Monday, October 29, 2007

Oil and War

It has bothered me from the beginning... When someone questions the reason we are at war why won't the President just tell the truth? Why does everyone dance around it? This war is about oil. It has always been about oil.

Since the 1970's we have been burdened with securing the oil. It certainly hasn't been the French or even the Brits who have ensured that Middle East oil made it to market all around the globe. Oddly, as counterintuitive as it may seem the U.S. doesn't even get that much of its oil from the Middle East. We get our imported oil primarily from sources in the western hemisphere - from Mexico, Canada and Venezuela. Then why are we shedding American blood in Iraq, in Afghanistan and why do we patrol Persian Gulf shipping lanes for the Saudis with multi-billion dollar navy vessels, and why do we give billions in aid to Middle Eastern countries?

The easy answer is - someone has to. We are, for better or worse, like it or not, the world's police force.

One has to understand that oil is a global market. It doesn't matter that we don't get all that much oil from Saudi Arabia. If something happens to Saudi Arabia's ability to get oil to market the shock would be felt around the world in a big way.

Japan and China, India, Europe and Australia need Middle East oil. Their economies depend on it, and our economy, in turn, depends on theirs. It is an intertwined world and nothing you may wish to be true has any bearing on that.

Foreign policy scholar Walter Russel Mead pointed out on a recent forum aired on CSPAN that if it weren't for America securing Japan's thirst for Middle Eastern oil it would be assumed that Japan would build a big navy to do it for itself. What would a heavily armed Japan mean? It would lead to a heavily armed China. Two ancient enemies armed to the hilt is NOT a good thing for peace and prosperity.

Likewise, if America didn't guarantee free flowing oil to Europe, the possibility of a new European war machine would once again threaten the peace on that historically war torn continent. In short, our own national security and our prosperity depend on oil getting from the oil wells to the cities and factories that drive our intermeshed global economy.

Pretending that we can transform our reliance on oil by growing corn for ethanol or building windmills is childish. The world is still quite a long way away from the end of the oil age. It needs to end, yes, and someday it will, but we will NEED oil for quite a while.

The war in Iraq and in Afghanistan is really part of a massive geo-political chess match. On one side is Anglo-American team having owned the the board the better part of 300 years. The key players on the other side of the board are the Chinese, the Islamic world - with the Iranians, and particularly the Russians making the bold moves recently. The U.S. has boxed in Iran from all sides including nuclear-armed attack subs submerged just offshore. Is it any wonder that President Putin has reached out to Iran just as mother Russia is reasserting its air force and navy in international waters. Bluffs?

As much as our friends and foes alike complain, as much as they like to call America an arrogant and aggressive nation, they rely on the stability our power and our political will provides.

In any game, in this case a deadly serious game, mistakes are made. Simple black and white solutions in parts of the world that have camels that are older than our republic was clearly naive. Democracy as the end all, be all solution to dysfunctional tribalism is a fool's game. The President and his "players" are intuitively right, the solution is to be found in a reformation of the most economically dysfunctional and dangerous region of the world. Yes, mistakes have been made... But...

Not to play the game is immoral. For the U.S. to step back and allow the anarchy that would surely erupt and destroy the global economy is far more immoral than blood for oil.