by Victor Davis Hanson
Tribune Media Services
Last week, three dictators — from Iran, Libya and Venezuela — delivered lunatic hate speeches at the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Why do these anti-Semitic dictators feel so free to damn America from downtown New York? Why do their abettors spurn our requests for help? And why do creepy regimes plot to get nukes, and fund terrorists?
Easy. They do not fear, much less listen, to an indebted and energy-hungry America that either needs their cash or oil — or both.
Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi raved for 90 minutes. He railed about everything from the Kennedy assassination to his own jet lag. He trashed the United States and the Jews. Even Gadhafi’s translator collapsed from exhaustion trying to keep up with the stream-of-consciousness insanity.
Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered his usual madness. Once again, he libeled the Jews. He denied his country’s breakneck efforts at getting the bomb. And he blamed the United States for his own self-inflicted problems.
Shortly afterward, Tehran disclosed it’s been secretly building a second nuclear enrichment facility.
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez may have delivered the strangest monologue. He mostly idolized leftwing filmmaker Oliver Stone for making a fawning documentary about revolutionary Venezuela. But somehow Chavez also brought up the Kennedy assassination. And, yes, he also faulted America for his own problems.
Chavez has cut off all relations with Israel. Jews have been increasingly attacked in Venezuela, and reports have spread that Chavez is reaching out to Iran for a nuclear program.
Listening to all this insanity, it’s clear that the problems these dictators pose (and the attitudes they represent) go beyond whether our president is Texan George Bush or post-national Barack Obama. And they cannot be solved alone by loud or soft presidential rhetoric, but only by changing both our behavior and theirs.
Take away oil and the money it garners — Iran, Libya and Venezuela are all large petroleum exporters — and these strongmen would never receive high-profile television venues at the U.N. Oil props up all three economies, which have largely been wrecked by their own incompetence.
Libyan oil, it seems, helped persuade the British to release the mass-murdering Libyan Lockerbie bomber. Iranian oil money fuels Hezbollah, destabilizing Lebanon. Venezuelan oil money goes to narco-terrorists in Columbia. Oil wealth helps these regimes put down democratic reformers, hunt down dissidents abroad, or shut down the media.
All three freely express hatred of Jews, reminding us that there is no longer a downside to flashy anti-Semitism. It used to be rightwing scourges whom we associated with the hatred of a Hitler or the Klan. Today, leftist oil-rich thugs voice slander against tiny Israel to show their revolutionary credentials, even as they find scapegoats for their own colossal failures.
Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Gadhafi are not just regional buffoons, but international dangers. Iran will probably get a few bombs soon. Gadhafi was scheming to obtain one until the Iraq war — and has the money and the anger to try again. Chavez brags he has bought “little rockets” from Russia and now wants his own nuclear program.
America better pay attention. The president is to be congratulated for pressing for more alternative energy and conservation to curb our imports and bring down the global price of oil. But until we reach a new age of non-carbon fuels, we must far better exploit the oil and coal we have. Recent large finds in Alaska, California, North Dakota and off the Gulf Coast remind us that America has plenty of oil left. Its rapid development would lower our import bill, reduce global prices and take some profits out of these repugnant three regimes.
Our enemies have cash; we don’t. The United States is running a projected $2 trillion annual deficit, while adding to an existing $11 trillion national debt.
That makes it hard to, say, ask rich, cocky Russia for help with Iran. Vladimir Putin’s regime is now the world’s largest oil exporter, flush with money and waiting to regain even more of its former influence when the next energy crisis hits.
China is our largest foreign creditor, financing our growing budget shortfalls at low interest. Both Russia and China understand that most of the world’s renegade regimes hate us more than they do them, and that America is divided at home, broke and hungry for oil.
Bottom line: The United States — even with the world’s largest military — is having a hard time pleading for Russian help, lecturing China to act responsibly, boycotting Iran, or isolating Gadhafi or Chavez.
It wouldn’t if we produced our own energy and got our financial house in order.
©2009 Tribune Media Services