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How to lead from within

Lifting the self-imposed ban on US oil exports would make America stronger and Putin and IS weaker.

Both Putin and ISIS are totally dependent on exploiting  high-priced oil or gas to finance their madness. Both Putin and ISIS are totally dependent on exploiting high-priced oil or gas to finance their madness.

Lifting the self-imposed ban on US oil exports would make America stronger and Putin and IS weaker.

I don’t  know what action will be sufficient to roll back both the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, but I do know what’s necessary. And it’s not “leading from behind”, which didn’t really work for President Obama in Libya, and it isn’t simply leading a lonely and unpopular charge from in front, which certainly didn’t work for President Bush in Iraq. It’s actually reviving America’s greatest strategy: leading from within.

The most effective leadership abroad starts with respect earned from others seeing us commit to doing great and difficult things at home that summon the energy of the whole country — and not just from our military families. And the necessary impactful thing that America should do at home now is for the president and Congress to lift our self-imposed ban on US oil exports, which would significantly dent the global high price of crude oil. And combine that with long overdue comprehensive tax reform that finally values our environment and security. That would be a carbon tax that is completely offset by lowering personal income, payroll and corporate taxes. Nothing would make us stronger and Putin and ISIS weaker — all at the same time.

How so? First you need to understand how much Putin and ISIS have in common. For starters, they each like to do their dirtiest work wearing a mask, because deep down, somewhere, they know that what they’re doing is shameful. Both are clearly motivated to use force by an intense desire to overcome past humiliations.

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For Putin, it is the humiliation over Russian weakness that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, which he once described as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, which left millions of Russian speakers outside the Russian state. And for ISIS, it is how modernity has left so many Arab/ Muslim nations behind in the 21st century by all the critical indices of human development. Both are looking for respect in all the wrong places. Both are also intent on rewriting the prevailing rules of the international system, which they see as having been drawn up by America or the West to advantage themselves and disadvantage Arabs or Russians. And, very significantly, they both are totally dependent on exploiting high-priced oil or gas to finance their madness.

The way you defeat such an enemy is by being “crazy like a fox,” says Andy Karsner, the former assistant energy secretary in the last Bush administration and now the CEO of Manifest Energy. “We have one bullet that hits both of them: bring down the price of oil. It’s not like they can suddenly shift to making iWatches.”

 

First published on: 09-09-2014 at 00:38 IST
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