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Is it all about oil?
October 16, 2002 4:49 AM   Subscribe

Is it all about oil? Iraq war protesters insist a war wil be about oil. Others say no. Here the writer argues that it is both--it is not all about oil but we will control the oil should we take control.
posted by Postroad (51 comments total)

 
It's about barring Hussein from using oil profits to fund his personal weapons program. Even if it was entirely about oil, so what?
posted by mischief at 5:15 AM on October 16, 2002


Even if it was entirely about oil, so what?

Gosh, mischief, puppies sure are adorable!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:21 AM on October 16, 2002


I had a conservative friend essentially admit and endorse the argument of war with Iraq being all about oil. His startegy with me (and other liberal friends) was to prick the balloon that is the war for oil argument. It worked. I can no longer discuss the war for oil angle.
posted by Dick Paris at 6:25 AM on October 16, 2002


Part of the United States problem right now is that it has a global public perception problem. Some of this is deserved -- there's cases where our foreign policy (esp. since WWII) has been intentionally ruinous for places, or places where we've decided to act in our strategic interest regardless of local consequences. Some of it's undeserved... well-intentioned aid projects or intervention gone amok, relative prosperity, and finally, a sort of self-absorbed but mostly germane population. Either way, though, if we're really going to defeat terrorism (as well as terrorists), we need to be the good guys: if/when there's an attack and occupation of Iraq, it has to be conducted in strict accordance with the lofty principles we claim to value and be defending. That's why it's essential that if there's any U.S. involvement in managing and apportioning oil, that it's conducted in the most circumspect way possible. No sweetheart deals for U.S. interests, period. Anything else is practically an advertisement for al-Qaeda.
posted by namespan at 6:36 AM on October 16, 2002


That's pretty cute rhetorically - "Yeah, it is about oil. And?" - because if/when it kicks off, it won't be about oil, it will be about lives, Iraqi and American and quite probably others, and the stability of region, which in turn will affect - and so on, and so on.

And those at the top, (on many sides, not just the Bush/Cheney hydra) ordering these lives into battle, have clearly identifable individual interests in oil and arms. If they admit that, it doesn't make the problem go away.
posted by klaatu at 6:37 AM on October 16, 2002


It's about barring Hussein from using oil profits to fund his personal weapons program.

Is that what we're calling it now? I'm stealing that guy's chickens so he can't sell the eggs and buy a gun? Whooo. Spurious.

But of course it's not all about oil. Its about revenge, keeping the War Machine rolling, and oil. If it's really about human rights violations and possession of weapons of mass destruction, then we've got a long war ahead of us with many, many nations, including the United States. *gulp*
posted by mikrophon at 6:38 AM on October 16, 2002


I had a liberal friend admit to me that exhibiting concern for his fellow man made him more likely to get laid. His strategy with women (and other sensitive friends) was to balloon the prick in the mind's eye by looking like he cared. Don't think it worked as much as he hoped.
posted by klaatu at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2002


I think it's obviously not about terrorism or human rights violations. We were very happy to give Saddam our full support when he was using biological weapons against the Kurds. The fact that this is not spoken about in the mainstream press speaks volumes.
posted by botono9 at 6:49 AM on October 16, 2002


That's why it's essential that if there's any U.S. involvement in managing and apportioning oil, that it's conducted in the most circumspect way possible. No sweetheart deals for U.S. interests, period.

namespan, the installed president of the last country we bombed the hell out of was a former high-ranking employee for one of the same oil companies that wanted to drill a pipeline through it. I think the chance for even pretending that we don't have invested interests in this is long gone.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:52 AM on October 16, 2002


Dick Paris: Why, exactly, can you no longer discuss the "war for oil" angle? Even if your argument partner (to me, that's a nicer way of saying "opponent") admits, accepts, and lauds the "war for oil" angle, can you not still oppose the notion fundamentally? Or is your objection to the "war for oil" thing not quite as ardent as you had once believed? (In other words, has your prior objection to the war been based primarily on the supposedly "legitimate" reasons being given for it -- with you "knowing full well" it's real justifications -- and now that that illusion has been "given up," have you no further objections?)

I'm asking this seriously. Though not entirely clearly, I know.
(And with a lot of quotes. And parentheses.)
posted by *burp* at 7:00 AM on October 16, 2002


It is about securing the region so that America has the resources necessary to remain the world's only superpower. It is about oil and about crushing opposition. It is about forcibly imposing a world order that is friendly to American consumer culture and social values.

Might makes right, history is written by the winners and all of that.
posted by moonbiter at 7:06 AM on October 16, 2002


It's all about the oillllllllllllllllllllll!
posted by jammer at 7:34 AM on October 16, 2002


Crude: Why the war isn't about oil in TNR (reg mefi/mefi will fail but you can still get the articles)

Peter Beinart demolishes the simplistic arguments that this is a cynical gambit by Bush and Cheny for more crude oil. It is well worth a read.

His closing paragraph sums up his conclusions:

Whatever you think of the Bushies, September 11, 2001, changed their view of the world. And it is that changed view that has brought America to the brink of war. The left can call that new outlook reckless or arrogant or dumb. But they should at least admit that it's sincere.


Also worth reading in TNR:
Beinart's Win Win: How war in Iraq could help the war on terrorism. is likewise pretty sensible.

And on the topic of pro war liberals making sense in TNR, check out Chait's piece WHY LIBERALS SHOULD SUPPORT THE WAR.
posted by ednopantz at 7:41 AM on October 16, 2002


the installed president of the last country we bombed the hell out of was a former high-ranking employee for one of the same oil companies that wanted to drill a pipeline through it. I think the chance for even pretending that we don't have invested interests in this is long gone.

