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The Dubya Doctrine
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Caspian Oil

Cheney's report is also upbeat about oil available in the Caspian Sea basin. The report praises efforts to build an oil pipeline, which would provide a land route for exporting oil out of this region. What the report does not mention is that countries in this region, which have only recently earned their independence from the Soviet Union, have shaky governments and deteriorating political conditions.

Azerbaijan, which the report views as a U.S. partner in working to "export its gas via a pipeline," has been rated the fifth most corrupt government on the planet by Transparency International.

The State Department rates Azerbaijan’s human rights record as "poor." As for its government institutions, the department said: "The judiciary is corrupt, inefficient, and subject to executive influence. Corruption continued to pervade most government organs, and it is widely believed that most persons in appointed government positions and in state employment purchased their positions."

Kazakhstan also was featured positively in the energy report, though it suffers from corruption and human rights violations similar to Azerbaijan’s. Kazakhstan's "Government restricted freedom of speech and of the press. The Government harassed much of the opposition media, and government efforts to restrain the independent media continued," the State Department reported.

Not surprisingly, the Dubya Doctrine has put international conflicts that involve oil-producing countries at the top of the U.S. diplomatic agenda.

While denigrating former President Clinton's ambitious peacekeeping efforts in places such as the Balkans, Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine, Bush has chosen to intervene personally – and without much public attention – in one of the more obscure ethnic border wars – between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Bush’s interest appears tied to the potential oil boon from a pipeline that could deliver Caspian oil to the West. The pipeline also could enrich some of Bush's key political allies, including Bush family lawyer James A. Baker III, who represented Bush in the Florida recount battle and whose law firm represents an oil consortium operating in Azerbaijan. Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, also has a stake in Azerbaijan.

On April 2, the Baltimore Sun published a little-noticed article about Bush’s direct hand in the negotiations over the disputed Azerbaijan-Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Bush's role included a personal call to French President Jacques Chirac on Feb. 1.

The article quoted Ariel Cohen, a Russia and Caucasus specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, as saying the Bush participation represented "the nexus between oil politics and geopolitics."

Beyond pushing the peace talks, The Sun reported that Bush has promoted the oil pipeline, too. In March, "he wrote the president of Kazakhstan, another Caspian oil-producing nation, urging him to support the project, Kazakh officials said," according to the Sun.

Trade Barriers

The Cheney report indicated that another top concern of Bush's foreign policy will be boosting investments in oil-producing countries. That will be accompanied by efforts to reduce trades barriers and to increase deregulation. These goals "will be a core element of our engagement with major oil producers," the report said.

This is music to the U.S. energy companies’ ears, as these initiatives would put the federal government’s trade negotiators and diplomats on assignment to expand access for U.S. companies.

Tucked in between these words about deregulation and trade is some language about the environment. But these environmental objectives often are not encouraging to environmentalists.

One example in Chapter 8 deals with a private-sector project that, according to the report, promotes "environmental objectives" shared by Canada and the U.S. The project would develop the continent’s northern gas reserves, with a pipeline linking both countries.

The environmental advantage, according to the report, would be in tapping cleaner-burning natural gas and making it available to the U.S. market. While natural gas does burn more cleanly than oil, the energy exploitation of the Arctic region presents serious threats to the region's fragile environment. Burning natural gas also adds to global warming though somewhat less than burning coal or oil.

Citing this project as an example of promoting shared environmental objectives is a bit like seeing the advantage of getting an alcoholic off whisky and onto beer.

Taken as a whole, Cheney's energy report ducks the issue of how economic development can help improve the lives of the world's population. It charts an international strategy that subjugates those interests – and traditional U.S. concerns for democratic freedoms and human rights – to the crasser need for energy supplies.

George W. Bush may hope to cast himself as a more environmentally friendly guy as he meets European leaders worried about his rejection of the Kyoto global warming treaty and his opposition to other environmental initiatives. But he's unlikely to sweet talk too many of them.

To the European leaders and millions of others around the world, the shape of the Dubya Doctrine is increasingly clear. It is to put access to energy at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda, regardless of the environmental danger and the harm to populations in oil-producing regions.

Without changes, that agenda might give the U.S. access to more oil, but at a great cost to people and to the environment around the globe.

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