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A hypothesis about US opinion on Iraq

Yesterday I got into conversation with two sibling members of my family, both of whom are opposed to the US invasion/liberation of Iraq. One is (approximately) an environmentalist, the other is (precisely speaking) a UKIPper, but both are agreed in opposing the war and Britain’s involvement in it. I am cautiously and pessimistically supportive, but am not sure. I hope Mark Steyn is right about it, but fear that he may not be.

Anyway, an hypothesis about the state of US public opinion surfaced, as interesting hypotheses will when people who disagree, and who hence bring varied ideas and attitudes to the table, but who wish to remain civil with one another, as I and my siblings do.

For the last few years, the Left in the USA has been saying: It’s all about oil, it’s all about oil. Now for many Americans, and for most people outside America, fighting a war for mere oil is evil. But what if lots of Americans hear that this war is all about oil, and are pleased? But what if the dime has now finally dropped that actually this war is NOT all about oil?

Could that be what Middle America is getting nervous about? For as long as they were convinced that it was all about oil, they were content. That is our kind of war. Simple, limited, clear, selfish. All the things you want, and not like Vietnam at all. But now that it is dawning on them that this really is about “democracy” and such like, for that exact reason they are getting fidgety. Will it be worth it? When will it end? Where will it end? etc.

It would be entertaining to think that the American Left have been the most energetic de facto supporters of President Bush because of what they regarded as their fiercest criticism of him, but that now that the Left is being defeated in the argument about the true nature and true purpose of the war by the war’s most energetic supporters, support for that war is, as a direct result, eroding.

One should probably not be looking for entertainment in such serious things, but, entertainment aside, is this not a rather interesting way of looking at it? I am sure that this theory does not apply to all American supporters or ex-supporters of the war. But to some, maybe?

No links in this I am afraid. I do not recall hearing anyone else saying anything quite like this, although some surely have.

86 comments to A hypothesis about US opinion on Iraq

  • Daveon

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe a word of it.

    Personally, I was never particularly opposed to the war on ideological grounds. Getting rid of Saddam was a good thing to do. However, I don’t buy this as being about “democracy” either. Afganistan was also to be about democracy and we don’t hear much about our stirling work there.

    What alarmed me from day 1 was the apparent lack of planning going into the Iraq campaign. Middle America was over sold this war. True, the land campaign was easy (as expected) – nobody had prepared them for what Erik Shinseki and others were worried about. Handling an occupation in a non-homogenous country for a protracted period.

    What is dawning on people is more likely to be the realisation that the “boys” won’t be home by Christmas. It seems that there was no exit strategy to start with.

    The other problem with fighting for “democracy” is it’s a nebulous concept, and a tricky one if you’re claiming that things are going to be better for people when it kicks in. I’m currently reading a book on the development of the Asian Tiger economies through the 50s, 60s and 70s – it’s worth looking at what point South Korea became a functional democracy after the Korean war…

  • Daveon

    You are not convinced that this is a war about “democracy”, and I concede that you may be right about that, but what if the war’s supporters have persuaded a lot of people that it is?

    As you say, and as I surmised that Americans might now be saying, fighting for democracy is nebulous.

  • I just *know* im going to get shot down here…..

    I strongly opposed the war for the following reasons.

    Saddam was a tyranical murdering evil tyrant, but the world is full of those and we dont interfere. Heartless it may be but i resent my tax money been spent on a pointless war against a country that was a zero threat.

    In the long term this may be the best thing for the iraq people but here and now its a bloody and expensive war game.

  • Oops few too many “tyrants” teach me to post before I read.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    It is pretty clear that the case for war was actually placed on a number of grounds. Some were “idealistic” (such as getting rid of a thug, spreading democracy, etc); some “selfish” or “realist” (secure the oil, prevent the tyrant from causing mayhem in the region, supporting terror and manufacturing WMDs), some based on justice (doing right by the Kurds, Shiites and Marsh Arabs whom we abandoned disgracefully after Gulf War 1.

    There are a lot of reasons, not all of which hang together. What intrigues me, though, is how most of the so-called progressive left, apart from mavericks like Christopher Hitchens and a few others, have bought into the “let sleeping dogs and tyrants lie” camp, in contrast to their support for things like opposing Franco in the 1930s, etc.

  • The point of the war may have been democracy, but what was the point of democracy…..?


  • Karl Rove

    Interesting post. – My theory is that Mr Magoo is saying – for every tower of ours you destroy, we’ll destroy a Moslem country.

  • The war must have been about oil. Before the war we couldn’t get any oil at all and now we can have all we want at really low prices. Right.

  • Ted

    Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but the war in Iraq is only indirectly related to implementing democracy there. From the outset the Iraq battle has been a significant one in a wider war – against Iran.

    The war in Iraq has always been about securing Iran’s eastern border and cutting Iran off from Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The war launched against the west started in 1979 with the implementation of a theocratic state in Iran. It has continued unabated, Sept 11 being just one of many attacks over this 26 year period. Iran has been and continues to be the principal ideological inspiration, as well as agressive provider of materiel and funds for the mujahadeen and war against the west. Removing this source successfully, using modern technology, would send shockwaves through all islamic states that are tempted in indulging in the jihad.

    The administration is hopeful of establishing a democracy in Iraq and it looks like the people also want to get rid of the Saddam years. This would be a nice bonus. However with Iran now practically surrounded, the stage is set for the most dangerous battle in the war against islamic fascism. It’s a real war and I have no doubt nuclear weapons will be used against Iran to bring down this clear and present danger.

    Gaddafi saw the light and has made the right choice. Those nations like Iran, or collections of refugees like the diplaced arabs in the gaza strip and west bank, that do not make the right choice, face destruction. That is the way of the world, unpalatable though it sounds. Our kids will thank us for doing it and history will judge it the correct move.

  • Paddy Carter

    Brian it’s a lovely idea, but something of a slur on middle America no? Do you really think that middle America, however defined, would be happy with the idea of a war for oil? I don’t, which is why I think your lovely idea is, well, wrong.

    Ted you have remarkable faith in your own opinions. No doubt nuclear weapons will be used eh?

  • Tatyana

    But, Brian, why do you think the support for the war is eroding? Because of the recent media histerics with the 2000 number?
    Depends on what your sources of information are, I suppose.

    At the time of invasion, I doubted very much possibility of any positive outcome. From what I read now- Michael Yon’s reporting, blogs by Iraqis and our soldiers’ there- I developed much more optimism. Also, I tend to look to the Democrat jokers for my reversed prognosis: if Sewnator Kerry, in his well-trained “authoritative public speaker voice” demands immediate removal of our troups, at the pace of 20000 “per holiday time”, it makes me very confident of our success there.

  • Paddy

    Yes I think maybe Middle America might be willing to fight a war about oil. And I don’t think this is as terrible reason for fighting a war as a lot of other people seem to, given how important oil is, to America and to the world.

    However, a compromise suggests itself. Whether the war is about oil might be only a part of the reason for Middle America wavering, if wavering it is. If it is partly about oil, then that would suggest that the cost will at least be reduced, by all that oil that America gets. But now, it seems, Middle America (as you say: however defined) may be wondering if the product (democracy, “stability”, etc.) is worth the price being paid, given that there will be apparently be no oil to mitigate that price.


    You may well be right about the “real” reasons for this war. Iran, etc. I recall saying something along these lines here myself, before the war even began. Although I don’t believe for a minute that Iran is the only reason for this war.

    However you did not burst my bubble, because my bubble was about what Americans are thinking, rather than about whether they are right, and about what anti- and pro-war arguers have been saying, rather than about whether they have been telling the truth.

  • Daveon

    The number of actual deaths is something of a red herring, callous as that might sound. The numbers to keep a watch on which, interesting are not being as widely reported are the injury rates and the injury rates requiring a withdrawal from active service, which are significantly higher.

