Friday, August 10, 2007

A Really Cold War

Last week, headlines were made when Russia dropped a weighted flag to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean and claimed the home of Santa Claus - the North Pole, duh - for Tsar Vladimir Putin’s new Russian Empire.

This week, it’s Canada, already north of us, making news further up North. Prime Minister Steven Harper announced on Friday that a Canadian Forces naval port and army base would be constructed by the “Cold Dominion” (no, I’m not talking about a wintertime Virginia) in the area, so that Ottawa may be better situated to make a claim on the vast amounts of oil which are thought to be hidden right underneath where the elves make all those toys.

We already know the area is rich in coal; why else would Santa choose the North Pole over China as a production area for cheap toys, but for the vast free stores of that other black stuff to put in naughty childrens’ stockings?

Now, I know the news about Canadian claims probably came as a shock to many of you; after all, who knew Canada had a “real” military, right? Or territorial ambitions outside of the Realm of Hockey. Just kidding, any Canadians I know or don’t know who are reading this. But seriously, the dispute is real however you feel about Santa Claus or Elf Labor Rights, which probably aren’t, and of course, the United States are involved.

Washington contends that over the North Pole, no nation can claim sovereignty. I’m not sure whether or not this is true, as it is with Antarctica, over which no nation can claim sovereignty thanks to international agreements. The argument put forth by the Federal Government is that the shipping lanes criss-crossing the area in question are international shipping lanes.

Russia’s use of submarines to plant flags on the Arctic subsurface - and Russian officials comparing the act as momentous as the planting of the American flag on the Moon; this I’m not making up - and Canada’s announcement (which, admittedly, had been planned some time before “Ivan” made his move) stand in stark contrast to America’s if you needed to be told that.

Because I happen to think much more highly of Canada than I do of Russia these days, I’m inclined to support the Canadians’ claims over the Russians’, should it ever come to that. And what of the Canadian claims as compared to the assertions of the National Government of these United States?

Personally, I think we should support the Canadians in the building of their naval and army bases where they plan to do so, let the Canucks drill for oil, and if they strike it, we sign treaties with Ottawa that allow the Dominion of Canada to take on an even greater percentage of responsibility as supplier to Americans’ fuel-consuming habits than they already represent (it’s already nearly 20%). Since the U.S. Geological Survey notes that up to 25% of the Earth’s undiscovered gas and oil deposits may be up there, American participation in finding the oil would earn us our share of the profits.

Up where Canada is making a claim, at least, there would be no doubt as to who owns the land underwater, while above water ships could travel as freely as they can in such an environment. This literal sea change would free us up to criticize more openly the human rights record of a certain Arab-Islamic country in Arabia named after the House of Saud, without fear of losing the oil they supply us, because we’ll no longer need theirs.

It would not, by any means, preclude us from further exploring possibilities on our own with regard to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska; considering the portion under consideration for ANWR drilling is tiny compared to the overall land area of the refuge, the payment of close attention to environmental quality controls would make exploiting those suspected natural resources quite plausible. It’s something to think about.

No, wait - it’s something to act on, considering the debate on expanding oil exploration in Alaska has been ongoing since before Jimmy Carter capitulated to the Iranians.

Of course, there are countries other than the United States, Canada and the Russian Federation with political/economic interests in the North Pole; Denmark and Norway are also out to claim their plots of Arctic turf. But when you really think about it, if we can discredit the Russians’ claims while sitting on the sidelines in a not-so-sidelined-way behind Canada, it’ll only be Norway and Denmark against the Cold Dominion (I really like that nickname; I think I may have been the first American to think of, and then apply, it for Canada).

In a fight like that, the Norwegians and Danes don’t stand a chance.

Even against Canada.

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