[Cold War rivalries, energy depletion, dollar hegemony, the roles of India and China, and Washington playing games in over its head—all of these dots are connected in Stan Goff’s next segment of his India series. As he explains in this article, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a pivotal piece of Asia’s strategy to counter the U.S. Empire’s encroachment.—CB]
INDIA TAKES THE STAGE - PART VI
FTW Military/Veterans Affairs Editor
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September 28th 2006, 2:17PM [PST] - It is in this context that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has appeared on the scene, and we are about to watch the launch of the Russian oil bourse, denominated in Rubles. The denial by members that the SCO is a counter-NATO is not merely disingenuous. The SCO is still a long way from serving such a purpose… if ever.
With Russia the near-term target of US policy since the collapse of the USSR, and China the long-term target of US geo-strategic maneuvering, and Iran an intermediate target that has been put on hold by the quagmire in Iraq… each of the actors in this global drama is shorn of a predictable script. The cultural analog that may be in play is that Bush grew up on television, Putin grew up with chess, and the Chinese Communist Party entertains itself with “Go”. Television provides a ready-made script in a Manichean universe that always has a happy ending. Chess provides unpredictability in an amoral test of competitive strategy, with the object being to simultaneously protect and defeat a king. Go, also called Igo in Japan and Baduk in Korea, is -- like chess -- what game theorists call a “perfect information” contest, where the actions of the opposing player are perfectly visible, while the strategy can only be inferred. The size of the Go board, however, allows multiple strategies to be pursued in conjunction with one another, which gives the game a level of complexity that cannot be found in chess, and the game emphasizes the strategic value of space as well as position.
It is said that Donald Rumsfeld is a fan of “metrics.” It is hard to believe that George W. Bush is a fan of literacy. Metrics are simply addition and subtraction of indices, dead, wounded, captured, et al. This is how he measures progress, and in Iraq it has become apparent that metrics have served him as well as metrics served Robert McNamara in Vietnam. The game of Go has so many strategic possibilities that it has proven resistant to computer programming. Computer chess programming is child’s play by comparison.
Go is resistant to programming for four reasons: (1) the condition of “victory” is optimized, or measured through maximizing or minimizing something objective, like space, without a decisive qualitative stroke, such as capture of a King, (2) the massive numbers of games possible on the large board (9.3 x 10 to the 567th power, without capture) [There are an estimate 10 to the 90th power of protons in the visible universe.], (3) a Ko rule stipulating no recreation of board positions from stalemates with the potential for an infinite reciprocity of capture, and (4) the high value of pattern recognition.
The Chinese have never felt the cultural attachment of the West to zero-sum games.
The point of this digression is to say that this administration may be playing well over its head. The establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was a strategic masterstroke. The question is, will India pay attention? There are some indications that it may.
In spite of India’s cozying up to the US on the issue of nuclear development, this year Indian Defense Minister, Pranab Mukhejee, negotiated the signing of a first-ever defense cooperation agreement with China, after which China hosted visits from the Indian National Security staff, and a parliamentary delegation. President Hu Jintao will visit India later this year. SCO heavyweight, Russia, is negotiating for a natural gas pipeline from Iran to India. Russia and Iran are the two largest natural gas producing countries. There could be a natural gas OPEC in the offing, and India as well as China would be the primary beneficiaries.
Russia, China, and India share security concerns about armed political Islamist groups. Russia has oil for sale, too. India and Russia are two huge and hugely needed alternative export markets for Chinese manufacture if it is to disentangle itself from the US.
It is hard to tell whether the absence of Prime Minister Singh at the June SCO Conference was merely to avoid being seen with Iranian President Mahmoud Amedinijad prior to his July meeting with Bush on the nuclear deal. But what is interesting is who was sent in his place: Oil Minister Murali Deora.
What will be even more interesting is whether the Bush government will be able to compel the Singh government, with the lever of the nuclear deal, to censure Iran in the United Nations, even as the Russian engineers are troubleshooting a pipeline to deliver Iranian natural gas to the energy-hungry Indian doorstep.
The warning from China this year, on the other hand, that ruble convertibility and a Moscow ruble-oil bourse was premature, “a fight at close quarters” (People’s Daily), may have been an attempt to pass along wisdom to an ally, but it may have been motivated by China’s exposure to a weakening dollar--which could become considerably weaker if Putin’s gamble pays off. The Chinese predicated their own analysis on the dire consequences of a sudden drop in oil prices (high oil prices undoubtedly have played a significant role in pulling Russia out of its economic slump), but the Chinese, publicly at least, deny the reality of a current and irreversible oil peak.
The situation is not a tug-of-war, or even multiple tugs-of-war. It is perfectly unpredictable. By perfectly, I mean just that -- an aspect of complexity that can create patterns within which there is never a perfect repetition of any other iteration.
