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Does the US need for oil drive them to war?
Old 08-29-2007, 10:30 AM   #1
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Does the US need for oil drive them to war?

Ok, this is a break-off from an earlier thread:

http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...tml#post551094

The discussion went like this:

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Originally Posted by chinaco
If it were not for our dependence on oil... we would not be in there.
Quote:
I've heard this repeated so many times, but I've never heard it explained.

Please, don't just think it is obvious - think it through. I just don't think it works that way. Can you tell me why you (or anyone else) thinks so?

-ERD50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Culture
Assuming you are serious (which a doubt)
Actually, I am very serious. But I am asking from an economic view, not a political one. You started answering a different question from what I asked.

I didn't ask 'Why did we invade Iraq?', I asked, 'Did we invade Iraq because of our dependance on foreign oil?'. I think it is a reasonable question, and one that people jump to conclusions on without thinking it through.

OK, so here is my thought process:

The US gets about 11% of it's TOTAL oil from the Middle East.

Is THAT worth going to war over? It just seems that there are much easier alternatives: conservation, alt energy, just pay higher prices to other suppliers, invest more in friendly nations oil/energy supplies, etc, etc, etc.

I just don't think it makes sense.

I suspect that it is the fact that they have a valuable commodity, and THAT makes them dangerous. That commodity provides the money they can use to be a threat to us, and that drives political reasons for war.

What we are really afraid of is their MONEY, not so much their OIL. I don't think it would make any difference if they got their money from another source that didn't involve us, as long as they got money, and we think they may use it against us.

I think that also explains why we have not invaded some of the other countries you have mentioned. There may be terrible acts going on in those countries, but do those countries have enough money (and a desire) to be a threat to us (perceived or real)? I think in all cases, the answer is NO.

I'm not trying to make a value judgment here - I'm just trying to explain what I think is happening.

Enlighten me if I am off-base on this, which I may well be.

TIA - ERD50
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Old 08-29-2007, 10:50 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
The US gets about 11% of it's TOTAL oil from the Middle East.

Is THAT worth going to war over?
Assuming the 11% figure is correct. Yes, 11% is a lot!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
It just seems that there are much easier alternatives: conservation, alt energy, just pay higher prices to other suppliers, invest more in friendly nations oil/energy supplies, etc, etc, etc.
I think the key word here is "seems". Everyone talks about conservation, but very few people actually do it. And when they do, it's mostly about conserving their money. Alt energy (wind, solar) are still way to expensive today. Nuclear is much cheaper, and readily available, but the "no-nuke", "greenpeace", environtalists, etc... are blocking the way.
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Old 08-29-2007, 10:55 AM   #3
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Sam - OK, but what if the prez said: ' we are going to pull out the ME tomorrow, we are going to abandon every station we have there, we will save billions of dollars and many lives (theoretically). In return, I need to ask the American people to reduce oil consumption by 11%, starting tomorrow'.

It seems that the crowd saying 'we are in Iraq for the oil' would say that would solve all our problems. Would it?

-ERD50
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Old 08-29-2007, 11:06 AM   #4
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I remember the "greens", the environtalists claiming that they would pay a lot extra money for vehicles that achieve significantly higher gas mileage 10, 15 years ago. Then GM came out with the electric cars but could not sell them. Then Honda and Toyota came out with the hybrids, and had to sell them below cost for a while.

Gasoline price has gone up by 100% in the past 10 or so years. I haven't met a person that says "I'm so glad price went up. Because demand should be down, and we'd be less dependent on foreign oil".

I guess I'm saying that people say one thing, but do something else. I'd love to see our oil comsumption reduced by 11%, but I would never believe that it is going to happen, unless we find another source of energy to replace that missing 11%.
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Old 08-29-2007, 11:35 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
It seems that the crowd saying 'we are in Iraq for the oil' would say that would solve all our problems. Would it?
For two reasons - no.

