Is the Iraq War a US response to Peak Oil? Is it a favor to Israel? Is it meant to bring US consumers cheap gasoline?, or to inflate oil prices that balloon the profits of US oil firms? Ismael Hossein-Zadeh posed these questions and gave his answers in an interesting article “Are They Really Oil Wars?” He summarized his view this way:
“In this study I will first argue that the Peak Oil theory is unscientific, unrealistic, and perhaps even fraudulent. I will then show that war and military force are no longer the necessary or appropriate means to gain access to sources of energy, and that resorting to military measures can, indeed, lead to costly, not cheap, oil. Next, I will demonstrate that, despite the lucrative spoils of war resulting from high oil prices and profits, Big Oil prefers peace and stability, not war and geopolitical turbulence, in global energy markets. Finally, I will argue a case that behind the drive to war and military adventures in the Middle East lie some powerful special interests (vested in war, militarism, and geopolitical concerns of Israel) that use oil as an issue of “national interest”—as a façade or pretext—in order to justify military adventures to derive high dividends, both economic and geopolitical, from war.”
Hossein-Zadeh entered this topic with an economist’s perspective and arrived at political conclusions. What follows are an engineer’s perspective, which arrives to somewhat different political conclusions. One realization from this exercise is that our conclusions may germinate and flower from our initial suspicions, and somehow mold our technical arguments and logic into conformity with our intuition. Therefore, what follows is the statement of a thesis, without any claim of proof.
Military control, over global energy resources and energy commerce, creates political power over economic rivals.
A military-industrial-congressional-complex (MICC) owns the US government and runs it as a mechanism of self-aggrandizement, as is evident by the proportion of tax revenues that flow into military accounts.
The self-serving purpose of the MICC’s militarized foreign policy (i.e., war) is to expand its degree of control over all others, to achieve hegemony by the US, which is simply a vehicle for this clique.
The strategy for maintaining hegemony has 3 goals: 1, to secure hydrocarbon fuels for the US military; 2, to control the access to hydrocarbon fuels by all others; 3, to control the economics of energy commerce. Consider these in turn.
Goal 1: secure large and steady supplies of fossil hydrocarbon fluid fuels (oil and gas) on which US military technology depends, to move all those ultra-low mileage airplanes, ships and tanks.
The civilian sectors (consumer and industrial) could be powered by solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy, and with farmed inedible (non-food) hydrocarbon fuel material, coupled with efficient socialized systems of mass transport. Materials for civilian use made from imported oil (foams, plastics, polymers) could be replaced with those synthesized, recycled, mined or cultivated from domestic sources, along with some selected imported material (even oil) from low-risk suppliers. Suburbia is not a necessity, providing bountiful lives for the US population need not depend exclusively on imported oil assumed to always be cheap. However, the US imperial war machine cannot exist without a constant and large supply of petroleum.
Goal 2: control the access to world supplies of fossil hydrocarbon fuels.
The US drive to power can be thought of as an invisible hand reaching to control the petroleum and natural gas spigot that fuels the military machines of other nations and regions, Europe in particular, since it is the most powerful rival to the US in the hegemonic contest. This bears repeating: Europe is the greatest rival to the US, not Russia, nor China, nor any of the smaller relatively helpless states singled out for propagandistic abuse, and worse, by the US because such bullying is so safe: Cuba, Syria, Iraq, Iran, you can easily add to the list. Keeping Europe in check, both as a whole and its many nations individually, is the preeminent goal of US foreign policy. It is the Europeans who are most capable of achieving a controlling role in world management if (when?) the US falters. This is why Russia tries to ally itself with Europe by supplying it with so much petroleum and gas, and this is why the US is so keen to introduce offensive weapons, called “missile defense radars,” into Eastern Europe to rupture any post Cold War Euro-Russo economic bonding before it matures.
The invisible hand would also control, in the sense of limiting their scope of action, foreign civilian sectors that are heavily petroleum-based. Nations that tarry in modernizing their civilian sectors from petroleum-based power to solar-wind-geothermal-hydro coupled with socialized forms of entropy minimization (“green” or “alternative” energy technologies, if you will) would be more easily controlled by an invisible hegemonic hand on the fossil liquid hydrocarbon spigot. This is why US foreign policy aims to thwart international agreements of the Kyoto Protocol type.
In 1956, Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt after its president, Gamal Abdul Nasser, nationalized the Suez Canal (The “Suez Crisis” or the “Tripartite Aggression”). The Egyptian threat to Europe’s oil artery from the Middle East was not to be tolerated. Fifty years later, nobody is anxious to attack the U.S. Navy task force in the Persian Gulf, and yet its presence sends the same message to “Old Europe”: we’ve got you by the hydrocarbons. It is all a matter of the imbalance of power, something Thucydides would recognize. The idea that the US Navy is in the Gulf to protect “our” oil from attack by the military forces of Iran is nonsensical, why would Iran destroy its most lucrative commercial activity? The only logical possibility for Iran taking such action would be as a parting gesture while being annihilated by a superior aggressor.
Goal 3: control the economic cycle of energy resources;
Having US dollars as the reserve currency used in the global energy market is akin to owning the casino in which the games are played. The house always gets a percentage of the bets thrown into every game, the gamblers are essentially renting their playing space. So, though Lady Luck may be fickle as to which player she casts her charms upon in any given game and on any given night, the house always pulls in its rents. The US sends its war debts out into the world by printing more dollars, and it seeks to have this paper endowed with value by others who exchange their natural resources like oil for them, and then recycle these dollars through other economies that include the MICC weapons manufacturers, financiers and service providers. This is why Iran is seeking to trade its oil for Euros, and why Venezuela is investing its oil wealth in domestic social development, denying the US casino the added advantage of repatriating its dollars through Venezuelan patronage of the usual MICC concessionaires. US threats to an oil supplier — Iran, Venezuela — are always a reaction to a sense of losing control over the supplier’s domestic economy. The US doesn’t really care whether oil and energy prices are “low” or “high,” just so long as the global energy market is maximally a dollar-based economic cycle and maximally under physical control by US military forces and approved proxies.
