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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The "War for Oil" Canard

Back in the Gulf War in 1991, we heard how oil motivated US intervention.  Certainly it was part of it; we didn't want Saddam Hussein to dominate Kuwait and intimidate Saud Arabia.  But US policymakers care less about oil supplies than the press and regular folks seem to think they do. 

Columnist Holman Jenkins response here to those, like the New Yorker's Steven Coll, that we are currently intervening to defend the Kurds to protect their oil production.  In fact, the State Department has discouraged US oil producers from making deals with the Kurds, and greatly prefers they do it though Baghdad. 

Whether the Kurds produce oil or not is of little concern to Washington.  Keeping Iraq together, and avoiding a Middle East conflagration, is the principal motivation.  (Although that horse is out of the barn now!)

We fought several years in Iraq, only to see oil concessions go to Chinese, Brazilian, Malaysian, and other state firms.  And we're totally okay with that, because they produce for a world oil market. 

A telling anecdote:  before our 2003 intervention in Iraq, Venezuelan oil production was totally shut down.  An opposition-led general strike succeeded in stopping all oil production for two months.  At the time, Venezuela supplied the US with about 14 percent of its oil.  Meanwhile, in early 2003, the WH was planning a Middle East invasion.  Think it was concerned about futher disruptions to oil supplies?  Think again.  There is no evidence US policymakers saw the Venezuelan crisis as a strategic threat that needed to be resolved.  But the logic of the "war for oil" crowd, Venezuela should have been a priority, but it wasn't. 

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