Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Editor’s Corner Spring 2013

Editor’s Corner Spring 2013

In These Pages

The spring 2013 edition of Orbis addresses a number of timely issues. Jakub Grygiel begins by discussing the real meaning of educating for national security. He contends that national security requires more than technical skills. Rather it depends on a solid understanding of, and appreciation for, the state’s civilizational underpinnings—the religious beliefs, political ideals, and moral virtues. An education for national security must start from the desire to learn and understand one’s own national culture and tradition to be able to identify what one is supposed to defend.

Our first cluster of articles focuses on the problems faced by post-Communist democracies. Adrian A. Basora argues that the global financial crisis and its prolonged European aftermath have created a major stress test for democracy in the ten new post-communist members of the European Union. While most of these transitional states have weathered the economic storm, they have lost ground on the democratic side.  This could jeopardize the extraordinary progress in post-communist democratization and Western integration achieved with the help of U.S. and EU policy during the 1989-2004 period. Michael Cecire looks specifically at the result of the October 2012 election in Georgia. He argues that the Georgian elections may offer transferrable lessons for democracy promotion in other competitive authoritarian systems, specifically the need for better-tailored policies to address the hybrid nature of the latter model. 

This issue also features articles on regions that all too often receive less attention than they deserve: Latin America and Africa. Vanessa Neumann examines the threat created by the convergence of transnational criminal and terrorist organizations, creating a crime-terror pipeline. Nothing exemplifies this new threat better than the inroads made by Hezbollah in Latin America. Marilyn Moss Rockefeller and Joan Johnson-Freese look at the case of Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi, to highlight the struggles of female politicians in the male-dominated, traditional societies of Africa. 

Our second article cluster examines energy and environmental issues in Asia. Felix K. Chang writes about the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), America’s foremost engagement vehicle on the Indochina peninsula of Southeast Asia.  While it is primarily an integrated water management scheme for the river, the LMI also serves a larger American goal: to encourage regional cohesion and thereby slow the spread of Chinese influence.  Wojtek M. Wolfe looks at how China has sought to gain regional influence by utilizing a mix of energy investments and military modernization efforts. While China has experienced some success in this approach, the employment of strategic hedging has alarmed other regional actors. Toufiq Siddiqi discusses the intersection of energy, the possibility of climate change, and national security, with a particular emphasis on the role of Pakistan. The latter two articles are drawn from FPRI’s Asia Program Conference on “Energy, Environment and Security in Asia,” held in Washington, April 2012.

Rens Lee discusses Russia’s development of its isolated eastern territories, especially the Russian Far East (RFE) and the security implications of that development for the Asia-Pacific community. The United States has historical and security interests in preventing the domination of this strategically important region by outside states, and in fostering the stability and growth of the RFE as well as open access to its resources.

Finally, Stephen Marrin calls into question the conventional wisdom regarding the analytic performance of the Central Intelligence Agency and its contributions to “intelligence failures” such as 9/11. In fact, he argues, these so-called failures more accurately represent the perennial dilemmas and tradeoffs associated with the analysis of intelligence. It is unrealistic to expect the CIA to prevent surprise.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross reviews three books on preventive detention of terrorist suspects. These works offer contending perspectives on the contradictory consensus that seems to prevail among America’s political class: on the one hand, this consensus holds that detention of the kind we see at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is bad, and should not be used in the future; on the other, that Gitmo should not be closed in any meaningful way. Ultimately, the contradictory nature of this consensus reflects a tension that goes back to the American founding: the tension between vigilance and responsibility.

Impromptus and Asides: The Emerging Geopolitics of Energy

The seizure of a natural gas complex at Ain Amenas in Algeria by Islamic militants earlier this year—which left all of the terrorists dead along with a number of foreign hostages, including three Americans—serves as a microcosm of a larger issue: the vulnerability of the United States and other energy consuming nations to the vicissitudes of events in the Middle East and Africa. For decades, the energy needs of the United States and other Western countries have permitted unstable, corrupt, and often anti-American governments in a volatile region to hold Western energy consumers hostage. 

 But the geopolitics of energy may be about to change. According to a November, 2012 report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States is set to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer by 2017. Why? The advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies (“fracking”) that have enabled U.S. producers to achieve high rates of gas production from deep gas shale formations are also applicable to oil production.

A December 2012 report of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) points out that these new technologies allowed the United States to increase U.S. crude oil production by 760,000 barrel-per-day the largest rise in annual oil output since the middle of the nineteenth century

As the 2012 edition of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook reports, “the extraordinary growth in oil and natural gas output in the United States will mean a sea-change in global energy flows.” The result is that the United States will become a net energy exporter in the next few years.

If this happens, the Middle East and Africa will become less important to the United States than they are now. The ability of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to manipulate global oil prices will be broken and the ability of Vladimir Putin’s Russia to blackmail Eastern and Central Europe will be diminished.  

Of course environmentalists oppose fracking, the process of injecting steam and chemicals into shale rock formations to unlock energy sources previously considered marginal. Critics claim that fracking uses too much water and that water sources will become contaminated. But so far, not even the EPA has been able to confirm such claims.

Nonetheless, opposition by environmentalists may well resonate with the Obama Administration leading to the sorts of regulations that could strangle the energy revolution before it gets started. The only reason that federal regulators have not been able to dig their claws into fracking is that much of it has taken place on private lands. But states can limit fracking, as New York has done, even as neighboring Pennsylvania is experiencing an economic boom based on exploitation of the Marcellus shale formation. 

Unfortunately, the record of this administration does not bode well for taking advantage of the fracking revolution. Its war against fossil fuels is well documented.

One of President Obama’s first acts was to rescind a Bush executive order that permitted drilling on the continental shelf. Shortly thereafter, his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, unilaterally canceled 77 oil and gas leases in Utah. The administration followed up by increasing the size of the designated wilderness area off limits to the extraction of fossil fuels.

The Deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, from which the region quickly recovered, became the pretext for blocking or delaying the return of American oil rigs to the Gulf. Finally, the administration blocked the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported crude from Canadian oils sands to Oklahoma refineries. Meanwhile the administration has unleashed the EPA on coal fired plants while continuing to throw taxpayer money down the green energy rat hole, to the applause of environmentalists and   to the benefit of corporate rent seekers who understand how to game the system.

Environmentalist opposition to fracking has combined with the interests of Middle Eastern oil producers to create strange bedfellows indeed. Nothing illustrates this phenomenon better than the fact that Matt Damon’s anti-fracking propaganda movie, Promised Land, was financed in part by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a member of OPEC.

Advances in directional drilling and fracking have the potential to change the geopolitical landscape to the benefit of the United States and its friends and allies. The question is: will this profound transformation be strangled by the administration’s war on energy?