Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Didn't Learn A Thing

Sometimes you just need to know the story.

Or at least an idea of a story... Yesterday it came up that Central Asia is another major factor in the short term issues of energy production, and I had no idea why.

There's a bunch of oil and natural gas in Central Asia. It's seen (by the government by the oil companies by some economists) as one possible source of release from dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

I know so little I actually had to pull out a map -- where is this area I'm about to try to talk about -- this morning I read a December article which laid the issues out pretty well, it seemed ... the article centered around an energy field in Uzbekistan.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

I had to pull out a map. Sometimes my lack of geographical knowledge scares me. Bukhara is somewhat central Uzbekistan; two countries north of Iran and Afghanistan -- two countries west of China.

((seems mighty close to the problem area itself...))

Anyway -- there's a lot of energy there -- natural gas and oil. There seem, from this article, anyway, to be two major issues with supply -- one is that Russia has a major stake in the production there. They have put a lot of money in, are putting in more, and have no inclination to leave the area for western development. To hear the story the whole globe is still in a land grab -- Russia V. The West -- or Exxon V. Lukoil. Somehow I'm imagining a spaghetti western...

It's funny -- you think a threat is no longer a threat when it ceases to be talked about -- or the immediacy is subverted. We can get over a thing and while it isn't looked at or talked about we can almost forget it existed... Having grown up in the height of the cold war, it is not hard to imagine that the tensions between the US and Russia need little air to reignite...

There's another issue in that humanitarian issues are pretty questionable in the region:

In May 2005, President Islam A. Karimov’s troops opened fire on a mixed crowd of escaped prisoners, gunmen and antigovernment demonstrators in a square in the Fergana Valley town of Andijon, killing hundreds in what human rights groups say was the worst massacre of street protesters since Tiananmen Square in 1989.

I forget who said it to me, but not too long ago someone repeated to me a theory that terrorism really started because of the first US involvement in the middle east. Culture clashes and the imposition of values...

I read another story this morning about American Universities moving into the middle east -- capitalizing, again, on the oil wealth.

How does that seem like a good idea? I have no doubt that there is a thirst for an American-style education -- especially in a place where that may not have existed before -- but the mind must reel... What if women aren't wanted. What if they are? What if the things Carnagie Melon wants to teach aren't what the students -- or the parents or the government want to learn? On NPR this week I heard that 35% of Americans don't believe in evolution... Only to say, the issues of education are not simple.

These seem like the same issues to me.

Entering --

Imposing... conquering...

and what values are expendable... for what reasons...

How do external values come into a society and put pressure on that society to change through and imposition of difference? How does a visiting culture put pressure on its own values in the pursuit of money?

What did I learn about Central Asia... I realize I barely talked about what it was I was trying to understand... I'm glad to know where it is -- what I should keep look out for.

Wherever there is oil, this place will take its turn in our sites. Where ever we set our sites there is potential for devastation.

Maybe I didn't learn anything today.

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