As long as we are talking about energy issues….

The US plans to hold what State Department officials are calling “exploratory talks” in Riyadh next week to gauge Saudi objectives behind their interest in a civilian nuclear deal. The US also wants to explore whether the Saudi government would accept restrictions to ensure its nuclear fuel is used purely for civilian purposes, according to congressional sources.
The US has recently concluded civilian nuclear trade deals – or so-called “123” agreements – with India and the United Arab Emirates and is in advanced discussions with countries including Jordan, Vietnam, and South Korea.

Christian Science Monitor

Top exporter Saudi Arabia approved sales of 3 million barrels of extra crude to India for August to make up for a loss of shipments from Iran due to a payment dispute, sources with direct knowledge of the sale said on Tuesday.
Iran cut sales for August to pressure Indian refiners into settling $5 billion in debts for oil supplied, after New Delhi failed to find a way around US and UN sanctions that make financing deals with Tehran difficult.


After the talks by Kaplan and Lynch at the sponsors’ breakfast, Francis “Bing” West, who was sitting near me, said he found them wildly over optimistic about the next several decades, which he thinks will be dominated by the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. But let him tell it his own way: “That was insane. The lesson of Libya is, Get a nuclear weapon and tell everyone to go fuck themselves. Qaddafi got rid of his nukes and we said, ‘OK, you’re out of there.'”

Tom Ricks, Best Defense

Pakistan is currently facing a major energy crisis, which some analysts believe may be the worst in its history. It desperately needs Iranian gas and is not shy to say it. “Our dependence on the Iran pipeline is very high. There is no other substitute at present to meet our growing demand for energy” stated Pakistani minister for petroleum, Asim Hussain recently.

the Atlantic

Supposedly, the Bush administration attempted to use Musharraf to convince the Iranians not to go nuclear, which is one of several reasons the administration went so easy on his regime. Yeah, yeah, I know, but someone in the big-time thought it might work. Before you blow a gasket, remember that the world is complicated. There are so many complicated international relationships that Washington has no idea how to handle them in concert. Action A makes issue B better but issue C worse. That’s what happens when you have too many fingers in too many pies.

Why is “drill here, drill now” not a national security imperative?

18 thoughts on “As long as we are talking about energy issues….”

  1. Come on right wing America, nukes are just like guns. Once everyone has them we are all equally dangerous. Won’t that be great?

    What could go wrong?

    The Saudis want nukes because the Iranians will soon have them. In time as knowledge becomes more widespread, it kinda does that, many nations and some private corporations will posses nuclear weapons. The Genie is not going back in the bottle folks.

    The nuke is a defensive weapon. It’s probable no one will ever use one and as the consequences of that use become more and more sure only mad men will use them. It’s in all of our interests to deal with the mental health of everyone. The future will just increase the numbers of ordinary people wielding immense power.

  2. We have a government with an insane energy policy. There is no explanation that can pass a logic test. We have chosen to delay oil and gas leases in the Gulf which has caused the large deep water drill rigs to move out of the Gulf, probably for ten years or more. My understanding is that George Soros has invested heavily in Brazil’s deep water drilling program. Even Obama has talked about becoming Brazil’s best customer.

    That is insanity.

    We have a friendly neighbor, Canada, which has huge deposits of oil sands in Alberta (Canada’s most conservative province) and there is a pipeline that has been under construction for several years to bring oil to the US. Because it crosses national boundaries, it requires State Department approval. That approval has been held up.

    This is insanity.

    Fortunately, a few states, North Dakota and Pennsylvania among them, have been aggressive at exploiting the fracking technology. The environmental groups that seem, together with unions, to dominate the brain trust of the administration, is opposing this technology with lies about contaminating water. New York, which has an upstate economy like Appalachia, has so far refused to permit the use of fracking technology.

    New York is welcome to abuse its citizens and treat them like zoo inhabitants but this is the mentality of the Democrats it seems.

