Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Energy and the Middle East

While campaigning for Republican Senatorial and House candidates during the last elections, George W. Bush made a couple of references to the problem of the United States' dependence on foreign oil. For instance, at the Springfield Exposition Center in Springfield, Mo on Nov 3, 2006, he said the following with regards to his waging of the war on terror (

The consequences of retreat would be felt for generations. I see a lot of young
folks here today. (Applause.) My job is to think not only how to protect you
today, but how to create the conditions for peace in the long run. Retreating
from the Middle East because of the unspeakable violence that the enemy inflicts
on others, as well as their own troops, would create a dangerous world for you
to grow up in. You see, the enemy has made it clear that they expect us to lose
our nerve. They have made it clear that they don't believe America has what it
takes to defend ourselves. They want to topple moderate governments. They want
to be able to use energy as a tool to blackmail the United States.

Imagine the radicals and extremists taking over a country, and they were able to pull millions of barrels of oil off the market, driving the price up to $300 or $400
a barrel, whatever it would be, and saying, okay, we'll reduce the price, all
you've got to do is surrender. All you've got to do is abandon your alliance
with Israel, and we'll lower the price. All you've got to do is retreat. And
couple that with a country which doesn't like us, with a nuclear weapon, and a
generation of Americans will say, what happened to them in 2006? How come they
couldn't see the impending danger? What was it that clouded their vision?

Some pundits have jumped on President Bush's comments as an admission that we went to Iraq because of oil. At the time of the invasion, there were plenty of denials that oil was the reason for the campaign. I specifically remember Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's comments that oil had absolutely nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq. For what it is worth, I didn't believe him then, and I don't believe it now. Sure, you could justify going in for other reasons, but it is now clear the neoconservative agenda of stabilizing the Middle East appears the primary reason, and for what other reason would we do it besides oil? Israel perhaps, but if we were interested in world stability, we'd go into places in Africa first. Anyway, that's an old and tired debate.

I've been thinking about Bush's admission since it hit the news cycle in early November, 2006, and the general reaction of "gotcha" by his critics. What shouldn't be lost in all this is that Bush is in essence right. We cannot find ourselves held hostage because of our oil addiction, I couldn't agree more. But I find myself differing in the approach of the solution. The best way to fix our problem, in my opinion, is to make the Middle East irrelevant, and that means going off oil with sooner being better than later. Nothing will change the attitude towards America better than our statement that we don't want what they have anymore. I think that would do more for our foreign policy state than anything else.

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Blogger David said...

True enough. Weaning ourselves from oil and a more stable world are intimately tied and I doubt any would argue that our compelling strategic interest in the Middle East is energy-based (don't forget all that natural gas).

Anyway, great blog. It's really interesting to follow somebody doing all this on their own.

2:52 PM, December 20, 2006  

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