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Re: <nettime> Iraq: The Way Forward
Benjamin Geer on Sat, 20 Jan 2007 06:23:42 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Iraq: The Way Forward

On 19/01/07, Michael H Goldhaber <mgoldh {AT} well.com> wrote:
> The Contras were in Nicaragua. Reagan hardly hid his political support for
> them, but was eventually forced by Congress to be secretive about direct aid
> to them.

Yes, Nicaragua, sorry.  That's just one of many examples of covert US
military action... isn't it?  All those books by former CIA agents
like John Stockwell... or do you disagree?  Do you maintain that the
US has never engaged in any secret wars?  How do secret wars fit into
your view of the US military?  I'm sorry to be a pest, but I feel as
if you haven't answered this question.

> As for Saudi Arabia, I understand  that shortly after the Iraq invasion, the
> US closed all its bases there. [...] (I don't dispute that are bases in places such as
> Qatar.)

Doesn't that amount to the same thing?  It's a small concession to the
Saudis but basically maintains the status quo.

> Those bases did not go up in 1973, as your timeline would suggest, but in 1990, after Saddam
> invaded Kuwait.

I don't have access here to the books Brian recommended, but... it
seems that "the 1973 oil embargo "caused a major readjustment of U. S.
policy priorities in the Gulf.... the U. S. began periodic naval
deployments in the Indian Ocean and expanded Diego Garcia into a naval
station capable of supporting major air and naval deployments."[1]
The US "considered using force to seize oilfields in the Middle East"
if the 1973 embargo went on for too long[2], and the British
government was afraid they might really do it[3].

After the embargo ended, high levels of oil production actually caused
economic problems for the Gulf countries, and would have liked to
reduce production.  "This option was firmly refused by the US, who let
it be known that any reduction in production would practically
represent a cause for war.... American officials implied, in public
and in private, that they were prepared to intervene militarily in
zones of oil production if their vital interests required it."[4]

It seems that Carter and Reagan would very much have liked to
establish more bases in the Gulf, particularly in order to make sure
the Soviet Union would not be able to interrupt the flow of oil to the
US, but couldn't persuade their Gulf allies to let them do so until

> Anyway, my main argument is not that particular interests at times seek to
> benefit from American military might, but that as a domestically  extremely
> powerful and culturally  important institution, the military and ist
> supporters keep finding rationales for strengthening it. On the whole they
> probably believe whatever the momentary rationale is, but they and
> certainly, their main Congressional supporters, do not  really quesiotn that
> there must be one.

The rationale of protecting access to oil is not momentary; it has
been a feature of US policy in the Gulf since Nixon justified his
"twin pillar" policy in 1973 by saying that "assurance of the
continued flow of Middle East energy resources is increasingly
important to the United States"[1].  However, it almost seems as if
you agree with me here.  If US presidents have really believed in that
rationale all this time, and if this is why they've carried out the
military policies we're talking about, wouldn't removing the
possibility of such a rationale (by eliminating US dependence on oil)
make it more difficult to justify certain military interventions?

I realise that you're probably going to say, "No, because they'll just
find some other excuse".  But, well, look at what people who study
conflict prevention say.  A lot of it seems to be about reducing
material causes for conflict, which typically involve competition for
scarce resources, such as water, oil, grazing land, and so on.  When
you have an army, and another country has something you need, it's
tempting to take it by force.  I agree with you that reducing the size
of your army to the minimum necessary for self-defence is sure to help
as well.  But it's hard not to notice that the US has the highest
resource consumption per capita of any country in the world, and also
has the largest military capacity.  As George Kennan put it in 1948:

"we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its
population.... In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of
envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a
pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this
position of disparity without positive detriment to our national

So what I'm suggesting is this: if you have a teachable moment, take
advantage of it not only to teach Americans about their bloated,
self-serving military, but also about the economic disparity that that
military is being used to protect.  Point out that US oil consumption
is an environmental disaster as well as a cause of war.  Try to end
the occupation of Iraq, yes, but also try to get people thinking about
how to change the US economy (e.g. by eliminating the use of fossil
fuels) so that their governments will be less tempted to invade other


[1] http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1990/BRB.htm
[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3333995.stm
[3] http://politics.guardian.co.uk/politicspast/story/0,9061,1114530,00.html
[4] Henri Laurens, _Paix et guerre au Moyen-Orient_, 2nd ed., p. 306.
[5] http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Memo_PPS23_by_George_Kennan

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