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The Last War For Oil

If the tragic war in Iraq becomes the catalyst for freeing America from its addiction to foreign oil, then the sacrifices made by America's finest men and women will perhaps not have been entirely in vain.
by Alon Ben-Meir
UPI Outside View Commentator
New York (UPI) Nov 15, 2006
There should be no doubt that the United States has waged two Gulf wars largely, if not solely, for oil. To ensure that the Iraq war is the last Gulf war, the administration and the Democratic majority in the new Congress must work together to enact an energy-independence bill to address the root causes of these wars and free America from the shackles of foreign oil.

Whatever the rationale provided by the Bush administration to justify the war in Iraq, there should be no mistake that oil and securing its sources were the main catalysts of both this war and the previous one.

Although the United States must extricate its forces from Iraq honorably and without leaving the country in anarchy, as long as America remains dependent on imported oil, even a successful exit strategy will not prevent a third Gulf war.

Oil will remain a precious commodity; a weapon used by authoritarian regimes, such as Iran, against Western interests and a target for scores of terrorist groups like al-Qaida that are bent on undermining Western economies. Dependency on oil also will continue to compromise America's policies, leading it to accommodate suppliers, and enrich unsavory regimes such as Venezuela, enabling them to oppose the United States with impunity. In addition, importing oil will continue to play havoc with America's trading policies: At present oil imports account for more than one-third of the trade deficit, to the tune of $320 billion.

Also, to keep a steady flow of oil, a supply that remains vulnerable at best, the United States will have to stay militarily vigilant at an enormous cost while sending American soldiers in harms' way to protect its national strategic interests. A more ominous but likely scenario is that as oil supplies become increasingly scarce and the price escalates to $200 a barrel or higher, the end to cheap oil could precipitate violent conflicts, even wars, causing severe dislocations within the global economy.

A serious energy bill that can address America's needs and eventually free it from outside energy sources will be extremely complex to initiate and then successfully administer. Energy experts estimate that an energy-independence program could take up to two decades to accomplish its ends and as such would require a resolute political commitment stretching over several administrations and the allocation of upward of $200 billion over 15 to 20 years.

To ensure global economic stability during this period, Washington will also need to collaborate with its European allies in the development of new energy sources. This is particularly critical because the European states' dependency on Middle Eastern oil is far greater than that of the United States, which makes them extremely vulnerable to any interruption of oil supplies.

None of this is an easy challenge for any administration to tackle. But the nay-Sayers and those who have vested interests in keeping the status quo must remember that America's future well-being and its global leadership are at stake here, not to mention the problem of having to resort to force to protect oil interests.

Those who argue that the United States does not have the resources to fund such an enormous undertaking must rethink their opposition. They would do well to ask, "How many billions have been spent, if not wasted on the Iraq war and on military instillations in the Middle East over the years to protect America's strategic oil interests?"

The Iraq war will end up costing the U.S. tax-payer in excess of $1 trillion. One-fifth of that amount invested over two decades will virtually eliminate American vulnerability to foreign oil. Energy independence will also substantially enhance Washington's effectiveness in developing policies, including the promotion of democratic reform in the Arab world, which heretofore was seen as nothing more than a smokescreen to cover America's own self-interest. In addition, more than one million jobs will be created within the first three years and double that number in five to seven years.

For these reasons, energy-independence must supersede all other national concerns, including taxes, prescription drugs, immigration laws, and social security. In other words, an energy-independent bill must top the agenda of the newly-elected Democratic Congress and be seen too as an integral piece to ending the war in Iraq. This is the singular most critical challenge that faces the nation. America has the know-how, the technology and the financial resources to become energy-independent. It must now muster the political will to act. Not a single American soldier should ever again die for a barrel of oil.

The new Democratic Congress must assume that solemn responsibility and call on the President to join in this critical national effort. Lacking other major accomplishments, he may well heed the call and depart the White House credited for achieving something momentous that will secure America's future. If he refuses to cooperate, the Democrats must press ahead and bring public pressure to bear in anticipation of another Democratic victory in 2008 to complete the task.

