As news media expand their coverage of the BP oil disaster, some enterprising journalist should look at the wider historical perspective – and the possibility that many of our worst foreign policy and security problems can be traced back to oil.
It’s doubtful that the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq would have taken place if Iraq had not had oil. That invasion was Bush’s follow-up to his father’s 1991 war to drive Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait – a war that probably would not have taken place if Kuwait had not had oil. That 1991 war caused a massive presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil, which Osama Bin Laden said was a desecration of sacred Saudi soil by infidels. That argument may have helped recruit supporters for al Qaida, which in turn may have helped create conditions for the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. responded to 9/11 by invading Afghanistan, launching the longest war in our history, and we are still there today, with few prospects of any clear “victory.”
There’s more: Oil revenues fuel the Iranian government’s nuclear program and its support of Hezbollah and Hamas. The Iranian government’s hostility toward the West dates back to the U.S. and British involvement in the 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mossadegh. The U.S. and Britain did this because Mossadegh was nationalizing the British-controlled oil industry, run by a predecessor of BP. The CIA-orchestrated coup that ousted Mossadegh led to the installation of the hated regime of the Shah. The human rights abuses of the Shah’s regime helped create conditions for the 1979 Iranian revolution and the current tension between the U.S. and Iran — historical context often missing from news media reports.
So, you could argue that if it weren’t for our dependence on oil, there might have been no Iranian hostility toward the West, no jihadists at the current level, no war in Iraq, no quagmire in Afghanistan, and no devastation of our Gulf coast. Oil isn’t the only factor in history, of course, but it’s a major one, and if we could live free of oil, we could avoid many of our current problems.
World without oil, amen.