Saturday, April 18, 2009

Locked Out:The Cuban Trade Embargo Compromises U.S. Energy Security

Some of this country's worst national traits- American complacency, sense of entitlement, frantic obsession with yesterday's battles and obsolete doctrines, and inability to discern blatant logical inconsistencies and hypocrisy in them, have combined to further compromise our energy security and assure a much rougher transition to a low-energy regime than we might otherwise have to deal with, if we have not, in fact, absolutely assured our own future misery and poverty.

It's difficult to understand how the population of this country, notably its "conservatives", can blithely acquiesce to what amounts to the sale of this country to China, the world's major communist power and a major human rights violator, while maintaining the draconian trade restrictions on a tiny island 90 miles from Miami. By some mental process that could not exactly be called "thought" or "reasoning" that I've always been at a loss to understand, most people have made their peace with the outsourcing of our entire economy to China and are somehow not bothered by the consideration that we have almost no manufacturing capacity left and could not mobilize for a major war; yet are just appalled at the thought of normalizing our relationship with Cuba to the extent of ending the 50-year-old trade embargo on the island.

The entire Cuba issue is a political "third rail", an issue so politically toxic that no administration, Republican or Democrat, has dared broach the idea that perhaps the embargo might not work to our interest and might, in fact, be producing results that are the opposite of our intention when we imposed it. For a while there, in certain American cities, the whole subject was so sensitive that discussing it in public could shorten your life substantially if not instantly, and not very long ago at all, half the population of this country could go absolutely spastic at the notion that a little boy just might be better off with his only living parent even if that parent resided in Cuba. I don't see people reacting the same way to the news that China is no longer permitting thousands of utterly unwanted baby girls to be adopted by foreigners, and even the "pro-life" contingent here doesn't seem too awfully upset by the prevalence of brutal late-term abortions there, which are forced upon Chinese mothers who violate the country's one-child laws- as long as we can get all the cheap goods from Chinese sweatshops we want.

I've always thought that Castro's regime would have toppled long ago were it not for the embargo, just as China's vastly more powerful communist party is now becoming ideologically compromised by traffic with the west and the rapid growth of its blatantly capitalistic economy and the expansion of prosperity and material amenity among its citizens. Ultimately, the communist regime there will fall, because the development of the new economy has undermined and compromised the ideology that justifies it, and we have to wonder just how much more quickly Cuba would have progressed toward freedom if we had established similar cooperation there.

We'll never know. However, we will soon know just what the embargo has cost this country and just how much we might have compromised our own future by our obstinacy and stupidity in maintaining the embargo, for the undeveloped island is now negotiating exploration and production contracts with Russia, China, and Angola, to drill in the Gulf of Mexico. American oil companies have never been able to exploit these deep sea fields because of the trade embargo on Cuba.

And now, they never will be able to, for other nations are stepping in where we have defaulted, and are locking up substantial portions of the world's remaining oil reserves for themselves.

Thanks to the temporary oil supply glut and corresponding low fuel prices, Americans are wallowing in complacency regarding our precarious supply situation, and our leaders don't seem unduly disturbed by the speed at which other nations are taking advantage of our financial mismanagement and diplomatic failures to lock up future exploration, drilling rights, and oil production. As it is, China, one of the only solvent industrial countries remaining, has taken ample advantage of its economic strength and everyone else's extreme weakness to make contracts for a big fraction of Canada's production, and that of the middle eastern countries.

Keep in mind that the race for the world's dwindling oil reserves is distinctly a zero-sum game. What other nations get, we don't get. Their gain is absolutely our loss.

While our leaders give some lip service to "reducing dependence on foreign oil", quite as though we had any of our own to speak of, other nations have been wasting no time taking advantage of our current economic weakness, and our incredible complacency, to step in line ahead of us, just as they are taking much more aggressive measures to reduce their energy consumption and develop alternatives. There has not been a nuclear power plant built in the U. S. in 30 years, while other nations are not only planning dozens of plants, but are utilizing new nuclear technologies that are vastly safer and more efficient than the old cold-water reactors built here. Other nations, less complacent about their fuel supplies than we and far more experienced in deprivation and shortages, are expanding their railroads and demanding ever more fuel-efficient autos and appliances, but our auto executives howl every time we mandate modest improvements in fuel efficiency, on the grounds that the cost of meeting them will stunt "economic growth".

