Is the Iraq War really about the oil?

Jim Holt explores an interesting thesis about the cause of the Iraq War in his article It’s the Oil in the London Review of Books. Bush and Cheney may have gotten exactly what they wanted from the Iraq War. It goes like this. Iraq may have as much as one quarter of the world’s oil reserves, reserves that are easily exploited. At today’s prices, it’s worth $30 trillion dollars. The current Iraq oil revenue sharing plan guarantees that most of the profits will go to U.S. oil production firms.

Further, the U.S. is building military super-bases within the country to protect the oil fields. These bases will remain for decades.

On the geo-political front, U.S. control of Iraq oil fields negates the power of other oil producing nations such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia. With one quarter of the world’s oil under its control, the U.S. becomes a price setter rather than a price taker. China needs a continued source of cheap oil if it is to continue its economic growth and fund its military buildup. If the Chinese ever decided to dump the large amount of U.S. debt they own, the U.S. has the ability to retaliate by denying them cheap oil.

On the domestic front, is there anything more docile than an American with cheap gas in the tank of his car?

Holt cites Alan Greenspan:

Alan Greenspan, in his just published memoir, is clearer on the matter. ‘I am saddened,’ he writes, ‘that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’

Sad indeed. And in case you did not know, Alan Greenspan is no liberal or socialist, not by any stretch of the imagination.

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Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 12:01 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The problem with the bloggers’ views on Mr. Holt’s essay in the LONDON REVIEW of BOOKS [weekend of October 13, 2007] is that they do not begin a dialogue. It is easy to copy or “cut and paste” the essay or a portion. The Left is no better than the Right. It is the “silence” of the bloggers that is the strongest on these web pages. The question is whether America’s sole qualification for the future is to be measured by the potential discovery of three hundred billion barrels of petroleum products in Iraq for the continued relative low cost domestic fuel supply to keep the voter citizen quiet? Are Americans willing to sacifice their individual rights to dissent and criticism for a few more years of fossil fuel(s) supply to run their automobiles? The bloggers’ duty is to actively promote the dialogue with their readers on the question of perception[notion]: the erosion of personal liberties and rights for the preservation of a life style that may have validity or not in the Twenty-First Century.

    Mike Fay,
    College Station, Texas

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I think whether people are willing to sacrifice political liberty, equality, and justice for oil depends on their conception of what those concepts mean and whether they are attainable. The easy acceptance by many that political liberty and equality could be easily established in Iraq on the cheap does not bold well regarding the preservation of political liberty and equality in the U.S.

    We have created a situation in Iraq where the basic needs of Iraqis are not being met along any dimension. The pursuit of happiness in the ethical sense has been destroyed since the means are not there to obtain those basic needs. Some warned of this consequence prior to the Iraq invasion.

    To the extent that political liberty and equality are essential means to the ethical pursuit of happiness, obtaining the things that meet basic needs, then giving up those means to achieve a temporary psychological happiness, oil, will eventually be self defeating since one has given away the means for the larger and more important ends of life.

    I believe that political philosophy ought to be founded on humanist ethics. To the extent that the pursuit of happiness is ill understood, the chances for political liberty and equality seem small.

    My politics is democratic, socialist, oriented toward basic liberties required to live the good life, and principles of economic justice. I view current U.S. policies at home and abroad as destructive of the principle in which I believe. The U.S. experiment in democratic government versus an oligarchic republic has always been in doubt, along with attempts to establish economic justice for all so that they may pursue their happiness. In addition, I see U.S. foreign policy as promoting anarchy around the world, something the world in the era of mass destruction can ill afford.

    Some days I am optimistic and others pessimistic as to the future of the U.S.


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