The momentous challenge facing the Bush Administration and America is the very
real danger to the continuing supply of America's very lifeblood: oil.
Global oil production will peak (or has already possibly peaked) within several
decades. Already, growing oil demand - from China and India especially, joining
ever increasing American (20% of global demand) and other developed world usage
- has created a very tight market with the price for benchmark crude oil staying
above $50US. Some market analysts see US$100 oil in our immediate future and
pessimists direly predict the mother of all depressions, a new dark age and
even human die-off as we go over the cliff past Hubbert's Peak down the steep
slopes of rapidly diminishing global oil production.
Oil at US$100 would be bad for business. This is a specter to chill an Administration
trying to manage an indebted, precarious US economic hegemony based upon a very
vulnerable dollar. This ominous scenario is potentially more devastating to
Bush's America than a hundred 9/11s.
The Bush Administration didn't attempt regime change in Iraq just to
protect America and its hegemony from the threat of WMDs and terrorism; it wasn't
entirely 'a new crusade lead by geopolitical fantasists' against radical Islam
and in support of America's Middle East ally Israel; it didn't try to form a
coalition of the willing like in the first Gulf War just to confront Iraqi aggression.
The permanent military bases and Pentagon sized American consul offices
in Iraq are being built because 60% of the world's crude comes from an increasingly
hostile Middle East - this percentage of the supply of the world's most valuable
commodity will increase over the next decade - and because control of Iraq is
the decisive high ground for control of the Middle East..
American troops are not in Iraq for ideological reasons; this is not a replay
of the domino theory in Vietnam. Whether or not the neocon dream of nation building
succeeds - emulating the success of American leadership in postwar Japan and
Germany - is secondary to continued American military control of the key strategic
area of the most important geo-strategic area on the globe.
America has more than 800 military bases globally and awesome military imperial
power. Protection of American interests, especially American business and the
flow of commodities vital to America, is the US military mandate. Given globalization
and the building oil supply realities, traditional Republican isolationism is
not even a consideration.
After the first Gulf War, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney agreed with
a traditional Republican foreign policy non-interventionist response to Saddam's
Iraq: The US and coalition did not push into Iraq initiating regime change,
occupation and nation building. They withdrew, banking upon military and multilateral
containment, and continuing US economic control of oil supply (supported, of
course, by a century old American military presence).
But by 1999 there was a new more pressing reality. In a speech to Institute
of Petroleum in November 1999 Dick Cheney showed a keen appreciation of the
"For the world as a whole, oil companies are expected to keep finding
and developing enough oil to offset our seventy one million plus barrel a day
of oil depletion, but also to meet new demand. By some estimates there will
be an average of two per cent annual growth in global oil demand over the years
ahead along with conservatively a three per cent natural decline in production
from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional
fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? Governments
and the national oil companies are obviously controlling about ninety per cent
of the assets. Oil remains fundamentally a government business. While many regions
of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds
of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately
Access to oil is the IMPORTANT problem. And it is a US government problem.
At the beginning of Bush Jr's first Administration, long before 9/11, Cheney
was now a leading advocate of regime change. On hindsight, Saddam's WMD threat
and the war on terror were just inflated excuses: optical, political practicalities
to hide the real underlying reasons for US actions.
American choice of what can only be perceived as a military grab-the-oil policy
path to the coming end of oil will no doubt engender responses - unpredictable
perhaps very surprising responses - from a new growing world power, China, from
a still nuclear armed Russia, and from the wider world community who will become
increasingly concerned about American leadership and their own position within
or without the military fortress controlling access to oil.
Given the momentous problem of peak oil and the oil importance of the
Middle East and their choice of the grab-the-oil policy path, the Bush Administration
has little choice but to stay in Iraq, must keep building American military
bases there, must continue the neocon dream of nation building in spite of the
insurgency. In spite of American casualties; in spite of the building Islamic
backlash. Losing Iraq, unlike retreat from Vietnam, is not an option.