    With modern body armour and emergency medicine a lot of stuff which not so long ago would have been fatal is now survivable – however, interestingly, my understanding is the number of lost limbs and so forth is much higher than it has been in previous modern conflicts as people survive.

    If recruitment drops, and troops can’t stay on station, then the real problems start.

  • The war was about stabilising the Middle East – perhaps that’s not working, and perhaps it will work. Yes, Iran is a fundamental piece of that puzzle. The invasion of Iraq could be a pretext to some kind of endgame with Iran, although the military option seems a remote possibility. The US is overstretched fiscally and militarily as is.

    The point is, why bother stabilising the Middle East? Most of Africa is an even needier ragtag collection of
    basketcase nasty regimes who show scant regard for human life and Western values. No one’s advocating going in there to bang heads together and straighten the place out.

    We’re going to great lengths and pains to stabilise the ME because it’s strategic. Why is it strategic? Energy. They got it. We need it. So perhaps Iraq II can be construed as a “war for oil”. The fault is in trivialising that aim as though it doesn’t matter, that it’s not a suitable pretext for war. It DOES matter. It IS worth going to war over if we feel its supply is threatened.* We need to keep it flowing now and into the future. Our way of life depends on Middle Eastern oil.

    *whether it was this time around is a matter for debate.

  • Sandy P

    Matt, long, hard, expensive, lots of blood and money or short, sweet, inexpensive nukes (elephant in the room – everyone knows it’s there……)

    Those really are the only 2 choices in the end. No hudnas.

    And why do you suppose you don’t hear about Afghanistan?

  • Matt O'Halloran

    Let me tell you why Middle America became disillusioned with Emperor George’s war.

    Americans like wars which are

    (a) Fought for good reasons

    (b) Quickly over

    (c) Won by the USA.

    Penny dropped yet?

  • Matt, it’s okay, that extra “tyrant” was just great for piling on the emphasis. 🙂

  • Brock


    As an American who knows a lot of other Americans, I think I can say with as much authority as anyone that you’re just plain wrong. Americans would not go to war for oil. We’d buy it. We have bought it and we continue buying it. We pay for it at the pump and we pay for it in other ways by providing arms to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. There is no ‘oil’ justification that makes sense.

    We went to war for ‘security.’ The security of preventing Saddam from getting WMD’s (which everyone believed he was trying to do). The security generated by surrounded and isolating Iran. The security of tackling terrorism in the streets of Baghdad rather than the streets of New York. I happen to believe that democracy & liberty in Iraq will further those purposes, but democracy & liberties are means to the end which is security for the USA.

    There is a stretch of the world, from Libya to Pakistan, which is the current greatest threat to American security. Every threat in that crescent must be, and will be, neutralized. If plurality American support for the war is really wavering (and I’m not sure that it is), then it’s because of doubts about the war’s ability to deliver on security.

    It was never about the oil. Not even the Left really believes that. The only problem with the real justification is that “No War for America Being Safe!” is a poor rallying cry.

  • mike

    “The number of actual deaths is something of a red herring, callous as that might sound. The numbers to keep a watch on which, interesting are not being as widely reported are the injury rates…”

    Yes that is also a significant measure to keep an eye on.

    However, in more direct response to Brian’s hypothesis, I would’ve thought the connection between acquiring a stable oil supply and building viable social (and political) institutions would’ve been obvious – or nearly so (reachable with just a little thought). I doubt that many people (middle Americans or anyone else) really believed the objectives of the war could ever have been limited to acquiring oil and so I don’t have much faith in your hypothesis. The left (at least the loony fringe) made the accusation that the war was about oil and not about democracy simply in order to deny that their political enemies could have had what they may have recognised as well-intentioned motives.

    Another reason as to why American public support for the war may be faltering (if indeed it is) is, as Daveon indicates, the relevant meters seem to be under-reported in the MSM. Although the death-toll is obviously something people do not want to be kept in the dark about, there is little or no regular reporting of statistics relating to improvements of the social and economic fabric of Iraqi cities (such things as the training of police and security forces, the reconstruction of water systems, factories, hotels, restaurants, schools, roads, hospitals, and whatever successes there may be with business and emplyment, etc etc…).

    Prosaic as such stuff may be – surely it is a more important meter pertaining to the recovery (or otherwise) of Iraq than body-counts? Without this kind of information to balance against the reporting of repeated suicide bombings and dead US marines, is it not unsurprising that support for the war may be faltering?

  • Speaking as an American…

    Is it about oil? Tangentially, yes, in that oil funded Hussein, funds the terrorists, the madrassas etc. Nothing that happens in that region can be entirely devoid of considerations about oil. But the war in Iraq has always been about two things. The geopolitical strategy that Ted brought up that is, “isolate Iran and be ready when that war explodes” and also the stated reasons which were to strip Hussein of his ability to use oil money to support terrorism and slip a WMD to a terrorist group.

    Democracy in Iraq is also a goal in that we believe that a “liberal” Iraq will have a positive influence on the region. Further, we should understand that although our troop levels may drop substantially we will probably always have some troops there. After all, we’re still in Germany.

    Even the Kuwaiti war was only about oil to the degree that Hussein was trying to seize and control oil that wasn’t his. We moved, not to seize oil, but to protect Saudi oil fields and help Kuwait reclaim theirs in order to be able to buy oil more freely.

    Now, why is support waning? Because the MSM keeps telling us we’re losing and it’s a disaster. If you get past the MSM and look at reports from soldiers and writers that get outside the hotels you can see that we’re winning.

  • JSAllison

    It’s been about the perception that we are attackable, that we can be attacked at little or no risk of reprisal and that Allah demands that we be exterminated, convert or pay tribute. Carter should have levelled Tehran in ’79. We’d not be having this conversation now if he had.

  • mike

    I am no fan of any of the organised religions (or any of the ‘disorganised’ or ‘cult’ minority religions – just in case anyone is wondering…), and I deny, for example that the faith of the religious christian/jew/muslim is immediately comparable with the ‘faith’ in evolutionary theory.

    However I think it does remain to be said that we have only more or less rational beliefs with regard to reality and ethics… and so admitting that a war for individual freedom (not democracy per se) is fundamentally a kind of religious war – a war for our rational, though perhaps not infallible, belief in how we think life should be lived – is not at all anything to be ashamed of.

    “That is our kind of war. Simple, limited, clear, selfish. All the things you want, and not like Vietnam at all. But now that it is dawning on them that this really is about “democracy” and such like, for that exact reason they are getting fidgety.”

    Well let’s hope more copies of “The Open Society And It’s Enemies” are being sold in middle America. I vaguely seem to recall something Popper wrote (in his autobiography I think) to the effect that all wars are fundamentally religous wars, i.e. that they are about conflicting ideas of how we should live.

  • Tim

    My own perception is that it was firstly, nothing to do with WMDs. That was the excuse, and something that certainly Blair failed to double-check evidence wise.

    The real reasons were different for Bush and Blair.

    For Bush, it was about creating a domino effect of democracy in the region with the purpose of protecting America.

    For Blair, the reason was to “make a difference” in his globalist viewpoint. I also wonder whether he thought that having a war would be good for national popular support (a “Falklands” moment).

    I’m worried about the whole idea of imposed democracy. Did Saddam Hussein have more control over his country than someone like Ceaucescu? And yet he fell at the hands of his own people.

  • daveon


    I think you may have misunderstood me. I fear greatly that if injuries and other data points were reported widely the American public would be clamouring loudly for a retreat.

    Likewise, the administration is not helping this stuff. I read an excellent list of comments on the “growth” of the Iraq army made by Administration figures over the last 2 years where they’ve gone from being publically very bullish about numbers in training and available to frankly obtuse.

