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.