Saturday, November 11, 2006

he makes the “realists” sound almost selfless

Henley makes a good point (or two)... by which I mean, a point I’ve made before myself*:
But in his eagerness to blame “the America of the Automobile and the Chicken Nugget” for the glorious adventure in Iraq, he misses a couple of steps. First, he makes the “realists” sound almost selfless. They’re doing it for us! Except, where’s the institutional analysis of “realists” and political actors appropriating those aspects of realist theory that make good cover for their own power grabs. There’s no sense that the “national interest” and the interests of particular politically connected corporations and economic sectors might be distinct, and that so-called realism might be about serving the ladder rather than the former.

It also reads as if IOZ believes that the “realists” believe that American access to oil reasonably requires American military intervention in the Middle East, and that it’s the objectively sensible way to secure that access. For the children, more or less.

But what American access to oil reasonably requires is nothing more nor less than a functioning oil market. Oil costs money. Producers will want to sell for a profit. Buyers will want to get the best possible price. The juice itself is fungible. Iran can sign all the deals they want with Russian and Chinese companies, for instance, but that doesn’t keep Americans from buying gasoline. Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower undertook a deliberate, decade-long program of edging Britain and France out of control of Middle Eastern oil regimes. Will anyone argue that British and French consumers received a drop less petroleum as a consequence?

The bogeyman scenario is “peak oil,” the idea that supplies have hit a high, and that the development of the Chinese and Indian economies means that petroleum will be genuinely scarce in ways it hasn’t been heretofore. On that theory, America needs to use military force to “guarantee American access to oil,” that is, steal it from its owners, because God wanted us to have it. Accepting for the sake of argument the premise that it would be just and effective for us to do that, and we’ll come back to that later, it makes a stupid argument for wars in the middle east for the sake of oil now.

1. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Russians and Chinese themselves are completely unable to project sustainable military force into the Middle East. They haven’t got the logistical capacity.

2. We’re a debtor nation. We can only use military force to keep the Chinese from taking all “our” oil so long as the Chinese will float us the cash to do so. That the Chinese are, so far, bankrolling our adventures suggests that their elites may understand markets better than we do.

Too long to discuss now, but I think the Iraq War shows that military force can’t actually secure access to oil at all. At the very least, it’s probably a cost-prohibitive strategy.
(* line taken from henley in his post.)

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