Point of View Columns

The Midas Touch?

          Life has taught us to expect the unexpected. The nightly news teaches us to expect the unexpected. Waking up in the morning teaches us to expect the unexpected. And then there is the planet Earth.

          Life on this planet has not only taught us to expect the unexpected. We have also been taught the corollary, the Law of Unexpected Consequences. This Law, which is quite immutable, sometimes is expressed through cynicism, sometimes skepticism and sometimes just through pure and unadulterated doubt. Whatever the configuration of thought – by expecting the unexpected and knowing that this thought process is controlled by the Law of Unintended Consequences we can be assured that daily news briefing will provide absolute validation of the entire philosophical construct.

          Recently the Obama Administration pressed the government of Jamaica to comply with an extradition request involving an alleged drug lord who had been living openly in the Jamaican capital of Kingston. The dispute with the Jamaican government seemed to have the basic components of sovereignty issues being articulated by Jamaica in the face of a regional policy regarding criminal conduct being articulated by the United States. The unexpected result of the Jamaican government finally complying with the aforementioned extradition request is that all hell broke loose in Jamaica as the supporters of the erstwhile alleged drug lord did battle with the Jamaican security forces, virtually shutting down Kingston.

          The unexpected consequence of the pitched battles in the streets of a Caribbean capital has been the perceived destabilization of the government of Jamaica. The further unintended consequence is that the alleged drug lord has still not been extradited to the United States thereby burnishing and enhancing his reputation and legend among his many supporters. And once again, the consequences of not expecting the unexpected are seen. And once again, the Law of Unintended Consequences is demonstrated.

          Consider that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the result of an orphaned concept as there are now no acknowledged parents of the thoughts that gave rise to an oil drilling platform 50 miles from the coast of Louisiana, drilling well over a mile beneath the ocean. But there is intellectual parentage for this culmination of bright ideas beginning with the thought that drilling further and deeper offshore would place BP beyond the closer scrutiny of the pesky government regulators. The unexpected result of this evasion is now plain to see as it washes onto the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama and perhaps soon to a beach near you.

          The unintended consequences of this oil spill may be that the citizens of this country finally understand that our uncontrolled addiction to oil and coal will result in many more catastrophes involving the harvesting of oil and coal. Oil wells will burst, coal mines will collapse and the cost accounting will be in human lives and the despoiling of the environment.

          So there is a hope that, with this reinforced understanding of the price that we all pay for oil and coal fueling our way of life, there may be a response after the reaction of revulsion. We can be hopeful that there will be a concerted effort to take energy alternatives and energy conservation seriously, as if our lives depended on it. Certainly the lives of our children certainly depend upon it.

          And now we learn that studies commissioned by the United States military with the cooperation of the Karzai regime in Afghanistan claim that there are mineral reserves in that country worth over one trillion dollars? Where does one begin with such unexpected news? Skepticism? Cynicism? Plain unadulterated doubt? Could it be that after thousands and thousands of years of conquest and settlement that gold (and lithium) have been found in them there hills? Is it possible that anything emanating with the collaboration of the Karzai regime, so redolent of corruption and fraud, could be true?

          And then there is the immutable and invincible Law of Unintended Consequences. If indeed there is something more than opium and IED’s in Afghanistan, what would be the consequences of a 21st century gold (and lithium and who knows???) rush to this godforsaken land that has seen the bleached bones of would be conquerors over the eons? One could imagine that the global mining interests of this planet would suddenly start paying attention to Afghanistan in a new and different way. Perhaps Vladimir Putin might regret the Russian exit from that country.

          We recall that when gold was discovered near Sutter’s Mill in California in 1848 not only was California changed, the entire United States was transformed and the impetus that gave rise to the Panama Canal was born. As gold diggers came from England and France and New Hampshire to find their fortune in California, it did not require much for future soldiers of fortune to go to Australia and South Africa before the century ended – and so it can be said that the California gold rush changed the world in a very real sense.

          But there was no Taliban in California. And the Zulus in South Africa did not have IED’s. And the aboriginal peoples of Australia did not have 9/11 on their collective resume. And so, we are left to wonder…….if the Karzai studies can be believed, what would be the unintended consequences in Afghanistan? It is a question worth asking today, prior to the unexpected and unintended regrets of tomorrow.


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