat to America is mostly Islamo-fabulism.
It appears, unfortunately, that our adversaries learned more from the Cold War I than we did. We broke the Soviet Union's bank by seducing it into an arms race it could not win. Now, neither Russia nor China has any interest in repeating that mistake. Sure, either or both of them will, from time to time, make a big show of selling weapons to a client state or of executing a "surge" in its own military budget, but that's primarily to goad us into staying in an arms race with ourselves. (We spend more money on defense than the rest of the world combined, and the rest of the world has no interest in playing "catch up" with us.)
The other big lesson from Cold War I was to let the other guy commit his military to dirty little third world wars and to let the third worlders do your dirty work for you. Again, it’s a lesson the Russians and Chinese learned and we didn't. Thus it is that the longer we stay encumbered in Iraq the more we play into the strategies of both the Islamo-fabulists and the neo-commies, and the further we fall into their trap, the longer it will take us to wiggle free from it. We may never escape at all.
That, my friends, is the "long war" the Pentagon is preparing for: A low-level struggle against countless amorphous foes over equally amorphous objectives for an amorphously defined duration during which America maintains a state of national emergency.
Talk about dystopia. Orwell and Huxley would be impressed.
Related articles by Jeff Huber:
In an Arms Race with Ourselves
Wars and Empires
The Next World Order Series
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and Military.com. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available March 1, 2008.