How The Racket Is Set Up.
The owners of the dollar capitalist system use the power of the US government to extract wealth from the world.
The purpose of US military power is to keep other nations in the economic corral defined by the US dollar capitalist system. The military achieves this purpose by controlling as many of the source regions and trade routes of the fossil hydrocarbon fuels trade as possible. Control can be exerted by posing a credible threat: subsidizing Israel, a Navy task forces in the Persian Gulf, overseas military bases and carefully placed missile defense radars; and control can be overt, as with the occupations of Iraq and Okinawa.
The economic cycles within the US corral are constructed to produce profits to the owners of the dollar capitalist system. Nations and populations that seek to leave the corral and cycle their natural wealth through non-dollar and non-capitalist economic cycles, to further their own domestic development, are seen as losses to the wealth extraction expectations of the MICC, and worse still as bad examples that could incite further rebellion, inspiring other client states to leap over the corral fence. These “bad apples” are subjected to threats (of increasing severity as they are decreasingly powerful), and in some cases overt aggression, in efforts to return them to their assigned roles in this system of wealth extraction.
The US dollar is a fiat currency backed by the threat of military force. Our Legions roam the Earth and everywhere our paper is accepted in exchange for tribute in the forms of natural resources and debt forbearance. The Arabs send us oil, the Central Americans send us coffee and bananas, the Chinese absorb our war indebtedness and shelter it as their savings account. Those who deny value to our currency do so at their peril, witness Iran, and recall the hostility to the former Communist bloc. Some imagine China has power over the US because it holds such a large quantity of US dollars, the stored monetized equivalent of the collective output of a vast and deeply exploited labor force. These dollars were exchanged for the gargantuan torrent of goods poured down the maw of American consumption. But it is China that is bound. If they were to withdraw their endowment of value to their US paper, by dumping US dollars on currency markets, they would only precipitate a collapse of the US dollar and thus simultaneously wipe out their own savings (and their prime export market). The Chinese people have had enough of a taste of money these last thirty years, even if at a modest level for most, that they are not prepared to go back to an agrarian Third World national lifestyle just to accommodate the political gesture of bankrupting the US currency. They would revolt, and this is far too great a threat to the Chinese Communist Party, the MICC of China, to risk provoking. So the US MICC is reassured that its bastard, American war debt, will be lovingly nurtured in its Chinese foster home.
During Harry S. Truman’s 1948 campaign for the US presidency, in the midst of a recession, he reminded voters of the old slogan “If you want to live like a Republican, vote for a Democrat.” For billions of Chinese and Indians today, a possibly analogous slogan might be “If you want to live like an American, burn coal for power, gas for heat, and oil for cars.” There is an explosion of demand for fossil hydrocarbon fuel. How large is the Earth’s fossil hydrocarbon endowment? Are we running out of oil and gas (Peak Oil), or do we unknowingly have enough because there remain undiscovered deposits? Geophysical evidence suggests we may have used about half of the global fluid hydrocarbon endowment (oil and gas), but the situation is not entirely clear because information about the existence, location and capacity of hydrocarbon deposits is often withheld or purposely misstated. It is easy to understand why. However, whether Peak Oil is true or untrue is irrelevant to US policy, because human nature is such that all Earth’s oil will be used as soon as it can be gotten to, and it is US policy to control the trade that feeds that hunger till the end, whenever and whatever that may be. So, is the Iraq War a Peak Oil war, a resource-grab because of diminishing supply?, or is it a “favor to Israel” war engineered by an Israel Lobby, which must then be assumed to have controlling power in the US? The Iraq War is neither a simplistic “oil war” nor a simplistic “favor to Israel war.” It is both an oil war and a favor to Israel because each of these is a contributing factor of this particular war to the the larger purpose, the expansion of US MICC control over global energy resources and trade. The Iraq War is an attempt to increase political control over economic rivals by exercising superior military power.
Military control, over global energy resources and energy commerce, creates political power over economic rivals.
That George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have failed miserably in this endeavor is universally acknowledged. Within the MICC, the 2008 election is a contest between Barack Obama of the Democratic Party, and John McCain of the Republican Party, to determine who should take over the management of the unchanging prime directive. Each of the two potential executives will try to convince members of the MICC that they have the better business plan to achieve the goal they all agree upon: MICC world hegemony. Here, the Israel Lobby is seen as a constituency within the MICC. Because the management of the public mind for social control is now one of the major assignments of the national chief executive, and Barack Obama has demonstrated a flair for this, and because John McCain is more widely seen as a roughly equivalent continuation of the Bush-Cheney political mentality, Obama is presently favored by popular opinion within the MICC. We can expect that ninety percent of the campaign debate between McCain and Obama will focus on the ten percent of socio-political difference between them, a good show to keep the public mind distracted from the imperialist consensus devouring their aspirations.
Were Thucydides to write a speech for the victor of the 2008 election, it might sound like this:
Our favor is generous to those who fulfill their role in the imperial family of nations, and the tribute we require is just compensation for the order we maintain and the protection we provide. Honor our paper by sending us the products of your fields, mines, and artisans, and by absorbing our debts; send us your troops for our military campaigns; love our friends and revile our enemies. Long live the Empire!
MANUEL GARCIA, Jr. is a retired physicist, once a Morlock in the MICC. E-mail: email@example.com