XQUZYPHYR: Can you be more specific? Are we talking about Serbia here?

I think the chance for pretending we've behaved in strict accordance to principle in the past is gone. I don't think it's too late to act in a principled manner, especially if enough of the American people were to confront our leaders about it. But I also share your skepticism of the current administrations willingness to do that... it's not hard to make a decent case for intervention for change in Iraq, if your ethics are in the right place. Since the administration seems to have a hard time making said decent case, my conclusion is their motivation isn't ethical. Or they're inept. Neither is comforting.

Still, I wonder if enough of the American people went to their leaders and demanded ethical behavior (including a pre-commitment to leave the damn oil alone) and let them know they'd be watching.... but then again, I suppose the chances of that are small too.
posted by namespan at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2002


XQUZYPHYR: Can you be more specific? Are we talking about Serbia here?

Erm. Afghanistan. I am a moron.

(but the oil connection is interesting... do tell...)
posted by namespan at 8:08 AM on October 16, 2002


Is it about oil? Sure. Is it only about US intrests in that oil? No. Russia, France and a whole host of other nations who are the most vocal critics of US policy have signed deals worth billions of dollars with Saddam that go into effect as soon as the sanctions are lifted. That's one of the reasons Russia is essentially asking for a big payoff from the US not to veto a stronger UN resolution. I would also speculate that Germany and France aren't real excited about the US going in and finding out how much business they've been doing illegally with Iraq in violation of the UN resolutions (just like the EU granted the US immunity from the ICC when it was leaked that France had cut a similar immunity deal years ago).

What everyone knows but is not saying is that the US isn't leaving Iraq anytime soon. Unlike Afghanistan we'll set up a military government much like we did in Japan. The biggest boost the US can get in the fight against terrorism is hand-holding Iraq's hand to prosperity. We don't want to control the region forever but since Saddam has spent the last couple of decades killing everyone who seems smart enough and savvy enough to actually run the country for fear they may stage of coup, the best chance they have is under temporary US rule.

Muslim/Arab nations keep talking about the "stability" of the area without understanding that the status quo is the worst possible situation for the US. They know, as I'm sure the Bush administration does, that if the US goes into Iraq, turns it into another post-WWII Japan or Germany, the whole myth of the US as the bad guy shatters. They'll be forced to examine if it is indeed their own culture, their own leaders which are responsible for their decline in power and influence on the world stage.

People ask why are we going after Iraq and not Saudi Arabia that has obviously done more to contribute to the Sept. 11 attacks than Iraq and the answer is simple; Saddam is the last holdout thumbing his nose at the US. The anti-US forces in the region look up to him as a great leader for his defiance while they loathe places like Saudi Arabia who cooperates publically and privately with the US. You take Saddam down and it's one more stake in the heart of the radical Islamic movement.

Of course Iran is talking about stability. They're inches away from becoming a full-blown democracy and shedding religious rule. Of course Saudi Arabia is talking about stability. The winds are blowing the way of the end of the monarchy and hopefully towards democracy. Shattering the myth of US being the bad guy only accelerates the shift. Of course. Of course. Of course.

So, in the end, the US can look out for its own self-interests or it can look out for Russia's or it can look out for Saudi Arabia's or it can look out for the best interests of radical Islam. Given the choice, I vote we look out for our own best interest which is to topple Saddam and install a government that has half a chance of putting one of the most oil rich countries in the world on the path to success and at the same time gaining a loyal ally.
posted by billman at 8:11 AM on October 16, 2002


I got so tired of the lack of background knowledge evidenced in some of these these posts that I put together a primer on the genesis of the push for war on Iraq - within the context of the new Bush foreign policy vision.

First of all, a bit about oil: As this sept. 19 '02 Nation article observes, "The problem of growing US dependence on imported petroleum was first raised in the National Energy Policy Report, released by the White House in May 2001. Known as "the Cheney report," after its principal author, the Vice President, the document revealed that imported supplies accounted for half of US oil consumption in 2000 and will jump to two-thirds in 2020. And despite all the talk of drilling in Alaska, the report makes one thing clear: Most of America's future oil supplies will have to come from the Persian Gulf countries, which alone possess sufficient production potential to meet ever-growing US energy requirements. Thus, the report calls on the White House to place a high priority on increasing US access to Persian Gulf supplies."

With the push for war on Iraq, the Bush adm. has made denials - contradicted by the "Cheney report" - that it has not considered the "oil issue" and so the Washington Post (sept. 15, '02) notes "A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition.....Although senior Bush administration officials say they have not begun to focus on the issues involving oil and Iraq...."

Furthermore, the current Saudi regime is consiered unstable. To suggest that the current Bush administration - made up mostly of oil execs - is unaware of the need to maintain oil flow from the Mideast is..........well.......Silly.

Even the (conservative) Economist Magazine recognizes oil as at least a "secondary" consideration: "Another large consideration, secondary as it may be, has attracted less attention than it should have: the effects that would follow from the opening up of the country's enormous reserves of oil...Iraq's reserves are the second-biggest in the world."

But the Project for a New American Century's seminal report "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (see links below) - which has served as the framework for the new Bush foreign policy doctrines - notes the need to control mideast oil resources, and so The Boston Globe reports (sept. 10. '02) the influence of Hawks within the Bush adm. advocating redrawing the map in the mideast and grabbing the oil: As the Bush administration debates going to war against Iraq, its most hawkish members are pushing a sweeping vision for the Middle East that sees the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq as merely a first step...The argument for reshaping the political landscape in the Mideast has been pushed for years by some Washington think tanks and in hawkish circles. It is now being considered as a possible US policy with the ascent of key hard-liners in the administration - from Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith in the Pentagon to John Hannah and Lewis Libby on the vice president's staff and John Bolton in the State Department, analysts and officials say....Iraq, the hawks argue, is just the first piece of the puzzle. After an ouster of Hussein, they say, the United States will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, will be in a better position to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will be able to rely less on Saudi oil."