    If the leaders who started this cannot articulate the plus points to the public when given the forums in which to do so, any wonder the public are getting nervous?

  • daveon

    daveon: no i didn’t misunderstand you, my point was quite seperate from yours.

    To be honest, I’m not too bothered about politicians reporting facts and figures – can they be believed? I’d point the finger more at the MSM.

    But then – and this is a matter which has been raised at Samizdata many times before – how much attention do the US and UK publics pay to the MSM over other sources of information like the blogosphere? Sure the blogosphere will receive less attention – but how much and from whom?

  • September 11th changed everything, “all changed, changed utterly” to throw in a bit of Yeats.

    It was a wake up call and gave Bush a clear mandate. Still does.

    I’ve had so many discussions about what Islamofascists “want” recently. I think they enjoy bloody mayhem and they think all non muslims should be dead – a thought that’s incomprehensible to most people.

    I’m also tired, so very tired of “public opinion surveys” that are not scientifically conducted or confirmed, which makes them tedious pieces of fiction that the media loves to smash in our faces.

    Today, I hate the media, the lazy, corrupt practices, the unaccountability, the poisoning of the atmosphere.

    The blogs that the tell us the truth about Iraq and domestic news stories, these represent the broad, sunlit uplands of Churchill’s vision.

  • Jacob

    “Yes I think maybe Middle America might be willing to fight a war about oil.”

    Middle America might be willing to fight a war about oil.
    Middle America might be willing to fight a war about stabilizing the ME.
    Middle America might be willing to fight a war about security.
    Middle America might be willing to fight a war about freeing a people of a tyrant.
    Middle America might be willing to fight a war about democracy.

    Middle America isn’t confined to single issues, and maybe, are considering all of them.

    Left America (or blue America) isn’t willing to fight for any of those things.

  • Susan


    Your “but wait! Maybe it *is* all about oil” gets my vote for the funniest post on the web today. I rarely laugh out loud but I could just imagine the melodramatic organ music and the evil laugh as the villain gets away.

    But back in the real world: as in any major decision there are a number of reasons supporting the war. Brock and JSAllison have clearly stated the underlying cause: security. Once attacked, a good many people focused attention on how to make America more secure, and, like it or not, the majority feel promoting democracy, getting rid of a tyrant, sticking our hand in to try to stablize the flow of energy and cutting off funding to terrorists is a good start.

    Yes, middle America is not happy with how the war has been waged and some are not sure it was the “right” action; but the terrorists managed to attract our attention by making terrorism personal and then giving us a problem to solve. Does anyone outside the US realize how big of a mistake this was?

    Quite frankly, we find it hard to understand that other countries seem to accept terrorism as a part of their every day world. We can’t do that. Not “won’t”. This one is a “can’t”. Terrorists have made a threat to home and hearth at the gut level for a great many Americans.

    My bet is that the American electorate will continue to push involvement to stop terrorist activities until we feel safe–and even then just a little further because we are going to be moving on momentum. You can choose to like our involvement or dislike it but we are past the point where such discussions are helpful. The wise man should be thinking about positive directions so we can end up in a better place than we are now.

  • Duncan Sutherland

    “Today, I hate the media, the lazy, corrupt practices, the unaccountability, the poisoning of the atmosphere.”

    Why should they be any different than our politicians and leaders?


  • Susan:

    Don’t you think that in practice, securing energy supply is a – no, the – major way of securing the United States?

  • jk

    I must vociferously disagree, Brian. I know many in the pro and anti war camps and have never heard the “Blood for Oil” used by any serious American on either side. It is a handy protest slogan, but it fits better on a hand-lettered sign than an intellectual framework. Gotta hold with Brock, if you want oil, you can buy it from tyrants much less expensively.

    I’m a “Middle American” and still believe that a long list of security, long-term stability, humanitarian concerns, environmental concerns justify the war. Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy” was very popular with the President, Secretary Rice, and administration figures. Do not discount that there is a large segment of true believers in the administration – and in middle America — that continue to believe in a Wilsonian projection of democracy.

  • PW

    I believe the war was fought for a different reason which Bush and Blair couldn’t sell politically – so they lied about it. The real reason IMHO is that post 9/11 Bush and Blair genuinely wanted to pursue a strategy of ensuring that the nightmare threesome of Islamic terrorists, nuclear weapons and failed states could not come together and result in a mushroom cloud over Washington or London.

    The Iraq conflict was a result of:
    A) them genuinely not being sure if there were WMDs there which might end up in the wrong hands (the minor element); and
    B) Wishing the scare the shit out of N.Korea, Iran, etc so that they would know for sure that if they produce nukes and these end up in the wrong hands then their regimes are toast.

    Hence all the angst and posturing about Iran right now.

    P.S. If Iranian WMDs get into the wrong hands or there exists clear intelligence that they are about too I also think Israel will unilaterally take out the Iranian production facilities.

  • BJWD

    It (the war) was a bad idea. Hindsight is 20/20, and I admit that I was in favour before it began.
    But now, I must assert that it was a massive mistake.
    The proper way to deal with terrorism is to stop facilitating the political roots via supporting despots and with effective law enforcement.
    And end Islamic immigration, for now.

  • mike

    Er… I seem to have made a post above in response to daveon… as ‘daveon’. This was not done knowingly. It is always an unnerving sensation to discover previously hidden dimensions of one’s incompetency…

  • Paul Marks

    Well someone said “what about Afghanistan”.

    Actually this country is a democracy now. Both Presidential and Parliamentary elections have been held and have been “free and fair” as the saying goes.

    Of course the government is not wonderful (it just locked up someone for a couple of months for attacking Islam) – but it could be worse (people used to be executed in Afghanistan for attacking Islam – and the Blair government here does not believe in freedom of speech on religion either).

    Iraq also has a democratically elected government and the Constitution has just been approved by 78% of the voters (the next election is in December).

    So victory in both nations.

    “But life is not nice and people are being killed” – and the point is?

    How was democracy (a system of government) supposed to “impove people’s lives” (something government of any sort is not good at), or “provide law and order” (surely striking terror into local criminals and politcal terrorist groups is more “strong man” work than work for a democracy).

    The nations of Afghanistan and Iraq are now democracies – the fact that both nations are pest holes is not relevant. They are democratic pest holes.

    Was this worth more than 2000 American lives and more than 200 billion Pounds (not Dollars)? I would say “on balance no – but we have started so we might as well finish”. Besides the hunt for O.B.L. in Afghanistan (which involved war with the Taliban) was not optional – America had been attacked. It could even be argued that the war in Iraq was going to happen sooner or later (there were endless clashes in the “no fly zones”).

    There is still O.B.L. and top henchmen to be found in Afghan-Pak border area (and their Taliban ally Omar). They must be captured or killed.

    As for Iraq. The leaders of those who have killed Americans have yet to be hunted down – and the new government elected in December will not be in office till January.

    I find it hard to understand why it has taken over four years to hunt down O.B.L., Omar and the rest – but there we go.

    On Iran. Putting in a democratic (i.e. mostly Shia) government in Iraq may not weaken them.

    After all, although Iran is not a perfect democracy (who can stand is limited), the new democratic governmet of Iraq may decide to be fairly friendly with its big brother Shia state.

    Oh well, such is life.

  • Aetius

    US is big country and very diverse. Lots of different views. However, oil is just not that big a deal in US. The decline in support strongly correlates indirectly with US opinion that the war is not worth it and US is doing poorly (war 40/60, not worth it, doing badly 40/60), see http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

    Why – because many Americans don’t accept the idea that democracy, alone, makes us any friends – see http://www.pipa.org/ (I don’t agree, but it is a real feeling).

