On Thursday, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that a small aircraft piloted by democracy activists had violated Belarusian airspace in July when it crossed over from Lithuania. The aircraft was carrying a cargo of teddy bears, which parachuted into the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on July 4.
Lukashenko was peeved at his military commanders and air traffic control had failed to stop the plane’s raid into Belarus. Government officials have been trying to sort out how the activists planned the attack and why national security operatives failed to stop the small planes raid into controlled air space.
The plane was piloted by the cofounder of a Swedish ad agency on behalf of Charter 97, a Belarussian democracy advocacy group. The group has since organized other teddy bear assaults, including staging of teddy bears in front of the Belarusian Embassy in London-which caused embassy officials to call the police– to protest Lukashenko’s repression. Protestors have adopted the teddy bears as a symbol of resistance against Lukashenko.
Amid the celebrations and acts of unity, I want to reflect on how the world has changed. More specifically how we have changed, and will that prevent another attack from happening.
What really caused 9/11?
There are so many explanations, if I miss one please tell me, but here are the ones I look to: oil, the Middle East, our military but more specifically our geo-political strategy, and our security around the world.
U.S. oil consumption has remained steady since 2000 when it was 19.7 million barrels of oil/day. In recent years a slight dip has occurred maybe due to the recession or due to structural changes (improved car MPG), and is now at 19.2.
Which is very good news. Not only have we handled our economic and population growth without increasing our demand, we have even reduced it. Economist call this “demand destruction”, one of my favorite terms.
It is quite possible that we have turned the corner on fossil fuels (or reached “peak oil”). If so, one of the main sources of terrorist funding, recruiting, and anger may be fading away.
The Middle East
Then we can look to the Middle East, where all 19 hijackers were from. The vast majority of them (15) were from Saudi Arabia, which backs up the oil topic. The remaining ones were from Lebanon, Egypt, and two from the UAE.
It’s great that we took down the Taliban in Afghanistan, even though it is not in the Middle East (South-Central Asia). They were bad and needed to go. Their replacement is not perfect but a whole lot better, with room to grow, unlike the Taliban.
The Arab Spring changes everything, though.
Before the uprisings, there were no democracies in the Middle East (only 26 in the rest of the world). Many of the new governments are on track to change that, but remember that even in our own past, the road is rocky and violent.
The good news is that three evil, violent, and obnoxious dictators are out of Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Eight other countries had major uprisings and six more had minor ones, with multiple reforms across the board.
All in all, it looks to be a general improvement.
The cult of Al-Qaeda was formed due to one very important factor, one that Osama exploited to no end. We have our military in several countries.
From our point-of-view this is a rational geo-political strategy to protect our interests. In the early days, we also protected the people from dictators and warlords.
Then at some point we started supporting more corrupted leaders than reformers. When one is bad, several is more than enough to cause hatred.
Which explains the opposing point-of-view. We often crossed that fine line between bully and protector, and usually for our own oil interests.
Yet, the situation hasn’t changed, in fact, it’s gotten worse. We now have our military in more places than ever, with many long term contracts in place to keep it there.
This is a problem and will not go away and was recently highlighted by crazy guy #1 in Iraq, Moqtada Al-Sadr’s statement, (paraphrasing): “don’t kill the Americans, they are leaving.”
It’s hard to travel when everyone hates you. I went to Europe in 2004 and so many of those wealthy, pacificist, socialists hated us. They had signs up about our “invasion” of Iraq.
Now imagine how people in Muslim countries feel. It’s gotten to the point that if we are not giving money to a country, they hate us (and some still hate us when we do). We have to build monumental fortresses just to have embassies. Our checkpoints are becoming comedy acts of creative bomb making.
Where else can we possibly stick a bomb when traveling?
The only good news is that, for some reason, foreigners like Obama.
I don’t really get it. Maybe it’s that he’s not white. Maybe it’s because he was against the Iraq war and talks about removing troops. Or, maybe it’s just because Bush labelled so many as enemies that it became us-or-them.
The good news is that foreigners still like him after he announced the troop increase in Afghanistan. If he gets re-elected then he can do more international rock-star tours and keep building up that goodwill.
Then maybe I can travel abroad and not get the evil eye from everyone.
But then again, if a Tea Party-er gets elected we might start calling everyone extremists and enemies. It would be great if they added ‘isolationism’ to their pseudo-retro movement.
I think everything begins and ends with oil. If we are truly past peak oil then things are getting better. We can stop (or decrease) the use of our heavy hand in the Middle East to maintain our oil supply.
Our military can draw down and our goodwill will go up. Which will take years of course, but it will mean our state of affairs is getting better.
We just have to keep making those hard decisions to get us off oil, though, with shaded solar parking lots, maybe it’s not so hard after all.