Fred Zeidman, director and co-chair of Council for a Secure America, says the U.S. must “reassert its role as both an energy and a political power broker.”
“It’s important for the future of mankind. We now have an ability to destroy the earth, and you have a lot of folks that don’t really care if we do it or don’t do it running around with or getting close to having these weapons of mass destruction,” he says. “So, for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and the future of civilization, we have got to get a grip on this thing.”
“And we’ve got to rein in the rogue countries that are trying to destroy Western civilization and the greatest country in the history of the world, the United States of America,” says Zeidman, whose New York City-based organization focuses on U.S. energy independence as “the underpinning for U.S. security” and on a “strategic alliance with Israel [to] strengthen America’s mutual security and global standing.”
Zeidman joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss how the U.S. can supports its allies, notably Taiwan and Ukraine; how the Biden administration’s energy policies specifically have affected U.S. national security; and how he would grade those energy policies.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Samantha Aschieris: Joining today’s show is Fred Zeidman, director and co-chair of Council for a Secure America. Fred, thanks so much for joining us.
Fred Zeidman: Sam, it’s a great pleasure. I think that where we are right now, our organization, which, obviously, is in a building phase, is so critical to where we are in the world right now, given the items particularly that we talked about in our op-ed, that it’s a pleasure to be able to talk to you and to any audience to try and get us back on track. So thank you. Thank you for having me.
Aschieris: Yes, of course. Thank you so much for that. I want to just dive right in and talk more about your op-ed that you recently co-authored for RealClearPolitics. And one of the themes that you talked about was U.S. energy. And with that, I wanted to get your thoughts on the Biden administration’s approach to it. First and foremost, how would you grade the Biden administration’s energy policies?
Zeidman: Well, my goodness. I mean, maybe he’s gone from a two to a three, but I don’t even know how I could give him credit for a two.
The very first thing he did, as you well know, when he got into office was cancel the Keystone pipeline. Had he not canceled the Keystone pipeline, we would’ve remained energy-independent all by itself.
And then when he stopped federal leasing, he stopped all these others, it was obvious that, No. 1, he had no understanding whatsoever of the need for fossil fuels and the role that fossil fuel actually played in any alternative energy solution, and that he was going to do whatever he could do to damage the fossil fuel industry.
We knew from that minute that we were once again going to see a tremendous increase in prices. There were going to be major supply issues. We had one blip when the Saudi Arabians decided, well, and I guess, and Russia decided to reassert themselves and cut oil prices to $20 a barrel, which, again, was all aimed at shutting down the industry here because nobody could afford to drill for $20 oil.
So they reasserted themselves at that point, the Biden administration having no real understanding. The first thing they did was try and drain our reserves. And as you well know, reserves have to be replaced. So what are we going to do? We’re going to buy Saudi Arabian oil to replace our reserves. That made no sense.
So it has been horribly, horribly detrimental to energy independence and to American exceptionalism. All the things that made America a great country have been damaged tremendously by the Biden administration.
There have been a couple very, very lame attempts at trying to bring it back, but nothing of any kind of consequence and nothing that it really matters. So I actually could not be more disappointed in what has happened in the industry since the Biden administration has come in.
Aschieris: Yes, just a little more than two years ago, the Biden administration came into office and since then I wanted to get your thoughts on how their energy policies specifically have impacted U.S. national security and from a global perspective, its role on the global stage.
Zeidman: Well, first of all, it’s just one of many reasons. Again, this world worked because of American exceptionalism. There was only one country in the world that could keep their finger in the dike to protect the kind of things that we’ve seen before.
And if you look at the approach to foreign policy, first of all, our dependence on foreign oil, as you well know, without energy, nothing moves, nothing runs. And the fact that he was trying to shut down, if you will, the fossil fuel industry of the United States, had to cause tremendous inflation in the United States, which resulted in these tremendous giveaways that we’ve had to try and compensate for that.