    Given the lousy attitude of many Europeans (as perceived by Americans) can you really blame Americans for taking such a negative attitude. Lafayette why did we bother?

  • Brian,

    Maybe you need to interact with a few more individuals from Middle America before developing your theory. You are way off base. Feel free to drop me an email.

  • Tatterdemalian

    Most of us middle-class Americans never thought the war was about oil. Nor did we think the troops would be home by Christmas; I still expect that troops will be stationed in Iraq for at least another decade.

    What the problem is, is that the international press is continuing to churn out pro-terrorist propaganda, in spite of all the good we have done in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no denying the power of the press; blogs from Kos to LGF, and even this blog, rely heavily on AP and Reuters press reports, if only to point out inaccuracies and inconsistencies. How many events that the writers on this blog know of, but didn’t personally witness, did you learn of from sources other than the MSM? Did anyone here personally witness the genocide in Rwanda, or the bombing of the USS Cole? Or did we rely on the MSM to notify us of these things? We may pride ourselves on our relative non-reliance on the international press for information, but even we depend on it more than anyone really should.

    The hope of the Iraq war was that the leaders of the international press would find it in themselves to see the good we were doing there, and if not agree to help spread our propaganda, then at least take a neutral approach. But no, our betters in the international press have found us guilty of breaking their precious international law, and nothing, not the capture of Saddam, the defeat of the Taliban, nor even free elections in both Afghanistan and Iraq, will propitate them. They have chosen the side of the Islamists, and now must be defeated as well, if we are ever going to end terrorism.

    The depression of the middle class in America is not unlike the depression Winston Churchill felt when Hitler and Stalin signed a mutual non-agression pact. The media and Al-Qaeda are helping one another, and thus our fight is made much more difficult and victory much less certain.

  • The war was never just about 1 thing. There have always been different powers at work pushing the war along for various reasons. There are some strong forces who undoubtedly pushed it because they knew they would profit from it immensely, $. It was partly about securing cheaper oil. It was also largely about dominating and controlling the Middle East. That’s the reason we’re building a dozen large military bases in Iraq and whyit will turn into another South Korea. But one thing’s for sure. It was never really about “Democracy.”

  • Midwesterner

    Brian, from the start I thought that the oil market would be very carefully accounted for. GWB & Cheney both have very strong and previously well known connections to the oil business and back when this all was unfolding I assumed they had covered all bets. As in ‘it works and Haliburton or some other associate is controlling Iraq’s oil’ or ‘things go wrong and oil prices skyrocket and those marginal wells we have in _?_ will finally pay for themselves.’

    But I guess, like many here, I’m the opposite of this trend you’re discussing. In the beginning I mildly opposed this war and strongly opposed how it was pursued. They went in understaffed, unprepared, unequipped and uninformed. They repeatedly failed to protect infrastructure. They failed to establish control. They failed to take over the Iraqi military intact. They didn’t see a need, have a plan or bring the means to maintain order. It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to recruit the enemy troops, take over their payroll, and possibly even find something for them to do. This is where Rumsfeld, Cheney & Co really lost me. They didn’t seem to have a clue what was going on or what was coming next. IIRC most of the sabotage occurred, not in enemy held territory, but in friendly held territory. When enemy police forces are removed from power, they need to be instantly replaced with friendly ones, our own soldiers, initially. That’s called holding territory. Instead, our understaffed troops blew right through and left chaos in their wake.

    Through out this operation from beginning to present, the incompetence has been so astonishing that paranoid minds could be excused for wondering if the real goal was something else entirely.

    Somebody previously said there was no exit ‘strategy’. I regret to say there probably was. What it amounted to was ‘They’ll greet us like the French did in WWII. We’ll bow deeply and say “you are most welcome”, and then install our oil experts and give them the keys to the government, and they’ll be grateful allies. ‘ If only!

    None the less, with persistence and superior firepower, we are beginning to achieve our stated goals.

    We are now 2000+ fatalities into this. And who knows how much money by the time interest and impact are factored in to the up front expense?

    At this point, we need to stay. I support us staying. I support an effort to install a constitution that respects property rights. Nobody ever defends government or community property like they defend their own personal property. We should have originally, and still should, vigorously protect the property rights of the people in Iraq. We’ve provided less protection for their property than Saddam Hussein did! I do not believe it needs to be an unfettered democracy. In fact I don’t think it should be. And I think we should hold a veto power over it if we don’t like it. To quote the old antique store warning, ‘Nice to touch, nice to hold. When it breaks, we mark it sold!’ Like it or not, Iraq is our problem now. We should, like we did in Japan, decide how it should be fixed. Would only that Bush and Rumsfeld had the wisdom of Truman and MacArthur.

    Today, in Madison, Wisconsin, alleged ‘peace’ protesters are ‘dropping dead’ to represent each US Iraq casualty. Were these ‘peace’ protesters dropping dead for the victims in Darfur? Were they dropping dead for those slaughtered in Rwanda? For the dead in Bosnia? For the gassed Kurds? For the child martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war? Were their predecessors dropping dead for the Vietnamese? For the Cambodians?! To borrow Perry’s meme(Link), who’s peace are they fighting for? Certainly not their claimed ‘world peace’. Certainly not peace in Iraq.

    Let’s steal their meme. Let’s ‘Give peace a chance’. Let’s continue to protect property, liberty and lives. To protect peace in Iraq. We are at the Tet offensive stage of this effort. After Cronkite, Fonda, etc brilliantly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, all in the name of peace(!), 40,000+ more Americans died. The SE Asian victims don’t have a wall with their names on it. Add their losses to ours. How peaceful was that?

    For Iraq today, I see no moral alternative. To pull out now would lead to regional violence beyond the pale of prediction. It could and probably would escalate out of the crescent. We have to stay and finish what we started. Not just for our security, but also for our conscience. And in the future, we should go back to arming oppressed peoples wherever they are. We don’t have to commit our military. Worldwide, most of these people the peaceniks have helped disarm would have defended themselves if they had the means. In simple terms, the peace movement supports genocide. It has blood on its hands.

  • A question I constantly ask friends who oppose the war:

    Was the ME really good and stable before or did we just ignore all the bad things?

    I was raised in Middle America. We believe in working hard, meritocracy (coughMeirs). Anywhere where this does not improve your situation in life will be disdained whether it be the ME, the socialist utopias of Europe, or happy go lucky Communists countries.

    Middle America more than any group understands hedging to secure our future. We understand that this war is inherently for oil (world stability) because that brings us prosperity. In return for oil why can we not improve lives of millions of people? When oil runs out what will the Middle East be? Many elite says, triumphantly, and then they will be screwed. We in the West have the ability to change our societies when we see the writing on the wall. The ME does not have this ability because of authoritarian regimes, to market forces, and a single resource.

    There is no country or people that can claim moral high grounds. Look at France (UN oil-for-food scandal). Every country and individual acts in their self interest. This is one of the few truths. Those who claim they are not are the most corrupt.

    I apologize if this seems like rambling, I don’t have the time to organize thoughts thoroughly.

  • repka

    So many “Monday morning quarterbacks” ( Middle America would understand) so little time. The real loser in this international situation is Koffi and the UN. Yes us Fox/Murdoch robots here in MidAm watch the real “Blood for Oil” folks as they are presented to us nightly as ministers in France, diplos in Russia, businessmen in Germany and politicians in England .

  • Julian Taylor

    They went in understaffed, unprepared, unequipped and uninformed.

    No they didn’t, intelligence on Iraq was pretty bloody good, no less because of the awesome real time intel from both the Predators and SatInt. As for unequipped, ALL troops ALWAYS complain of being unequipped, from bedding, ammo, armour, boots etc. Complaining about equipment is something all troops of all colours and all nationalities always do.

