Friday, February 24, 2006

Deterring WMD terrorism

The “war” that the United States is attempting to wage against Islamic Fundamentalist terrorist is inextricably interwoven with the economics of oil in particular, and the world economy in general. What follows are some thoughts that came to mind while contemplating the controversy over the purchase by a Dubai organization of the British operator of our major East Coast port facilities. Though such a transfer of ownership at first seems counterintuitive to our security interests, a little thought and analysis indicate otherwise. It also suggests what may be a realistic means of engaging the cooperation, or rather, twisting the arm of all who may be in a position to help us thwart a WMD attack upon the U.S.

Americans expect that their dollars will buy all the gallons of gasoline that their over-sized SUVs will guzzle and do so at a price that ranges from between one-third to one-half of what Europeans customarily pay for their motor fuels. What we seem to lack is a clear notion of why anyone should be willing to sell to us all that sticky, black stuff we need to craft the lighter, aromatic fluids we use to power our cars, trucks, tractors, planes and trains. Well, for every dollar we give them for their crude oil, they – be they Emirates, Kingdoms, Islamic Republics or any one of the other assorted arrangements of dubious or unsavory political stripe – actually expect to use that dollar as they see fit. To buy with it what they wish, when they wish, given an agreeable price and terms.

If you were to have dollars that could not buy what other dollars could, they wouldn’t be worth as much as those “other” dollars, would they? And the price of what you’d be willing to exchange for such “restricted” dollars would probably rise, wouldn’t it? But any given dollar is supposed to be interchangeable, that is fungible, with any other dollar. It’s value should not depend upon who is holding it. If it does, then the dollar’s value is lessened. Especially for those holding “restricted” dollars. So, if we tell the Emirate of Dubai, or any other OPEC member for that matter, that their dollars are not the same currency as that held by others, we can expect the price of oil to rise, substantially perhaps.

The price of crude oil has already risen substantially over the past three-plus years. At the end of November, 2002, the dollar and euro were at parity and the price of a barrel of crude was $23.32. By mid-February of last year the price of crude was $39.59 per barrel, but the euro price was only 30.77. That’s a 28.7 percent premium for dollar oil over the price in euros. Today the dollar is worth 0.8390 euros, crude oil is at about $60 per barrel, and so the euro price would be about $50 per barrel. We are thus still paying a 20 percent premium for crude over the price our European cousins do. They of course pay much higher price for refined fuels but that is mostly a function of taxes and not obscene windfall profits by big oil companies.

Restricting investment by those foreigners holding petrol-dollars could go a long way towards further increasing the price of crude oil through additional reduction in the value of the dollar. If we can’t trust those who accept our money for their goods, then we’d better stop asking them accept our dollars.

We also must ask ourselves why we would expect those investing their oil dollars in the United States to diminish or destroy the value of those investments? We should be quite confident that the Dubai company purchasing the operating control of the ports has absolutely no intention of facilitating nor any desire of being responsible for a WMD terrorist attack that results from its ownership of port operations. Their $6.8 billion investment could become worthless. Middle Eastern Arabs may confound and enrage us, but they still have their own financial self-interest at heart.

The same is probably true of all of those around the world with whom we do business, but with whom we experience elevated levels of political, religious or cultural friction. This is at least true of those who control the monies and are running the economic show in those countries. This is why we should little fear that any recognized political entity has any desire to instigate or perpetrate a WMD, especially nuclear, terrorist attack upon the U.S. Such an event would probably totally screw up the world economy and result in horrific financial losses to those who have invested their dollars in the U.S. The Saudis and other Muslim countries may not be, nor may ever be our friends, but they do covet the business we and others send their way, as well as the value of their investments in our fair land and other points West of their oil-rich desert kingdom. The same preference for wealth preservation can be said true of any number of other countries – Muslim or otherwise.

If economic considerations provide reasonable insurance against state- or corporate-sponsored WMD attacks, how do we deter the rogue factions that seem to care not a twit for the world economy and the impact its devastation would have upon even Muslim lands? What should be America’s response if we ever experience a nuclear terror attack upon one or more of our major cities? As President how would you respond? If you’re still around, that is. Whom do we nuke? No one? Everyone? How would we determine who was responsible for furnishing the weapon? Building it? Delivering it? Detonating it?

The Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) school of deterrence doesn’t work if one doesn’t know against whom to retaliate. So how might we construct a deterrence not involving the retaliatory use of nuclear weapons? How do we get the Arab world, and any others upon whom we might cast a suspecting eye as perpetrators or co-conspirators, to actively work to prevent such an attack?

Show them the money. The money they would forfeit should such an attack occur. The assets we’d confiscate. The wealth within our grasp that we’d strip from them. And promise to do so to the fullest extent that we have the capacity to impose our will. What else, other than the threat to obliterate the entire Muslim world – a threat not credible – would have any deterrent effect?

If you know, please tell the President. So he can tell “them.” Meanwhile, be assured that the Emirate of Dubai will do a fine job of running the ports. Just learn to enjoy hommus and lamb. We here in the Detroit area, having the largest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East, have become quite fond of Middle Eastern cuisine. There’s a bright side to everything!