So you start with that. You start with our, again, dependence on foreign oil, which, one of the things that the Trump administration had done exceptionally well was reinforce the United States’ place on the world scene.
You combine that with our pullout from Afghanistan and what has happened to a great extent is it created this opportunity for China to step in the middle of this and become who the United States has always been, which is, I want to say the peacekeeper to the world.
But if you look at the countries in the Middle East, there was a tremendous fear that the United States would do in the Middle East what they had done with the Afghanistan pullout.
And all of the countries that joined the Abraham Accords, who are all the primary oil producers, Saudi Arabia could not be a named participant because, as the crown prince actually said to me when I met with him—I met with him with a group of about 10 people. He said, “We live in a pretty rough neighborhood. We can’t really join the Abraham Accords. But take a look at what we do and take a look at what we do with Israel.”
But all of a sudden there became a fear in the Middle East that the United States would not support them the way that it had been agreed upon during the Trump days and the creation of the Abraham Accords.
And all of these countries who had self-preservation as their primary motivation started doing business once again with Iran and China, who is—and I apologize, I’m not sure of this for a fact—but who has virtually no oil production, but arguably is, if not the largest consumer of oil in the world, certainly one of the one or two.
We start cutting Russia off after the Ukraine invasion, and China, who can take all of the oil that Russia can produce, becomes their biggest market. And they take that and it manifests itself into China coming back onto the world stage as a broker, but they’re a broker among our enemies before they can broker with the United States, which would not be to our benefit, I don’t think, in terms of what kind of deals we can make.
So all of a sudden you see China bringing back together this three-legged stool who, arguably, are our enemies, Iran, and everyone starts to make deals with Iran for self-preservation again, right? And they’ve got a customer base for anything they can produce. Russia, who has arguably been cut off to a great extent from selling into Western Europe, now they’ve got a market for everything they can produce just by going the other way.
So the combination is there was a common goal among those three. And, if you look at the oil-producing countries, they see that there’s an economic reason once again to try and do business.
So all of a sudden you got probably the world’s two greatest enemies, if you will, Iran and Iraq, for religious reasons. Dan Yergin once wrote that every war in the history of the world has been fought over oil. I took issue with him a little bit. I said, “I thought, perhaps some of these wars have been fought for religious reasons.” OK? So there were religious reasons, but it was all based on oil production, according to him. But all of a sudden there was an economic reason for these people to join forces against, and finally, they could fight against the evils that were United States exceptionalism.
And we have to a great extent gotten into that position now and we don’t know where it’s going. Nobody knows how it’s going. I mean, it self-corrected before, but if you look at the position that Israel is in with the United States not being as supportive, if you will, as it has been historically—and the Abraham Accords have stalled to a great extent.
There is still a great deal of trade going on between the Abraham Accord countries and Israel. But the same countries are now doing business with Iran again and that’s for self-preservation. They have no ability to defend themselves. They were counting on the United States and they now have this fear that they’ve had before.
We bailed in Afghanistan, we bailed in Iran, we basically bailed in Iraq after the Iraqi war. The United States has not maintained its position as the bully on the block, the big biggest bully on the block in the Middle East. And there’s fears in those countries and their economic power allows them to make deals to buy safety.
So, I’m sorry, I need to let you ask me questions, but you pushed the button, the start button, Sam.
Aschieris: No worries at all.
Zeidman: This is something that I spent so much of my life devoted to because of my devotion to the state of Israel and the safety and security of the Jewish community, which is how I fell into this position to begin with.
So when asked to become Harold Hamm’s co-chairman, I said, “Even in my advanced age and not wanting to take national leadership positions anymore, how could I conceivably pass up an opportunity to partner with Harold Hamm in talking about energy security and the state of Israel?”
So with all due apologies, let me turn it back to you.
