Since September 11, 2001, President Bush has squandered - perhaps the better word is butchered - an opportunity to remake our world. In the immediate aftermath of that fateful day, the President held the peoples and nations in the palm of his hand. With bold and well-timed initiatives focused on global poverty and disease, as well as global security, his legacy could have been a testament to how the transforming power of Love might make meaningful the lives and deaths of all who perished that morning at the hands of Hate. Today, it is not an exaggeration to say that Hate rules the day. The world will bear the costs for decades, if not centuries, of the President's decision - as an Old Testament Destroyer, not a New Testament Healer - to make endless War in Iraq.
We do not need to look far to see the global impact of this war - in the mutually reinforcing spiraling curves of energy and food prices - a double helix of devastation that threatens to shred and mock the progress of the past decades in fighting hunger and disease, and bringing economic development to the populations of the world. For the moment, let us put aside the demand-driven impact on energy and food supply and shortages of economic growth in China and India. Let us focus, instead, on the direct energy costs of food production, and the indirect costs of energy on food production resulting from diversion of agricultural land to product corn for ethanol.
The war in Iraq has created enormous instability in energy markets. At the outset of the war in 2003, one Navy think tank study argued that the war would have little impact on energy prices. By 2006, a report from Nobel Prize prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz suggested that "the impact of Iraq on oil prices is a large proportion of the $45-a-barrel increase since the war began." Of course, the price of oil is now nearly $40-a-barrel higher than it was in 2006.
Agriculture is petroleum-dependent, in the use of petroleum-derived chemical fertilizers, the cost of oil for powering agricultural machinery, and the dependence of global food markets on transportation networks fueled by oil. In conjunction with widespread periods of drought in key agricultural regions of the world, rice and wheat production have dropped precipitously in Australia, Canada, the European Union and Turkey. Prices of these staples have soared, and nations, such as India, that previously exported their agricultural surplus, are reserving it for domestic consumption. Shortages have led to food riots in Bangladesh, Egypt, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Haiti.
President Bush's lost presidency can count no significant policy achievements. His grand bio-fuels initiative represented the President's one attempt to address dependence on foreign oil. However, massive corn-fed federal subsidies to support biofuel production - which more legitimately might be called a sublimating tactic designed to mute opposition to the war in Iraq - has done nothing to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. Its failure as an energy policy aside, biofuel subsidies in the United States have distorted markets and diverted a vast amount of corn acreage away from food production, thereby contributing significantly to rising food prices.
The War in Iraq has become, by default, the President's energy policy and food policy. The War justifies and twists rationales for all other domestic and global policy initiatives of this Administration. One can calculate its engulfing, soul-destroying impact - not simply in the incalculable loss of life and wealth and happiness in Iraq and in the United States - but in the silence that befalls our leaders when the needs of the world require them to speak clearly and constructively about solutions to the transcendent issue of the day: the need for an energy policy that addresses global military and political insecurity, global warming, and global hunger.