  3. American policy since 1890 has been to fight our wars in the other guy’s country. Obama and the lefties have changed that. Now we will fight Iran (and every other hostile nation) on our soil. And it will be nuclear. And it will be soon – before we elect someone who prefers fighting wars on foreign soil.

  4. This new concept seems promising. Anything Nathan Myhrvold likes is OK with me, at least with respect to technology.

    Terrapower, a startup funded in part by Nathan Myhrvold and Bill Gates, is moving closer to building a new type of nuclear reactor called a traveling wave reactor that runs on an abundant form of uranium. The company sees it as a possible alternative to fusion reactors, which are also valued for their potential to produce power from a nearly inexhaustible source of fuel.

    It uses mostly U 238 for fuel.

  5. It’s probable no one will ever use one and as the consequences of that use become more and more sure only mad men will use them.

    Maybe that was sarcasm. Anyway, note that “everyone” includes mad men, and that mad men are overrepresented in the governing elites of many of the countries that are seeking nukes. Note also that there are non-nuclear weapons whose effects may be at least as bad as those of nukes.

    It’s in all of our interests to deal with the mental health of everyone. The future will just increase the numbers of ordinary people wielding immense power.

    Maybe that was sarcasm too, but it seems reasonable at face value.

  6. “Why is “drill here, drill now” not a national security imperative?”

    It is, and has been ever since the first oil shock. Unfortunately, that same oil shock pointed the way to a strategy for weakening the U.S.

    Which is why a large number of “interested parties” are doing everything they can think of to prevent “drill here, drill now.”

  7. There is some merit to the idea that more nukes means a more peaceful world. The threat of a nuclear response will have a strong rationalizing effect on the delusional group think that drives authoritarian regimes.

    In any case, the spread of nuclear technology cannot be stopped. It is 70 year old technology at this point and critical technologies that were originally incredibly hard like gas separation or precision machining are now cheap and easy. Without exception, every single country that has the barest technology base who wants nuclear weapons has them. The only way to prevent that is to physically attack them as we are doing with Iran.

    The only way to keep nuclear technology from spreading would be to keep wide swaths of the world technologically backwards,

    I do find the idea that if Ghadaffi had had nukes that it would have changed anything. Once he threatened southern Europe’s oil supply he would have still been attacked nukes or not because no one would believe his military would use them just to keep him in power. If Ghadaffi had order a nuclear strike against Italy, his military would have shot him because they would have known they were signing their own death warrants.

    Nukes aren’t the get out of jail free ticket many assume that they are because they are something akin to threatening to shoot someone by first firing through one’s own head. Unless you can convince others that you are willing to suffer the consequences of a retaliatory nuclear strike, no one will believe you will use any nukes you might have.

    And we shouldn’t forget that nukes are only the best known of the weapons of mass destruction. Nerve gas and biological weapons are easier and cheaper to make and deploy and they can kill as many or more than nukes.

    The days when small nations could trust the superpowers to shield them under a nuclear umbrella are long gone. Everyone has got to know that America cannot be relied on while a Democrat is in the White House. Nothing will drive nuclear proliferation like the idea that every small country is on its own when faced by external attack.

  8. “Why is “drill here, drill now” not a national security imperative?”

    Because the liberal hive mind is more in love with the idea of caribou in the arctic (a place they would never go) than it is with liberty or national integrity.

  9. “The Saudis want nukes because they have lost faith in the willingness of the US to protect them from the Iranians.”

    Good. Why the f*** should we defend the Saudis, who about as vile a gang as there is. Not that I would give the Iranians a free pass, just that I have been re-thinking our middle-east policy and have reached the conclusion that we need to minimize our strategic commitments in the area.

