June 24, 2003

Of course it's about the oil, but not in the way you think

In the current Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Pollock has an number of insightful things to say about the American role in the middle east. His essay, Securing the Gulf, is most interesting when he talks about the realpolitik implications of "THE OIL." Whether or not the recent war was 'about the oil' was a toxic mushroom in the endless debate for or against American intervention and regime change in Iraq. It still is. And, according to Pollack, with good reason:

America's primary interest in the Persian Gulf lies in ensuring the free and stable flow of oil from the region to the world at large. This fact has nothing to do with the conspiracy theories leveled against the Bush administration during the run-up to the recent war. U.S. interests do not center on whether gas is $2 or $3 at the pump, or whether Exxon gets contracts instead of Lukoil or Total. Nor do they depend on the amount of oil that the United

States itself imports from the Persian Gulf or anywhere else. The reason the United States has a legitimate and critical interest in seeing that Persian Gulf oil continues to flow copiously and relatively cheaply is simply that the global economy built over the last 50 years rests on a foundation of inexpensive, plentiful oil, and if that foundation were removed, the global economy would collapse....

Saudi Arabia is not only the world's largest oil producer and the holder of the world's largest oil reserves, but it also has a majority of the world's excess production capacity, which the Saudis use to stabilize and control the price of oil by increasing or decreasing production as needed. Because of the importance of both Saudi production and Saudi slack capacity, the sudden loss of the Saudi oil network would paralyze the global economy, probably causing a global downturn at least as devastating as the Great Depression of the 1930s, if not worse. So the fact that the United States does not import most of its oil from the Persian Gulf is irrelevant: if Saudi oil production were to vanish, the price of oil in general would shoot through the ceiling, destroying the American economy along with everybody else's.

Posted by Vanderleun at June 24, 2003 12:20 PM
Bookmark and Share