Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Revisiting the War for Oil Hypothesis

For years, the opponents of the war have questioned the motives of the administration for engaging with Iraq. Some outlandish theories include avenging his father's death and the every popular Halliburton theory, “War for Oil” Argument. The first is absurd on its face and thus I won't even address it. As to the second, I have addressed it on several occasions, however I also found this article that takes another look at it. He begins this way.

The “No Blood for Oil” argument is good for bumper stickers, and selling voters
on the Anti-War Democratic Peacenik Platform, but it is not a reality.

Then, the author lays out our own sordid history vis a vis Iraq.

The trouble between Iraq and America didn’t just start in a post 9/11
world. It began more than a decade ago. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , aka, the Shah, a
friendly ally to the US and UK was overthrown during the Iranian Revolution, i
nitiated by Ayatollah Khomeini, and an “anti-white” movement in Iran

Then we experienced Oliver North’s Iran Contra Affair. The contra being the
anti-Iranian, Iraqi
“Freedom Fighters”, another way of saying the funding of Saddam’s henchmen.
At the time Iran was more a threat to American Peace than Iraq’s presence made
evident by the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

So America leaned toward support for Iraq, and looked the other way as
Saddam murdered his uncle in a militant take over of governments, and thus the
transition to dictatorship. Saddam took the offense on an unstable military run
by the new Iran. Once powerful, the now despondent army of Iran was trifling
with America. Saddam took this opportunity to become the new strong man in the
Middle-East, and attacked Iran.

Iran and Iraq were at war for 10 years ending in 1988 when Iran (who
incidentally was one of the founders of the UN) signed a peace treaty with Iraq.
Tens of thousands were killed as Saddam, being backed by the UK, US, France,
China and Soviet Union , used chemical weapons. More than 100,000 Iranians were
casualties of the onslaught of chemical weapon use. Total Iranian casualties
were between 500,000 to ONE million. And Saddam took the opportunity to gas his
own, the Kurds in Halabja. More than 5,000 were found in mass graves. We called
the support offered dual containment of Iraq and Iran, and probably averted WW3
at the time.

While this is all well and good, what this article doesn't address is the reality of the situation on the ground at the time, and the reasons that made invasion the only option. While Bush presented the invasion strictly in terms of WMD's, the situation is actually significantly more complicated than that. I don't know if WMD's was the simple explanation or the most obvious, however I believe the administration did the country a great disservice by not fully explaining all of the nuances of the Saddam's antagonistic role in the War on Terror and why the only choice was to remove him.

In order to do this, we must first look at a map of the Middle East.

As you can see the countries of Iran, Iraq and Syria stand side by side. These are each terror supporting states. That means not only that there are elements of terror within the nation, which is true of almost every state, but that the governments actively support terrorists. For a full look at Saddam's support for terror, please go here. Now, it is simply unreasonable for the U.S. to expect to win the GWOT and keep in place three terror enablers standing side by side. Thus, the first and main reason came down to simple geography, and with Iraq in the middle, Iraq became the most strategically important country of the three, geographically.

The second had everything to do with the initial Persian Gulf War, Saddam's behavior afterwards, and how this behavior affected the war on terror. By the time Bush made a determination to take him out, Sadddam had violated no less than seventeen United Nations resolutions in lieu of a peace accord that stopped a previous war. Each resolution was clear that further violations meant a resumption of war. Despite this, Saddam violated each and every resolution with impugnity. He flaunted his contempt for the civilized world with each violation.

Now, if despots and tyrants could disregard any order given them by the civilized world, how are we supposed to win the war on terror. They could get into bed with terrorists, develop weapons, and cause any other harm as they saw fit, since they knew the world would never really challenge them on it. If Saddam was able to escape any punishment again, when would he finally not escape punishment. If he escaped punishment, what was to stop other dictators like Assad, Il, Qaddafi, from doing the exact same thing?

I haven't even come to the WMD's. This is the end game. Saddam, with WMD's, is a scenario that we just could not afford to let be realized. Whatever intelligence mistakes we made, the after math analysis was clear, Saddam had every intention of regaining his arsenal of WMD's. At what point were we going to stop him?

Finally, there is the flip side. What happens if Saddam is removed and some sort of functioning democracy replaces him. First, there is a democracy on the border of the remaining two terror enablers in that group. The citizens would only need to look to their neighbors to see the possibilities of freedom, democracy, and a representative government. Ultimately, that is the Bush doctrine. The long term battle in the GWOT requires that we confront despots and dictators and replace them with societies that value freedom, and it is the universal concept of freedom that will ultimately reject the totalitarian ideology of terrorists.

Now, as all concepts go, history will be written by the winners, and so ultimately, Bush's vision will be realized or rejected depending on the outcome in Iraq. What I have a problem with is assigning other motives, like oil, and also to needless criticism without an alternative philosophy. For all the critics, I never hear any coherent alternative strategy. If we left Saddam in place then what. The critics would have us believe that we should have gotten into heavy duty nation building in Afghanistan and then negotiated the rest of the GWOT.
Finally, the article points out the main flaw in the war for oil argument...

Finally, Iraq contributes 5%, that’s right 5%, of the total supply to OPEC. With
Venezuela, the largest contributor at 17%, if this war was about oil why haven’t
we attacked Chavez yet? By the way, Chavez has aligned with Iran now, has also
closed the free media down because of their opposition to his leftist government
policy, and also, has arrested protestors against a government run press.

Yes, if it were only about oil, there would have been better targets.

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