Blood for Oil?

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting piece up on the latest from wikileaks:

The entire article is worth reading, as it details how Gaddafi has progressively impeded the interests of U.S. and Western oil companies by demanding a greater share of profits and other concessions, to the point where some of those corporations were deciding that it may no longer be profitable or worthwhile to drill for oil there. But now, in a pure coincidence, there is hope on the horizon for these Western oil companies, thanks to the war profoundly humanitarian action being waged by the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and his nation’s closest Western allies:

Is there anyone — anywhere — who actually believes that these aren’t the driving considerations in why we’re waging this war in Libya? After almost three months of fighting and bombing — when we’re so far from the original justifications and commitments that they’re barely a distant memory — is there anyone who still believes that humanitarian concerns are what brought us and other Western powers to the war in Libya? Is there anything more obvious — as the world’s oil supplies rapidly diminish — than the fact that our prime objective is to remove Gaddafi and install a regime that is a far more reliable servant to Western oil interests, and that protecting civilians was the justifying pretext for this war, not the purpose? If (as is quite possible) the new regime turns out to be as oppressive as Gaddafi but far more subservient to Western corporations (like, say, our good Saudi friends), does anyone think we’re going to care in the slightest or (at most) do anything other than pay occasional lip service to protesting it? Does anyone think we’re going to care about The Libyan People if they’re being oppressed or brutalized by a reliably pro-Western successor to Gaddafi

Well, yes, I kind of think these aren’t the driving considerations and there are several reasons for this.

First, the United States was not the driving force behind this war — Europe was. And the Europeans — being older and wiser than us — have a long long history of trying to appease oil-rich potentates. Their lack of support for Israel, for example, is heavily based on oil politics. And it was the UK that specifically released mass murderer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi — against the Obama Administration’s objections — in an effort to appease Libya on trade issues.

Second, the WaPo article that is the basis for Greenwald’s undermines the conspiracy mongering quite a bit. It notes, for example, that this influence process worked both ways. Gaddafi was trying to use oil to influence US policy. He was furious that he wasn’t getting more political consideration in exchange for oil. And the oil company production took a hit, not from nationalization, but from the unrest. Had Gaddafi been allowed to massacre the resistance, oil production would be higher today.

Third, the current action is not good for anyone’s business interests. The Left tried this “blood for oil” logic out in Iraq as well. They didn’t consider that the cost of the Iraq War (so far) would have bought us a quarter of a century of Iraq’s entire oil production. Going to war for Iraq’s oil would have one of the dumbest business decisions of all time. Not that the Last Administration was immune from bad decisions, of course.

Libya has about 40 billion barrels of proven reserves — about $4 trillion at current market prices — and is pumping out about 2 million barrels a day — $200 million worth. However, not all of that production is for Western companies and the marginal difference between what Gaddafi wanted and our supposedly nefarious oil companies would want is not nearly going to be worth the cost of the war (probably around $10 billion so far).

Note also the verbiage used: the oil companies were “considering” abandoning Libyan oil field. Not that they had.

Fourth, this thing did not start with us. It’s not like we started bombing Libya for no reason. His own people started a rebellion. Nor did that rebellion happen in a vacuum — it was part of a wave of political rebellion across the entire region.

Now all this having been said, I haven’t proven that the war didn’t start for oil. All I have done is spelled out four considerations of why this may not be the case. Companies and countries make dumb decisions and there’s no reason for them to have acted rationally.

In fact, I do think it likely that oil is influencing our actions here. But not an evil conspiracy smoke-filled room level. I think it’s more likely that the oil issue brought our particular attention to this country. Oil is why we noticed what was going on; it’s not necessarily why we acted the way we did.

Of course, this is the point where I have to note the inconsistency of the rest of the Left. There is far less evidence that oil interests informed our decision to go into Iraq than Libya, but it’s an article of faith among the Democrats that the former was an evil oil-motivated war while the latter is not. And however much they might be theorizing about oil interests in Libya, they have yet to make anywhere near the ruckus about Libya that they did about Iraq.

