Israel and Peak Oil

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Thursday, November 08, 2007
‘War-Not-for-Oil Thesis’ Is Flawed

The arguments about why the US attacked and occupied Iraq mainly come down to “the US did it for Israel” and “the US did it for the oil.” In short, I think it was for both. Obviously — as detailed by writers like James Petras — the Zionist power configuration works hard to push the US into aggression in the Middle East. Once you read the evidence, it’s impossible to deny the role of Zionist pressure for war and involvement in 9/11, for starters. In fact, those who argue (correctly) that the war is for oil might do well to review the work of these writers to see the involvement of Zionism.

On the other hand, those who provide this evidence of Zionist pressure deny that the invasion and occupation have anything to do with oil. But the “war for Israel but not for oil” (WFIBNFO) argument is disingenuous. And more than that, it’s just plain wrong. Here I shall set forth the case that oil is the main motivation.

Granted, some of the “war for oil” arguments are very weak at best, and it is good that they are shot down. For example, some people claim that Big Oil wanted the US to invade, but this doesn’t really make much sense. Better and cheaper ways could have been found for Western oil companies to exploit Iraq’s oil. And it’s obvious to any thinking person that oil companies can’t drill on a battlefield. Just look at the difficulties oil drilling operations face in countries with political instability, such as Nigeria. Oil companies don’t want to risk their expensive equipment and precious manpower (the oil industry currently has a manpower shortage) on a battlefield. Of course we don’t know what oil company representatives on Dick Cheney’s energy task force said, but it’s highly unlikely they chanted for war. And there is little or no indication that oil companies were actively lobbying for war. At most, I suspect they said, “If you want a war, then get it over quickly and stabilize Iraq, or we can’t work.” So, this argument for Big Oil complicity is pretty lame and has very little going for it.

Also, we know that other arguments for the war set forth by the Cheney regime — such as weapons of mass destruction, involvement in 9/11, and al Qaeda ties — were totally bogus to begin with.

But does this mean the US isn’t after the oil? The arguments I have reviewed above are presented again and again by the WFIBNFO faction. But since these arguments are easily refuted to begin with, they are in effect just straw men presented to support an inherently untenable position. This is the same trick used by those who support the US government’s flimsy 9/11 story. They attack the physical evidence argument, which is very weak and in effect a quicksand hole into which they draw their opponents, while at the same time they studiously avoid discussion of damning evidence such as the money trail or war games.

Similarly, the WFIBNFO camp overlooks geopolitical reality, namely that the US Empire is at a desperate crossroads. The dollar is sinking, the US economy is in the sewer, the government is awash in red ink and dependent on the largesse of other countries to keep running, the US military is falling apart, and geopolitical competitors like China and Russia are flexing their muscles. A combination of geology, geopolitics, and soaring demand is making oil more expensive by the day. Now that is a powerful cocktail of bad news, but empires look for opportunities to sustain themselves, and the US has found one: the oil of Iraq (and possibly that of Iran). As Henry Kissinger supposedly said, “Control the oil and you control entire nations; control the food and you control the people.” Whoever said it sure knew what they were talking about, and now this is more true than ever before. Since food in our modern world is produced with oil, controlling oil means also controlling food. In fact, since the modern world economy is oil-based, controlling oil means literally controlling everything.

Iraq has a lot of high-quality oil that can be easily exploited. Especially now — when oil companies are increasingly obliged to forage in deep-sea areas to come up with new discoveries, when they are going after low-EROEI “junk oil” like tar sands and shale oil — being able to control the oil wealth of Iraq (and perhaps of Iran) and keep it out of the hands of competitors would confer upon the US a spectacular geopolitical advantage. To believe that the Empire would be sitting on that oil and not be interested in, or be oblivious to, the huge advantage gained by controlling it is an intellectual blunder of staggering proportions.

Further, how does the WFIBNFO camp explain away things like the creation of AFRICOM? Obviously, its purpose is to secure the energy wealth of Africa for the Empire, not steal land for Israel. How does the WFIBNFO camp explain the mad dash by the world’s big players to lay claim over vast stretches of ocean, such as the north polar region? Is this for Israel, too? Naturally, it’s for oil and gas. Iraq is part of this pattern.

It’s unlikely that something so obvious is lost on the people in the WFIBNFO camp, as their writings show that they are not stupid. To prop up their WFIBNFO reasoning, they just ignore this extremely powerful motive for trying to take over Iraq’s oil. If you were the leadership of the US Empire, how would you pull America’s fat out of the fire and maintain your position as King of the Mountain? Trying to take control of the oil is a desperate gambit, but it’s the best shot the Empire has.

Addendum: War for Israel = War for Oil

There is another fact which shows the disingenuousness of the WFIBNFO camp by their ignoring it: Israel’s desperate need for oil. Throughout the history of Israel, its leaders have expressed grave concerns over oil supplies, which only stands to reason because Israel has virtually no oil of its own.

Further, Zionism pundits tell us about the plan for Greater Israel, but don’t say anything about this plan’s obvious need for oil. Without lots of oil, how will Israel hold onto the Palestinian land it has already stolen? How will it further its expansion into Arab lands and maintain its hold on them? How will settlers move into those lands and occupy them? How will the IDF power its war machine? This plan obviously assumes that Israel will have access to plenty of oil, and Iraq’s oil is practically next door. Without oil, Israel is a basket case, and any plans for Greater Israel or further expansion of any kind are totally unrealistic. Given these circumstances, Israel’s drooling over Iraq’s oil is a no-brainer. The obvious connection here is that Zionist pressure on the US to attack Iraq and Iran equals Zionist pressure to take control of their oil. Yet Zionism pundits just ignore this inconvenient fact because it refutes their WFIBNFO thesis.

