Silently Witnessing World War III
This morning, not long after sitting for 20 minutes or so of meditation, while I was drinking my coffee and checking my news feeds, I came across a headline announcing “US gives Iran ‘last chance’ warning over shutting down nuclear facility.” Right after that I saw a separate one announcing that “Russia Is Massing Troops on Iran’s Northern Border and Waiting for a Western Attack.” Naturally, this worked in tandem with the coffee to wake me up.
In the first one, a journalist for The Independent informs us that
Iran must immediately close a large nuclear facility built underneath a mountain if it is to take what President Obama has called a “last chance” to resolve its escalating dispute with the West via diplomacy. Other “near term” concessions which must be met in the early stages of talks to avoid a potential military conflict, include the suspension of higher level uranium enrichment, and the surrender by Tehran of existing stockpiles of the fuel, senior US officials said yesterday…The negotiations are hugely delicate, both on the international stage and in the US, where in the run-up to November’s election, President Obama is anxious to challenge Republican claims that he has been “soft” on Iran…Many of Mr Obama’s predecessors have taken a gung-ho approach to foreign affairs prior to their re-election battles, perhaps banking on the theory that the patriotic fervour of an America at war is more likely to give its incumbent President a second term…US intelligence agencies are convinced that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. Recent surveillance operations, particularly by drones, have failed to provide any evidence that such operations have actually recommenced.
— Guy Adams, “US gives Iran ‘last chance’ warning over shutting down nuclear facility,” The Independent, April 9, 2012
In the second, a writer for G2 Bulletin, in an article reprinted at Business Insider and, as it turns out, dozens of additional websites, informs us that
The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources. Russian Security Council head Viktor Ozerov said that Russian General Military Headquarters has prepared an action plan in the event of an attack on Iran. Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran. “Iran is our neighbor,” Rogozin said. “If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security”…Russian Defense Ministry sources say that the Russian military doesn’t believe that Israel has sufficient military assets to defeat Iranian defenses and further believes that U.S. military action will be necessary. The implication of preparing to move Russian troops not only is to protect its own vital regional interests but possibly to assist Iran in the event of such an attack. Sources add that a Russian military buildup in the region could result in the Russian military potentially engaging Israeli forces, U.S. forces, or both. Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of “unpredictable consequences” in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.
— F. Michael Maloof, “Russia Is Massing Troops on Iran’s Northern Border and Waiting for a Western Attack,” Business Insider, April 9, 2012
Of course we’ve all been expecting and wondering about developments like these. For years we’ve all seen and understood where the Iran situation may well lead. There was a flurry of headlines and rhetoric late last year, and then another one early this year, about the possibility of Israel launching a missile attack on Iran, and the possibility of a Russian military response, and thus the possible outbreak of World War III. The question pressing upon us right now is: Will they, we, all of us, really and truly push it to that point? Will we allow competition for global energy resources and the pressures of internal political and cultural power struggles to lead us into a real shooting war whose consequences could be unimaginable, or perhaps all too imaginable? Because those two factors — energy competition and raging storms of internal political/cultural crap — truly appear to be driving the crisis.
I’m about as far as a person can get from being an expert on geopolitical affairs, but I can watch and read and remember and notice patterns. And as an avid pattern-watcher, I would like to point out that, as with so many other issues — as with, in fact, the overall outline of international affairs in general during the past several years — the Iran situation is playing out precisely and exactly as forecast by peak oil/peak fossil fuel theorists. To note just one prominent example, in his 2007 book The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies, Richard Heinberg, long one of the most reasonable and insightful writers about these issues, offered a nicely succinct summary of Iran’s probable role in what was to come:
Iran is likely to be a nexus of struggle in the near future. The US and Europe wish to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons — which the Iranians see as essential to deterring American imperialist aggression. Meanwhile, both China and Russia are cooperating with Iran increasingly in the areas of energy and mutual defense. From a geopolitical perspective, Iran bridges the oil-rich regions of Middle East and Central Asia, lying adjacent to Iraq on the west and Afghanistan on the east. Iran is also a major oil and gas producer, and is thus crucial to the futures of importing nations. Moreover, the Iranian government has voiced interest in selling its energy resources in currencies other than the US dollar.
Heinberg also described the tensions rising in the region of the Caspian Sea due to its massive oil and natural gas reserves, and noted in particular Russia’s interest in the area, and asserted that “Barring an escalating confrontation over Iran, this geopolitical rivalry [between the U.S. and other nations] is not likely to erupt into a shooting war any time soon” (emphasis added). And now here we are, five years later, involved in an escalating confrontation over Iran. And Heinberg was far from being the only one who saw, even well before 2007, where this was all headed.
The fact that this latest round of events was so thoroughly predictable and predicted is especially bothersome. Does it mean that everything is “locked in” and following an inevitable trajectory toward a literal flashpoint? Do the respective motivations, ideologies, and psychologies of the major players, and the pressures of the economic and political situation we’ve all created, and the realities of human nature itself, mean that World War III is an unavoidable outcome of the situation? In light of the fact that, materially speaking, it’s all really about oil in the end — that, just as America’s financial collapse of the past few years, whatever else it may have been about, has been encompassed as a whole by the metanarrative of oil prices, so the current situation, whatever else it may be about, is ultimately a matter of energy economics — it’s hard to muster optimism for a non-confrontational outcome. At the end of his chapter on the geopolitical and other consequences of peak oil for industrial-technological society, Heinberg acknowledges that it all adds up to “a profoundly disturbing picture” that “depicts a century of impending famine, disease, economic collapse, despotism, and resource wars.” More recently, in fact just yesterday, Tom Whipple pointed out that the Iran confrontation “seems to be heading towards a turning point later this week.” He also warns that “The next few months seem to be shaping up into a situation that could be far more serious than most realize.” So are we in fact destined to live out the warnings of Whipple, Heinberg, and others, in much the same way that Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 warned of, but failed to prevent, the rise of a dystopian/anti-utopian society of electronic hedonism, pharmacological mood management, and cultural collapse?
I don’t have the answer. I just raise the question. Or rather, it raised itself spontaneously as I was drinking my coffee this morning after meditating for a while. More and more often, the meditative viewpoint of detached witnessing and conscious resting in the spaciousness of the present moment, in the deep and vibrant reality of first-personhood in the eternal now, is presenting itself not only as a chosen discipline but as a necessity of circumstance. The center, in Yeatsian fashion, is definitely not holding when it comes to outward events, and there comes a point when this very fact automatically begins to underscore the more enduring inner reality of things. Small comfort, some might say. But they would be wrong.