Sunday, May 13, 2007

Friedman does good

For those kids who get access to New York Times op-eds, Thomas Friedman points out something that the Dems in Congress need to be thinking about.

Sure, getting out of Iraq seems to be a good policy at the moment, but in the interest of national self-preservation, we might want to not be so economically tied to the autocrats there. Or the conservative religious nuts that they, we are funding.

And so it goes:

"...the last thing we can afford to do is walk away from the Middle East militarily while remaining chained to it economically...

More important, if Iraq totally fails, but we still believe it is in our interest to promote reform in the Middle East, a serious U.S. energy policy that permanently brings down the price of oil — by developing scalable alternative energies — is actually the best Plan B there is. You will see reform in the Arab-Muslim world only when regimes there can’t survive just by extracting oil, but have to extract the talents of their people by educating, empowering and connecting them."

Though the self-interest motif isn't the most enlightened way to look at how you treat other countries, it is the most realistic.

And those who condemn what the U.S. policy is doing do have to offer alternatives. Real consensus with both parties can't be won with the politics of pessimism, but the plan to actually do something progressive for the way we do business.

There is praise for some:

"Chris Dodd has just broken ranks and become the first presidential candidate to issue a serious, comprehensive energy plan that includes the 'T word.' He has called for a 'corporate carbon tax' that would both help fight global warming emissions and raise gasoline prices."

“You say the word ‘tax’ and people usually head for the hills,” Mr. Dodd told me. “But this is one where the American people can handle the truth. Unless you address the issue of price, you’re not serious about moving us from Point A to Point B.”

Barack Obama also just got right in Detroit’s face. He went to Motown, called for much tougher fuel economy standards and bluntly told automakers and autoworkers the truth: “For years, while foreign competitors were investing in more fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were spending their time investing in bigger, faster cars. Whenever an attempt was made to raise our fuel efficiency standards, the auto companies would lobby furiously against it, spending millions to prevent the very reform that could’ve saved their industry.” Those are fightin’ words!

"...announced that it was joining other major U.S. corporations, like General Electric, and signing on to the United States Climate Action Partnership (U.S.C.A.P.), which calls for a cap-and-trade program to control carbon dioxide emissions. G.M. is the first auto company to do so."

Of course, the politics of self-interest may seem to denigrate the fact that a primary source of income for the Arab world is oil revenue, and if we pull the plug, then their economy collapses, and the situation becomes worse. But that seems cynical.

We ought not consider the same region of the world that fostered and maintained the scientific, logical inquiry of ancient Greece to fall down and be a pauper among regions. But the West must foster positive movements among moderates, in the universities, without demanding that the region embrace secularism and liberal economics within the scope of a some years.

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