In line with the PNAC/neocon vision, especially the oberservation (from "Rebuilding America's Defenses" that "while Iraq provides the immediate justification.....Iran may well pose the more serious threat", The Baker Institute seems to be laying the groundwork for future US strikes against Iran: Iran as a far more signficant threat than Iraq -- which it may very well be, in terms of it's support for terrorism and it's push develop nuclear weapons (as reported by Seymour Hersch of the New Yorker Magazine, april 5, 1999). Iran has extensive links to Hezbollah, reports Jeffrey Goldberg for the New Yorker Magazine: "Hezbollah, if nothing else, is a Khomeinist organization, and so they believe in the arguments that Ayatollah Khomeini made against America at the time of the Iranian revolution."

If the US attacks Iraq we can, in line with the PNAC/neocon vision, expects many future wars - on Iran, perhaps Syria, North Korea, Libya...who knows.

You can read about this vision straight from the horses' mouth at the Project for a New American Century which produced the seminal report "Rebuilding America's Defenses" - which served as the framework for the new Bush foreign policy doctrines, proposes a vast US military buildup, the establishment of extensive US bases in the region and asserts the need to control mideast oil resources. US bases in southwest asia would both serve to control oil resources in the Mideast and the Caspian Sea region and also serve as a countewrweight to emergent Chinese military might - and might even be able to force a regime change in China (envisions the report). See also the PNAC "Statement of Principles" (1997): "we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles."

The genesis of "Rebuilding America's Defenses" began in the last days of the Bush 1 administration, as Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, commissioned Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby come up with a new vision for US post Cold War foreign policy [SEE BOTTOM of post].

The Glasgow Sunday Herald (which claims to have "broken" the PNAC story, even though the report was freely available on the net) puts this new "vision" in the harshest possible light:

"A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change' even before he took power in January 2001...[The PNAC] plan shows Bush's cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: 'The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein....The PNAC document supports a 'blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests'....[According to] Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP, father of the House of Commons and one of the leading rebel voices against war with Iraq, 'This is a blueprint for US world domination -- a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world.' "

This charactorization of the new neocon world domination plan as "fantasist" (and perhaps paranoid) is aptly supported by the words of one of the Neocon's own, Richard Perle, reports the Village Voice:

"At an October 29 American Enterprise Institute panel moderated by Perle, Iran-Contra luminary Michael Ledeen nicely summed up the hawks' worldview.

"No stages," he said. "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. And all this talk about, well, first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq, then we will take a look around and see how things stand, that is entirely the wrong way to go about it. Because these guys are all talking to each other and are all working with one another. . . . If we just let our own vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to be clever and piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants, I think we will do very well, and our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

[GENESIS OF PNAC REPORT. Chris Floyd, for the Moscow Times, reports Sept. 11 '02]:

"The first version, mentioned in passing here last week, was drafted by a team operating under then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in 1992. It set out a new doctrine for U.S. power in the 21st century, an aggressive, unilateral approach that would secure American domination of world affairs -- "by force if necessary," as one of the acolytes put it...When the Dominators were temporarily ousted from government after 1992, they continued their strategic planning with funding from the military-energy-security apparatus and right-wing foundations. This culminated in a new group, the aptly-named Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Members included hard-right players like Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad (now "special envoy" to the satrapy of Afghanistan) and other empire aspirants currently perched in the upper reaches of government power.

In September 2000, PNAC updated the original Cheney plan in a published report, "Strengthening [my note - Floyd menas "rebuilding"] America's Defenses." In this and related documents, the earlier precepts were reiterated and refined. The plans called for unprecedented hikes in military spending, the plantation of American bases in Central Asia and the Middle East, the toppling of recalcitrant regimes, the militarization of outer space, the abrogation of international treaties, the willingness to use nuclear weapons and control of the world's energy resources."

.....'Nuff said.
posted by troutfishing at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2002


Good, level headed article Postroad. My wife - who worked on both the upstream and downstream sides of the oil biz for six years - gets a big laugh out of the "it's about oil" schtick ... because while it sounds good to say at a protest, it makes no sense.

What, exactly, does "its all about oil" mean? How does replacing Saddam help the US gain oil benefits? Oil is not currently a scarce commodity, and supply from the Middle East is not determined by capacity, but by OPEC. Any government replacing Saddam would simply be another member (there will be no massive flood of oil to drive down prices if he is overthrown).

Further, of our imports, only around 20% (or less) even comes from the Middle East anymore - and mostly this is Saudi Arabia. This is not because of politics, but rather due to the market itself - short-haul sources are much preferred over long-haul (for obvious reasons). In fact four countries provide close to 2/3's of US imports - with the Saudi's being the only major long-haul supplier in the group (the other three are Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela).

Iraq has somewhat sizable reserves - but from the point of view of multi-national oil companies ... there are many sizable reserves, more being discovered every year, and the technology to cost-effectively obtain oil from reserves has advanced tremendously in the last decade.

