Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ever-Loving Oil

Alright, I'll admit it. Sometimes I'm an idiot. It was early and the coffee hadn't yet kicked-in and I read Publius' Legal Fiction entry regarding his prediction on what future historian's will see as the cause of the Iraq war, and I didn't understand his point. I missed it. I thought he was saying one thing, when he was, in fact, making a completely different point. So I started on what was supposed to be a short rebuttal, which (as always) turned into a long one. And towards the end of it, I started re-reading Pub's original post (which I had only skimmed before) and realized I had it all wrong. Not only that, but I couldn't disagree with much of what he wrote.

And so this post doesn't really address what he wrote about. I thought he was talking about Iraq and justifications for the war, when he was really just talking about oil and the pressing need to address that issue. And he even made some of the points that I made (though mine were superior).

But fuck it. I like this post anyway, it says stuff I've wanted to say for some time, and it's a good forum for it. So while it doesn't directly address his post, it could be seen as an addendum of sorts. Mine isn't about oil, but is about justifications of the war in Iraq; which naturally includes a discussion of oil. I've slightly rewritten this, but it's basically what I wrote before; which is why it starts so abruptly. And as a warning, I'll just state that I still haven't fully read his piece, as I agreed with enough of it to realize that I didn't need to keep reading.

Original Post

Publius asks, "So here's the million-dollar question -- why are we in Iraq? Are we over there for materialist reasons (oil) or ideological ones (spreading freedom)?" Is this a joke? Our two choices as the reason we went to war are Oil or Freedom? I know that this wasn't the point of his post, but it seems like a very sloppy way of getting to that point. His point was that we need oil independence for National Security, but historical revisionism, even in the name of simplicity, is never acceptable.

What's missing? National Security itself. Wasn't that the reason we were given for why we needed to go to war? Has Pub really allowed the Repubs to dump that down the memory hole? Maybe the real reason was oil. But Iraqi Freedom was never given as the end reason of why we went to war. Not until after all the other, better reasons had to be abandoned did they grasp at that straw. And that only happened because of the intrusion of reality.

But it was just a cheap trick to fool the masses; not something that future historians will give any credence to; and certainly not something that a smart guy like Publius should consider. It was a weapon with which to bludgeon anti-war critics and fence-sitting moderates; to accuse them of being anti-humanitarian, anti-Democracy, and even racist for not fully supporting Bush. It was a desperate attempt to turn Bush's blunder into some sort of political advantage. It allowed pro-war hawks to wrap themselves in the blanket of goodwill and idealism; so that if you criticized them, you were criticizing Freedom and optimism. And if you don't understand that, then you don't understand who the Republicans really are.

And it worked like gangbusters, and was so successful that a smart guy like Pub is even contemplating it as a possible cause for the war. Had Bush not successfully turned America's biggest blunder into a victory for Freedom, he would not be President today. But I seriously doubt that future historians will be so easily duped. We know more about past Presidents than their contemporaries, and historians will know more about Bush than we do. And I'm positive that history will not look kindly on our fearless leader.


But even beyond that, the issue of Freedom IS part of National Security, and should only be seen as part of that. Even IF the President's goals are humanitarian (something I seriously doubt), that is not the goal of his advisors and friends. Even the supposed idealists like Paul Wolfowitz don't see Freedom as an end goal itself. For them, Freedom is just one part of the strategy to bring about a stable middle-east. And a stable middle-east is good for America. So Freedom can only be seen as part of a National Security plan. And there's nothing wrong with that. That is a noble goal.

But it is obvious that humanitarianism comes second. Why else are we ignoring the non-oil dictatorships? Because they aren't essential to our security, and don't help us. Even moreso, we coddle many pro-American dictatorships and other oppressive regimes because it is good for security. Only a complete fool could look at the current world situation and believe that our current government supports freedom for all. Unfortunately, our media is full of such fools.

And so the reason we care about Iraqi freedom and stability in the middle-east is because of oil. That is obvious. So Iraqi Freedom takes an obvious backseat both to oil and National Security; and shouldn't concern us in the least.