1. You are right in that at least part of the reason we fought this war is because all of the money that is flowing into a lot of those oil producing countries allows them - if they are so inclined - to fund organizations/efforts to attack us. Whether it's a direct assault, ala 9/11, US Cole, etc., or through what are basically propaganda campaigns like the Madrassas. Some of it is because of true ideological differences and some of it is just an effort to deflect their dissident elements away from internal problems and toward some other enemy - us. Plus you can factor in Israel and all of the animosity we get from OP countries' governments and/or populations because we have supported Israel for so many years.

2. Energy demand is not static in the US or the world. If we cut back by 11% today that would be swallowed up by the ever increasing domestic demand. Our anticipated growth in demand for the black gold is nothing compared to places like China, India, et. al. Although it doesn't get as much play in the media as I think it deserves, China has been spending billions to create a navy that can project power - Google aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine and China and see what you find. At the same time they are building pipelines (maybe just one really big one) to protect their supply lines from attack. India is neck and neck with China in their efforts to create an effective naval force that can do the same (they got their own carrier program running).

Oil/Energy is vital to economies and the demand keeps going up. We are not the only nation to recognize that and we are not the only nation prepared to fight to protect its economy.

So, if you were to come up to me at the gas pump and ask me if I would send my kid (or anybody's kid) to Iraq just so I could drive my truck, my answer would be hell no. But, if you tell me that even if we reduce our demand that the rest of the world will just suck up the excess, and then want more and be willing to fight to get it, my answer is let's do what we have to do to protect ourselves and our kids and their kids. And I'm not talking about my grandkids being able to drive around in Hummers. I'm talking about them living in a country that has sufficient energy resources to produce adequate food and materials.
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Old 08-29-2007, 11:42 AM   #6
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An observation: The percentage of our oil that comes from the middle east is not relevant to this argument. While we get a relatively small share from there, we get a lot from Mexico, VZ, and we produce a lot ourselves. The ME oil goes to customers in Europe and Asia.

If ME oil exports are reduced or if they are successful in demanding higher prices, the price of all oil goes up (since users in Europe and Asia will be buying more oil from Mexico, the US, etc).

This is the same reason that there's no big advantage for the US to become "oil independent," since the cost of oil in the US would still go up/down in response to supply/demand everywhere else in the world. Should we drill in ANWR? Maybe yes, maybe no, but we should realize that the oil from there effectively becomes part of the worldwide pool, and won't drive down the prices in the US a significant amount.

The above is not to argue that oil does/does not drive us to war. For the record, it was Jimmy Carter that publicly declared the US would use military force to secure the free flow of ME oil. Hmmm: It is their oil, and we will go to war if they (or another nation) stops them from selling it. Jimmy isn't often cited as a proponent of realpolitic, but there's an example of it for ya.
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Old 08-29-2007, 11:59 AM   #7
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This is the same reason that there's no big advantage for the US to become "oil independent"
The reason we should become oil independent is so that we can keep the money we spend on oil - "In the family". Our currency and our relative economic strength would be greater if we didn't have the foreign oil cost.
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Old 08-29-2007, 03:13 PM   #8
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The reason we should become oil independent is so that we can keep the money we spend on oil - "In the family". Our currency and our relative economic strength would be greater if we didn't have the foreign oil cost.
If there's nothing "special" about oil, then you could make the same case about anything we import (microchips, steel, bananas . . . ). They could ALL be produced within the US and we'd "keep the money in the family." The problem is that we can't produce these commodities as cheaply as others are doing it already (if we could, we'd be doing so and exporting them). Our capital and other resources, allocated by the market, are already being used in the most efficient manner. Any overt effort to force domestic production of a particular commodity against market forces comes at the cost of reducing production of something else that we are better suited to produce, and it lowers our overall national wealth.