So in the final analysis, now matter how you look at it, this war is for oil.

Last update - 05:38 01/08/2008

Beyond the oil age

By Sarah Kass

Tags: Climate Change, Oil, Jews

The oil age will end in our lifetime. Israeli clean-tech pioneers such as Rachel Bin-Nun (of Organitech), Isaac Berzin (who "struck oil" in algae) and Shai Agassi (of Project Better Place) are hastening that day. In truth, post-oil technologies are not so new. What is new is the convergence of three critical, global vectors that will make turning off the oil tap inevitable, and will change our world - soon and irrevocably. The vectors are environmental, economic and strategic.

A worldwide environmental consensus has formed to stop global warming. Whereas environmentalism was once a fringe movement, today mainstream politicians, evangelicals and any half-conscious 8-year-old in the developed and developing world are all environmentalists.

Climate-change activism, however, could not by itself stop the dependency on oil: A price tag of $145 a barrel makes a stronger case. For decades oil was the lubricant of global trade - of the instant, have-it-your-way culture - but now its price spike is forcing businesses and consumers to see green, not oil, as profitable. Ask Boeing, FedEx and Walmart. Ask Ford and General Motors. Ask a taxi driver. Ask yourself.

But even together, environmental and economic pressure would not be sufficient to end the age of oil, since for the past 100 years oil has been the world's most vital strategic commodity. Most of the 20th century's wars were powered by oil, or were fought to gain or protect oil supplies to ensure military dominance. It was oil that gave 20th-century armies what they wanted: speed and force.

Today's so-called war on terror is an oil war, not only because it is being fought in the petroleum-rich sands of Iraq. It is an oil war because oil constitutes 30 percent of the Pentagon's financial expenditure and 70 percent of its materiel expenditure, and it occupies the attention of 50 percent of personnel on the ground. Ironically, the war in Iraq is helping to end the oil age. The petroleum-funded terrorist adversary is forcing the petroleum-dependent American military to contend with new rules of military engagement, which require redesign for a post-oil army. Counterinsurgency requires flexibility, endurance and self-reliance, not speed and force. It requires reforming local civic institutions and civilian infrastructure.

Counterinsurgency is incompatible with the immense, oil-laden entourage military planners have been deploying since the Nazis conquered Europe. Simply put, asymmetric warfare against a transnational insurgent enemy requires energy independence. The new military vector is green, and the military planners who have not gotten that message will not win.

Around 60 years ago, something monumental and world-changing happened in the Middle East. It brought means to the destitute, made the deserts bloom, and powered a mighty global movement. No, despite what you read in the papers and are told incessantly by petro-dictators and terrorists everywhere - the most important geopolitical event in this region 60 years ago was not the founding of the State of Israel. It was the discovery and cultivation, then, and the commercialization, since then, of the hot ocean of oil beneath the sands of Arabia. That is when Mideast oil began to dominate the world strategic landscape.

Oil accounts for 95 percent of the Arab world's aggregate gross domestic product, a vast store of unearned wealth amassed by the few with minimal effort of the many. (Without oil, the GDP of the Arab world would not be much larger than that of the Nokia phone company.) Oil both lines the pockets of Arab strongmen and enables them to underwrite the indolence and buy the loyalty of the Arab street, thus making unnecessary and even undesirable investment in citizen creativity, education or competitive initiative. Domestically, oil pays for Arabia's police states, dedicated to extinguishing any glimmer of dissent. Globally, oil pays for terror networks, whose spectacular feats release the pent-up rage of the Arab street, redirecting it away from the Arab petro-dictators and toward Israel and the West.

Oil provides the central motivation and then pays for the worldwide propaganda engine that condemns Israel. Oil pays for terrorism and Palestinianism, and the continual focus on the so-called insoluble conflict. Oil is fueling a nuclear Iran, and even rationalizes the genocide in Darfur.

Our Jewish blindness to the meaning of oil has permitted us to project our own, pre-1948 narrative onto the present situation, convincing ourselves that our Middle Eastern neighbors - like the Nazis or the Russian czars or the ancient Egyptian pharaohs - are hell-bent on destroying the Jewish people. In reading our own victimhood into their web of extraction distraction, we have missed the main event of oil.

Turning off the oil tap in the Middle East will be a game-changer for Israel, the region and the world. After oil, the Arab regimes will lack the capacity to vilify and terrorize Israel. Israel (as one of the few non-oil driven economies in the region), will hold the keys to building a post-oil economy. After oil, Arab moderation might become fashionable. The question for those of us who esteem the earned value of creativity - the antithesis of the unearned wealth of extracted oil - and who love Israel, is, how should the Jewish people get ready for the waning of the oil age? How should we position ourselves to be a light unto nearby, and far-flung, nations and lead them out from under the curse of oil? How do we deserve this victory? Israel's clean-tech pioneers provide some of the answers. The rest requires further discussion. The future is bright. Stay tuned.

Sarah Kass is director of strategy and evaluation at the Avi Chai Foundation. This piece is based on a recent talk at the PresenTense Institute (