    They repeatedly failed to protect infrastructure.

    Apart from the strategic strikes on the Baghdad electricity plants, both the British and the US forces did a truly remarkable job of protecting the actual infrastructure in Iraq. I daresay your memory occludes the footage of the towns around Umm Qasr shortly after liberation, where the population were delighted at the arrival of US troops and engineers bringing the first water pipelines and standpipes they had seen for over 10 years, because Saddam and his troops had destroyed the local utilties.

    Possibly your concept of modern warfare is restricted by some notion that all war should be fought in the mythical method propagated by the (now proven as mostly false) 1991 footage of neat surgical strikes by high-level stealth bombers? I can assure you that no war has ever been fought in that manner, modern or otherwise.

    When the UK took over Iraq, as the British League of Nations Trust Territory of Iraq in 1919, they were pretty much resigned to losing one soldier per diem through sickness, terrorism, carelessness and a multitude of other reasons endemic to the hostile occupation of any country. Such loss of life certainly continued until the late 1950’s, in fact I gather that British losses are roughly estimated as something in excess of 600 per annum from 1919 until 1958 – so nothing new there except our attitudes.

    In a country such as Iraq, for us to withdraw before the job is done would very much be seen as a sign of weakness – something I daresay we can not afford to be seen admitting to right now. We have to stay and complete the task we have assigned ourselves, whether for better or for worse, and certainly for the better of the poor souls in Iraq who have endured torture and strife under Mr Galloway’s best friend Saddam Hussein.

  • Midwesterner

    Julian, just compare preparation,equipment and troops strengths for Gulf 1 with preparation for Gulf 2. If you believe these troops were provided with appropriate (and promised) equipment in a timely manner, you’re remembering Gulf 1.

    Tactical military intelligence from satellites etc, may have been as good as that kind of stuff gets, but then what? We didn’t have any problems with the ‘war’. It was with the ‘peace’.

    “ALL troops ALWAYS complain of being unequipped, from bedding, ammo, armour, boots etc.”

    So it’s just the troops whining as usual? Get real. Rumsfeld tried to do it on the cheap. Our troops picked up the difference. Again, compare troop strengths from Gulf 1 and 2. And Gulf 1 apparently wasn’t even intended to go to Bagdad.

    “Apart from the strategic strikes on the Baghdad electricity plants,”

    I didn’t say we damaged infrastructure. I said we didn’t protect it. Day after day the infrastructure was systematically destroyed by the enemy in areas we supposedly occupied. Why? Because we had too few soldiers and too little equipment in theatre.

    And you called it a “hostile occupation”? If that’s what it was going to be why did we go in expecting flowers and ticker tape?

    And for you last shot,

    “for us to withdraw before the job is done would very much be seen as a sign of weakness”

    Julian, did you read my post?

  • Ray P

    Early on, I told my co-workers that the war should be about keeping a hand on a steady supply of cheap oil. Too late now; all their liberal whining is costing us twice as much at the pump.
    We deposed our primary threat, checked the place clear of weapons we *feared* might be there, placed those that worked closest with us in a position of strength, and then we promised that we wouldn’t use Iraq oil to pay for the occupation. Great.

    Now if we can just get over the need to make things better for everone “over there”, we can get out. Like nation-building worked so well in Southeast Asia, the Balkans, or Mogadishu. Screw’em.

    The worst that could happen now is for Iraq to fragment into a northern “Kurdistan”, a southern satellite of Iran, and a Sunni middle. The same middle that will recurringly make a great target when each generation of Baath or Wahibist “leaders” step into the light. Guess that ain’t so bad; except our allies in Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia wouldn’t like it. Screw’em.

    As for Iran, the more they alienate Europe, the easier it will be to slap them down from time to time. Ah, Iran; not Europe.

  • j.pickens

    As an American, my take on the Middle America thing is:

    1. The war against Iraq started in 1991 and didn’t end.
    Saddam continually cheated his way past the agreement he signed to end the hostilities.

    2. America HATES cheaters. A deal is a deal.

    3. Though the MSM says there is “no connection” between the attack on 9/11 and the Iraq war, Middle America is “so stupid” they see that there actually is. The connection is the same anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-Western, pro-Islamist groups who are fighting against us.

    4. They started it, we’ll finish it. Call us stupid, go ahead. But we’re right.

    5. Don’t mess with Texas, or New York, or Israel, or even innocent Iraqis. Its the same thing. Wrong is wrong. People outside the US may not believe that Middle America cares about the average, non-Islamist Iraqi, but we do. We’re there, we’ve been there since ’91, and its our responsibility. Remember the Kurds and the “no fly” zones? Remember all the protests about ending that control of Iraq? No? That’s because there weren’t many protests. Middle America understood that. The Lefties, and the MSM, and the anti-American crowd jusst doesn’t get it.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    To add to the Fog of War, there is the deliberate smokescreen of a very biased, unobjective media. Any Brit who has to depend on the BBC is sadly misinformed about almost everything — and particularly everything American.

    The hypothesis that “middle America” is turning against the liberation of Iraq is a fervent wish of the MSM. They see it happening everywhere — whether it is happening or not.

    But then there is the real world, the one that the media tends to ignore because it does not fit their biases. Here in New Mexico, there was a memorial service recently for the first NM National Guardsman (roughly analogous to the old British Territorial Army) to die in Iraq. Two thousand mourners paid their respects, and not a single anti-war protestor. No wonder the BBC did not carry a report!

    Think that is an isolated, untypical instance? Just look at the conduct of America’s prime straw in the political winds — Mrs. Rodham Clinton. The good Senator remains supportive of the liberation of Iraq, and has even arranged for herself to be attacked by the sad media-creature Cindy Sheehan on the very topic of Mrs. Rodham Clinton’s continuing support of the war. If Hillary does not believe that “middle America” is turning against the war, don’t pay much attention to loud media longing for a change of heart.

  • Midwesterner


    Thank you for pointing out the continuation part.

    I retract my statement “finish what we started” and replace it with “finish what they started”.

    I agree with all your points, especially 5.

    Gavin Longmuir, I think you’ve got it exactly right. Hillary is doing to the people of America what Tony’s doing in the UK. Saying whatever it takes. But we know she’ll do as she pleases if she’s given the chance.

  • Robert Alderson

    I can report that one American friend of mine did voice exactly the hypothesis that Brian put forward. I was discussing with him the general performance of Bush and he said, “They told us this was all about oil but if you look at the price of gas now I don’t think he knew what he was doing.”

    Of course, this is only one American and don’t take his views as mine.

  • rosignol

    Ah, no.

    If the point of invading was to get oil, the US would have invaded Mexico and Venezuela. We import surprisingly little oil from the middle east, compared to the rest of the planet.

    The reason for the war was, broadly speaking, because the post-cold-war status quo was having undesirable results, and something had to be done to shake things up. As far as the ‘why Iraq’ issue is concerned, Ted pretty much nailed it- doing so dealt with one problem, and gave the US a platform from which to deal with most of the other problems in the region.

    As far as middle America is concerned, long, expensive wars against nebulous foes to reform a huge part of the world that’s literally on the opposite side of the planet from us is a very, very hard thing to sell to Americans, who tend to be somewhat isolationist and have a gut feeling that other people should sort out their own problems without American supervision. So the war- which I think was necessary- had to be presented as being something other than a long, expensive war against nebulous foes to reform a huge part of the world that’s on the opposite side of the planet. Unsurprisingly, this was difficult, and the Bush administration didn’t do a particularly good job of it, and the electorate is figuring that out.

