The US must increase spending on diplomacy
Regarding your Feb. 2 editorial, "More 'troops' for US diplomacy": The editorial supports the apparent shift in United States policy and acknowledges that money for development and preventive diplomacy will provide more promise for national security and world peace than our current primary dependence on military might.
Currently the budget for all US engagement in the world includes $486 billion for the military and only $29 billion for diplomacy and development.
In addition to increasing our diplomatic corps, there are at least three specific, cost-effective programs that would significantly shift this imbalance.
First, we could fully fund and pay our arrears to the United Nations.
Second, legislation now in Congress would bolster what Defense Secretary Robert Gates has referred to as "civilian instruments of national security": the use of civilian corps to address emergency and humanitarian needs.
Third, we could require and fund conflict-prevention training for our foreign-service staff, embassy personnel, USAID, and military personnel.
We could easily pay for these programs by using some of the $60 billion the military now spends on outdated weapons systems or the $2 billion a week spent on the Iraq war. True 21st-century national security depends on this shift.
Thomas C. Ewell
When will world oil peak?
Regarding Steve Yetiv and Lowell Feld's Feb. 6 Opinion piece, "Why the Saudis aren't lifting a finger to ease oil prices": The authors only hint at what may be the real answer – the Saudis may not be able to raise production.
Oil production inevitably peaks in every oil-producing country. US production peaked in 1970 and has since fallen to the level produced back in the late 1940s. Britain's production peaked in 1999, and it went from peak exports to no exports in only six years. Mexico peaked in 2005, and last year its production fell by about 5 percent. OPEC member Indonesia is now an oil importer.
Oil analyst Matthew Simmons did extensive research on Saudi Arabia's production and concluded that it isn't capable of expanding oil production by much, and indeed will be forced into decline fairly soon due to depletion of its vast, older oil fields. Given the role of Saudi Arabia as the world's leading oil exporter, it is likely that if Saudi Arabia has peaked, so has the world. Many oil analysts believe world production is now at peak and will start to decline within a few short years.
As oil declines, the price will rise. We should capture that increase through a tax shift before the market sends our excess wealth overseas. We need a crash program to reduce our oil consumption. We are still foolishly building highways and buying gas guzzlers. The longer we ignore and deny this problem, the more damaging it will be when oil begins to decline.
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