To see where a fixation on self-reliance leads, see North Korea's amazing "Chu Che" ("self-reliance") program. Decades of waste and misery.
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Old 08-29-2007, 03:34 PM   #9
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If there's nothing "special" about oil, then you could make the same case about anything we import (microchips, steel, bananas . . . ). They could ALL be produced within the US and we'd "keep the money in the family." The problem is that we can't produce these commodities as cheaply as others are doing it already (if we could, we'd be doing so and exporting them). Our capital and other resources, allocated by the market, are already being used in the most efficient manner. Any overt effort to force domestic production of a particular commodity against market forces comes at the cost of reducing production of something else that we are better suited to produce, and it lowers our overall national wealth.

To see where a fixation on self-reliance leads, see North Korea's amazing "Chu Che" ("self-reliance") program. Decades of waste and misery.
DING DING DING! WINNA! I can add nothing of value to this post, and I majored in Econ. We put a tarriff on steel to help domestic steel companies, and in turn cost more auto jobs than we saved in steel!
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Old 08-29-2007, 04:47 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
OK, so here is my thought process:

The US gets about 11% of it's TOTAL oil from the Middle East.

Is THAT worth going to war over? It just seems that there are much easier alternatives: conservation, alt energy, just pay higher prices to other suppliers, invest more in friendly nations oil/energy supplies, etc, etc, etc.
A problem with this is that middle eastern producers are the only ones capable of increasing production. Offshore West Africa is much smaller, Russia is big but probably near or at its peak, Mexico and Canada and the North Sea have peaked, and lastly Venezuela is not exactly a friendly supplier-plus they will soon need to tap "heavy oil". ie. not oil at all, to increase production.

So whoever has access to oil from the ME has access to the only supply capable of being increased.

Ha
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Old 08-29-2007, 05:01 PM   #11
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The reason we should become oil independent is so that we can keep the money we spend on oil - "In the family". Our currency and our relative economic strength would be greater if we didn't have the foreign oil cost.
There is no way we could not have foreign oil costs. We import over half of our crude; almost all goes to transportation fuel. Our ability to produce crude in the USA goes down every year from natural depletion which cannot be offset by new finds or development. So we will import more every year until the end of time, unless we turn to a completely electric transport system, adopt huge programs to make diesel from coal, etc. These would be giant programs with massive costs from financial, economic, environmental, and health points of view.

Ha
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Old 08-29-2007, 05:54 PM   #12
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ERD50:

You said:

I didn't ask 'Why did we invade Iraq?', I asked, 'Did we invade Iraq because of our dependence on foreign oil?'. I think it is a reasonable question, and one that people jump to conclusions on without thinking it through.

OK, so here is my thought process:

The
US gets about 11% of it's TOTAL oil from the Middle East.

Is THAT worth going to war over? It just seems that there are much easier alternatives: conservation, alt energy, just pay higher prices to other suppliers, invest more in friendly nations oil/energy supplies, etc, etc, etc.

I just don't think it makes sense.




Here’s my thinkin on the topic. And, of course, much of it is pure speculation about what was going on in the Bush-leaguers heads:

First, I don’t think anything anywhere happens for just one reason alone (at least in politics and economics). There are usually multiple reasons for doing things, especially when adults do them. Most of the time anyway. When folks plan to do something, they usually have a nice big list of why and how (we already know that Bush didn’t do so well on the “how” part of Iraq, so I think we can ‘safely’ speculate that he also didn’t do too well on the ‘why’ part either. That’s my guess, and I’m stickin to it.) If, for instance, someone wants to lose weight, then they develop a set of reasons why: ‘I’ll feel better; I’ll end up healthier; I won’t be as tired; my spouse will be happier with me, etc.” So, when you ask the question “Did we invade . . . oil ?” you are isolating something out of context--to my way of thinking. You do things for multiple reasons but can only talk/think about them one at a time.

I do suspect that soon after and for quite a bit of time after 9/11, Bush and friends, after the basic facts and evidence of the terrorist attack were in, sat around discussing what to do, what range of reactions were possible and what their consequences might be. And, also, they didn’t think small during those meetings is my guess. Some, sometime, somewhere, somehow enlarged the scope of the range of possible operations, broadening it from a direct attack on the responsible terrorists (in Afganistan) outward to include a stabilized, democratic, less authoritarian, more humanitarian Middle East. Hey, Afganistan went well and easy, why shouldn’t Iraq too?

