Monday, January 01, 2007

A Plan for Victory, Part IIb(i): The Sinews of War (i)

Hmm...I'm obviously having trouble with the way I'm blogging, so I'll try changing it. In particular, I'll put posts that are even less well-organized than those I'd been doing. For example, this one.

When I talk about Cicero's "Endless money forms the sinews of war" (Philippics) in the context of this particular Long War, I'm not mainly thinking about us, the US of A; I'm thinking about our friends and our foes within the Gap. The good guys and the bad guys are both poor by our standards; we want the bad guys to run out of money fast, and we want the good guys to get more and more of it.

So where do the bad guys get money? Oil is a biggie here in the Arab areas and in Iran, but payment to our enemies is very indirect because oil is "fungible", it comes from many places into a world market and from the world market to consumers all over. You pay for gas, Saudi Arabia and Russia and Venezuela and Alaska all benefit, a bit of the benefit goes to charitable causes which turn out to be Bad Guy causes. If you conserve, you bear a probably-substantial cost which reduces the price of oil a tiny tiny bit, if you're lucky. Can we conserve our way to victory? No, almost certainly not -- but we can work to make the current oil technologies obsolete. A tax on traditionally-produced oil would push wind and solar and oil shale and tar sand and biodiesel technologies, thus reducing the oil demand from Asia and Africa and Europe as well as the US. (I would offset that tax, which would tend to be regressive, with a reduction to or elimination of the payroll tax, which was a terrible idea anyway.) And I'd give prizes for new energy-storage technologies; not just batteries but hydrogen (high-temp electrolysis, whatever) and ammonia fuel and compressed air underground and so on, but I have more hope for batteries, mostly.

Adequate energy storage for plug-in hybrids would make almost all of our transportation oil usage obsolete, not because we'd be trying to conserve but because energy from oil is more expensive than energy from a plug.

Other sources of money? Opium in Afghanistan; in 2002-3 I remember some kind of anti-drug ad campaign pointing out that drug money does in some small part support terrorism. Sure...but to end the drug trade we would need a repeal of the Bill of Rights, and there is exactly one actual proposal for ending drug profits without that repeal. It's simple: call off the drug war, it's a front we cannot fight on simultaneously with the Long War. If we treated opium like nicotine, the Taliban would have a lot less money.

Maybe I wouldn't want to try this if we had a working Drug War, but we don't; even without the Long War I thought rather frequently about the irrationality of our failed Drug War policies. To keep on doing the same stuff, with no reason to hope for success, is bad enough when it's just domestic policy and probably increases our local violent crime rates by funding drug lords. To keep on doing it when it's funding Al-Qaeda seems like a different, higher, order of insanity.

Those are the two main ways that I'd be trying to cut down on our enemies' long-term funding, beyond what the Administration has been doing.


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