War For Oil?

Thomas Friedman makes the case that war in Iraq is largely about oil. He’s right to a very large extent, but as I mentioned before, it’s not about gaining access to cheap Iraqi oil as many anti-war groups content. Friedman echoes the notion that if Saddam takes over the Persian Gulf oil fields using a nuclear device as blackmail, he becomes the most powerful man in the world. That means that he could singlehandedly destroy the world economy by cutting off access to oil unless we meet his demands. Those demands would mean the deaths of millions.

Friedman does make an interesting point:

"Would those women protesting in Aspen prefer that Saddam Hussein control the oil instead — is that morally better?" asks Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert and author of "The Ideas That Conquered the World." "Up to now, Saddam has used his oil wealth not to benefit his people, but to wage war against all his neighbors, build lavish palaces and acquire weapons of mass destruction."

This is a good point, but the Bush team would have a stronger case for fighting a war partly for oil if it made clear by its behavior that it was acting for the benefit of the planet, not simply to fuel American excesses.

He then says that the Administration should stress oil conservation as part of the war against Iraq. To some extent I’m sympathetic to that notion. On the other hand, where I live, SUVs aren’t a luxury item – there are times when they’re necessary to get out of the door. (No, I don’t drive an SUV myself, although in the midst of a Minnesota winter there are times I wish I did.) There’s nothing wrong with conservation, but it shouldn’t involve punitive government measures.

The fact remains that this war is not immoral just because much of the justification for it centers on the issue of oil. Friedman is right to point out that the Administrations rhetoric must make it absolutely clear that safeguarding oil in the Persian Gulf isn’t necessary so that we can drive our SUVs as we wish, it’s so that we can have food on our tables, a safe and warm place to live, and have the freedom and economic strength to start looking for better alternatives.

2 thoughts on “War For Oil?

  1. Alas, a conservative that does not shrilly defend our over-consumption of gasoline by SUVs as simply a matter of choice.

    No, conservation should not be punitive. But when do our leaders call upon people to scarifice, after all, we are AT WAR.

  2. Jay, I’ve lived in South Dakota all my life, and not once have I had a need for an SUV. (People from warmer climes have no idea what you can really get a Toyota Camry through if you’re motivated enough) However, rural dwellers in our part of the country have a perfectly legitimate need for such vehicles.

    Of course, the last several winters have been very mild… I could be eating those words any day now…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.