Back to my first point: So folks do things for multiple reasons, and also there are many possible consequences to various initiated actions. One could make a nice, naďve, simplified list, for example, of the consequences of ridding the world of Sadam:

1) it would be easy.
2) it would create a vacuum immediately afterward that--if a democratic minded people were there to guide them--that Iraq could be quickly filled with freedom loving, free enterprise folks.
3) and these Iraqi folks would love to behave and think just like us providing lots of oil to the world so that they could get lots of money to buy all our manufactured goodies and Pepsi and Twinkies too—a wonderful, harmonious, capitalistic system.
4) And Gucci string bikinis for their girlfriends.
5)And this would stabilize the entire region too and everybody there AND nearby would all want to be just like Americans—except maybe a little less fat.

I’m sarcastically exaggerating a bit here, but I really think that’s close to the thinking process in the White House at the time of decision making. Those folks were ecstatic and unbalanced as I see things.

To my mind, a competent CEO, for example, always has a list of priorities working in his or her head. These priorities, goals, and ways of achieving them, are inter-related in many different ways. They have many potential consequences too that may bubble up in unexpected ways. In a large organization the flow of consequences needs to be watched carefully. A competent CEO knows and understands how things happen--both why and how.

An incompetent CEO may muck up his or her priority list, saying one item is very important that, perhaps, shouldn’t necessarily be quite so focused upon, or he or she may put one too high on the priority list. Or one may be so enamored by one’s own self-created goal and potentially wonderful future that the means to that goal are lost in smugness.

I think many of the White House’s enemies would like to believe that Bush went to the Middle East solely for oil, that they thought it made economic sense. For the Bush haters who stress the idea he went to war for oil, the economics (or non-economics?) of that 'captured' oil, its cost to us, is just further proof to them of Bush's incompetence. I don’t think it was a prime reason among Bush and friends. I do think there is/was a lot of incompetence and unbalance at the heart of their actions though—mis-prioritizing and mis-managing. I think the idea of having comfortable access to Middle East oil did play a role in what we did and why we did it. But it just wasn't really high on his list of goals.


The middle, competent way is usually better.
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Old 08-29-2007, 06:33 PM   #13
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...and lastly Venezuela is not exactly a friendly supplier-plus they will soon need to tap "heavy oil". ie. not oil at all, to increase production.
Well, the first part of that sentence I agree with, but I seemed to remember something about a Venezuelan strike several years ago was mostly felt in the US because we were the only people who could refine their heavy crude.

So, I went in search and found...

Quote:
The majority of Venezuela's oil can only be processed in the specialist refineries run by Hovensa (a joint venture between US refiners Hess Corp and PdVSA) located in the US Virgin islands, amongst other places. Meanwhile, the USA readily accepts the Venezuelan heavy crude because, without it, the heavy crude refineries would close. There is no other supplier of this special crude available, so the US would lose around 11% of its total domestic oil products supply in one fell swoop.
Which makes it seem that we have been refining their heavy stuff for a while. Also, it makes it seem that we are in a weird relationship with Venezuela. Our governments may not like each other, but the US can't afford to lose 11% of production, and Venezuela can't find anyplace else to sell a lot of their oil.
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Old 08-29-2007, 06:42 PM   #14
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There are huge amounts of US money being spent in Iraq. Some estimate that we could be there for a long-time in terms of money and support after troops leave. We currently are spending $6b a month on the Iraq war.