    The problem with going along with those isolationist tendencies and letting other people sort out their problems is that with the way things were going, is that it was pretty much just a matter of time (admittedly, probably a couple of decades) before someone did something very, very stupid involving a nuclear weapon. Then the rest of the planet would see the other, not-so-nice side of the semi-isolationist superpower- the ‘fuck with us, and we’ll burn your entire goddamn country to the ground’ aspect that turned the Japanese into devout pacifists in just under four years *.

    It is better for them and for us if the current approach works. If it doesn’t, well…

    *study a bit japanese history written from the perspective of it’s neighbors if you don’t understand just how much of a change that is.

  • Sandy P

    Securing an energy supply would not make US safe.

    They do not produce things in mass quantities that we want. They are extractors, not producers. They cannot compete w/China – mfg – or India – software. Now sand…. So, take away the income from the only thing they’ve got, and why, they’ll just love us! The Magic Kingdom already said we develop alternate sources, we’re looking at the largest welfare program this world has ever seen. So, a bunch of whiteys support the oppressed brown peoples who are already feeling slighted because Mo promised they should be ruling the world. Oh, yeah, that’s a recipe for peace and friendship.

    GW1 v. GW II.

    Let’s see, 1991 end of WWIII (Cold War) still had equip and troops. How long did it take to put US into place?

    2001 – attacked, lost at least 2 divisions and multiple programs cut because of “peace dividend.” Had to call on the NG which has NEVER had the platinum-plated equipment. My husband’s in mfg, care to discuss tolerance level of the ceramics in the vests? Which we were also outfitting other armies with??? The humvees were never meant to be armoured, they weren’t designed for that. And yes, they fought Iraq w/a WWII battle scenario in mind. Live and learn. But the purple fingers were a sight to see!!!!! And how many troops does it take to secure a land the size of Kalifornia?

  • Thomas Jackson

    Americans overwhelming support the war. Nowehere does one see evidence of an anti war movement of any strength yet the number of charities and groups to support the troops is everywhere.

    As far as speculating about motive I think the Pentagon and WTC might have something to do with it. If others wish to end this threat fine. If they do not and hope the crocodile will not eat them, good luck.

    But I think Americans tire of their critics and will stand by their allies. That’s more than I can say for most.

  • asus phreak

    The worst that could happen now is for Iraq to fragment into a northern “Kurdistan”, a southern satellite of Iran, and a Sunni middle.

    Then again maybe that’s actually the best that can happen.

  • Daveon

    Well someone said “what about Afghanistan”.

    Actually this country is a democracy now. Both Presidential and Parliamentary elections have been held and have been “free and fair” as the saying goes.

    Except huge swathes of the country are still under warlord control, many of whom now hide behind the cloak of “democratic respectability”. The heroin trade is booming, mostly thanks to the lack of investment that was promised and the aforementioned warlords.

    Having “free and fare” elections is a small part of having a sucessful democracy.

    Germany had free and fare elections in the early 30s too.

    Afghanistan is an example of where we could have goit things right, but didn’t. Iraq may well be a second.

    Democracy is a fine and nice idea but it’s not necessarily an ideal to shoot for quickly, particular in countries where the internal pressures could tear it apart. As I mentioned, South Korea took almost 40 years to turn into a fucntional democracy from dictatorship. What they did first was stablise the economy and start improving standards of living and get people working…

    Generally working people with improving standards of living make dreadful terrorists… I know it doesn’t always work like that but…

  • I agree with Paul. 200 billion dollars later, we ask – was it worth it? Probably not, but we’ve come this far…

    It’s quite possible that the Americans will unintentionally do an incredibly quixotic thing in Iraq – free a nation of oppressed people at vast expense and receive little or nothing for their trouble.

  • Securing an energy supply would not make US safe.

    But a US without a stable energy supply is an incredibly dangerous prospect.

  • Matt O'Halloran

    James Waterton: “I agree with Paul. 200 billion dollars later, we ask – was it worth it? Probably not, but we’ve come this far…”

    So let’s go on throwing good money (and soldiers’ lives) after bad. Let’s go on reinforcing failure. Let’s go on wistfully hoping for a spark or two of Arab gratitude. After all, we’d lose so much face if we backed down, wouldn’t we? Why, the rest of the world might even dislike us nstead of lavishing praises on us!

  • Matt :

    Okay, I was being simplistic, but the point is that it’s incredibly hard for the Americans to extricate themselves now, and the reasons are numerous, varied and profound. Colin Powell was right about his Pottery Barn rule: you break it, you own it.

  • Susan

    > > Securing an energy supply would not make US
    >> safe.
    > But a US without a stable energy supply is an
    > incredibly dangerous prospect.
    > Posted by James Waterton at October 28, 2005 11:31 AM

    James, you seem to understand “the reasons are numerous, varied and profound” but you still have this oil hang-up.

    On the oil issue: oil could NOT have been the primary factor for mid-America to initially sanction the war. It might have been Bush’s primary reason but you couldn’t sell it to mid-America. We bitch about price-at-the-pump but we don’t scare about oil that easily. As a mid-American with a lot of mid-American relatives and friends, we all “know” that (a) America has its own reserves, (b) America has other friends that will sell us oil and, most importantly, (c) if we really need something we will find a way.

    It is (c) that seems to be the one that people from other countries don’t understand. And that same point is why we will keep the Iraq war going. A great deal of America feels that the war is part of a number of strategies that will make us more secure; we need that security and we will find a way to reach it.

    For the same reason, James, I agree whole-heartedly with your statement that the “US without a stable energy supply is an incredibly dangerous prospect.” If we have a need, we will actively pursue a solution. I don’t think we could ever start a war solely for energy but … there are always reasons around that are “numerous, varied and profound”.

  • Sandy P

    Matt, you want Arab gratitude?

    You’ll get as much of it as European gratitude.

    Having “free and fare” elections is a small part of having a sucessful democracy.

    Germany had free and fare elections in the early 30s too.

    Wish I could say the same for frogistan, they might be in better shape and healthier mind and so would the rest of Europe.

    Europe’s not exactly the “democracy” we envisioned either, you’ve been a disappointment.

    Iraq, like Canada, might break up and maybe that’s a good thing.

    You guys have got to get over stability. That’s what didn’t allow US to finish GWI.

    And have any of you ever considered Americans are dissatisfied w/Iraq cos we haven’t been hard enough?

  • Sandy P

    Matt, you really need to look at American history.

    We were never and will never be liked. Time to grow up.

    Read The American Enemy by Philippe Roger.

    James 40% of our contry is offlimits to a lot of things. IL, my state, is the Saudia Arabia of coal.

    We have more shale in 3 states, CO/WY and NV(?) than the Magic Kingdom has in oil, and Shell might have found a way to make it profitable.

    We have oil above US, below US, off both coasts, in the Gulf of Mexico and even in my home state.

    It’s just not the sweet stuff the MK has. And we could always make Alberta an offer it can’t refuse, especially if Martin and his commie bureaucracy decide to nationalize Alberta’s oil for the good of the country as they’ve mentioned. They’ve already pissed off Alberta by taxing their oil production(?) but not quebec’s (?) area. And threatened US to sell what they sell US to the Chicoms.

    And we’re 80-85% of their trade. Bunch of freeloaders.

  • Mike

    Nobody with an ounce of brains, and this includes the majority of middle america, ever thought this war was about oil. I have never heard any rational economic arguement that could support that it was all about the oil.

  • James

    It’s all about oil? Someone should tell our local fuel stations about that. Hurricane damage aside, prices were going up in the last few years (pre-Iraq), not down.

    Seems to me if we want a war about oil we should invade Saudi Arabia. If oil was the real reason we went to war, then we’re having better luck with democracy.

