Black Gold

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"Black Gold"

Today’s Washington Post editorial on Iraq has a very definite Pravda vibe to it — sure we all saw, watched, and heard the Iraqi government repeatedly endorse an Iraq strategy along the lines of what Barack Obama has proposed, and repeatedly reject an Iraq strategy along the lines of the Bush/McCain perpetual war for perpetual occupation strategy, but here comes Fred Hiatt to tell us that’s not what happened at all. The logic chopping and mixed up facts are stunning but no more so than the Post‘s bold declaration that fighting al-Qaeda is a less important national security priority than is military occupation of Iraqi oil fields:

Mr. Obama’s response is that, as president, he would have to weigh Iraq’s needs against those of Afghanistan and the U.S. economy [...] While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country’s strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world’s largest oil reserves.

It’s important to be clear about what’s at stake when it comes to Iraqi oil. Lots of oil is already under the control of hostile (Iran, Venezuela) or not-especially-friendly (Russia) governments. But that doesn’t deprive American consumers of oil. Nor does it make oil more expensive. The Saudis and the Norwegians don’t sell us discount oil. There’s a global market and a global price. The American consumer filling up his tank doesn’t see a difference if the oil’s from Mexico or Equatorial Guinea or Kuwait, doesn’t see a difference if the oil’s owned by TotalFinaElf or ExxonMobil or Citgo. War for oil doesn’t mean cheap oil for you.

What it does mean is protection for companies that have invested in Iraqi oil. Those fields could be a good investment. But there’s a lot of “political risk.” And insofar as Iraq is playing host to a large occupying military force and has a government that’s dependent on that military force to stay in power, that political risk is mitigated. Which is great if you have a contract to drill for Iraqi oil, but really stinks as a national security priority for the United States (and it’s bad for the economy to boot). Certainly I wouldn’t say that it’s more important than taking the fight to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden.

UPDATE: See also Ackerman.

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