August 20, 2011
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death … Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5
What might war look like in a world beset by diminishing energy supplies, increasing climate related natural disasters and faltering global economic growth? I’ve wondered about that since I first became peak oil aware. Many doomers seemed to expect massive oil wars breaking out around the world as the Empire fought all comers for the dwindling oil supplies necessary to maintain itself. Others saw the possibility of an all-out nuclear war between the Empire and the various nuclear-armed countries, large and small.
Neither of these options seemed particularly realistic to me. After all, the aim of any military engaged in warfare is to win. And, as several writers have pointed out over the last few years, the U.S. military behemoth is the largest user of energy in the world. http://www.energybulletin.net/node/29925, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174810/
So, it seemed counterintuitive to fight oil wars with huge conventional armies that suck up as much oil pursuing the war as they “save” (as our hurry to disengage from our massive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to prove out). Where’s the win in that? As for all-out nuclear war, which would virtually guarantee what we most hoped to avoid through all the years of the “cold” war – mutually assured destruction – no win exists there either.
We do know, from the 2008 and 2010 Joint Operational Environment reports that the Imperial military has a keen awareness of both peak oil and climate change, as well as understanding the economic and societal consequence of both. (You can download the 2010 report here): http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf
And according to this article from Matthieu Auzanneau of the Oil Man blog, http://petrole.blog.lemonde.fr/2010/11/18/peak-oil-why-the-pentagon-is-pessimistic-exclusive/ the President, the National Security Council (and, surely, energy secretary Chu) are aware of these implications and consequences, too.
When President Bush signed the SOFA agreement that would lead to our withdrawal from Iraq by the end of this year and President Obama began talking about withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, (especially when the Republicans in Congress began going along with the idea,) it seemed to me that the Empire had finally begun to react to the realities of peak oil. Then came the sudden increase in our “drone wars” around the world – an altogether nasty and cowardly way to fight a war, in my estimation, though not an unexpected one from a decaying empire.
So, how might a failing global Empire – determined to fight to the bitter end for its own survival in a world of decreasing energy, increasing climate related disasters and their consequences to the global economy – wage its wars in that future? Conn Hallinan’s article, Shadow Wars, offers one ugly possibility. One that probably bodes as poorly for us as it does the rest of the world. http://dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/shadow-warriors-movin-on-up/
“For decades the U.S. military has waged clandestine war on virtually every continent on the globe, but, for the first time, high-ranking Special Operations Forces (SOF) officers are moving out of the shadows and into the command mainstream. Their emergence suggests the U.S. is embarking on a military sea change that will replace massive deployments, like Iraq and Afghanistan, with stealthy night raids, secret assassinations, and death-dealing drones. Its implications for civilian control of foreign policy promises to be profound …”
At one time in my wonderings about the effects of peak oil, in particular, on modern warfare, I naively entertained the hope it might bring an end to at least the massively destructive, oil-driven wars of the 20th and, so far, the 21st centuries. Perhaps it has, but pre-oil history is replete with empires which, in their death throes, eventually turned their covert wars against others into internecine wars upon themselves. It would seem we have now taken one more step toward that possibility.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow … indeed.