Black Power

And certainly, oil is part of National Security too. Sure, it involves money and wealth for Bush's friends and associates. But it's also essential to America's well-being. It's not just that we want oil. We need the stuff. It's a requirement. Just as we need steel, and food, and computers. They are requirements of a modern nation. And if we are put in a position that might deny us of these requirements for a lengthy amount of time, we will be doomed. This isn't an academic concern, but a very real one which cannot be forgotten.

And there is a big test for oil concerns, as there are three reasons why you might grab oil. One is to open the spigot and let the oil flow cheaply; another is to control the spigot so that you can open and close it at will and better control the oil (and thus control oil-producing nations); and the third is to control the spigot so that you can close it, and let oil prices rise. And so determining what our plans are upon grabbing the oil helps us determine why it was grabbed. (BTW, when I say "grabbing" the oil, I obviously don't mean that we will necessarily own the specific wells. I just mean controlling it, either by direct ownership or puppet ownership.)

And the reason I say that is because oil companies don't want cheap oil. They want expensive oil, as it helps their profits immensely. It makes their own oil worth more. It makes deep-sea exploration and other expensive exploration and removal methods more profitable. And it helps them hide price increases at refineries and whatnot. Here in Texas, oil isn't as plentiful as it used to be. So it's harder to find and more expensive to bring up. So when oil is cheap, it often costs more to pump it out of the ground than what you'll get for it. And so people often don't bother, and will even cap existing wells. But when it's expensive, the costs are covered and the pumps will flow.

So an easy-flowing, cheap oil policy is bad for the oil companies. It's still good for companies like Halliburton, who make their money on oil facilities and maintenance, and benefit in either case. But it's bad for the oil companies themselves. They don't want prices so high that government intervention is necessary. But they like high oil prices. And our current oil situation is great for them.

As an aside, I someday envision $20/gallon gas prices, and vehicles that can go 200 miles on one gallon. So you still pay just as much to go the same distance as now. That's when real fuel efficiency will come about. When there's not enough oil to make current efficiency affordable. The oil companies will make a fortune, and they'll keep us on the pump forever. Just thought I'd share that with you.

Follow the Money

So, if we look at what our policies are, we can better grasp why we invaded Iraq.

If the oil flows freely and floods us with cheap oil, our economy will improve and thus our national security will improve. Not to mention the direct military reasons for needing oil. A cheap oil policy would certainly indicate that we invaded for the oil, in order to make America stronger. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. Our oil companies would get less, our own oil worth less, but things would be better for everyone else. And as long as the Iraqi's were compensated for their oil, all is well.

If we use Iraqi puppets to turn the spigot on and off, depending on our specific needs; maybe that's for national security or maybe not. It depends on what motivates us to turn it on and off. If we use it as a weapon against OPEC price controls and power-grabbing, as an effort to protect America's interests, then it might be for National Security. But if we use it for business concerns, solely for more profit for Bush's oil friends; then maybe it wasn't for National Security. It just depends on how we use that power.

And if we use it as a means to turn the spigot off, that could indicate that we're just wanting to help the oil companies, and that national security is taking a backseat. If you recall, many conservatives warned that European nations and Russia wanted to remove the sanctions against Saddam. That was one reason they urged for immediate war. Maybe it was just a ploy to motivate their isolationist masses. Or maybe they were really worried of a flood of Iraqi oil hitting the market and dropping the price. Remember, it's more profitable to sell your oil and gas at higher prices than to own more of it and sell it at lower prices. While we tend to believe that more is better; smart businessmen care more about profit margins than profit. It's better to spend $10 billion to make $2 billion, than to spend $20 billion to make $3 billion. 3 is more than 2, but 20 is far more than 10. And that's how these people think too (or they should anyway). So it's best of all for oil companies if Saddam's out of power and nobody can get that spigot open again.

And as that analysis indicates, as far as oil is concerned, what's good for oil companies is not good for America; and vice versa. And that includes American businesses who are stuck with high oil/gas bills.

