Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Resource Bludgeon

I had a really interesting conversation with one of the docents during a tour of the floating museum-cum-aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet, docked in Alameda, California.

Your blogger, following subliminal orders from his wife.

This is the on-board computer dating from the 1950s. When I took this picture I told the docent I was a time-traveling Soviet spy.

I don't think they had to worry about computer viruses. What genre would come between steampunk and cyberpunk? Eisenhowerpunk?

The hydraulics that launched the planes on the deck above our heads.

The Hornet was one of many ships that engaged in the final battle with the famous Yamato (serious link here, fun links here and here). The first round confirmed to have struck Yamato was from this ship. As it turns out, the Yamato was hobbled and unable or unwilling to operate at full capacity. Why? It was conserving fuel. It was the end of the war, and Japan was running out of oil, because we had strategically cut off Japan's resources.

Didn't someone once say that war is mostly logistics? This is true at every scale, from World Wars to Indian wars. The Modoc War of 1872-3 was one of America's last full-on Indian wars, and pitted 200 Modoc men, women and children against 2,000 Union regulars. The Modoc held out in the moon-like lava fields of inland northern California for six months. What finally broke the resistance? Not a frontal assault by the Union regulars. The Union cut off the Modoc from their water supply.

The use of resources in global struggle isn't new. In Czar Putin's current deprivation of Europe of natural gas, we have only the most current example. Resources matter, and we should expect countries to fight over them (as China and the U.S. in Africa), or use them for leverage. Getting off fossil fuel should be, first and foremost, a long-term strategic national security objective. Then we can stop worrying about what anybody thinks in Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Why am I worried? I have the strong impression that American liberals understand this message more clearly than American conservatives, but are unwilling to make the hard foreign policy decisions that will assure a better future for democracy.

In oddly related news, that same weekend I saw my first Tesla on the road. Tesla is the same company that announced plans in September to build a plant in San Jose, despite the economic headwind. Tesla is to my knowledge the only car company to be building plants in the U.S., rather than shutting them down. Economic success depends more than ever on technological innovation. Zakaria points out the links between foreign policy strategy and economic success. The San Francisco Bay Area, is, oddly, continuing to set an example that modern conservatives would do well to observe.

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