Bon appétit!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

That almost doesn't require translation, does it? Jesuits place the abbreviated form, AMDG, at the end of letters and other documents to indicate that what they’ve done has been done for the greater glory of God. Muslims do something analogous when they invoke the name of the Prophet Mohammed – “pbuh” – that is, “peace be upon him.” At least Saudi Muslims do. How do I know that and what does it matter?

Well, for those who may not have yet heard as it’s not been widely publicized by the mainstream media (MSM), former Vice President Al Gore gave an address on Sunday the 12th of February to the Jeddah Economic Forum held in, of all places, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In a story dated the 13th, the Arab News, a Saudi English language publication, starting in the third paragraph and while quoting Mr. Gore states that:

“The 21st century has to be a century of renewal, and our ability to
overcome these kinds of cycles of disrespect and violence is the key to making
it a century of renewal,” he said, alluding, like many other speakers at the
forum, to the recent controversy that erupted over caricatures of Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh).

Commenting on the negative Saudi image in America and the treatment
meted out to Saudi nationals and Muslims in the US after the tragic events of
Sept. 11, 2001, he said that he and his Democratic Party colleagues have always
opposed illegal detentions of Arabs and other people in the United States.

“Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it’s wrong,” said
Gore, adding that there were people even in the current Republican
administration who have worked to protect the human and civil rights guaranteed
in the US Constitution, and to expose abuses that have occurred following the
Sept. 11 attacks. He also criticized the thoughtless manner in which visas for
Arabs are now handled.

“. . . even in the current Republican administration”! Isn’t that special? This does make one wonder how Americans would have reacted to Mr. Gore had he made remarks critical of the U.S. while delivering a prepared speech in Japan or Germany during the halcyon days of WW II. And getting paid for it, to boot. My, oh my, how things have changed. But then, the Saudis are our “friends,” aren’t they? Seems I’ve heard somebody say that. So how can we be critical of Mr. Gore mouthing such defamatory statements regarding his own country when he’s just having a friendly chat with our friends? Guess we can’t. Nor should the subject even be brought up.

A non-scientific, small-sample survey of a few MSM sources indicates that they whole-heartily agree amongst themselves that this is the case. A search conducted on Wednesday for items published over the prior seven days on the sites of the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC News, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News for the term “gore AND saudi” yielded exactly two results. Both were at the Washington Post site and both were the exact same Associated Press article published on two consecutive days. Expanding the time frame did yield results for those same sites, so the search expression was not faulty.

One might also want to take note of some familiar corporate names who were sponsors of the Jeddah forum. To start with we have one of the “diamond” sponsors, the Saudi Binladen Group. Sound familiar? But that’s to be expected. Included in the “gold” category we have Budget Car and Van Rental, (wonder how many are one-way?), Citigroup Private Bank, (that’s for the big shooters/exploders), and SAP Arabia, (that wouldn’t refer to us, would it?). Dropping a notch to the “silver” there’s Credit Suisse, (they had to be in there somewhere), and GM, (wait ‘til the UAW hears about this). While one of the media sponsors is Sky News, sister network to our very own favorite FOX News. How ‘bout that?

While Al’s in Jeddah sliming his own country, for pay, in the homeland of fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of 9/11 fame, at an economic forum sponsored in part by some big-name American corporations, V.P. Cheney is out over the weekend quail hunting and regrettably but accidentally shoots and, as it turned out, seriously wounds a friend. Guess who’s raw meat for the MSM dogs?

Even Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal has suggested that Bush might want to dump the Vice President, he’s become such weighty baggage. Though, as an elected official, I do believe he’d have to resign or be impeached. However, Bush has already stated he’s satisfied with Dick’s explanation of the accident and the surrounding events. And why shouldn’t he be? There really isn’t all that much explaining required by the circumstances.

Mr. Gore can disgrace himself, lie about and defame his country, and sell his soul to the Saudis with barely a peep in the media. His words and deed will reverberate throughout the Middle East to the detriment of the United States and all that it hopes to accomplish in that racked and inflamed part of the planet. More fuel for the conflagration that may yet turn out to be our funeral pyre. But he gets a pass since his mind is right and he’s of approved political stripe.

Mr. Cheney? No quarter given this guy. He’s the Dark Lord of the Administration. Surpassed, perhaps, only by the trebly-evil Karl Rove. Should the V.P. resign? Will he resign? Off with his head! Oh, my!

My days as a political junkie may be near an end. I just don’t know how much longer I can tolerate all this deceitful nonsense. This foul crap. The defamation being endlessly spewed by the MSM, Democrats and radical liberals is revolting. They aren’t just traitors to their country, they’re traitors to themselves and all humanity. And it certainly isn’t for the greater glory of God.

That’s what the Saudis are up to. And if the attitude of the Democrats and their political rhetoric remain as foul, acerbic and disingenuous as it has been for some time now, the Saudis will have their way with us. The Saudis will have their way if the President, along with a large contingent of the GOP, continue to refuse to publicly recognize the danger that is Saudi Arabia. They are not our friends. They wish to be our masters. How much longer can it be before they are? With oil at $60+ per barrel, it shouldn't take them that long to buy an effective controlling interest in the United States, should it?

Pity be upon us.