The best model I can think of to represent the current geopolitics of the Energy War is the Lorenzian water wheel. Adeel Aslam Bhutta describes the Lorenzian water wheel as having…
…about eight buckets spaced evenly around its rim with a small hole at the bottom of each. The entire system was placed under a waterspout. A slow, constant stream of water was propelled from the waterspout; hence, the waterwheel began to spin at a fairly constant rate. Lorenz decided to increase the flow of water, and, as predicted in his Lorenz Attractor, an interesting phenomenon arose. The increased velocity of the water resulted in a chaotic motion for the waterwheel. The waterwheel would revolve in one direction as before, but then it would suddenly jerk about and revolve in the opposite direction. The filling and emptying of the buckets was no longer synchronized; the system was now chaotic. Lorenz observed his mysterious waterwheel for hours, and, no matter how long he recorded the positions and contents of the buckets, there was never an instance where the waterwheel was in the same position twice. The waterwheel would continue on in chaotic behavior without ever repeating any of its previous conditions.
The flow of water is a physical analog for time. As the pace of events increases, the number of points of “instability” in any complex system also increases, and concomitantly the system’s general unpredictability.
When we look at the geopolitics of today, to which India has now been centrally drawn, the pace of the Cold War’s rivalries, and its impact on the world system, seems almost stately.
A first tipping point came with the economic crisis that hit the US around 1970 as a result of, among other things, the Vietnam occupation. This was over 30 years after World War II had started, the last major punctuation. Then the time from Nixon’s resolution in 1973 until the break-up of the Warsaw Pact alliance was another 26 years.
But with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, the invasion of Iraq took a mere two and a half years. Ten years later, the World Trade Center crashed into a toxic dust cloud, and one and a half years after that the US invaded Iraq again, this time to stay.
As the flow of time through this Lorenzian waterspout accelerates, each of these actors, while exercising some agency, is also being tossed back and forth by the chaos that inheres in that acceleration. And as Lorenz, both a mathematician and meteorologist, noted when asked a question about the government’s attempts to control the weather: such a hopelessly hubristic attempt at control is doomed from the start -- you can certainly change the weather just as you can shuffle a deck of cards, but whether that change produces good or bad luck is beyond your control.
Lorenz also posited the notion of a form of stability inside chaotic systems, and called it the attractor. It is seen as a balance to entropy (the tendency toward higher levels of disorder). In nature sans Homo sapiens, these attractors occur through emergence alone. In society/nature, it has proven possible, albeit with very imperfect predictability, to generate attractors -- some churches being a common example.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an attempt to create a counter-pole of attraction to the system of dollar-hegemony as that system has begun a series of catastrophic bifurcations.
Liu Jianfei teaches at the International Strategic Research Center of China's Central Communist Party School. Writing August 19, 2006, in the People’s Daily Online, Liu pointed to the hypocritical stance of the United States with regard to Iran:
The reason why the whole world has been paying close attention to Iran's nuclear issue is that the thorny problem does not only relate to nuclear proliferation and regional security issues, but also, if not handled properly, will strike against world oil supply, jeopardize energy security and affect the prosperity and stability of world economy. Once the global economy becomes turbulent and unstable, the vast majority of the countries in the world would not be able to conduct themselves virtuously. Although energy security is treated as a part of non-traditional issues, it will affect the traditional military security and influence international relations. In recent years many disputes have arisen between different countries as a result of energy entanglements. If not tackled properly, these disputes will seriously affect the relations between states, especially between big powers, which will eventually undermine the regional stability.
How to address energy security issues is a major problem facing the entire contemporary world. Some countries treat the energy issue by using traditional realism thinking and make indiscreet remarks or criticisms on some developing countries’ increasing energy demand. They drum for “energy threat” theory. It seems that they are the only eligible countries to consume energy on the earth.
In his very Chinese idiom, Liu puts his finger directly on US imperial Exterminism -- “the only eligible countries to consume energy on the earth.
Meanwhile, investment executive, Henry CK Liu, writing from Manhattan, remarks on the soon-to-be-opened Moscow Oil Bourse,
Russian oil denominated in rubles will create a global demand for the ruble to make it an alternative reserve currency for international trade, given that Russia is the second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia and the Russian economy, unlike that of the Saudis, is big enough to absorb huge amounts of rubles the Russian government can print. This will transform Russia overnight into a global financial power.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is the manifestation a joint Chinese-Russian strategy to counter a strategy in Washington called the Great Central Asia Policy, with Afghanistan as its military anchor, that was to conquer the former Soviet satellite states and encircle China. As this strategy meets resistance from Central Asia itself, Washington has now vested its greatest hopes for salvaging this policy in India.