Michael Payne / OpEd News – 2010-08-13 00:18:40
(August 11, 2010) — How many times have you heard these words — we must protect America’s vital interests? George W. Bush used them many times and President Obama uses them routinely. It’s become the standard reasoning used by US presidents in their attempts to justify our invasions and military occupations of other countries, most recently Iraq and Afghanistan. But do Americans know what those words really mean?
“Protecting America’s vital interests,” a very patriotic thought, are code words for gaining control of another nation’s or a region’s critical resources, primarily, petroleum. Using these code words is a clever way of getting the American people to support our military actions in foreign lands without really explaining what those vital interests are. It just sounds right when we hear that phrase, and even though we don’t really know what it means, we want to be supportive because it seems to be good for our country.
After World War II when America began evolving into the world’s only super power, our government established key military installations around the world, in countries that we had defeated, like Germany and Japan, plus a host of others.
America also substantially increased its air and naval power and patrolled the world’s skies and oceans. This buildup of military might was largely intended to guarantee that rogue nations or even pirates would not be allowed to disrupt commerce between the US and our trading partners.
There was nothing really wrong with that policy and strategy because, while we were protecting our national interests, we were also protecting the interests of many other nations from being harassed by predators. That policy continued for several decades and proved to be very successful in maintaining a safe environment that greatly benefited world commerce.
But, beginning in the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s that situation began to slowly but surely undergo a significant change. You may remember the shock of the 1973 oil crisis when members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), as a result of turmoil in the Middle East, determined that it would no longer ship oil to nations that supported Israel in its war with Syria and Egypt. With the US being a major supporter of Israel, this became a serious problem that caused long lines at the gas pumps and a great disruption to the business of our nation.
That was the beginning of a new era in the world in which oil would become the most critical resource. Here in the US it became very clear that our domestic production of oil was rapidly falling and we were becoming more and more dependent on foreign sources.
After the shock of 1973, those in power in our government knew that the US had to take concrete steps to guarantee that our nation, so very addicted to oil, would have a steady, uninterrupted supply. At that point, the role of our military around the world undertook a radical change. It began to evolve from a defensive role to an offensive one.
Our military is now responsible for fighting America’s resource wars; the two primary objectives are the Middle East and Central Asia, two regions of the world that are rich in that resource which fuels the planet’s commerce.
In the last few decades our leadership in Washington has come to the realization that America’s great dependence on oil for its energy needs poses a massive problem for the future. Our usage of oil, about 22 millions barrels per day represents about one-fourth of the world’s total production capacity of roughly 85 million barrels per day.
Since we import about 80% of our needs from foreign sources, this represents a potential critical problem for our nation should, for any reason, our supply be cut off or restricted.
Enter our military might. The leadership in Washington, together with those individuals who operate from behind the curtain, developed plans to guarantee that the US would never run out of oil, no matter what. The US and the military have been active for many years in both the Middle East and Central Asia but now it was time to ramp up our presence. And, there you have it.
That is the real reason for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; it’s the oil plain and simple. The Middle East and Central are rich in critical resources and we have made up our minds that we will get our share, one way or another.
You have to listen very closely when President Obama talks about Iraq or Afghanistan. In a recent speech to disabled veterans in Atlanta he said, “America’s combat mission in Iraq” would be over by the end of August, to be replaced by a mission of “supporting and training Iraqi security forces.”
He said the combat mission would end, he did not say the troops would be withdrawn because the 50,000 troops that will remain will simply have their role changed to one of “advice and assistance” to the Iraqi government. What a beautiful example of the art of “doublespeak” as practiced by Big Brother in the novel 1984.
As Eric Margolis recently put it, “US troops may have to remain to protect (my italics) America’s oil companies and prevent Iraq from disintegrating.” So, the real point is this: since we have spent hundreds of billions in our invasion and continued occupation of that nation, doesn’t that give us the right to control Iraq’s oil reserves, estimated to be over 100 billion barrels, second largest in the world? Why, of course it does; it’s only fair that we get a generous return on our massive investment.
Let’s just say this. The idea of all US troops exiting Iraq by the end of 2011 and that same process taking place in Afghanistan is a myth, a fairy tale. Many knowledgeable analysts are certain that the US will maintain a presence in both countries far into the future, adding to the multi-thousands of troops now stationed at more than 700 military installations in 135 countries; Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, the UK, France, Spain among many others.
The problem for any large, industrialized nation that is highly dependent on oil for its energy is how to guarantee a supply into the future. And there are two notable ways of accomplishing that.
Take China, for example. It has been extremely active in every region of the world loaning nations billions of dollars for development, engaging in negotiations and making long-term contracts for their oil needs. No bullets, no bombs, no massive military costs to sap their economy. China’s financial condition is excellent and, in fact, they hold about $1.7 trillion in US debt.
Contrast that with America’s way. Build a massive military empire, forget negotiations, contracts and the like; use our military to conduct resource wars around the world and spend $1 trillion of taxpayer dollars annually to fund that empire. Totally refuse to take a few hundred billion of that funding and use it for domestic purposes; for innovative and creative programs to develop new sources of energy to offset our dependence on oil.
So, when you hear President Obama and the many other voices in America continually refer to America’s vital interests, remember just what these code words mean.
But let’s talk about what America’s vital interests should be: job creation, restoring our economy with new manufacturing, protecting and educating our children, maintaining the jobs of our teachers, our police and firefighters all these positive things represent our vital interests not perpetual war, not building an empire.
Are you listening, Mr. Obama? Do you not hear the voices of the American people?
Michael Payne concentrates his writings on domestic social and political matters,American foreign policy and climate change. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and many others.