September 17, 2011

War for Oil?

Don't be silly, writes Tom Englehart.  In March 2003, at the beginning of the Iraq War,
everyone who mattered knew that whatever the invasion of Iraq was about -- freedom, possible mushroom clouds rising over U.S. cities or biological and chemical attacks on them, the felling of a monster dictator -- it certainly wasn’t about oil. An oil war? How crude (so to speak), even if Iraq, by utter coincidence, happened to be located in the oil heartlands of the planet.

And it wasn’t just the Bush administration. You wouldn’t have found the New York Times speaking about oil wars either. Not much has changed, actually. As in last weekend's eight-year-late modified mea culpa for the Iraq war that former liberal war hawks conducted in that paper’s magazine section, you could find some breast-beating, testosterone-dissing, and even regret for past positions, but not a mention of oil. And -- who would expect anything else -- never a mention either of the ignorant hoi polloi who carried such oily signs, demonstrated against war, and are best forgotten, or any stray experts who genuinely opposed Bush’s wars before they were launched. . . .
As for our most recent (definitely not oil) war in Libya, . . . the explanations in the news pages have generally focused on preventing massacres, “humanitarian intervention,” and the felling of evil dictators. For oil, you have to head for section D (the business pages) where, under the headline “The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins,” you could indeed finally read a comment like this: “The resumption of Libyan production would help drive down oil prices in Europe, and indirectly, gasoline prices on the East Coast of the United States. Western nations -- especially the NATO countries that provided crucial air support to the rebels -- want to make sure their companies are in prime position to pump the Libyan crude.”

Of course, despite the best attempts of Bush’s men in Baghdad, we never did get Iraq’s oil. But that’s the lumps you take when, as an imperial power, you don’t actually win your oil war. . . .
Right on cue, Daniel Yergin's much-touted new book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, sets the record straight on the role of oil in the Iraq War:
Iraq was an oil country. Its only export was oil. It was a nation defined by oil, and as such was a country of great significance to the global energy markets. But the ensuing war was not about oil [p. 142].


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