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March 24, 2008
Will Someone Be
Honest? We Invaded Iraq for Oil
Since we’ve been in Iraq for five years now, can we start
being honest about why we invaded?
What excuses have we
heard in the last five years? They’re a dizzying bunch, including things
like unconventional weapons and democracy in the desert. Unfortunately,
events in reality have exposed them all as myths, and the real reason is
something that most of us refuse to acknowledge.
That real reason is
access to Iraq’s oil. Five years ago, the only people talking about that
were Ann Coulter – who said that war for oil was a perfectly acceptable
thing – and anti-war protestors dismissed as hopelessly naïve. It wasn’t
crude that we invaded for, we were told, it was really because Saddam
had once used mustard gas on the Kurds and possessed a fleet of unmanned
balsa wood gliders that were poised to gas the good citizens of Omaha.
There are very good
reasons the nation would wage war in the name of oil. Oil runs the
American economy, from making sure that Wal-Mart shelves are full of
cheap, plastic crap to providing fertilizer for Iowa’s corn. It also
makes it possible to live in the suburbs, half-an-hour from work. In
short, it’s not an exaggeration to say that oil is the lifeblood of
America. And if that is true, it is entirely sensible that a nation
would go to war over it.
Unfortunately, no one is
being very honest with the American people, which is why the Iraq war is
today a misadventure over desert democracy rather than the serious,
earnest conversation that it should be. While Hillary Clinton and Barack
Obama obfuscate about how quickly they’d bring the boys back home, John
McCain talks glowingly about the need for sacrifice in the name of Iraqi
What none of them are
expressing is the reality of the situation – an abrupt departure of
American ground troops from Iraq would make it more difficult for the
American government and its corporate partners to procure the resource
vital to continue the American way of life.
This is why you hear lots
of talk about solutions for American energy independence that border on
the fantastic. It’s also the only thing that makes sense in handing over
millions in subsidies to corn farmers for ethanol. Without an
alternative to oil, the American economy is sunk, and the corn farmer is
just the latest and greatest gimmick we’ve deluded ourselves into
thinking will rescue us.
This is no wild
conspiracy theory. Oil, as anyone capable of fogging a mirror
understands, is a finite substance. That means – again, understandable
to anyone capable of fogging a mirror – that it will run out. And there
are signs that most of the world’s biggest oil fields are headed for
declining production, which means that simply getting it out of the
ground will require an increasing amount of effort.
On top of that, the
United States’ most successful export has been its own lifestyle,
especially to economies that are robustly growing in places like China
and India. That means the people of China and India want to make oil the
blood of their own national economies.
When you throw in the
simplest application of supply and demand, you come away with higher
prices for oil, which would – if you’re looking forward five or 10 years
back in 2003 – leads you to Iraq’s untapped reserves of oil, currently
estimated as the highest anywhere in the world.
Failure to acknowledge
this has led to a failure of the American people to have an actual adult
conversation about Iraq and the future. The issue of Iraq has been
distilled to two basic positions that simply ignore what’s at stake –
precipitous withdrawal because we’re doing no good there versus a
long-standing presence with hopes to establish a stable desert
democracy. This flawed focus is apt to result in ripples that touch our
way of life, and a continued failure to square a finite supply of oil
with a lifestyle predicated on pretending to the contrary.
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