Saturday, November 7, 2009

Oil: Three Re-readings of History--the Third One

This will probably make more sense if you read the First Two First.

Another Perception: The Poetic Justice of Oil and Terrorism
In 1979, we guessed Iran’s theocracy would try to destroy us. And we were still looking at international affairs as a matter of states in competition. But states are losing power on all sides. The market for ideas—socialism, theocracy, democracy, utopia, perceptions of “boom” and “bust”. The lust for power, which nowadays is less about “ownership” (the state) than about “decision control” (markets). Markets for money, fuel, risk-reduction/insurance, and ideas all transcend borders. In the words of the late great political economist Susan Strange, “states are working a holding action” against the greater power of international markets.

According to anti-oil-war screeds, we’re being punished for our greedy lifestyle; we’ve paid good money for our own destruction. That’s kind of poetic, but it doesn’t provide a solution that anyone can live with.

More accurately, we needed oil. We pay money to people who may or may not like us, but need to sell it. We do this all the time, and not just for gasoline. Sometimes we pay thieves or oppressors, knowingly or unknowingly, and that goes for all markets, from fast food on up.

In the 1990’s, Osama bin Ladin’s share of the family money funded his choices, and he chose exile from his family, his nation or any nation. That didn’t mean Bin Ladin was cut off, or had no place to go: he had plenty of transactions, technologies, and safe houses available to him. He chose crime, another international, interlocking, transborder set of markets, in order to promulgate an idea, or his own power, or whatever horrible motivation it is.

He may be in Afghanistan. That doesn’t make him an Afghanistani  nationalist. He may call us the Great Satan, but that's just a screen. His actions have not been confined against one country.

He and his followers chose a set of heinous transactions that hurt us and others in other parts of the world. In 2001, they blew up our skies. They have transformed our politics, and continue to do so. But in a way that we barely see, what they do has little or nothing to do with the state. What they are really involved in is markets.

Note: I have used Susan Strange’s far-reaching ideas in The Retreat of the State and other texts; I have borrowed some terminology from R.G.H. Siu's The Craft of Power.)
Tgace, if you're reading this, that Craft of Power might be something you would like. John Wiley and Sons. Might be out of print. Might be too business-oriented, try to check it out first . . . .


Anonymous said...


tgace said...

Thnx. I will look into that one.