Thursday, March 29, 2007

What Would Karl Rove Do (W-W-K-R-D)

The White House is in the news a lot these days. I am going to show how all of these stories have a similar, Total War backdrop to them, and then examine what this Total War approach might look like for Clean Tech:

- The 'Surge' in the Iraq war and Congress voting to mandate timeframes for troop withdrawals
- The Attorney General and the politically based firings of well qualified U.S. Attorneys
- The General Services Administration is being investigated for inappropriately steering and guiding resources based on politics
- The censorship of environmental and climate scientists by political appointees.
- The destruction of civil liberties - either our own or our prisoners/enemy combattants

The present Administration is not just trying to promote an agenda - all administrations should - the present Administration is trying to destroy systems that do not align with its view. By destroy, I mean that literally. Take the battle to the EPA, the Clean Water Act, appoint a fervent religious extremist as your head of Justice, remove lawyers that don't prosecute (persecute) your political enemies, launch a "surge" of troops to Iraq in the months following a dramatic political rebuke of your war policy and execution.

In fact, if you look at any successes in the last 6-7 years from this administration, the vast majority of those haven't really proven to be effective in the promotion of any agenda item. They aren't succeeding by promoting compassionate conservativism, or increased religious conservativism in our schools, thoughts, conduct, as much as they are absolutely dominating the battle to DESTROY counter views.

Quoting from Wikipedia: Total war is a military conflict in which nations mobilize all available resources in order to destroy another nation's ability to engage in war. It's history can be traced to either World War One, The Civil War, The French Revolution, and depending on perspective even all the way back to the Pelopennisian War.

It's not really a complex notion or theory. It's simply the notion that you create so much pain, harm and destruction, unbound by any ethics, morals, or legal parameters that the result is permanent elimination of your enemy. In total war, your enemy isn't jailed, or weakened, or overthrown, but annihilated. And that annihilation isn't just the soldiers on the battlefield, it's their parents, cousins, children, their homes, fields, crops, and livestock, poison their wells, fry their electric grid, mangle their bridges, corrupt their culture, outlaw their history, ban their communications, and shatter any independent thought or peace of mind from ever taking hold again.

In January, Vinod Kholsa published a Wall Street Journal Editorial advocating a "War On Oil." In that piece, he makes the case for a war on oil to fund cellulosic biofuels, and for transportation fuels, he's probably right. But why stop at a battlefield war...

This week, the New Yorker has a book review on Slaughterhouse - The Idealistic Origins of Total War. The review examines the notion that Total War has it's start in Napoloeonic times, but more interestingly, that the original designers of total war were idealists. That war could be approached as a 'means to end all wars.' In other words, don't just go to war on battlefields with soldiers, but create a war system so massive, and so ugly, that no one would repeat it. (That no standing armies could be repurposed to start anew.)

In thinking about idealistic uses of total war, war on oil, and the complete and total war footing of the present administration, I am wondering about whether there is any relationship here to the future of cleantech. Specifically, what would an idealistic Total War approach to cleantech look like? Would it be beneficial? What would this war have as weapons and how total and comprehensive could it be. Are we to continually do 'battle' with shale oil, clean coal, nuclear and the like?

Total War on Cleantech: A comprehensive, dedicated, focused, many angled attack on all aspects of dirty tech. Or, more simply, if Cleantech were his agenda, Just what-would-Karl-Rove-Do? (WWKRD) (which strangely looks a lot like awkward :)

Such an approach wouldn't be an extension of our efforts today via the active promotion of renewable energy programs - and the moral, environmental, and business benefits from that development. But rather, Cleantech as a destroying force, the armed battle and aggressive, attacking, destroying, take no hostages, leave no stone unturned, have no morals, compunctions, qualms or ethics about tearing down and devastating the dirty tech alternatives we presently rely on. (primarily fossil and nuclear fuel approaches to energy.)

In fact, just as the administration has proven vastly more capable in destroying counter agendas, there is a case to be made that cleantech promotion is _harder_ than ditry tech wars. I gaurantee Karl Rove wouldn't be crying at TED or testifying the moral imperative to Congress. He'd be stirring headlines and launching daily attacks on toxic poisonings, terrorist funding, bribery charges and anything and everything else wrotten in Big Oil.

A Total War approach to Clean Tech would require:

- Hostile action on fossil fuel technologies, past, present and future.
- Hostile action on supply lines of fossil fuels (boycotts, new regulations for shipping, etc.)
- Hostile action on carbon emissions (laws, taxes, fees, bans)
- Hostile action on anything status quo (e.g. Who knew the Clean Water Act should be undercut... Karl Rove Did!)
- Hostile action on businesses engaged in dirty tech.

Is there a Karl Rove in cleantech's future? Do we need a radical zealot that doesn't treat cleantech as an enlightened choice, or a moral imperative, but rather, a a viscious, cut throat, to the death battle where every piece of resource, money, direction should be crushingly dominated and distorted to the cleantech view?

I don't know. I suspect that IF we get to cleantech, it won't be via Total War primarily because it requires administrative/political effort from the very same people betrothen to an extremely well funded and massive Oil Lobby.

I'm expecting supply challenges from Big Oil / dirty tech sooner than any real war footing or moral imperative to go clean...