The "it's about oil" argument seems to come about because people say "1. Bush and his buddies are in oil. 2. Iraq has a lot of oil. 3. Therefore, it's about oil". It is not possible to point out that this is ridiculous, however, as "its about oil" is more of a religious statement than a rational argument ... one just accepts it because others seem to be saying it, and it very conveniently permits the negative emotional connotations of "big oil" to be added to the anti-war rehtoric.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:24 AM on October 16, 2002


*burp*,

Good questions and you're well to ask since my own post lacks clarity. I suppose I can't discuss it because:

a) the war for oil bit no longer carries any weight in the I-oppose-war-with-Iraq column.

b) the adoption of the argument as a good reason to go to war makes the position so outrageous that I can't possibly believe anyone would go to war for oil (even though my rational self knows this can be true).

My opposition to going to war with Iraq has not changed.

(Sorry for the late response -- my "always on" ADSL went down.)
posted by Dick Paris at 9:01 AM on October 16, 2002


The biggest boost the US can get in the fight against terrorism is hand-holding Iraq's hand to prosperity.

Absolutely true.

We don't want to control the region forever but since Saddam has spent the last couple of decades killing everyone who seems smart enough and savvy enough to actually run the country for fear they may stage of coup, the best chance they have is under temporary US rule.

The questions is: will the U.S. really do this? No wait, the question is: how do we (as US citizens and as citizens of other nations who have influence on the US and within the UN) make sure that any attack and occupation of Iraq is demonstrably about THESE goals, rather than what are some rather tempting strategic/economic interests?

In order for this to work for us, it has to be a totally good faith effort, executed competently and without corruption. How do we hold the effort to this standard?
posted by namespan at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2002


Midas Mulligan - Although only 20% of US oil consumption currently comes from the mideast, oil reserves outside the mideast are rapidly being exhausted. For example, US oil production peaked in 1970 -- despite heroic measures and, more importantly, DESPITE the development of increasingly sophisticated extractive technologies.

The peak in US production was predicted over a decade before it happened (around 1960) by M. King Hubbert, a prominent petroleum geologist, through a fairly simple analytical technique which compared rates of 1) proven reserves, 2) rates of discovery of new oil fields, and 3) rates of consumption. Hubbert pegged the US peak to within a year. Using the same predictive technique suggests a possible world oil production peak within one to two decades. The USGS predicts the world's oil will hold out for 50 years. Based on it's proven track record, I'd put my money on the "Hubbert Curve"

Meanwhile, everyone agrees that the mideast is where the vast bulk of the world's PROVEN oil reserves lie.

"The "it's about oil" argument seems to come about because"......well, actually the Bush administration has explicitly noted the importance of maintaining US access to mideast oil reserves (in the "Cheney report").

Oil was the key resource in WW2 - Japan attacked at Pearl Harbour because the US had moved to cut off it's access to it's previous supplies of oil. Japanese militarists argued (correctly) that with it's limited reserves, Japan only had a short "window of opportunity". Later in the war, the German and Japanese war efforts were significanrtly hampered by lack of access to oil.

Oil continues to play a key world role as the basis of economic and military power. To assert otherwise is...what words could I use? illogical? myopic? obtuse? ridiculous?

It's not ALL about oil. It's fundamentally about cementing the US "Pax Americana": military and political domination over the world. But to cement the "Pax Americana", we must control the oil.

I may question the values and basic sanity of most of the Bush adminstration, but I wouldn't insult their intelligence by claiming they are unaware of the current crucial nature of oil to the world economy.

"Iraq has somewhat sizable reserves - but from the point of view of multi-national oil companies ... there are many sizable reserves" - A bizarre distortion. Iraq has the 2nd largest proven oil reserves in the world next to Saudi Arabia. Period.
posted by troutfishing at 9:16 AM on October 16, 2002


To add on to what Midas said, "it's about oil" implies that Bush and his cronies would benefit personally from cheaper oil. I'm not so sure about that -- yeah, the companies with which Bush et al are associated would be able to get it cheaper, but then they'd have to sell it cheaper, since they don't have a monopoly in the oil business. Assuming their margin as a percentage remains constant, they'd have to move more oil to make the same money.

Of course, cheaper oil could be a tremendous benefit for the entire American economy, but the people who say "it's about oil" don't seem to mean that.
posted by kindall at 9:17 AM on October 16, 2002


Is it just me or have I read all this before back when it was called Dune?

He who controls the spice.. erm... oil, controls the universe
posted by PenDevil at 9:27 AM on October 16, 2002


the Bush administration has explicitly noted the importance of maintaining US access to mideast oil reserves (in the "Cheney report")

And of course this concern about oil is new and unique to the Bush administration. No previous presidents of the largest oil consuming nation in the world had positions and policies on maintaining the oil supply for our industry and population.
posted by chris24 at 9:28 AM on October 16, 2002


"I think it's obviously not about terrorism or human rights violations. We were very happy to give Saddam our full support when he was using biological weapons against the Kurds. The fact that this is not spoken about in the mainstream press speaks volumes."

My understanding is that the US knew those weapons were going to be used against the Kurds and did nothing before, during and after. In fact, quite some time after Saddam tried to commit genocide against the Kurds, we GAVE HIM MORE THAN A BILLION DOLLARS. Quite a statement!

What Saddam did that finally pissed the US off was invading Kuwait against orders not to.
posted by muppetboy at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2002


it is pretty simple-minded to say it's all about oil. I mean, there are other big business that would profit as well.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2002


GAVE HIM MORE THAN A BILLION DOLLARS

Please name a country the US has not given at least a billion or two.
posted by billman at 9:43 AM on October 16, 2002


Anyway, it's quite clear from the record that this war has nothing to do with human rights or democracy.

So what's the motive?