Aschieris: No worries at all. That was really interesting. I wanted to segue into what we were talking about earlier with this op-ed that you co-authored for RealClearPolitics. In the op-ed, you wrote, “We must stand strong with our allies in Taiwan and Ukraine as nations like China and Russia threaten their right to self-determination.” From your perspective, what does standing strong with our allies look like?
Zeidman: Well, I will tell you that the world has changed. So I think that perhaps putting feet on the ground is something that America has to be hesitant in doing.
But I think that considering—I laughingly said, I think the reason that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin went to China, if you remember the pictures of him at the Olympics, is that they were flipping a coin to see whether he would invade Ukraine or China would invade Taiwan first. But that combination was meant to weaken the United States and perhaps to take Taiwan and to take Ukraine. And I think that Putin won the flip having no idea at all the defense that Ukraine would put up.
But I think we have been greatly remiss in not providing Ukraine with whatever they need. Look, this is not, and I don’t want to get into the politics, Republican primary politics, but this is not a regional skirmish on a border dispute. This is a battle of major world powers, of Russia and whoever their allies are and the West because we’re getting very close to NATO countries.
So I think whatever we have to do, short of putting boots on the ground—but at some point we might have to do that as well, we need to do. We have to protect Taiwan because if you look at the amount of our manufacturing that is taking place in Taiwan and the effect that it would have on the American economy—and I think that protecting Ukraine.
Because if you think, and again, I don’t want to be naive, but if you think for one moment that this would stop Putin, I think that’s a grave, grave, grave mistake. I think he is bound and determined to recreate the Soviet Union. And if you look at it, there are several of those countries that are now NATO countries, which would force us under—I mean, forget the Budapest Memorandum, which we’ve already violated, but we have an obligation to NATO to protect them.
So if we allow him to take Ukraine, then next comes some of these other countries that are now part of NATO, and we have an obligation to protect them.
So that does mean the start of arguably a third world war. What does that mean about mutual destruction? I don’t know. I don’t know what that means, but I can’t imagine that we would abandon NATO, and we certainly can’t abandon Taiwan. And I think some of the things that China is doing now are there only to embarrass the United States.
I will tell you, flying this balloon over the United States, a spy balloon over the United States of America, slowly over a period about five or six days, arguably could be the single most embarrassing moment in American history.
I think buzzing Taiwan the way they’ve done, they’re just letting the rest of the world know that they’re in the throes of this being the Chinese century, as the last century was the American, the U.S. century.
So I think it is incredibly important that we do, short of putting boots on the ground, that we do everything we possibly can to allow Ukraine and to allow Taiwan to defend themselves.
And as you see, Martin [Frost], for all intents and purposes, even agrees with most of that. Obviously, he is very supportive of the Biden administration, which he should be, but I could not have been more proud of him for understanding our needs, an American defense, and stretching as far as he did as an extension of where the Biden administration is now.
Aschieris: Fred, I wanted to talk more about this article titled “It’s Time for America to Reassert Its Role as Both an Energy and Political Powerbroker.”
Aschieris: When you look at the two that you talk about there, both energy and political power broker, how can the U.S. work to achieve both parts of that, both in the energy and political sectors?
Zeidman: Well, ironically, I think there’s a very, very simple answer to that. And God bless Harold Hamm, my partner, because the day that we became energy-independent and no longer dependent at all on Mid East oil, all of a sudden it changed our whole position with regard to the Middle East, Russia, and everyone else.
We didn’t have to worry any more about having to wear a sweater and set the temperature at 65 degrees, Jimmy Carter. Being not dependent on them—we were very, very dependent on their energy to keep our economy rolling. And being energy-independent, and I mean, my God, look how this has manifested itself.
But being energy-independent, energy being the, I don’t want to use a bad pun, the bedrock or the foundation, of all economic activity gave us the ultimate flexibility. There was no one that could challenge us militarily. We were so much more of a power than any other country.
