Nuclear War Over Exclusive Control Of An Essential Mineral

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Nuclear War Over Exclusive Control Of An Essential Mineral

Post by johnkarls »


Editorial Note: The "To's" were the actual attendees (+ "yours truly") on June 15th. The "cc's" were the remaining attendees of at least one of the previous three meetings who were polled in advance under our normal policy of cancelling if we don't have a minimum quorum of six (which has only happened once in our 5.5 years of existence).


Denise Chancellor
Tom Chancellor
Ted Gurney
Bill Lee
Vicky Norton-Strong
Claudia Olson
June Taylor
Leslie Urry


Cal Burgart
Janus Daniels
Margaret Griffith
Fred Gurney
Nancy Kemp
Carolyn Montgomery
Bill Vogel
Beth Whitsett
Gloria Williams
Larry Williams

Subject = Thank You

Dear Friends,

Even though there were only nine of us last evening, it was the best discussion that we have ever had from my perspective!!!


Because it provoked a lot of thought in 110 minutes that had not occurred during the entire month of thinking alone about our book!!!

Your question, Tom, was particularly penetrating -- was our author correct in his over-arching thesis that India could serve as a counter-weight to China???

And "stirring the pot," you pointed out that China was investing in many countries surrounding India and, moreover, China was developing a sizable sophisticated Navy while India appeared to be doing little in reaction.

Sometimes I wish we could have a follow-up meeting!!!


Last evening was a good example!!!

We agreed (I think) that although it might appear that China is trying to contain or encircle India, that probably isn't what China thinks it is doing for several reasons.

Since independence in 1949, India has been preoccupied with West Pakistan which became Pakistan after East Pakistan (aka Bangladesh) seceded in 1971. And even though China and India fought a bloody war several decades ago over a border in the high Himalayas, China doesn't really have much to fear from a land invasion from India, particularly not since both China and India are nuclear powers.

Which also makes one scratch his or her head (like your question, Tom, made me do last evening!!!) about whether China is really trying to contain or encircle India, or whether that just happens to be the way things appear though it's not reality.

After all, India is a nuclear power and has a population of more than a billion that is now larger than the population of China with the disparity growing. It's not likely China really plans to liquidate a billion people to take over the land they occupy. And India is still basically an economic "basket case" for which any country, in its right mind, would shun responsibility.

So I think we reached consensus that China's aggressive naval development represents a very savvy policy of old-fashioned "gun-boat diplomacy" -- that their investments in various projects in other countries don't make a lot of sense in the world of nationalizations that have predominated in the last half century unless China is prepared to bully militarily the various small countries in which it has invested.

The obvious question???

Should the U.S. care???

This time the consensus seemed immediate and nearly universal!!!

Of course not!!!

But the consensus was not completely universal!!!

On the drive home, I was haunted by your reaction, Denise, that China might be able to dominate militarily a small country or two that might be the sole source of an essential metal. If memory serves, you posed as an example a rare metal that is essential for computer hardware and that is available solely from one East African nation.

That's a wonderful question because for two reasons it is a lot like the "ticking time bomb" question of whether to torture a terrorist who, you believe, has knowledge of an impending plot and, you believe, torture is the only way to save lives.

[How's that for momentary de-railing the discussion???!!!]

First, the philosophical dilemma may never be encountered in real life.

[Though I personally would suspect that that the "ticking time bomb" scenario is more likely than the "cornering the market for a rare but essential mineral" scenario, particularly when Tim Russert as moderator took the trouble to embarrass Hillary Clinton in the first 2008-cycle Presidential-Candidate Debate at Dartmouth College in September 2007 by inducing her to " go on record" opposing water boarding in the "ticking time bomb" situation before trying to embarrass her in front of the national TV audience with the condescending statement that her husband, as President, had adopted the policy of water boarding in such situations. After all, Tim Russert didn't ask Hillary Clinton or any of the other candidates the "cornering the market for a rare but essential mineral" dilemma so presumably at least he thought it was more far fetched.]

But let's put aside the question of the likelihood of the dilemma of "cornering the market for a rare but essential mineral" and grapple with the merits -- which is the second point of similarity between the two issues (torturing a terrorist to save lives vs. fighting a war for access to a rare but essential metal which might also entail saving lives that would be lost in the absence of access to the metal).

Would/should we be willing to fight a war with another nuclear power over a rare but essential mineral for which the market has been cornered???

And digressing for just a moment in order to avoid confusion, this question will never apply to oil!!! Yes, oil might be in short supply in the future. Though I don't really want to "chase that rabbit" except to note that worldwide production is now three times what it was when President Carter took a Malthusian view of what the then-future supply of oil would be like. Because the real point with oil is that it is fungible and has many source countries, so there is no possibility of "cornering the market" for oil militarily -- if the future supply is limited, who is privileged to consume it will depend solely on who can afford to pay the most for it.

Now back to the real question, Denise!!!

Should we be willing to fight a war to prevent a single country, like China, from "cornering the market for a rare but essential mineral"???

Personally, I don't know!!!

Personally, if it is merely a question of, for example, whether the rest of the world is deprived of computers because the Chinese aren't willing to share the rare mineral that is essential to the manufacture of computers (and they aren't willing to sell to the rest of the world at any price computers they have manufactured using the rare mineral), my gut reaction is to question how bad that could be???

After all, in the course of human civilization, the world has been able until relatively recently to survive without computers.

However, even committing that thought to paper compels the realization of how naïve it sounds!!!

Suppose that whatever a single power is trying to deny to the rest of the world is not merely a question of the standard of living for the rest of the world, but a question of survival for the rest of the world's population???

Now that's a real ethical question that merits a full evening of discussion!!!

And we all should pause to ask ourselves whether Denise isn't a modern-day Winston Churchill who is warning us not to lay down our arms because we may need them for our very survival!!!

I'd be very interested in your reactions!!!

And since it would be too much trouble to try to have another meeting, particularly since many or most of you may have no interest in whether Denise is the reincarnation of Winnie, I'll simply post this missive on our bulletin board,, in a new section entitled "Post-Meeting Discussion" for anyone who would care to comment.

[I should think, Tom, that you at least should be interested in the question of whether your wife is the reincarnation of Winnie!!!]

Your friend,

John K.

PS -- Whether or not anyone is intrigued with the "rare but essential mineral" issue, all of the talk about Winston Churchill warps back on Tom's main point in yet another fashion. We noted during our discussion that Indonesia comprises more than 17,000 islands. And, if memory serves, the Philippines comprises more than 10,000. Suppose China with its new sizable sophisticated navy decides that it is too tedious to bully small countries that have essential resources and begins swiping sparsely-populated islands from Indonesia and the Philippines that happen to have the same essential resources!!! What say you then, Denise/Winnie??? Would we want to go to war with a nuclear power to prevent the swiping of small islands in the South China Sea??? After all, couldn't we just shrug our shoulders and decide that the South China Sea is really China's back yard, its "legitimate sphere of influence"??? Particularly if we have access to similar resources elsewhere in the world??? [Enough already, at least for the first stirring of the pot to provoke the post-meeting round of comments.]

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