By David L. Brown
As the world churns and turns it seems that hardly a day goes past without the results of some horrible oversight or lack of foresight coming to light. The flavor of the week today is the Russian invasion of a democratic nation that is a friend of America.
It has been apparent for some time now that Russia is prepared to flex its muscles and begin once again to rebuild its lost Soviet empire. With the ruthless military invasion of Georgia, the Russian bear is openly displaying its fangs and claws.
And what will be the effect of this new demonstration of militarism on the part of a resurgent Russian Superpower, now flush with riches from oil and gas? Well, it’s hard to see much upside for the West because as usual we have failed to learn from the past and allowed Russia to get into a position of power over Western civilization. How?
Well, for starters Russia virtually holds Europe by the throat because it not only is the main source of the Continent’s natural gas and much of its oil, but it controls pipelines that feed those vital commodities from the East and Middle East. Europe will not react to the ruthless destruction of democratic Georgia except at the risk of experiencing the Mother of All Blackouts. Even if the sheep-like Europeans keep quiet, Russia is no doubt eager to keep turning the screws on energy costs by restricting or threatening supplies. They have already demonstrated that power by punishing former Soviet states with energy restrictions, so it is a natural next step to see them actually invading Georgia.
And what about the United States? Well, of course anything that creates instability in the world economy, and particularly energy supplies, is a huge problem for us. But there is something else that we don’t hear much about and which could be developing as a major disaster for us.
I will list the basic elements and let you put them together:
1 — In about two years, the U.S. is set to retire the Space Shuttle “fleet” (if you can call three vehicles a fleet). The Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour craft are all scheduled to make their last flights in 2010.
2 — NASA’s plans to complete and bring into service a replacement for the Space Shuttle vehicles have been delayed and pushed back so that at present the new craft will not be available until 2015, barring any further delays. (For the arithmetically challenged, that leaves a five year gap. Much can happen in five years.)
3 — In the meantime, in order to supply and ferry crew members to the International Space Station, the United States will rely on vehicles provided at considerable expense (if at all) by — well, need I say it? Yes, the Russians. They will have us right where we don’t want to be, at their complete mercy.
Those facts add up to, well, a lot more than a public relations embarrassment. If the Russians decide not to cooperate with NASA, it would be a total disaster for the American space effort, with political, intelligence, and military repercussions. Meanwhile, it is a powerful weapon to hold over our heads as the Russians continue on their renewed plans to become the world’s leading Superpower.
Europe is out of the picture. NATO is dead on arrival. The Chinese have stolen a big chunk of America’s industrial base. The unstable Islamic places fortunate enough to live atop oil resources are absolutely floating in trillions of petro dollars and “investing” billions in the advancement of Islamic aims (i.e., jihad and “Death to Infidels!”).
I predict a new world coming in which Russia continues to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of the Soviet Union to become a new economic Superpower. This will usher in a new Cold War that will not turn on ICBMs, armored divisions and artillery, but on raw economic force with fossil fuels as the lubricants of power and the objects of aggression.
As is already being suggested in the wake of the invasion of Georgia, we can kick Russia out of the G-8, but do they really need that? Consider that Russia already has its claws around the necks of four of the G-7 countries, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, and the rest (the U.S., Canada and Japan) are woefully dependent upon imported oil. The Group of Seven may once have been the apex of economic power in the world, but that time seems to be sinking fast into the swamp of history.
Which raises the question: As the Cold War picks up where it left off, will there be another Superpower around to face down the once and future Soviets? Well, not unless America gets on a different path PDQ. Otherwise, we will be sitting on the sidelines with Europe watching the Russians and the Islamic Jihadists duke it out over the remaining Asian and Mideast oil, with perhaps a little comic relief from the Chinese and Indians. Knowing the tendencies of all those players, it will be in no way a “cold” war, not at all.
What do we need to do? The list is long and the price will be high, but it can no longer be postponed.
First, we must wean ourselves from the addiction to oil as fast as possible. That is a gigantic task, because we have invested a century in building a society and an infrastructure that is based on cheap oil.
As far as the space program goes, we must either give up on our man-in-space programs or make a renewed effort to replace the Shuttles, fast. Perhaps the existing fleet can be kept going for another year or so until the replacements come on line. Whatever it takes, if we want to remain active in manned space exploration, it must be done on the fast track. But, in my opinion it is a good time to reevaluate the space program. Do we really, truly need to put a manned base on the Moon? Gosh, I don’t think so; we have enough problems right here on Earth. Do we absolutely, positively need to launch a (possibly doomed) manned mission to Mars? Probably not except as a public relations gesture. Do we need to maintain our stake in the International Space Station, an effort that has failed to deliver nearly all of its promised advantages? In short, no.
All of that cost and effort could and probably should be devoted to developing a new, sustainable energy infrastructure and developing our own oil and gas resources. Only that can defang the Russian bear, which has only oil and gas to hold over the West, as well as putting a stop to the extortion visited upon us by our very dear friends in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, and those other festering hellholes of Islamic adventurism. Only when we can thumb our noses at those who are using their oil to blackmail and extort vast sums from the West can we hope for a renewed future for America.