Thursday, September 13, 2007
War for Oil: Trees vs. Forest?
by Tom Bozzo
Thinking of EconoSpeak, Barkley Rosser has a post up that suggests that while oil was a contributing factor in the decision to wage the Iraq war — most notably insofar as it was set up by Gulf War I — there are other causes to consider. But this arguably misses a common thread to the other factors, that none of them point inelutctably to war in Iraq in the absence of the oil cause:
- The rabidly pro-Israel neocons. It stands to reason that during the Cold War, the Soviet Union might still have offered support to Israel's adversaries solely to counterbalance U.S. influence. But insofar as Saddam Hussein's grander ambitions were relatively expensive, it's hard to see a counterfactual oil-poor Iraq posing an "existential threat" to Israel.
- Fat-defense-budget conservatives. Does this gang really need a war to justify Cold War-level military spending? If anything, the sort of boring expenditures needed to support the war take money away from sexy big-ticket items like supersonic jets and big surface combatants. Nor would Iraq have been an obvious target for Rumsfeld's war-on-the-cheap experiment in the absence of the oil-driven Gulf War I. The Reagan-H.W. Bush [*] adventures in blowing stuff up focused on targets unlikely to lead to quagmires.
- The Deciderator's own contribution. Part of this, Rosser suggests, was to paper over the incipient strategic failure in Afghanistan and political weakness on domestic issues, but the war in Afghanistan wouldn't have happened without 9/11, and 9/11 might not have been 9/11 without Gulf War I and the heightened U.S. military and political involvement in the Middle East due to the strategic importance of the region's oil reserves. Likewise, arguments from the don't-do-as-daddy-did direction run up against the petro-strategery causes of Gulf War I.