09 January 2007

Two Reasons to Pull Out of Iraq

By the time you read this, George will have announced his intention to send another 20,000+ troops into Iraq. Here are two reasons to resist this that you are unlikely to read in the mainstream media.

1. Climate change.
The first reason to pull out of Iraq is that spending there makes it difficult to afford research into alternative energy. As long as we're spending $100 billion a year in Iraq, we can't afford a serious program to transform our energy policy. We need the equivalent of a NASA program - billions of dollars in funding - to support an array of solutions to the problem of carbon dioxide build up. Just to stabilize carbon dioxide levels - not even reduce them - we need to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 75% across the globe. This is not going to happen without serious investment in creative solutions. As long as we are pumping $100 billion a year into Iraq (a soon to be greater number, presumably, as Bush gets his surge in troop levels), funding for such programs is unlikely to emerge. This alone is reason enough to stop funding the aggravation of Iraqis and continuing to place our troops in harm's way as if they were the ducks at a shooting gallery, but there is another.

2. Terrorism.
Oil money from developed countries helps undeveloped countries to get money without modernizing. Our dependence on oil finances extremists in the Middle East, effectively subsidizing their refusal to modernize. Islam does encourage violent extremism, as did medieval Christianity. There is, however, one really big difference between the two. Christians could not enjoy economic advance without choosing to ignore traditions and teachings that contradicted progress. That is, they had to generate their own source of economic progress and fostering economic modernity required accepting philosophical modernity. Burning witches is one way to attempt an increase in crop yield, but it won't be as effective as adopting steel plows or fertilizer. The communities that cling to superstition about witches are going to have so little in resources in comparison to the communities that adopt the scientific method that those superstitious communities will be of little threat. Primitive communities may have dangerous philosophies, but their technology will not be dangerous. By contrast, Muslim states sitting atop of oil can cling to dangerous philosophies while earning enough income to finance dangerous technology. (Think of Iran and its nuclear program.) If they did not have oil revenues, they would face two paths: cling to religious authority in lieu of modernity and be of little threat because they would not have the resources or technology to become a threat; or modernize in thought and, consequently, technology and be of little threat because they now rely upon reason instead of religious extremism. As it is, they can refuse to modernize even while buying modern weaponry.

As long as we don’t sever our dependence on oil, we don’t force the Middle East to sever its dependence on religious extremism. Our continued reliance on oil effectively subsidizes the Middle East's continued reliance upon outdated, dangerous, and otherwise bankrupting ideologies.

The biggest problem with continuing to pursue an Iraqi policy that has yet to accomplish any of its stated goals? It continues to distract us from real issues, only two of which are listed above.


Pigou Club said...

to limit the carbon dioxide emissions I would recommend sin taxes also called pigovian taxes on carbon dioxide. It would cause the oil consumption to go down.

Ron Davison said...

Great suggestion. Emissions tax would be a nice reversal on our odd policy of subsidizing the production of green house gases instead.

In addition to taxes we'll need research. Yeah, taxes will raise prices and help to encourage such research in the private sector but the private sector is fond of applied research. Governments can do more to fund basic research and should.

David said...

My God, some other off-the-wall liberal is reading your blog. Lord, Lord, what does it all mean?

Life Hiker said...

David calls people names but doesn't share his own profile...bad form!

I agree with you. It's comforting to hear Arnold Schwarzenegger call Washington a bunch of idiots for not moving agressively on climate change. But I'm afraid we need more evidence of impending doom before mankind gets serious about greenhouse gases.

Significantly slowing the flow of oil dollars would really do a number on the Islamic world as well as the goofball world (Chavez). Got to make quick progess on energy independence! Oops - I sound like Jimmy Carter.

Ron Davison said...

David asks:
"My God, some other off-the-wall liberal is reading your blog. Lord, Lord, what does it all mean?"

Ron answers:
"Uh, that half the world is more liberal than the half that is more conservative?"

L.H.! Maybe we need a new FDR-like freedom - "freedom from dependence on fossil fuels." Or, "the only thing we have to fear is fuel itself."

clearthought said...

Great post. I never much thought about how the Iraq war contributes to global warming.

And David, the least you can do is provide some kind of argument, wouldn't want to sound closed-minded, now would we?

(Ron, I have added you to my RSS feed reader, so, if I am correct, you should be in my blog/news list at the bottom of my blog page.)

David said...

The cyberdeity has deigned that I be a critic without having to defend or explain myself.