"Security"

To the US, the only remaining national security issue is to ensure the flow of cheap oil for decades to come. I mean, take a look around you. Odds are that every experience you had today and virtually every man-made object in sight was in some way produced by oil consumption. The US is TOTALLY dependent on oil. If the flow of oil from the gulf region even appear that it might stop, the price would skyrocket and our whole economy would begin to topple. Cut off from oil, the US literally cannot function.

Now tell me again, why is this war not about securing access to oil?
posted by muppetboy at 9:45 AM on October 16, 2002


"Please name a country the US has not given at least a billion or two."

Checked all your ethical sensibilities at the door eh?
posted by muppetboy at 9:48 AM on October 16, 2002


it is pretty simple-minded to say it's all about oil. I mean, there are other big business that would profit as well.

It's not (primarily) about profit. It's about national security. Oil IS national security.
posted by muppetboy at 9:51 AM on October 16, 2002


An alternative to all this madness would be to start a new government-funded alternative energy program with the resources of the Manhattan Project or the Space Program.
posted by muppetboy at 9:56 AM on October 16, 2002


To the US, the only remaining national security issue is to ensure the flow of cheap oil for decades to come.
So an atom bomb in a container ship that vaporizes 100,000 Americans is somehow not a national security issue?

Now tell me again, why is this war not about securing access to oil?

Because the US already has secure access to cheap oil. It buys it from a diversified group of suppliers, all of whom are willing and eager to exchange their oil for our dollars. Moreover, they have divergent interests and are willing to stab each other in the back to satisfy domestic spending needs. Collective action by producers has mainly failed: The AOPEC embargo was a disaster, and a disaster that producers have learned from. All it did was bring a dozen non-Arab competitors into the oil market, contributing to a glut of product and a crash in prices.

In 20 years, the US will get its oil the same way it does now. It will buy it. And whoever is pumping will sell it, because they will have the choice of selling their oil or drinking their oil.
posted by ednopantz at 9:57 AM on October 16, 2002


"Please name a country the US has not given at least a billion or two."

Checked all your ethical sensibilities at the door eh?

No, but at the same time trying to say that every time that the US gives this or that country a billion dollars as somehow equaling supporting their actions is like saying that if you give a homeless person your spare change as you exit 7-11 that you support alcoholism and drug addiction. I'm not saying that US motives are always pure but giving a country money and supporting genocide are not the same thing any more than smoking a big fat joint is the same as giving a big thumbs up to flying airplanes into buildings.

posted by billman at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2002


From the very end of the linked article:

Even if the price does not go up, the US public may be waking up to the reality that 30 years after the first OPEC-induced oil shock, the nation is no less dependent on oil from a volatile region of the world.

That is one reason why some experts believe that the US is now missing an opportunity to publicize conservation as a more important part of national energy policy.


So what happened to conservation (much talked about in the '70s)? Why has it dropped out of the national discourse? Why is it assumed we have to control sources of oil, as if we were doomed to go on consuming it in ever-greater quantities?

muppetboy: What "orders not to"? Here's the crucial bit from ambassador April Glaspie's talk with Saddam before the invasion:

"We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

"I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction."
posted by languagehat at 10:05 AM on October 16, 2002


Chris 24: "and of course this concern about oil is new and unique to the Bush administration." Read much? Yes, oil has been a preocuppation of US foreign policy for at least 50 years. But the Bush adminstration is the first adminstration to state, very publicly - and quite bluntly I would add - that we are willing and able to ensure US access to mideast oil through military force.

Kindall: "To add on to what Midas said, "it's about oil" implies that Bush and his cronies would benefit personally from cheaper oil." - Are you being purposefully obtuse?? Many from the current Bush adm. worked in the Bush 1 adm. When Clinton came to power they capitalized on their government contacts and experience and went to work in the private sector, such as for oil companies (or their adjuncts such as Halliburton) and in the defense industry (such as the Carlyle (sp?) group. They have numerous friends still working in these industries who will, no doubt, reward the Bushies in discrete, hard to prosecute, ways should they be kicked out of power in '04.

The revolving door between government and industry is spinning quickly these days, so fast that it is becomng a blur. And this blur can quickly become true fascism (hint - look up the definition of Fascism).

Speaking of which, this reminds me of the genesis of the the Bush family fortune, and it's ties to Fascism: Prescott Bush, George W. Bush's grandfather, was laundering money for the Thysson industrial empire (which produced a significant percentage of Germany industrial output), for the Union Banking Corp. during WW2. Alan Dulles, later head of the CIA, had the job of hiding the money trail. UBC was busted, in '42 or '43, under the "trading with the Enemy" act. But Prescott Bush got a whopping $750,000 or so from the (reconstituted) Thysson empire after the war ended. That's maybe 15 million in current US dollars. Meanwhile, George Bush 1 went into the air force, during WW2, to redeem the family name. Prescott Bush's friendship with Alan Dulles clearly came in very helpfull for Bush 1, as he ascended the ranks of the intelligence system, to become in turn director of the CIA himself. It was Alan Dulles who went against Truman's explicit orders to not allow confirmed Nazis into the US under Operation Paperclip (which brought in (Nazi) scientists and (SS) intelligence officers who had extensive info on Eastern Europe).
posted by troutfishing at 10:09 AM on October 16, 2002


Muppetboy put it succinctly: "It's not (primarily) about profit. It's about national security. Oil IS national security."

I'll restate, it at length, because many on this post are being purposefully dense:

It doesn't take a genius to see where the current geopolitics of oil are going -

1) Barring a new, massive US federal commitment to alternative energy, if the US does not make an heroic effort to wean itself from oil - spending hundreds of billions at least - we will still live in a primarily petrochemically run economy one and even two decades from now.

