Wednesday, October 27, 2010

C.H.S.: Geopolitics and oil

Charles Hugh Smith offers a thought-provoking piece on geopolitics and peak oil:
There is only one nation-state which can project hard power: the U.S. A missile is not power-projection, because it exerts control over nothing; it is deterrence or threat, but not power that can be projected. Only aircraft carrier groups and the ability to transport an army by sea and air to any locale in the world is power projection.

The U.S. has 11 carrier groups, China has zero. The U.S. has the ability to transport a small army by air, China does not. The U.S. has the sealift capability to transport a large army by sea. China does not, and neither does Russia or the E.U.

Power projection is far more costly than defensive Armed Forces, and the U.S. is the only great power with true power projection because it alone has hegemony over the world's reserve currency. The U.S. skims a stupendous arbitrage profit from creating dollars and exporting them in exchange for real goods.

China and other aspiring great powers must actually make real profits. Just to put costs in context: China's huge $1.8 trillion in foreign reserves would cover the costs of global power projection for about two years.

We should also stipulate that an aircraft carrier alone is simply a sitting duck; it projects nothing but vulnerability. It is a carrier group which projects power, and that requires an enormous infrastructure: a small fleet of other vessels, satellite communications, anti-submarine capabilities, global bases to refuel/ reprovision, and so on.

When two carrier groups steam offshore, they are the largest air force in the world save a very few. The U.S. could trim its 11 carrier groups to 8 or 9 and still have the only large-scale, globally decisive 8 or 9 carrier groups in existence.

The same infrastructure is required to airlift or sealift troops: you need AWACS aircraft, global communications, global bases, and so on.

Why is all this important? because when push comes to shove, there is only nation which can project hard power in a meaningful, decisive manner: the U.S. Bankrupt, wounded, in decline, however you wish to characterize the U.S., it holds decisive dominance in hard power. And as long as the world accepts dollar hegemony, then the U.S. can afford its Empire.

As noted above: the true value of hard power cannot assessed until you don't have any. ...
Read the rest here.

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