Cost of Iraq war could surpass $1 trillion - Eye on the Economy - MSNBC.com


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The Congressional Research Service report estimates that after Congress approves two pending bills, the total war costs since Sept. 11, 2001, will reach about $509 billion. Of that, $379 billion will cover the cost of operations in Iraq, $97 billion will be the price tag for Afghanistan operations, and $26 billion will have gone to beefed-up security at US military bases around the world.
Congressional analysis puts cost of Iraq war at $2 billion a week - The Boston Globe


It seems that that amount of money would pay for quite a bit of energy R&D for alternative fuels plus Alternative Fuel infrastructure retrofit/development. It would appear that this would help us on our way to being less dependent on unstable parts of the world... many of which are not friendly toward the US.
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Old 08-29-2007, 06:46 PM   #15
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Well, the first part of that sentence I agree with, but I seemed to remember something about a Venezuelan strike several years ago was mostly felt in the US because we were the only people who could refine their heavy crude.

So, I went in search and found...

Which makes it seem that we have been refining their heavy stuff for a while. Also, it makes it seem that we are in a weird relationship with Venezuela. Our governments may not like each other, but the US can't afford to lose 11% of production, and Venezuela can't find anyplace else to sell a lot of their oil.
My meaning was not that we cannot or have not been refining Venzuelan crude. To the best of my knowledge they are one of our top suppliers, possibly number one. What I meant is that unlike some Middle Eastern producers, Venezuela is not in a position to increase meaningfully their production of this crude. Next step down, which they have huge quantities of is "oil sands". We can also process this. But so far at least oil sands have been a limited source of supply because of costs and technical difficulties and massive capital needs.

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Old 08-29-2007, 07:28 PM   #16
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ERD50 -

Well, from what I know of studying history, a lot of our military efforts (including small efforts) were meant to protect our economic interests.

Personally, I believe inexpensive energy -- whether it be oil or some other derivative -- is necessary to fuel growth in our country.

I wish we could really focus on becoming a much more energy independent nation like Brazil was able to in recent years. Lots of powerful parties are involved that want to prevent that from happening IMO...
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Does the US need for oil drive them to WAR?
Old 08-29-2007, 07:36 PM   #17
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Does the US need for oil drive them to WAR?

I believe that part of it might have been for oil and a way for Old George W to reward the oil companies for their support.

If the reports are true, way before 9/11 there were already plans to attack and invade Iraq and to replace Sadamm. When 9/11 happened this was the excuse that Old George W and the NEACONS needed to attack Iraq. Yes, Old George W and Cheney did an outstanding job of BSing the American public with the lies, half truths, cooked intel, false intel, etc...., etc... We as a nation ate up the lies that Sadamm was a part of 9/11, that Sadamm had WMD's, that Sadamm had nuclear weapons and he was going to nuke us, that it would be a SLAM DUNK, that it would be a short war, that we would be greeted as liberators, etc..., etc.... Oh yes, we swallowed all the lies, the half truths and the BS - hook, line and sinker.

Many beleive that the Iraq War was a pay back for Sadamm attempting to TAKE OUT Bush 41 and some beleive that it is because Old George W wanted to built his legacy as a war time president. Maybe what Old George W should do is to take the GREAT KEITH OLBERMANN'S ADVICE "Then take it into your hands, Mr. Bush. Go to Baghdad now and fullfill, finally, your military service obligations. Go there and fight, your war. Yourself."

Whatever the reason was "the proof is in the pudding", Old George W has mismanaged the Iraq War with his failed and flawed policies. Iraq is a FIASCO and in CHAOS. But the sad thing about the whole thing is that there have been 3600 plus of OUR TROOPS killed, an estimated 25000 plus of OUR TROOPS wounded and maimed and at least estimated 500000 to 1000000 Iraqis killed, wounded and maimed. And I nearly forgot that when OUR TROOPS return home - OUR TROOPS, OUR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES are having to fight/SUE the government/VA to receive the medical care, ratings and compensation which they so richly deserve. THIS IS HOW OLD GEORGE W SUPPORTS OUR TROOPS.

GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS, OUR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES.
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Old 08-29-2007, 10:17 PM   #18
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Samclem, you're a pretty smart fella. I think you boiled a lot of this down to a pretty concise kernel with your posts:

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The above is not to argue that oil does/does not drive us to war. For the record, it was Jimmy Carter that publicly declared the US would use military force to secure the free flow of ME oil. Hmmm: It is their oil, and we will go to war if they (or another nation) stops them from selling it. Jimmy isn't often cited as a proponent of realpolitic, but there's an example of it for ya.
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Our capital and other resources, allocated by the market, are already being used in the most efficient manner. Any overt effort to force domestic production of a particular commodity against market forces comes at the cost of reducing production of something else that we are better suited to produce, and it lowers our overall national wealth.

To see where a fixation on self-reliance leads, see North Korea's amazing "Chu Che" ("self-reliance") program. Decades of waste and misery.
The more I think about this in terms of Realpolitik the more I think about in the way Kissinger practiced it. When we invaded Iraq I thought it practical in terms of being a counter to terrorism – just not the same way the President tried to sell it. We know that our intelligence on his NBC programs was off the mark – and I’m not going to discuss the domestic political issues involving that – but the real danger that was never really discussed is what threat he posed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He already made one move, and as out of touch with reality as he was who can say that he might not have awoken one morning and decided to try it again. Given Hussein’s manias and aggressive nature, it seems he would be more likely to use WMDs to grab the Saudi oil fields (and Mecca and Medina) than he would give them to OBL just to go cause havoc.

Iran’s destabilizing role in the region is widely discussed now, but I never saw much said about their activities prior to our invasion of Iraq. For a period of time Hussein’s Iraq did a good job of playing the cork in bottling up Iran’s fundamental war on everything the Mullahs don’t like (The Great Satan being high on the list). As far back as 1991 the Iranians were working to improve their military’s capacity. A good defense makes sense considering Iraq’s history of wars of aggression – but they were apparently playing to the second half of that old saying “a good offense is the best defense”. Their military preparations were nearly all aimed toward offensive operations. In particular, they were doing a lot of training in the seizure of offshore oil platforms and land-based refineries. Which one of their neighbors do you suppose they were considering attacking?

If anybody in the White House practiced the Kissinger version of Realpolitik, I think at some point during the discussions leading up to the invasion that they would have thought about what the world would look like if Iraq were suddenly an Iranian occupied territory. Iran would be in control of nearly as much of the world’s proven oil reserves as Saudi Arabia. And they would be sitting on the Saudi border. Riyadh and Tehran have had conflicts of interests in the past, but mutual concern over Iraq kept bringing them back to cordial relations. I guess the Realpolitik question is whom would we rather have in Iraq if Hussein were gone. Us or the Iranians?
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Old 08-29-2007, 10:35 PM   #19
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Thanks everyone, some great stuff to think about here.

We could (and I probably should have), broadened the statement to just say 'involvement in the ME to protect our supply of oil', and then we could have spread the 'blame' across several administrations to keep it less partisan. You guys did touch on that.

I'll try to add some more comments after I've absorbed the nuggets here a bit longer.

thanks - ERD50
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Old 08-30-2007, 03:58 AM   #20
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It seems that tieing the war hawk strategy purely to the desire for GW to help his oil cronies in Texas, would be selling this administration short. We have quite a bit of evidence that Bush is a devout crony-promoter (see "Brownie" for his expertise at disaster handling, Gonzales for his honest and law abiding tenure as Attorney General, Stickler for his attention to mine safety, etc, etc as prime examples) and there are plenty of other pockets to line from a good war than just the oil executives.

For example, are the apparently brain dead 32% who still support this guy (or maybe that's the number of cronies he has!) really naive enough to believe that the facts that Halliburton is making billions from this war and that Cheney had previously been the CEO of this wonderful corporation are merely a coincidence? Do they think the fact that the major defense contractors make a ton of money providing weapons and materials to support the war not somehow tie into this?

I agree the war for oil argument is not sufficient. The current administration, arguably (well, maybe not that arguably) the most crooked in our history is thinking way bigger than that. Unfortunately, everything Bush does seems to be for the benefit of corporations to the detriment of America, the troops, and ultimately, the world.
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