Why I Opposed The War

And finally, one mistake that too many people make, both pro-war and anti-war, is that they seem to forget the primary reason we opposed the war. Or maybe they just never knew. It's not that we necessarily hate war. Sometimes it's necessary, and most people supported the Afghan war (myself included). And it's not necessarily that we don't agree with National Security concerns, or the importance of stability and oil. These are real concerns. Bush tricked us into going to war, but that shouldn't hide the real concerns. And it's not because Bush tricked us. That's a reason to have voted against him, but not a reason to be against the war. And it certainly wasn't that we "hated Bush". Again, most people supported his efforts in Afghanistan, and even those who didn't were usually the same libs who opposed Clinton's efforts in Kosovo and attacks on Iraq (and I'll leave out the righties who also opposed Clinton's efforts, though there were lots of them).

The reason we were against the war is because we didn't think it would work. Not that we couldn't conquer Iraq. But that we couldn't impose our will on them, and that it wouldn't work. That it would be costly and counter-productive. That we'd ignite an even bigger mess than what we had before. And rather than stabilize the middle-east, this war would further destabilize it; both in Iraq and throughout the Muslim world. And even the oil situation would be worse for us, due to a destablized and angry middle-east. Before the war, we predicted that anti-American feelings would increase within the Muslim world and that terrorism would only get worse. Or that's what I was predicting anyway. And, so far, the facts have bared that out.

So the reason we opposed the war WAS BECAUSE OF NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES! It wasn't that we had one set of issues and the President had another, and our differing agendas conflicted. It was that we had the SAME concern as the President and his followers, but that we saw his methods as being worse than doing nothing. Most people were concerned with stability in the middle-east, because instability threatened our security. And we all were wanting a method to achieve that stability. So we didn't disagree with his goals, but with his methods.

Overall, we just don't believe that you can achieve democracy at gunpoint. A country either has the social infrastructure to permit democracy, or it hasn't. And any healthy social infrastructure Iraq might have is being seriously crushed under an American bootheel, literally and figuratively. And the war option guaranteed this outcome.

And so we disagreed with Bush's method as it was the equivalent of thrusting a stick into a hornet's nest to kill as many hornets as possible. You'll kill a few hornets, but you sure as hell piss off the rest of them; and you can't kill them all and will end up getting stung. And if we get stung, you can bet that the Repubs will blame us and will talk less about Muslim Freedom, and more about Muslim Death. And I say that even at the risk of being labeled as part of the dreaded "Blame America Crowd".

Unfortunately, we didn't do a good enough job of framing the big picture reason of why we opposed the war; with too many people focusing on oil or the trickery. But all the little reasons add up to the big reason: National Security. Bush may have had good reasons to go to war, or maybe not. But we certainly had good reasons to oppose the war; and it's foolish for us to now look back and pretend that Bush had our best interests in mind and that, WMD trickery aside, we should have listened to him. A direct implication of Pub's post is that, from a National Security standpoint, Bush's war was justified, and will continue to be so until we can wean ourselves of our oil dependency. And that's a grave mistake. Good intentions or not, Bush's policy is bad for our security. Oil wars will only beget more oil wars.

National Security For All

So what was the justification for war? It was for oil, it was for possible WMD's (that I'm sure they thought they'd find, which would justify everything), it was for stability, it was for freedom, it was for ideology, it was for political gain, and it quite possibly was for Israel. No intelligent people are so single-minded that they engage in large, dangerous actions for just one reason. These were probably all concerns. But they all lead back to one thing: National Security (well except the political gain issue, which Bush thought would give him an easy re-election and something to beat-up wimpy Dem Congressmen with, who he wanted to oppose his agenda).

So getting back to Pub's oil wars, yes, that is probably one reason. But it should only be seen in the context of the big picture. And even then, the most specific national security advantages come from cheap oil and a stable middle-east. But the mid-east looks far from stable, and I don't know about you, but here in Texas, gas sure isn't cheap. So while cheap oil and stability aren't necessarily bad national security goals; they sure look to be failed ones. I feel confident that history will concur.


Anonymous said...

The war's over. Your side lost. Get over it.

Doctor Biobrain said...

My side??