Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 28, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

OIL WARS....The Iraq war wasn't "about oil" in the sense that we simply wanted unfettered control over Iraq's oil production. It wasn't even about making sure that Anglo-American oil companies were the ones who won the contracts to produce and export Iraqi crude, although that was a nice bonus.

But it was about oil in the broader sense that the only reason we care about Middle East stability in the first place is that it supplies the oil the modern economy depends on. As Paul Roberts writes today in the Washington Post:

We are on the cusp of a new kind of war between those who have enough energy and those who do not but are increasingly willing to go out and get it. While nations have always competed for oil, it seems more and more likely that the race for a piece of the last big reserves of oil and natural gas will be the dominant geopolitical theme of the 21st century.

Already we can see the outlines. China and Japan are scrapping over Siberia. In the Caspian Sea region, European, Russian, Chinese and American governments and oil companies are battling for a stake in the big oil fields of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. In Africa, the United States is building a network of military bases and diplomatic missions whose main goal is to protect American access to oilfields in volatile places such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and tiny Sao Tome and, as important, to deny that access to China and other thirsty superpowers.

My guess is that 50 years from now Gulf War I and Gulf War II will be considered merely the opening salvos in a single, longrunning conflict: the first of the large, modern wars fought primarily to protect the oil supplies of the West.

Our interest in oil is neither surprising nor reprehensible: without a steady supply of oil the world economy would collapse, bringing untold misery to billions. What is reprehensible is that even after 9/11 made our oil vulnerability as stunningly clear as 3,000 dead can make it, we still have no national effort in place to try and reduce our oil dependency. Literally nothing.

The only thing I'm not sure about is what this says about the Bush administration. Are they so cluelessly ideological that they simply never even consider non-market/non-military solutions to energy security? Or are they really so venal that they're not willing to consider any other solution?

Kevin Drum 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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