It's probably too late for our oil companies to get a seat at the table in Cuba, even were we to end the trade embargo tomorrow. But there might be time to build a relationship with Russia, a major oil producer, another opportunity we have so far let slide, to our disadvantage. There might be a way to set things right in the middle east. We had better give it our best shot. If we don't want to employ diplomacy and a pragmatic approach to dealing with nations ruled by regimes we find distasteful on ideological grounds, and if we also don't want to steeply reduce our energy consumption no matter what it takes to accomplish that,then we had better work to rebuild our manufacturing capacity really, really fast so we can mobilize for the coming world resource wars, because the windows of opportunity are closing quickly and leaving us with no alternative.


consultant said...

The point of view I'm about to offer is always a tough one, but here goes.

White male supremacy and racism is what led to the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco. It's what led Castro to accept partnership with Russia. It's what produced the embargo and the long, sustained, sustained to the point of irrationality, embargo against Cuba.

How dare that latino revolutionary betray his color (white) and his professional class (lawyer) and side with his poor, brown and mostly black skin countrymen and overthrow a wildly unpopular, brutal dictator (Batista) who was amenable to the American government. We will teach that f**king "the N word" lover and any other country in the region to fear (white) American power.

It is absolutely no accident that the vast majority of the early (and later) Cuban refugees were light skin (white). A substantial majority of Cuba's population is black, and they fully supported the revolution. That in part explains the long term staying power of the Castro regime. Something that is NEVER reported in the white mainstream press because, well, it's the white mainstream press, reflecting all of the subconscious racism and privilege, that while not nearly as strong as it was at the time of the Revolution, still exhibits a marked ethnocentric view that downplays alternative narratives from nonwhite players.

Obama said something the other day at the start of the summit in Trinidad, that was very clever and true. He said to much laughter from the leaders, "..I hope you don't hold me responsible for something that happened when I was 3 months old".

In other words, a generation that I'm not part of took us down an unjustified path that was based mostly on racial vengeance rather than the mutual interests of either country. Give me a chance to chart a new course.

The North Coast said...

As it happens, I agree with you. I lived through the Bay of Pigs fiasco as a child, and it became obvious, upon later looks, that Batista would have fallen to much milder opposition were it not for the support we gave his filth regime.

Our record in Latin America is almost as bad as the Nazis' in Europe. We have never failed to support brutally repressive right-wing regimes, and seem to prefer them to truly democratic regimes.

However, that does not make Castro's regime good. It is not, even though it is an improvement on those of his predecessors. That's not saying much. And it would have fallen before now without the trade embargo.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but we have let right-wing leaders from Latin America and from emigre colonies here in the states dictate our foreign policy there for the past 50 years, greatly to our detriment.

consultant said...

We have let right-wing leaders from these countries influence our policies because in many ways they were consistent with our policies-with the values of most of our leaders.

As the old saying goes, it's never too late to change. But it may be too late to get us out of the Peak Oil dilemma we're up against.

Our country is clearly on a unsustainable path and it's more likely the case that even good relations with Cuba and access to its offshore waters might not help a country that has put itself between a rock and hard place.

The North Coast said...

Again, spot on. We can see how truly "democratic" this country is by what our ruling classes support.

We'll be soon scrambling for every drop of oil we can get from anywhere, any way we can get it. So we have to wonder WHY OH WHY our leadership has let every other nation get in line ahead of us for what's left when we are the country most dependent on copious quantities of cheap oil.

Something they should keep in mind, though, if by chance they should be planning of instituting a repressive regime to maintain order when things start unraveling, and that is that in times of societal collapse, elites are the ones who get their throats cut first