War for Oil?

Deal W. Hudson

Yesterday I mentioned the problems that can arise when people make faulty assumptions about your motives based solely on your actions. This isn’t just a problem when solving disputes in the Church, though; I’ve seen it happen time and again when people discuss the possibility of war in Iraq.

I know a lot of us have different opinions about whether the war in Iraq would be just, but lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of misunderstanding over what the conflict is really about. Some people will get ahead of themselves and assume that anyone who supports taking action in Iraq must do so because of greed or other selfish reasons.

One of the members of the CRISIS staff recently returned from an extended trip to Europe where she said that the European consensus is that America is going to war in Iraq for oil. (I know this is anecdotal, but the European press has been parroting the same claim.) Apparently, the war-for-oil position is accepted there as a given, so few people bother to object. And with the American media’s insistence on the matter, some of us may even begin to think it’s true.

Well, before it gets to that stage, I thought I’d point out a few things that these “No Blood For Oil” folks seem to be missing.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment that the government DID just want more oil. What would be the best way for us to go about getting it? As several news commentators have remarked, there are easier ways than war. For one, we could lift our sanctions and stop insisting on “regime change.” Saddam would surely be more than willing to provide us with oil then (especially since his cash-strapped nation is in dire need of revenue).

War also involves huge risks – the possibility of damage to Iraq’s oil fields, the possibility of political instability or civil war in Iraq, and on and on. Again, it would be much simpler to turn a blind eye to Saddam’s corrupt regime than go through all this trouble just to get more oil.

It’s also important to remember that Iraq has had its stores of oil since the Gulf War, but over the last ten years, we certainly haven’t gone charging in to get our hands on it. So why is military action urged now, if its only aim is to get the oil that’s always been there?

Could it be that we’re more concerned about something else…Iraqi sponsorship of terrorism, for example?

While the oil supply must indeed be a factor in our involvement in Iraq, it certainly can’t be considered a top priority. And it would behoove our European “allies” to remember that they’re not totally disinterested in Iraq’s oil, either. Why else would the U.S. need to assure the French that they could keep their oil contracts in Iraq if they would approve of an invasion? France – or really any member of the U.N. Security Council – can hardly claim moral superiority on the grounds of oil.

In the end, there are enough serious reasons to warrant our involvement in Iraq that we don’t need to grasp at straws in defending our position. Just today we learned of the possibility that Iraq supplied al Qaeda with a chemical weapon only last month. The threat of nuclear or biological weapons seems like a reasonable concern to me.

I’m not saying an articulate case can’t be made against action in Iraq. I’m just saying the war-for-oil canard shouldn’t be part of it.

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