2) Despite new discoveries, the bulk of proven oil reserves still lie in the Mideast. As US domestic production (and non-mideast production) winds down, the US will come to depend increasingly on oil from a region where:

3) The rise in Islamic fundamentalism will soon pose (if it does not already) a deadly threat to US economic and military power because of it's threat to oil production.

These facts are well known by the Bush adminstration. They know exactly how unstable, how untenable the status quo really is.

They (the Bush adm.) have a plan..... they have spelled out this plan quite explicity, in numerous documents.....so why do you attribute to them the gross stupidity of ignoring the geopolitical realities of oil? Do you think Bush and Cheney (and Wolfowitz, etc, etc.) are so dumb? I don't.

Get a grip!
posted by troutfishing at 10:12 AM on October 16, 2002


languagehat:

So what happened to conservation (much talked about in the '70s)?

Christ, don't you know anything? Conservation is Unamerican [TM]. Dick Cheney said so.

All I want is a little bit of honesty. If we are going to throw away our soldiers' lives for oil than I think we should at least be honest about it.

I wonder if all of the coffins of U.S. soldiers that will be killed in Iraq had "I Died So That You Can Have Cheap Gasoline" stickers plastered all over them, if Congress and the public would still be pushing for a war that will mostly benefit Bush and Cheney's energy buddies; Enron, Haliburton, Harken Energy, etc. I find it alarming that most of the pro-war morons think it's better to lick the boots of the Arab oil producers rather than try to reduce oil consumption.

Old Money Wants Iraq Back. I'm absolutely shocked!

What really annoys me about all of this shit is not conservatives or liberals, but all of the easily led moron moderates who say "well Dubya hasn't made a case for invading Iraq, but we're at war so what can we do?".
posted by mark13 at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2002


you're right and wrong. atom bombs, bioweapons, chemical weapons, genetic weapons and terrorism are not *merely* a national security issue. they are now a *global* security issue. but this problem is not solvable by use of force if it is solvable at all. and the US is quickly making this situation worse, not better.

on access to oil, i don't think you understand the bigger game here at all. the US can't afford to leave the availability of cheap oil up to chance. that's why the US is making a move to ENSURE that the flow of cheap oil continues 10-20-30 years from now. the regimes that control the lifeblood of the US are just too unpredictable. think about it a bit! the consequences of you being wrong about access to cheap oil would literally mean the end of america's first world status... and it probably would take just a few years too. when the stakes are so high, it's hardly surprising that the US is willing to go to war over it. while weapons of mass destruction are an important issue as well, that's not the primary motivation... it's just the selling point to the voters. in the end, US action in Iraq will INCREASE proliferation and USE of weapons of mass destruction. even a child can see this (although it's conceivable that bush can't ;-)). the CIA has said exactly this in recent reports! the US is willing to risk american lives at home and abroad in order to secure access to oil. if something else gets blown up over here, it will just seem to prove their point and they'll get more support for "intervention"... even though it's the intervention that will be the cause of our dead here at home.
posted by muppetboy at 10:21 AM on October 16, 2002


The opposition to the war from OPEC and Russia is hypocritical pandering at its worst, because for them it actually is all about the oil. Their blather about "destabilizing the middle east" is code for "a friendly Iraqi regime could destabilize (lower) the price of oil and dilute Saudi Arabia's leverage". And rivers of Iraqi oil coming onto the marketplace would stiffle Russia's goal to sell us their oil. Russia's security council vote is for sale and they are demanding American guarantees that they'll be a major player in Iraq, that Iraq will repay them the 8+ billion $ they owe and that we will help Russia develop their oil industry and buy their oil. I actually believe Bush wants to take out Saddam for the reasons he's stated, but I think it's a stupid idea, a quick fix with long-term repercussions. Like the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, we'll be there forever and when we leave they'll decide for themselves what they want, like in Vietnam.
posted by Mack Twain at 10:23 AM on October 16, 2002


"No, but at the same time trying to say that every time that the US gives this or that country a billion dollars as somehow equaling supporting their actions is like saying that if you give a homeless person your spare change as you exit 7-11 that you support alcoholism and drug addiction. I'm not saying that US motives are always pure but giving a country money and supporting genocide are not the same thing any more than smoking a big fat joint is the same as giving a big thumbs up to flying airplanes into buildings. "

I don't understand you argument at all. The US gave Iraq all kinds of military assistance, including weapons of mass destruction, KNEW IN ADVANCE that the kurds would be gassed, SAID NOTHING, watched the kurds get slaughtered WITH OUR WEAPONS. You would think a simple "that wasn't nice would have been the absolute minimum." To rise to standards of even basic ethics, you'd think that the US would cut off support or at least make it contingent on serious reforms. Instead, the US SAID NOTHING ABOUT IT and then GAVE THEM MORE SUPPORT. If this pattern of behaviour isn't "supporting genocide" then I don't know what that would mean. It certainly isn't "opposing genocide" or even "objecting to genocide".
posted by muppetboy at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2002


I wonder if all of the coffins of U.S. soldiers that will be killed in Iraq had "I Died So That You Can Have Cheap Gasoline" stickers plastered all over them

That trivializes what these soldiers are doing. Oil is not merely gasoline. Oil IS America's power source in every sense of the word. To be top dog, America MUST have oil. No other industry or product has this kind of importance.