    We have let the oil tail drag the foreign policy dog around for far too long. I think we should withdraw from the Persian gulf completely. We should maintain and strengthen our alliance with Israel. I want us to build a base in the Negev for advanced anti-missile work. It should also house a couple of combat brigades for self defense and to warn the Islamic Republic of Egypt to stay on its leash. We should build up the air base at Diego Garcia and keep a wing of B52s there. Beyond that we should withdraw from Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Gulf, ASAP.

    Of course there will be wars and oil blockades. But, we need to drill here, build the Canada pipeline, and stabilize Mexico to deal with our energy problems.

  10. Robert Schwartz,

    Good. Why the f*** should we defend the Saudis, …

    We’re not defending the Saudis, we are defending the flow of oil which the entire world economy needs. Even a short but serious interruption of oil would kill tens of millions of people. The successive oil shocks in the 70s are estimated to have killed as many as 10 million people through starvation and wars and those were just price shocks. A serious supply shock would be devastating.

    The world is to interconnected these days. Almost all the oil from the Gulf goes to Europe and Asia and America could free herself from middle-east dependency if we wanted to but that really wouldn’t protect us from anything. We will implode if Europe or (even more important) Asia implodes. Every supply chain on the planet stretches across several continents. Nothing serious gets made just in North America anymore.

    It sucks but we don’t really have a choice.

  11. Great conversation. I’m rushed so a few quick points:

    @ Anonymous: Yes, I know about the Saudi fears of Iran going nuclear and have discussed it here. I know nothing about nuclear deterrence but I do note that their are Indian think tanks I pay attention to that argue that nuclear weapons have kept a kind of rough peace on the subcontinent and between India and China.

    @ John Wolfsberger, Jr: Stellar comment. That one got me thinking. Within this rubric are Saudi-US relations, Saudi-Brit relations, Germany-Iran relations, NATO relationships, and so on. Are we prevented from optimal mideast relationships in this current environment because of NATO piggybacking? Oil is fungible. We can keep it flowing for others even as we make ourselves safe from future shocks we may not be able to control.

    Even if Shannon is correct, there are many permutations within the overall heading of “we need to keep oil flowing from the gulf.”

    And yet, we have no problem cutting off Iranian oil to others so there are other overriding concerns.

    I’m just saying we need to look at the details. A good hard look at the details. This took decades to build. Can we slowly plan toward a different future? Is that what all the civilian nuclear energy deals are about? Because State is serious about this and it doesn’t change from administration to administration. Their is a foreign power beaucracy in place in DC that others in world governments cultivate. We should pay more attention to this phenomenon.

    The explanation left to us by King Abdulaziz for why he decided to work with the Americans came as a result of a memorandum by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State George McGhee, who had a meeting with the king in 1950. We only learned about the meeting in the late 1970s, when the document was declassified. It is remarkable. Abdulaziz unburdened himself of his most intimate fears for the safety of the House of Saud. His primary concern was not the one haunting Washington at the time—namely, communist expansionism. Rather, he feared an imminent attack by the forces of the Hashemite royal families ruling in Jordan and, at the time, also in Iraq. They had a grudge to settle after being driven out of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina by the al-Sauds in the 1920s. To deal with the Hashemite threat, the king wanted to enter a formal military alliance with the U.S. and obtain arms urgently on a grant basis. The British had offered such an alliance, but he didn’t trust them because they were the main backers of his Hashemite enemies. That was why, he told McGee, he had given an exclusive oil concession in the kingdom to the American companies and not allowed their British counterparts to share in the prize. He allowed the U.S. to build and use the airbase at Dammam “to show that Saudi Arabia’s security should be of vital concern to both countries.”

    As World War II approached, there was little oil production or shipping after the first significant oil discovery was made in 1938 at Dammam. But in 1943, Roosevelt and his administration began to realize that oil was going to be very important in the future. A relationship started to develop. In order to provide military and economic aid to Saudi Arabia, Roosevelt declared that “the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States,” which must have surprised the many Americans who had never even heard of Saudi Arabia.

    Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Navy, William Knox, told Congress in March 1944 that the war had made the U.S. government extremely anxious about oil. He pronounced what was to become America’s postwar oil policy, namely “to provide for acquisition of oil resources outside the limits of the United States for the safety and security of the country.” That was the rationale for our becoming more and more involved with Saudi Arabia.

    Is this a situation like with Pakistan? That nothing we do will fundamental change their fears? Are their fears exaggerated to some extent? Or not?

    – Madhu

  12. This is interesting, too:

    In 2003, a number of things happened that made our relationship even more complicated. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a major trauma for Saudi Arabia. The U.S. suddenly became a major source of insecurity for Saudi Arabia after we wound up installing a pro-Iranian, Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. From the Saudi point of view, this was the worst nightmare they could imagine happening in the Gulf because of tensions between Iran, a Shiite power, and Saudi Arabia, which is the homeland of the two holiest Muslim religious sites, Mecca and Medina; the one feeling itself to be the leader of the Sunni world, the other feeling itself the leader of the Shiite world. While the Saudis were worried about the balance of power in the Gulf, the U.S., their ally, came in and installed a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Iraq! From the Saudi point of view, they couldn’t understand what Bush was thinking and why the U.S. had done this to them.

    Immediately after Saddam’s ouster, the Saudis sent the U.S. Air Force packing and stopped the negotiations with American oil companies. They turned instead to Chinese, Russian, and European oil companies to come in and look for gas and oil. They decided not to buy any more U.S. aircraft, the main symbol of the military relationship. Instead, they bought European Typhon jets from Britain.

    Somehow, I think there is more to all of this than the conventional wisdom. I also don’t know if the above sourced link is the most comprehensive or if there are better resources.

    I bet like a lot of conventional wisdoms, once you go digging into the details, it all falls apart a bit.

    – Madhu

  13. @ MK: I saw that link at Instapundit. I don’t know anything about this topic, just wondering aloud in blog fashion.

    I think I read somewhere that India discovered a bunch of uranium in one of their states?

    @ Robert Schwartz: I’m sort of in your camp. What a vile bunch the Saudi monarchy are and why haven’t we seriously considered alternatives even as we continue to keep an eye on mideast stability? If it’s so important, why did we invade Iraq? (I supported the invasion, by the way, and remain hopeful that it will work out to the best. Just as Roosevelt saw that oil would be important to twentieth century economic development, what are we failing to plan for? If Saudi Arabia has been moving away from us under successive administrations, why are we not doing something about it? Is the civilian nuclear deal a way of winning them back? Do we want to do that? I keep thinking that we are being gamed because no one is willing to really pay attention to the details, just mouth platitudes. After hearing American experts talk rot about Pakistan – things I know are not true – I’m deeply suspicious of the competence of the current foreign policy class in the States.)

    – Madhu

  14. And last but not least,

    The Truman Library has identified approximately 1,130 pages of material in its holdings that directly relate to Saudi Arabia and King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, along with approximately thirty-five photographs pertaining to this topic. The material is listed below. The search upon which this listing is based was restricted for the most part to the most readily identifiable collections, series, and folder titles. Other material relating to Saudi Arabia, besides that which is listed here, may well be present in the Library’s collections.

    I know precisely squat about all these topics so maybe I’ll do a series of posts or something. Or not. The weather is actually decent these days, if hot. That lasts about a week in Chicago.

    – Madhu

  15. While we should be concerned about possible interruptions of the oil flow to Europe and Asia, our prime concern should be with our own security. The actions of Obama in this area are incomprehensible. His administration seems to be in the grip of extreme environmentalists who will be advocating carbon caps as the glaciers creep down from Hudson’s Bay.

  16. “Because the liberal hive mind is more in love with the idea of caribou in the arctic (a place they would never go) than it is with liberty or national integrity.”

    The humans are not my favorite species on this earth. Perhaps that may explain my liberal antipathy to so many of the right who would bind the planet to their purpose.

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