In that sense, I actually have to praise Greenwald for, unlike so many, not being a partisan hack. He’s just as conspiracy-minded with Obama as he was with Bush. That’s something, I guess.

Update: I should note that there is a catch-22 here. Had we not acted in Libya, the same people complaining that we acted because of oil would be complaining that we didn’t act because of oil.

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  1. Section8

    First, the United States was not the driving force behind this war — Europe was.

    Thank you. I hope history isn’t conveniently rewritten to pin this on squarely on us, but we will be footing most of the bill which we can’t afford right now. I’m not sure why Obama got us in to this. I’m even more puzzled why the UN was all for it. There was no attack on another country. He was just an a-hole dictator, and didn’t get his 12 years of resolutions to behave, and on top of that still have the UN on his side after the 12 years. Strange how it all works.

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  2. loserlame

    I virtually guarantee that history will be rewritten by Euros to suit Euros. “Had we not acted in Libya, the same people complaining that we acted because of oil would be complaining that we didn’t act because of oil.” something like “We had strike a balance to counter the US’ growing monopoly on oil, orchestrated by Bush.”

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  3. Mississippi Yankee

    Since Gulf War II Gaddafi has been ‘the devil you know’ and a minor one at that. And yes, this entire brouhaha is about oil, Libya’s oil.

    When Gaddafi was selling it cheaply Italy, France and GB all looked the other way. Hell GB even gave up the STILL ALIVE Lockerbee bomber to get BP into Libya. BUT, China and it’s growing need for oil started to offer ‘Mo Money’ and western Europe wasn’t gonna stand for that.

    Jugears Hussian drug US into this mess because he looked the fool when he dithered in Egypt. Sorta how he’s looking again concerning Syria.

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  4. Seattle Outcast

    Gaddafi was obviously undertaking military action against his own people.

    Quite honestly, I don’t think most people give a shit. Based on how the world has responded (lots of gum-flapping, no action) to the hundreds of millions people murdered by various Marxist tyrant regimes of the 20th century, nobody really fucking cares when it happens.

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  5. Section8

    Things have changed a bit in international law since Iraq (2003).

    Just Cause
    Right Intention
    Final Resort
    Legitimate Authority
    Proportional Means
    Reasonable Prospect

    Well from your link these are the tests that need to be passed. Do you buy this? Was this the Final Result? No time for 50 resolutions first? Really? How about Proportional Means? Why the do whatever you need to do policy? What’s a Reasonable Prospect? This was a rebellion, not some ethnic cleansing. We don’t know if the rebels are any better.

    Name one thing that is more legitimate about this than Iraq. The French pushed for it?

    If you’re going to base your argument on international law, is it because you believe what it stands for, or just because it says so on paper?. Surely Saddam hurt his own people, so in retrospect that entire war was justified right, or is it just a matter of legal semantics at a given date and time that dictates the morality and righteousness? Based on this law we should be invading Mexico right? Thousands killed in the on going drug wars there, the country seems to be unable to stop it. So what’s the hold up?

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  6. Kimpost

    I was for establishing the No-Fly Zone, stopping the immediate slaughter, but I am troubled over what this thing has turned into. Do I believe that this was initiated because of war? No, I agree with Hal on that oil played a factor (without it we wouldn’t know Libya existed), but that it never was the driving factor. In my view, stopping the immediate slaughter and protecting (helping it along) the Arab Spring, were the main factors here.

    I believe that the pending slaughter, with the following establishing of the No-Fly Zone provided US and Europe with the opportunity of getting rid of Khadaffi. This was one of those rare occasions when the security counsel didn’t veto action.

    I’m a bit more optimistic of the outcome than Greenwald is, though. If we the people (Americans and Europeans) hold our leaders accountable, we can demand from them that installing a dictatorial puppet regime isn’t acceptable. The problem with that, of course, is that we might be looking at another nation building project, and we all know how great that usually works. As you can see, I remain conflicted on the issue…

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