You look at Russia, there’s an old joke about Russia being a gas station with a nuclear bomb. But Russia was broke, right? Russia was broke. Nobody had to deal with them. They couldn’t support their military and there was no threat from Russia.
Well, all of a sudden, we lose our energy independence, which means we now cannot control the price of energy. Prices go to a $100 a barrel or whatever and gas prices go to $6, whatever they went to at one point in time. And all of a sudden, we are now—Iran, same issue with Iran. We are now, again, I hate to use a bad pun, but we are fueling their economy.
And once we fueled their economy, they had the ability to support military again. And we have now seen, again, the manifestation of that with their becoming an offensive power and taking on Ukraine.
They couldn’t have done this three years ago, four years ago, five years ago. They had no ability to do that because they were a broke country. Iran was at a pretty inability to sell to anybody. They had a much smaller market. They were being sanctioned by us and we had totally bankrupted their economy.
And both of these were on the verge of absolute collapse when all of a sudden our energy industry gets shut down, prices go through the roof, and now we, again, are giving them the financial capability. Iran, particularly, is and we started to remove sanctions from them. Do I fear their nuclear capability? You have to. Are they going to bomb anybody? We have no idea.
I grew up during the early days of the Cold War, and Russia certainly understood the theory of mutual destruction. I even remember as an 8- or 9-year-old when they were running ads all day long on television for bomb shelters.
And I said to my father, who is a World War II veteran, part of the D-Day invasion, and I said, “Dad, why don’t we buy a fallout shelter?” And he said, “Because Russia understands mutual destruction, and they will never drop a nuclear bomb on America because they understand it.”
Well, I’m not sure that Iran doesn’t also understand mutual destruction, but you got a lot of satellite countries that would be excellent customers of Iran that either don’t care about neutral destruction or don’t understand it. So their having the ability to create a weapon of mass destruction would be a catastrophe for the rest of the world. So our ability to police all that is broken.
Look, it broke when [President Joe] Biden sent them or whoever—I don’t know. I don’t know. I forget if it was Biden or [President Barack] Obama. I’m losing track of time. Their cash back and what they’ve done now with removing sanctions and allowing them to continue and putting them in the greatest position they’ve ever been in by the adjacent POA to disintegrate, if you will.
Iran’s now in a position where there’s no agreement and they have no interest in reentering an agreement because as long as there’s no agreement, they can produce anything they want. And that’s happened with this administration.
So we are not asserting. We don’t really have the ability because of the way this game is playing out to assert. But we are choosing not to assert diplomatic power to be the power broker and we’re not the energy power broker because we’ve allowed these rogue countries to sell into other markets.
Aschieris: Well, Fred, thank you so much for joining us. Just before we go, I wanted to give you the opportunity for any final thoughts.
Zeidman: Well, all I can say is I fervently hope that the Republican Party, if you will, or if not the Republican Party, someone other than the progressive end of the Democratic Party can take power in ’24. I have a lot of confidence in our party. I don’t have that level of confidence in the Democratic Party, but we’ve got to reassert ourselves.
And again, because Martin was my co-author, but I think this headline, Sam, really says it all. America has got to reassert its role as both an energy and a political power broker. It’s important for the future of mankind.
We now have an ability to destroy the earth, and you have a lot of folks that don’t really care if we do it or don’t do it running around with or getting close to having these weapons of mass destruction.
So for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and the future of civilization, we have got to get a grip on this thing. And we’ve got to rein in the rogue countries that are trying to destroy Western civilization and the greatest country in the history of the world, the United States of America. And I can’t thank you enough for letting me vent, if you will, and I appreciate everything you’re trying to accomplish.
Aschieris: Well, Fred Zeidman, thank you so much again for joining us. I really appreciate it and look forward to having you back on in the future.
Zeidman: I’ll do this seven days a week. I put my uniform back on and I’m back in the ballgame.
Aschieris: Well, great. Thank you so much.
Zeidman: Thank you. Thanks, Sam.
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