Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.
March 13, 2014
On Native Ground

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DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Is it possible that the world could mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War by repeating the same mistakes that created the conflagration that left 16 million dead and another 20 million more maimed in four short years?

Historian and educator Robert Freeman wrote a provocative piece for the Common Dreams news site last week that raised the specter of the Ukrainian crisis escalating into a runaway conflict that could spread far beyond the Black Sea.

See what elements of how World War I started have echoes in the Ukraine, starting with the most obvious one - oil.

  • A century ago, it was clear that the Persian Gulf was going to be a major source of the world's oil.

  • Germany knew it, and formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire to make sure it had access to that oil.

  • England knew it, and formed alliances with France and Russia to contain Germany.

  • But one random act - the assassination by a Serbian teenager of the Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne - set a series of events in motion.

  • Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia. Russia jumped in to defend its lone Balkan ally, and moved on Austria-Hungary.

  • Germany jumped in to defend its ally, Austria-Hungary, by attacking Russia's ally, France.

  • England, France's ally, responded by declaring war on Germany.

  • Within a month of the assassination, a minor incident was transformed into a war involving all of Europe's major powers.

  • Four years later, the world was utterly changed by the war.

"It destroyed four great empires [German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian], more than had expired in any single event, ever," wrote Freeman. "Eleven new nations were created in its aftermath, including Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. It was the event that shifted the locus of global power from Europe to the U.S., where it has resided ever since. It rearranged the architecture of global power more than any event of the last thousand years."

Miscalculations led to escalation, which quickly led to war. Could it happen again?

"It's not at all fanciful to imagine some ambitious Ukrainian colonel firing at Russian forces," wrote Freeman. "Russia fires back, decisively. This puts Ukraine at risk for its European suitor, the EU. So NATO intervenes to try to intimidate Russia. Russia retaliates to blacken NATO's nose. And before anyone knows it, the U.S. is dragged into a shooting war where no one can understand how it ends. This is almost exactly how World War I started."

And why is Russia, the European Union, and the United States seem willing to risk a repeat?

Oil, of course.

"In industrial civilization, the nation that controls the oil is king," wrote Freeman. "And 60 percent of the known oil reserves are in the Persian Gulf. That's why the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003: to seize control of the oil. Alan Greenspan told at least one truth in his life: 'I hate to have to admit what everybody knows. Iraq is about oil.'"

But the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was a failure. No democratic government was installed. No permanent U.S. bases were built. And the Iraqi government that did emerge is allied with Iran.

Iran still hates the United States and remains hostile toward Saudi Arabia, the one nation the United States has resolutely supported since the waning days of World War II, when President Roosevelt offered to keep the House of Saud in power in exchange for selling oil only in dollars.

Then there's Syria, which is Iran's main ally, and whose current government has been under siege by rebel fighters supported by the United States. And Syria's main military backer is Russia.

How does all this fit together? In Freeman's view, "the upheaval in Ukraine is really about the U.S. trying to weaken Syria's patron, Russia. If Russia is weakened, Syria is weakened. If Syria is weakened, Iran is weakened. If Iran is weakened, the U.S. has a better chance of seizing control of the world's largest reserves of oil.

Even that might be a Pyrrhic victory if current research into new sources of energy like LENR/cold fusion and the hydrino come to fruition. We might have won control of a worthless resource.

"So the portent of Ukraine is a global strategic order hanging in the balance. The U.S. must subdue Russia to gain control of the world's oil. It is the same strategic objective that is driving America's subversion of the democratically elected government in Venezuela: it sits on one of the world's largest reserves of oil. Indeed, all of the America's aggressions on Iran, Syria, and Venezuela, and its subversion of the democratically elected government of Ukraine, can be understood in this context."

Even more frightening is the one wild card in this 21st Century version of "the Great Game." The nation that is the biggest buyer of Iranian oil and the biggest international investor in Venezuela is China.

"The potential escalation from Ukraine, as the U.S. pressures Syria, Iran, and Venezuela, inescapably involves China. If China becomes involved, trying to defend its allies and its supply of oil, it is anybody's guess where it ends. But it won't be pretty."

That is an understatement. As with the state of play of the world exactly a century ago, interlocking alliances and a desire to control access to oil are the tinder and kindling stacked up that only need a random spark to burst into flame. Our planet's survival rests upon whether diplomacy and compromise can prevent a third world war from breaking out.

AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A . from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

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