The intelligent thing (not holding my breath!) would be to change that equation rather than sparking a global race in weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.
posted by muppetboy at 10:37 AM on October 16, 2002


muppetboy: What "orders not to"? Here's the crucial bit from ambassador April Glaspie's talk with Saddam before the invasion:

"We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

"I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this

interesting rhetoric. so then why the gulf war? truth is the US was worried that saddam would indirectly control kuwaiti oil and be able to expand his empire, becoming a larger "destabilizing force" (to us oil/security interests).
posted by muppetboy at 10:42 AM on October 16, 2002


Proliferation
How will pounding the stuffing out of a state with nuclear ambitions increase nuclear proliferation? If I were the head of N. Korea, and I saw a US president first lump me in with Iraq, then overthrow Iraq, hang the former leader as a war criminal, then impose an occupation government , I would probably think twice about starting a similar program.

Control over chem and bio weapons currently in Iraq's inventory is the subject of the CIA's worrying, and it is an issue. Proliferation and control over weapons stocks are two different issues.

Oil
So I don't understand the bigger game because I have faith that oil producers will want to be paid for their oil rather than holding it off the market for political reasons? The US buys oil from Iraq, for Xist's sake. Everyone is selling.


Besides. the regimes in the ME are anything but unpredictable. Kuwait has been governed by the same family longer than the USA has existed. The youngest dynasty in the Gulf are Qatar's al-Thani who have only ruled for 130 years.

Even if any one were overthrown tomorrow, do you really think that a new government would have the capacity to shut off the taps? Iran is governed by a once radical semi-theocracy and still is a major exporter. Many Iranians would welcome US investment in the oil sector if it weren't for the mullahs.

Outside the Middle East, we have unstable Mexico, turbulent Norway, and the radical Scots.

Anyone who thinks the US can or needs to control oil by propping up friendly governments does not understand the size of this industry or the degree to which exports figure in producers' economies.
posted by ednopantz at 10:54 AM on October 16, 2002


Are you being purposefully obtuse?? Many from the current Bush adm. worked in the Bush 1 adm. When Clinton came to power they capitalized on their government contacts and experience and went to work in the private sector, such as for oil companies (or their adjuncts such as Halliburton) and in the defense industry (such as the Carlyle (sp?) group. They have numerous friends still working in these industries who will, no doubt, reward the Bushies in discrete, hard to prosecute, ways should they be kicked out of power in '04.

That's a pretty big leap there, wondering if I'm being purposefully obtuse and then responding in a way that makes it eminently clear that you didn't even bother to read what I wrote. My point wasn't to dispute the well-documented connections between Bush and big oil; duh. So why does your reply focus entirely on those?

The issue I raised was, how exactly is a war with Iraq in the interest of big oil? As the price of oil falls, so does the price of everything made from it. The cost of gasoline, for instance, continues to decline; here, it's fallen by at least 25 cents a gallon over the past couple of years (and by at least a nickel since the Iraq situation started heating up). Explain to me how driving the price down further is so good for the oil companies that they will lavishly reward Bush and his cronies for their help in achieving it. "Oh look, now we've got to sell even more of this stuff to make the same profit!"

If we want Iraq's oil, simply buying it from Hussein is probably a lot cheaper in the long run than a large-scale military operation. A single Tomahawk cruise missile costs $500K, and we used nearly 300 of them in the last Gulf War. Admittedly, we use so much oil that the cost of the Tomahawks represents like half a day's worth of our petroleum imports, but it's just for starters, and in the final accounting the cost of a war "about the oil" has to be added on to whatever we pay for the oil after installing a more friendly regime. You could try to make a case that big oil wants to profit from sales of cheap oil while making the taxpayers pay to get it, but once again it comes back to being harder for big oil to make a profit when oil costs less, because they have to sell more, because there is in fact definite downward price pressure on petroleum products.

Even if we were to take over Iraq and basically steal all their oil, turning them into a colony and claiming their resources as our own, which is the fear many people who say "it's about the oil" seem to have in the back of their minds, it'd still be mighty expensive oil, since we'd have to continue to occupy and hold the country indefinitiely against hostile forces, not to mention we'd undoubtedly be subjected to more bloody terrorist attacks here at home. Now that could be very profitable for big oil, but I don't think the American people would stand for it, making it a pretty unrealistic scenario in my mind.

Anyway, let's see, how much of Iraq's oil did we steal in that manner the last time it was "about the oil," i.e., in the Gulf War? Oh, that's right: none. In fact, we've made sure that hardly anyone, ourselves included, could get Iraq's oil. So the last time it was "about the oil," it really wasn't, was it? So what are we supposed to think when we hear, "Gulf War II: This Time, It's Really About The Oil?"

Yes, yes: those are UN sactions. But if we're seriously considering unilaterally going to war against Iraq, we could surely consider unilaterally lifting the sactions against them, especially after we have sabre-rattled the UN into submission over the last few months. (Actually, much of the UN would be thrilled if we "merely" wanted to lift the sanctions -- France and Russia, among others, have been clamoring for just that for years, with us and the UK blocking it.) That is, we could do that if it's just "about the oil," i.e., about securing a stable oil supply for America's future.

But maybe it's not just "about the oil" after all.

The logic of the "it's about the oil"-sayers seems to be, "Bush has connections to big oil, Iraq has oil, therefore he must be doing big oil's bidding with regard to Iraq." That's called jumping to a conclusion. The actual situation is clearly more complex. Sure, you need a catchy slogan to stir up opposition to the war, and "it's about the oil" qualifies on that count. And if it works, who cares whether it's really true or not? Well, I care, and every time I hear "it's about the oil," as if that's the sole thing anyone needs to know about the impending war, it reduces the credibility of the speaker a notch or two in my eyes.

