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The empire of oil

By Alan Caruba
web posted October 29, 2001

There are forces at work in our war on terrorism that have as much to do with insuring that America and the West has the oil it needs, as they do with protecting this nation against the more obvious threat of Islamic militancy.

Clearly, the US needs to root out the al Qaeda organization and the Taliban that have seized control of Afghanistan, but as history has shown, the Soviets tried to assert control of that landlocked nation of endlessly warring factions. It is conjectured they had in mind building an oil pipeline once they were in control. They ended up spending ten fruitless years and countless lives, only to have their government collapse and be replaced by the present Russian Republic. The US will seek to avoid that by dumping the problem of a new government there into the lap of the United Nations. Afghanistan is a sinkhole of ignorance and backwardness.

Putin has more than a passing interest in the war in Afghanistan
Putin has more than a passing interest in the war in Afghanistan

The Russian Factor. What accounts for Russian President Putin's eagerness to cooperate with the US? In a word, oil! Russia is the world's second largest exporter of oil, behind Saudi Arabia. There are billions of dollars at stake, along with the fact that the US must begin to find alternatives to its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Rather insanely, the US Congress is still engaged in a debate over whether to tap the estimated 16 billion barrels of oil in Alaska. This is the equivalent of never having to buy a single barrel from the Saudis for the next thirty years!

Another factor in the Russian rapprochement is the simple fact that the Cold War is over. A Russia that sits on top of vast reserves of oil can become a capitalist paradise which is, as we all know, much better than a communist one. The majority of Russian oil is exported via terminals in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. Another vehicle for export is the Druzhba pipeline that moves oil to Europe. Without going into the details, oil, its development and export, will transform Russia in this century.

Right now, OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, is very unhappy with Russia because it threatens their dominance. Russia is not an OPEC member and finding ways to control it has become an obsession. Unless they can, Russia's crude oil output could significantly reduce OPEC's targeted range of US$22 to US$28 a barrel. Oil-savvy George W. Bush and his Vice President, Richard Cheney, know this. Oh, what a friend we have in Russia!

The UN Factor. Let us now begin to close the circle. The United States has signaled it wants the United Nations to take the lead role in the reconstruction of a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Why would we allow the same UN extend its control over Afghanistan while we step aside? It is the smart move in the short run. We can deal with the UN later.

The United Nations has always acted against US interests and is a hotbed of anti-US opposition. It was the UN that tied our hands when we repulsed the Iraqis, making it impossible to depose Saddam Hussein. So, what does the Bush administration know that the ordinary citizen does not? Are we witnessing a series of pragmatic diplomatic concessions or are we, in fact, just going down the same path to failure we did in the 1990s? The latter would seem unlikely because, surely, the son has learned from the father.

Ultimately, we need to finish the job of the Persian Gulf war. We need to invade and take over Iraq. I predict we will. What is most needed in the region is the power of the US to write history. We need to control Iraq, threaten the other nations of the area with retribution if they fail to cooperate, and literally drag the whole Middle East into the 2lst century. The real prize is Baghdad. We will be there for at least a generation.

The widespread Muslim hatred for the West will simmer for years, but oil is a
commodity we want and need. Lowering our dependence on the Middle East is quite likely driving every decision. Another factor involves getting control over Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability. Let the Pakistanis rant in the street, we have to protect ourselves and our real allies in the region, India and Israel.

The real world is about energy. It is about the empire of oil. The religious fanaticism that would block our access to it is tangential to this reality. We have not been dealing with nation states in the Middle East, but with "tribes that have flags."

OPEC & UN. Recently the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has announced its intent to "develop strategies to trim potentially huge financial losses that are expected to follow implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change." The Greens within the United Nations developed this treaty. It is a treaty the Bush administration and the US Senate have unanimously declared it will never support. It is aimed at destabilizing our economy.

Despite this, many European and other nations have signed onto the treaty and, in doing so, are committing an environmental form of economic suicide; the kind that could drag down the United States despite our opposition. There is already an incipient worldwide economic recession and this is all that is needed to bring on a global Depression. OPEC has to be "persuaded" to back off this proposal to cut back production.

The Empire of Oil. Few Americans know or understand just how dependent we are on the free flow of oil, the development of our own resources, and alternatives to Middle Eastern oil. In the US, oil consumption has risen from 20 million barrels a day in 1960 to 60 million a day in 1980. It stands at 75 million barrels a day today.

"Everything is reliant on oil-from the transportation sector to the manufacturing," says Mark Baxter, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Two-thirds of the oil we consume goes for transportation. Virtually everything Americans purchase is delivered by trucks. Oil represents about 14% of airline operating costs. Oil is the fundamental component of plastic. Everything from packaging materials to pesticides to billiard balls is made from oil.

The primary target of the environmental movement has always been oil. That is the underlying theme of its "sustainable development" propaganda and its effort to reduce its use by proposing higher taxes on gasoline, demands for more efficient automobile technology, and other uses.

It is the reason the Greens (and Democrats in Congress) remain opposed to opening up the huge oil reserves known to exist in Alaska or tapping those known to exist off the coasts of California, Florida, and other Gulf of Mexico states. It is the reason that CARA, a bill that would permit the purchase of large portions of the US landmass, is under consideration in Congress, because it would restrict any further use of the oil, coal, timber and mineral resources these lands represent. CARA is yet another Green attack on our economic base.

The indisputable fact remains that the internal combustion engine in every automobile in America today is pretty much the same one Henry Ford put in the Model A. Our use of automobiles has transformed our entire way of life, opening up suburbs around every major city, initiating the creation of shopping malls, and freeing everyone to move about swiftly and efficiently.

Like the veil covering the face of a Muslim woman, the intense desire of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and dozens of other Muslim terrorist groups to rid the Middle East and the world of American influence hides the great economic force at work that requires this nation to suppress any interference with our access to oil. This in no way, however, diminishes the threat of worldwide militant Islam.

Whether Islam continues or fails is the sideshow. The real game is a civilization that has gone to the Moon, tapped into the human genome, that can genetically modify crops to increase the world's wheat and grains without cutting down another tree, a world in which we will all communicate via the Internet. It is about a world that runs on coal, natural gas, but mostly, mostly OIL!

Alan Caruba is the author of A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam, available from the website of The National Anxiety Center. He writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", also posted on the site. (c) Alan Caruba, 2001 All rights reserved.

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