The Lonely Centrist

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

War for Oil?

One-time Presidential candidate Gary Hart is huffing away that the U.S. will launch a preemptive war in Iran before the election. This seems more than a little far-fetched to me, since it is the war in Iraq that will probably prevent the GOP from steamrolling to victory in November. Hart, like many Democrats these days, seems to think that every American hates the war, but would support a new one.

Anyway, Hart says that when the President goes on national TV to justify the assault, he will not say, in Hart's words, "and besides, we need the oil."

Now, two thoughts emerge.

First, if we need oil, why would we attack Iran? The immediate consequences would be to shut off oil supplies from Iran. Even in the event of stunning success by the American military, as we have seen in Iraq, it is not so easy to keep oil supplies flowing. It seems to me that if a president wanted to exacerbate oil shortages around the globe, there would be few better strategies than attacking Iran. Conversely, if we actually wanted oil from Iran, it is easy to get - raise any and all sanctions, and send them some nuclear plant technology. We might toss our ally Israel over the side if we're really looking for oil, but that may not be necessary to get much of what we want. So Hart isn't thinking, and I suppose we can all be glad that Donna Rice, who is much prettier and living a better life now than she was then, killed his chances of becoming president.

But let me ask the unaskable question: what would be so inherently bad about a "war for oil"? Let us suppose, counterfactually, that a "war for oil" could lower the price of oil worldwide to $35/barrell for the next 20 years. What enormous good would that do for the world economy? How many people, especially in the developing world, would be lifted out of poverty? How many unemployed would become employed, in this country and elsewhere? How much of the world's natural wealth would be taken from the hands of brutal dictators, secular and religious, and transferred to the democracies? How many terrorist groups would lose a major funding source?

Throughout history, nations have often gone to war for control of natural resources. Arguably, a war for oil - sacrificing our national treasure and blood for something that would yield tremendous benefits for the world, and especially for many of the world's poorest people - would be one of the great self-sacrifices of history.

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