If the tragic war in Iraq becomes the catalyst for freeing America from its addiction to foreign oil, then the sacrifices made by America's finest men and women will perhaps not have been entirely in vain.

earlier related report
Outside View: The way ahead in Iraq
by Lawrence Sellin - UPI Outside View Commentator Washington (UPI) Nov. 15 - In the spin capital of the world, which sometimes doubles as the capital of the United States of America, the main question is now "do we have the courage to run away from Iraq?"

Conforming to the recent tradition of translating unpleasant realities into politically-correct terminology, House Speaker-designate Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., now refers to the war in Iraq as a "problem". Thus, in a single news cycle, the cause for which American soldiers are spilling their blood has been transformed into the moral equivalent of the cost of school lunch programs. The "problem" in Iraq and the blood of American soldiers now joins other such terms in the political lexicon: quotas = diversity, anti-Americanism = multiculturalism, illegal immigration = immigration rights, firing workers = right-sizing and terrorists = freedom fighters.

The initial psychological steps toward defeatism include replacing the heroic with the mundane and reducing sacrifice to convenience. During the Vietnam War the radical left insisted that the true heroes were not our soldiers who fought, bled and died, but those young men who fled to Canada. In the age of the anti-hero, this translates into summoning the courage to run away. It is the ultimate triumph of the draft-dodger mentality.

So, what will happen in Iraq? It is now difficult to distinguish the difference between national security and attention deficit syndrome. One wonders if the Bush administration has adopted the quite literal "no guts, no glory" philosophy of the Clinton administration, where emotionally satisfying gestures and imagery often substituted for leadership and courageous action. Historical legacy belongs to the bold or as the motto of the British Special Air Services states: "Who Dares, Wins".

It is an appropriate moment to recall another turning point in American history, the afternoon of July 2, 1863, when the pivotal clash occurred on Little Round Top at the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.

Led by Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain, a 35 year-old college professor, the soldiers of the 20th Maine Regiment defended the left flank of the Federal line. After turning back repeated assaults on their position, exhausted and low on ammunition, Chamberlain ordered an audacious bayonet charge to blunt what proved to be the final Confederate attempt to turn the Union flank. By doing the unexpected, Chamberlain has been credited with saving the Army of Potomac from a defeat, which might have determined the outcome of the war.

Such boldness and leadership might be too much to expect from the current political climate in Washington, DC.

With the exception of the recent call from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for an increase in troop strength and at least some attempt to win, most of the Democratic proposals seem to involve some form of phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq. Unquestionably, any redeployment of troops will be permanent. If it is now considered a mistake to remain in Iraq, there will be no incentive to return. After all, thousands of Vietnamese boat people and millions of slaughtered Cambodians did not move the then Democratic majority to reengage in the region.

We do not yet know what will be the outcome of the recommendations made by the 10-member, bipartisan Iraq Study Group. A key policy change attributed to the ISG, namely enlisting the "help" of Syria and Iran, sounds suspiciously like we are about to turn Iraq into Lebanon. Coupled with a U.S. troop redeployment, and following this decision to its logical conclusion, one should not be surprised to find Iranian "peacekeeping" troops appear in southern Iraq and Moqtada al-Sadr become the Iraqi version of Hezbollah's Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

No amount of American cajoling or policing will prevent the Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other if they really bent on doing so. And there is no reason to put American troops in the crossfire. Containing the violence may be the only possibility, until they themselves choose peace.

There are, however, courses of action that could ensure that our gallant soldiers have not died in vain. If any near-term redeployment is required, it should be to bases in the Kurdish north. The Kurds are the one group in Iraq that would like to see the United States win and the region provides a foundation for stability operations to succeed.

No one should underestimate the consequences of failure in Iraq. The United States is indeed again at a pivotal moment in its history. Instead of "run away", we should be saying "fix bayonets".

(Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He teaches courses on international negotiations and Middle Eastern studies.)

(Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century

Iraq Partition Called Wholly Unacceptable But Formal Policy Review Underway
Washington (AFP) Nov 15, 2006
Partition of Iraq along sectarian lines is "wholly unacceptable" to the United States, a senior State Department official said Wednesday, warning of the high cost in human suffering. "Partition in Iraq could only be achieved at an expense of human suffering and bloodshed and forced dislocation that would be both profound and wholly unacceptable, I believe, to the American people," said Ambassador David Satterfield, the State Department's coordinator of Iraq policy.







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