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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 18th, 2004
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Culture Change Media International Editor
New York, NY –   October 18, 2004

Climate Change was mentioned just once in the four election debates (the three Presidential debates and the one VP debate). Senator Kerry used up the major part of one of his 30 second slots to talk about the subject as part of the second Presidential debate. The economy’s present addiction to oil did not rate even so much as a few seconds. 

Saturday, October 9, 2004, two days after that second debate, at an open house at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, remarked that the 100 questions relating to Iraq actually dealt with the oil question. Simply put – when looking at the Middle East, "we see in them our gas station and they see in us their occupiers". Neatly put ! Thus, to make some sense, forget the "politikos" and try some "academics". 

Friday, October 15, 2004, the Center for Global Affairs at New York University held a day long event: "What’s at Stake? – The 2004 U.S. Election and The Implications For Global Affairs". The Keynote Speaker was James F. Hoge Jr., Editor-in-chief, Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs has now a circulation of 140,000 and has also editions in Spanish, Japanese and Russian; Mr. Hoge, as a journalist received six Pulitzers. 

Mr. Hoge’s 50 minutes long presentation covered the main issues of the campaign, i.e., nuclear terrorism, plain terrorism, Iraq, preventive wars, the need to re-engage and try to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the problems of global trade. He noted that Korea and Iran will have to be the first issues to be addressed after the elections. 

In the ten minutes that were left for the Q&A, I managed to bring up at the end, Prof. Sach’s statement and the fact that for global environmental reasons, the European Union, in its member states, will be starting, by law, January 2005, a system that will put them on the path of decreasing CO2 emissions. Considering the expense this will cause the Europeans, they will be entitled to fine imports from non-cooperating states, such as the U.S. and Australia, applying some sort of equalizing tax. This in turn may then bring down the World Trade Organization. 

Mr. Hoge had really no time left to get to the points of the question but managed to remark that the Kyoto Protocol was flawed, the problem real, there will be the need to consider nuclear and some form of clean coal. 

Monday, October 18, 2004, as part of the Foreign Policy and World Peace with James F. Hoge series, at the 92 Street Y in New York, Mr. Hoge was going to have as his guest Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who is rumored to be at the top of the short list for Secretary of State in a Kerry Administration. Mr. Hoge made it clear at the outset that he expects to hear views from the Kerry camp. 

Mr. Holbrooke explained that the debates were just a show. In the field are housed one thousand journalists from all over the world, perhaps eighty surrogates of the candidates, plus handlers, spinners. In effect, nobody has actually seen the debate, but they question to get sound bites. 

Mr. Holbrooke, in a terribly honest way declared that we are all part of a fraud – meaning the circus in that field house. He also criticized the notion of fairness. The facts are that one side puts in more distortions then the other side but the press in a fake notion of fairness balances things out. 

He explained the insubordination because of the lack of enough armored vehicles for the fuels supply unit that hit the news. The fact is that 45% of the forces in Iraq are 35-45 years old reservists or National Guard members out of shape. He belongs to the ABA club (Anyone But Arrafat) when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and expects Kerry to re-appoint a senior envoy to the area. 

He gave a description of security failures i.e. the fact that 95% of containers are not checked at all and the remaining 5% not enough. The real priorities of a government are reflected in the budget and he found much talk by the present Administration without sign of intent in several areas. He made it clear that terrorism is a tactic and you can not have war against a tactic. It happens that terrorism is now used by Moslems. This was not always so, i.e. the Irish. Also not a billion Moslems are responsible – it is only certain groups. He spoke about what democracy could mean in the Middle East and the fact that in some countries, i.e. Saudi Arabia, this could only bring to power the elements that hate the United States. 

Eventually, at the Q&A time, seemingly Mr. Hoge remembered the lack of time he had to do better justice to my question three days earlier, let me voice a question. This time I decided to get closer to the topics discussed, thus not to bring up the climate change issue. Rather I opted to ask about oil in general and the fact that it is the money we spend on our addiction to oil – this money coming back to haunt us – actually it is us who pay for the harm done to us. 

Mr. Holbrook came back beautifully to what I asked. He stated that we lost two decades. The last President that did something on the subject was Jimmy Carter. Since then it is all downhill. President Carter started Project Independence and it was President Reagan that dismantled it. 

Now the issue is so important because of the fragility of Saudi Arabia. Even President Bush is starting to talk about it. We will never be independent but we can be less dependent. Before it was only our problem, now with China and India increasing their energy use per capita he would hope that this will become a bipartisan issue. Mr. Hoge, probably realizing that the answer was partial and missed another important aspect of the topic, added here – "keep an eye on the automobile emissions also". 

After the event was over Mr. Holbrooke said to me that he was not happy with the answer he gave me and I love him for that. He showed that the subject stuck in his mind and hopefully is ready to enlarge on the answer further. I do thus feel that we would be lucky to have him as Secretary of State, as he is a person that is ready to consider an issue, is not afraid of saying that his answer was not complete, and is ready to improve. 

After all, what we need is someone who does not project self righteousness and has no stakes that do not allow him to adjust to the reality as it pops up unexpectedly.

(This article was first posted on CultureChange.org)

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