Cultural Divides
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avgust 20, 2008


















Cultural Divides and Caspian Oil-5

Samuel Huntington's notion of "conflict of civilizations", by identifying Orthodox Christianity as a civilization in conflict with the West and its famous "values", has offered an ideological cover for the "divide and conquer" strategy, which has less appeal, but is not incompatible with, the "humanitarian" justification. It has been taken up by influential writer Robert D. Kaplan, who sees a "real battle" that is "drawn along historical-civilizational lines. On the one side are the Turks, their fellow Azeri Turks in Azerbaijan, the Israelis and the Jordanians [...]. On the other side are those who suffered the most historically from Turkish rule: the Syrian and Iraqi Arabs, the Armenians, the Greeks and the Kurds". It is not hard to see whose side the United States must be on in this battle, or which must be the winning side.

Kaplan places Kosovo "smack in the middle of a very unstable and important region where Europe joins the Middle East" while "Europe is redividing along historic and cultural lines".

"There is a Western, Catholic, Protestant Europe and an Eastern Orthodox Europe, which is poorer, more politically unsettled and more ridden with organized crime. That Orthodox realm has been shut out of NATO and is angrier by the day, and it is fiercely anti-Moslem", Kaplan declares.

An oddity of these "cultural divide" projections is that they find the abyss between Eastern and Western Christianity far deeper and more unbridgeable than the difference between Christianity and Islam. The obvious short, three-letter explanation is "oil". But there is a complementary explanation that is more truly cultural, relating to the transnational nature of Islam and to the importance of its charitable organizations. Steve Niva has noted a split within the US foreign policy establishment between conservatives (clearly absent from the Clinton administration) who see Islam as a threat, and "neo-liberals" for whom the primary enemy is "any barrier to free trade and unfettered markets". These include European leaders, oil companies and Zbigniew Brzezinski. "Incorporating Islamists into existing political systems would disperse responsibility for the state's difficulties while defusing popular opposition to severe economic `reforms' mandated by the IMF. Islamist organizations could also help fill the gap caused by the rollback of welfare states and social services...", Niva observed.

In any case, all roads lead to the Caspian, and through Kosovo. Kaplan publicly advises the nation's leaders that an "amoral reason of self-interest" is needed to persuade the country to keep troops in the Balkans for years to come. The reason is clear. "With the Middle East increasingly fragile, we will need bases and fly-over rights in the Balkans to protect Caspian Sea oil. But we will not have those bases in the future if the Russians reconquer southeast Europe by criminal stealth. Finally, if we tell our European allies to go it alone in Kosovo, we can kiss the Western Alliance goodbye"(19).

Looking at a map, one may wonder why it is necessary to go through Kosovo to obtain Caspian oil. This is a good question. However, U.S. strategists don't simply want to obtain oil, which is a simple matter if one has money. They want to control its flow to the big European market. The simple way to get Caspian oil is via pipeline southward through Iran. But that would evade U.S. control. Or through Russia; just as bad. The preferred U.S. route, a pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan has been rejected as too costly. Turkey has vetoed massive oil tanker traffic through the Bosporus on ecological grounds. That leaves the Balkans. It seems the U.S. would like to build a pipeline across the Balkans, no doubt with Bechtel getting the building contract -- former Bechtel executive and Reagan administration Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger is a leading Kosovo warhawk. Bechtel has already obtained major contracts in Tudjman's Croatia. It is interesting that the Danube, likely to fall under German control, has been blocked for serious transport by NATO's bombing of Serbia's bridges.

On the way to the Caspian, the next stop after Yugoslavia could be the big prize: Ukraine, which like the other former Soviet Republics is already under U.S. influence through NATO's "Partnership For Peace". Early this year, asked by a German magazine whether NATO should be the world policeman, NATO commander Wesley Clark observed that the "countries on the Caspian Sea are members of the `Partnership for Peace'. They have the right to consult NATO in case of threat." Clark "didn't want to speculate on what NATO might then do..."

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