  • Matt O'Halloran

    A main reason for invading Iraq was wanting to secure bases overlooking Iran, China, southern Russia, the ‘Stans and India and Pakistan– future economic boom areas and/or political hot spots. The bases in Saudi Arabia, home of the Prophet, were clearly becoming too provocative by c. 2000. Turkey, once a reliable client, is looking iffier these days as Muslim parties arise– the Turks wouldn’t let US forces through for the Iraqi invasion. Likewise Egypt.

    Iraq, the neocons thought, had a spasmodic history of semi-democracy and secularism which made it a more promising terrain for stationing rapid-response troop formations and bomber squadrons. Say what you will about ole Saddam, he was no mullah. Another turn of the road and he might have wound up as a de facto US buddy, like the canny Gaddafi or the king of Jordan.

    If the December elections produce a fairly moderate Shi’ite coalition government and a sullen but cowed Sunni opposition, the bases may well be secured as a quid pro quo for letting Iraq become a more Islamised polity, conducting its own struggle against its armed malcontents. So the war won’t have yielded no dividend whatever.

  • Tatterdemalian

    “You guys have got to get over stability.”

    Amen to that. The USA is the most unstable government in the world… if UK ruling coalitions were overthrown with the frequency new presidents are elected in the US, the Brits would be convinced the apocalypse was upon them.

    Stability is the enemy of democracy. What matters is that the people have a framework that accurately reflects their changing opinions, and allows them to replace their leaders when they feel they can no longer serve, without resorting to violence. Everything else, even “hot button” issues like religious freedom and womens’ rights, are secondary and can be written in at a later date.

    Heck, the US Bill of Rights wasn’t added for three years after our Constitution was in place. As long as the option to extend the Iraqi Constitution remains intact, there is still hope for Iraqi democracy.

  • Sandy P

    Ohhh, isn’t this interesting, via Capt Ed:

    A news report from The Australian and Al-Arabiya indicates that the United States had negotiated a peaceful exit for Saddam Hussein from Iraq — but that the Arab League torpedoed the deal, leading to the Iraq War in March 2003 (h/t: Daily Scorecard):…

    Of course GW2 yielded divvys, Matt.

  • Bases in the ME wouldn’t be necessary if it wasn’t for the oil. The ME is strategic almost entirely due to its energy reserves – I’m surprised that there is any discussion over this point. The Americans can and have established relationships with some of the Stans and have constructed bases there. This is a much more geographically strategic place if wanting to be involved in the central Asian region.

    It might have been Bush’s primary reason but you couldn’t sell it to mid-America.

    Yours and others faith in the incredulity of middle America is touching. Who cares how they sold it to mid-America, or what middle America believed or didn’t believe? If it was Bush’s primary reason, but middle America wouldn’t buy that alone, then middle America was duped with a whole bunch of non-reasons.

    Look, I’m not saying that it was a war for oil in the sense that the USA’s going in to steal oil – like the person who claimed the US should have invaded Saudi Arabia for that end. My point is that oil was the major indirect reason for the war. Take away the oil, and there wouldn’t have been a war. Stability – not democracy – is the US’s major ambition for the ME.

    Also, no one has been able to adequately explain why the West hasn’t invaded the far less strategic but far more needy region of Africa to bring various shades of enlightenment to the dark continent.

  • Matt O'Halloran

    James Waterton: “Bases in the ME wouldn’t be necessary if it wasn’t for the oil.”

    No, there are far wider geopolitical considerations. Most of the potential trouble in the world which the US might want to sort out by rapid response invasions or bombing raids can be best monitored from a Middle Eastern epicenter: Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan, China/Tibet, fundi dictators in the Stans, Chechenya, Turkey/Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan…

    Mooring these forces offshore in the Gulf isn’t adequate. Western Europe is too far away, and not as pro-US as in Cold War times. Israel is too small and dicey. Somewhere near Baghdad is the ideal pivot, if (a big if) you accept the neocon doctrine that America has a right and duty to impose a certain conception of democracy and Pax Americana on everyone else.

  • Tatterdemalian

    I’m pretty sure there would have been a war in Iraq even if it didn’t have oil. In fact, the disruption of the oil supply that would result from going to war with Saddam Hussein was a big factor in the argument against it, that was outweighed by all the factors that favored war.

    Take oil out of the equation, and we probably wouldn’t have even bothered spending six months trying to convince the UN to aid us before kicking over the Hussein regime.

  • the iraq war is about democracy plain and simple. afghanistan, iraq, egypt, lebanon, libya – all examples of countries that have at least taken steps towards democracy. Iraq was never about oil. If someone believes it was, maybe they believe the US helped protect England in WWII for the tea, or liberated Holland for the tulips, France for the wine, Italy for the pizza, Belgium for whatever they’re famous for, Taiwan for the rice, Australia for the kangaroos, Philipines for the exotic jungles, Korea for more rice. I understand why people think US always enters war to rape and pillage the countries they’re supposedly helping, just because that’s what most other countries do. Understood. US went into WWII for 2 reasons: Hitler, although he never attacked the US would’ve ultimately been a threat, and second, to help Europe. US went into Iraq for 2 reasons: Saddam was funding terrorism, haboring terrorists and ultimately would have been a threat, and second, to jumpstart democracy in the middle east. I see no difference between helping UK, France, Netherlands, Korea in their wars, and helping Iraq. No difference to me: all were people who needed help.

  • The US needs to make the ME safe for them to operate in. This largely revolves around oil. The strategic benefits Matt O’Halloran mentioned are peripheral, especially when considering how the tyranny of distance is shrinking as weapons technology and range improves.

    Pistol, that’s a pretty dumb argument you’ve got going there. Do you think if the USA ran out of tea or tulips or – yes, even kangaroos – the country would come to a grinding halt? And why aren’t the Americans in Africa bringing democracy to the many millions of poor, benighted Africans? A little naive to think the invasion was a big democracy project.

    I am perhaps being misunderstood here. I’m certainly no US-basher. I think it’s perfectly understandable for the Americans to act to ensure the Middle East continues to supply energy to it and its allies. I strongly believe that going to war for that end is a simple reality when all other options are exhausted. I was pro the Iraq war when it kicked off. In hindsight, I’m not convinced it was worth the expense, but time will tell. The project does have merit and it’s far from over.

  • pistol

    appreciate your point of view james. the US gets about 15% of its oil from the middle east. most of europe gets between 75% and 100%. this is why most europeans believe that if the US is in the middle east, it must be for the oil. that’s why they’re there – they have no choice. you’re right that the world would stop without oil, but the US still gets most of its oil from the US itself, Canada, and Mexico – hardly reliant upon middle eastern oil. good point on africa, but could you imagine what would happen if the US did sent troops into africa? look at the response from the world when they deposed an indisputable murderer of hundreds of thousands. what do you think the response would be if the US went in to nation where the dictator was simply corrupt but hadn’t killed anyone? again, my point was that the US went into Iraq for 2 reasons: 1. to deal with the threat of terrorism, and in the process, 2. they’re trying to create a democracy.

    if it were all about oil, the US would have taken an entirely different approach: appease Saddam. Saddam was forever trying to cut a deal with the Americans – ie. please lift your embargo on Iraq and in return we’ll give you all the oil you want. If it were about oil the US would have simply turned the other cheek, and normalized trade relations with Saddam – ie. Europe’s approach. this is easy to do – maybe not best for the rest of the world, but easy enough done.

    Same deal with iran. US companies are forbidden to deal with iran – if it were simply all about oil, the US just say – ok let’s start trading with each other as we really need that iranian oil. if we increase the supply, this will bring the price down, and we’ll all be better off. The US of course would have to ignore iran’s nuclear intentions and human rights violations to do so, but this would be ridiculously easy to do. again, i think we know what why most of europe is in iran. i respectfully disagree with your position, but welcome the debate.