Now maybe I'm just missing something, but the way to persuade me is by explaining, not by telling me to look up "fascism" in a dictionary.
posted by kindall at 11:31 AM on October 16, 2002


Great posts and links, troutfishing.

It's not all about oil. It's all about oil *and* empire. The driving idee fixe of the neocons who carry the nuclear football these days is the creation of a global American protectorate--a "virtual" empire, in newspeak--under the aegis of American military power. It is impossible to read the PNAC publications without reaching this conclusion.

The USA *is* "going about in search of monsters to destroy," and when it finds the one it is looking for--say, in January 2003--it will destroy him and take over his house. And his oil reserves, thank you very much.

With the Monster Oil Reserves in hand, can Wahabbism *not* be next on the Destroy All Monsters list?
posted by rdone at 3:06 PM on October 16, 2002


Proliferation
How will pounding the stuffing out of a state with nuclear ambitions increase nuclear proliferation? If I were the head of N. Korea, and I saw a US president first lump me in with Iraq, then overthrow Iraq, hang the former leader as a war criminal, then impose an occupation government , I would probably think twice about starting a similar program.

Nope, sorry. They would react the same way we would if we saw a tyrant becoming an imperial force in the world and crushing others... they'd arm themselves to the teeth with effective weapons. You can't rely on good will when it comes to a bully that feels it is above the law. This is pure common sense.
posted by muppetboy at 4:30 PM on October 16, 2002


"Control over chem and bio weapons currently in Iraq's inventory is the subject of the CIA's worrying, and it is an issue. Proliferation and control over weapons stocks are two different issues."

Disagree. The CIA is anticipating that US hostilities towards Iraq will accelerate terrorism and the use of WMD against the US. If terrorism is used successfully against the US AGAIN, this WILL HAVE a very measurable negative effect. For people who disagree with the US and who have essentially no other options (the US' unilateralism and refusal to submit to international law is a MAJOR factor in this) it will become quite clear that terrorism, although a long shot, is the only thing that could conceivably give them any results.

The realization that WMD and terrorism are the most effective tools to use against the US when other possibilities are exhausted CANNOT FAIL to increase the proliferation of WMD because *believe it or not* other countries in the world aren't just going to lie down and take it if they have another option. Our attack on Iraq and any "successful" response could quite possibly demonstrate this and turn the "War on Terrorism" over time into a truly global war with radical groups all over the world attacking the US on its own soil.

I think the only sane path here is to work with the UN and the world community and get the arms inspectors back in in the near term. In the long term, there are bigger problems. The US is going to have to start being the bigger man. It will have to start walking the walk concerning democracy and human rights, and doing intelligent things instead of stupid, short-sighted and brutish things. Staying the course with US foreign policy is going to lead to one Hell of a world. Guaranteed.
posted by muppetboy at 4:48 PM on October 16, 2002


so if the war is indeed all about flammable black stuff, I can't wait to see how the "moral right" will justify exchanging bodies for oil.

also, I just got a couple of smashing ideas. number one: make a list of everyone coming out all for The War and mail them pieces of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers when The War ends. number two: ween ourselves off of these unstable regions. what do you guys say?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:45 PM on October 16, 2002


Kindall - I did read your post. If US oil corporations come to control Iraqi oil, they will find ways of artificially inflating energy prices, as did the (late) Enron Corp. in California.

This reminds me of a cheesy anthropology professor I once had who staked his career on a simplistic theory which, nonetheless, has stuck in my (simplistic?) head: there are officially recognized ways people do things, and then the unofficial ways which usually are more popular and always are more in line with human nature. I didn't say "it's all about oil". I just pointed out that the Bush adminstration has already noted that oil - and control of oil reserves - is crucial to the US economy.

If the circulation of blood is necessary for human life, does noting this fact amount to a claim that "it's all about blood"?

rdone- Thanks for the compliment..... I've heard Saudi Arabia mentioned as the next, post Iraqi target (along with Iran, Syria, Libya, and North Korea). I think that there is a lot of argument at the moment, in the Bush White House at the moment, about these priorities. This crowd is very confident about the US ability to control the outcomes of it's military adventurism. I suspect otherwise.
posted by troutfishing at 9:49 PM on October 16, 2002


Kindall, let more be more clear: control of oil = power to manipulate prices. You assume that oil prices will drop in the event of a US war in Iraq. This is quite the opposite of most short term projections I have heard.

By the way, Dick Cheney's halliburton made quite a profit from rebuilding (US destroyed) Iraqi oil production since the last Gulf War....

Maybe someone on this thread knows the $ figure for US yearly weapons sales? The thing is, you have to test new weapons systems, and nothing beats a "battle test".

Control of Oil. Weapons systems tests. Demonstrations of US miitary superiority, geopolitical agendas (like the suppresson of China) ..............the profit motive is not straightforward. But it exists. As my Russian language prof. used to say to me: "THIMK" .
posted by troutfishing at 10:09 PM on October 16, 2002


If US oil corporations come to control Iraqi oil, they will find ways of artificially inflating energy prices, as did the (late) Enron Corp. in California.

There are far too many sources of oil for this to work on the global market. If it could work, it would be working already.

You assume that oil prices will drop in the event of a US war in Iraq. This is quite the opposite of most short term projections I have heard.

Well, the projections I've heard have said that oil prices are already going up. Yet somehow the price of gasoline keeps falling. Saw it for $1.13 today. So maybe it's not so smart to put so much stock in projections. In any case, if prices do go up, it'll be because of the threat of an interruption in supply, a perfectly reasonable reaction, not because American corporations have taken control of Iraqi oil and are suddenly price-gouging everyone.
posted by kindall at 10:39 PM on October 16, 2002


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