  • Pistol – buying off Saddam would only be a temporary solution for the Americans, and they knew it. He was a massive destabilising factor in the region – US client or not. Same deal with Iran. And there’s the rub. It’s not “about the oil” – it’s about stabilising the region to ensure the steady flow of oil in the long term. There is a subtle but important difference.

    And just because the ME doesn’t provide the US with a large proportion of its oil (although if we keep going down the same path it will provide more in the future), the Middle Eastern states combined make up far and away the biggest producer in a global market. If supply is radically affected in the ME, the oil price shoots skyward across the globe, regardless of where the US sources its oil from.

    PS. I just read my earlier post. Sorry, I was a little rude. Sometimes I get carried away.


  • Midwesterner

    James, I think that among my circle of friends and aquaintances, the cost of fuel to us is a big concern, but not one we would rationalize a war over. I agree with whoever suggested that if we were cynical like the Euros, we would just play along with Saddam, etc.

    However pretty much everyone I know, here, is very worried about the consequences of all of our’s and Europe’s oil money on the mid-east.

    There is too much wealth and not enough responsibility in the oil-states. They are like spoiled, amoral rich kids who have always got out of trouble with ‘daddies’ money. To carry on the analogy, the worst trouble makers are often the non-wealthy hangers on, trying to cement a place in the pack.

    Reality is a implacable teacher. These guys are too sheltered by wealth. They need to be experience consequences. This disconnect is actually in their religion. I once worked for a third world development agency that gave up entirely on Muslim countries. The final straw was apparently in Egypt where they were unable to get farmers to calculate fertilizer applications because it required them to estimate yields. The only permissable esitmate is ‘Whatever Allah wills.’

  • james, again some worthwhile points, but i tend to disagree. the US was attacked between 1993 and 2001 twelve different times – all the attackers were either islamic or from the middle east. clinton ignored the threat, but after 911, bush chose not to. this is what iraq’s all about. let’s eliminate the threats in the middle east. i’m sure if there were african states on the verge of acquiring nukes or threatening the US, US would have gone there as well, even if their main export were soybeans, instead of oil. again, the US could have normalized trade relations with both iran and iraq over the long term, could have kissed up to them, just for the oil. some countries already do this, but the US chooses not to. ironically, the press chooses to ignore the countries that really do use the middle east for oil. and the one country that doesn’t rely on the ME for oil at all, the US, gets ripped apart by the mainstream media for it. ironic.

  • The point is, Pistol, if the ME was not strategic due to the oil, we wouldn’t need to be there at all. A big part of the reason terrorists from there attack us is because they don’t like our presence in the ME – we dirty infidels apparently corrupt their fine Islamic values. Thing is, we need to be in the ME to ensure that countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and now Iraq have governments that are Western friendly to a degree so they’ll trade with us.

    If we didn’t have to engage so closely with the ME, it would be considerably easier to fight the Jihadis from afar. They could be contained easily. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

    Midwesterner – What if a Taliban-esque government took power in Saudi Arabia and refused to sell oil to the West – sure, to the massive financial detriment of themselves but why would we expect them to act in an economically rational way? They’re constructing the caliphate! Anyway, it’s conceivable that oil would become so expensive that a great many people simply couldn’t afford to run their cars at all. It was also spell economic ruin for the West. In that not so unthinkable instance, I wonder if you and your friends would still not be able to justify war to keep the energy flowing.

  • And to that end, I think Iraq was a pre-emptive strike. Bush and co were taking the step to stave off the potential for oil-based economic ruin that would make middle America realise we simply have to act.

  • james, i’d be interested in your take on afghanistan then. they don’t have much in terms of reserves. why would the US be wasting time and money messing around there? i suppose you might argue that they’re part of the middle east region since they’re close enough and therefore let’s democratize everything around the area to secure our oil and economic future, but i don’t buy it. i see afghanistan, iraq, and Europe during WWII in the same light. The US wouldn’t have entered any of the regions were it not attacked. So again, reason number one is to elminate the threat. It’s true that Hitler never attacked the US, and Saddam himself never bombed the US, but they were threats nonetheless. reason number two is simply – these guys need help so we’ll give it to them, and in the process if this makes the world safer, then we’re all better off for it. thanks for listening.

  • Tatterdemalian

    The people who wonder why we aren’t overthrowing dictatorships in Africa just don’t understand that being unable to do everything is no excuse for not doing anything.

    Already at least one genocidal dictator in Africa has suddenly decided to play nice, and by his own admission, it’s because he didn’t want to end up being dragged from a spider hole like Saddam.

    There are still genocidal dictators in Africa, and maybe there always will be. The perfectionists may complain, but the USA will do what it can do, and no more.

  • Pistol – I didn’t say that the Americans will only go to war over energy. Afghanistan was not a pre-emptive strike. The Americans were absolutely justified in overthrowing the Taliban and destroying OBL’s organisation due to their (respectively) complicity and planning of the 9/11 attacks.

    but the USA will do what it can do

    Funny how these days it’s only in one theatre though, eh, Tatterdemalian? Why does the ME come first before Africa? Africa’s problems are far deeper.

  • And, Pistol, as a non-American but a citizen of the country that is arguably America’s closest ally (in terms of ideology as well as cooperation) – Australia – I hope that America continually acts to ensure that Middle Eastern energy flows with optimal liquidity throughout the world economy. Australia clearly derives an enormous benefit from such insurance. It’s why I believe we have an obligation to form the sort of coalitions with the Americans that are seen in Iraq.

    Not to do so would be freeloading and an egregious example of hypocrisy (*ahem* New Zealand, much of Europe etc).

  • james, i do agree with a couple of things you say – that many countries do benefit from energy flows from middle east, and that Australia has been onside with the US more than any country during the past 100 yrs. this is something i’ve always been aware of. but i still don’t think the war is about oil. it was about eliminating a threat. i see no difference between afghanistan and iraq in this regard. although it’s widely believed there never was any connection between iraq and al qaeda i truly believe the administation believes otherwise. anyone who doubts this should take some time to read stephen hayes from weekly standard. he walks though an enormous list that show clear connections between the two.

    anyway, this is why the US by and large is not in africa – most countries although dictatorships, still are not considered threats to the US, although if some country becomes a sizable enough threat – i’m pretty sure it won’t be ignored, at least under this president.

  • Tatterdemalian

    “Funny how these days it’s only in one theatre though, eh, Tatterdemalian? Why does the ME come first before Africa? Africa’s problems are far deeper.”

    Because Africa’s problems ARE deeper, maybe even too deep for us to ever fix. Maybe the ME’s problems are too deep for us as well, but then they’re the ones launching terrorist attacks all over the world. Mighty hard to do open heart surgery when you have a delirious guy with a broken arm taking potshots at you.

  • rosignol

    james, i do agree with a couple of things you say – that many countries do benefit from energy flows from middle east, and that Australia has been onside with the US more than any country during the past 100 yrs. this is something i’ve always been aware of. but i still don’t think the war is about oil. it was about eliminating a threat.

    Well, you’ve both kind of got a point, and I’m surprised you don’t see it…

    Without the oil, the middle east would be much like africa- backwards, full of nutters, but impoverished and incapable of sharing their misery with those of us fortunate enough to not live next to them.

    So yeah, the anti-war loonies kind of have a point- it is about the oil- but not in the way they think.

  • rosignol – that’s precisely what I’ve been getting at. Here and here.

  • i reiterate my belief that whether saddam were in iraq (an oil producing nation), africa, asia, or antarctica, no matter if his nation produced rocks, ice, or oil, if he were a threat, the US would have gone into whichever country he was in at the time. as i’ve said before, there are many other options for securing oil, and none of them would have had the hassle of having to walk into a country with 150,000 troops, rebuild and pay for the well-being of a nation of 25MM people. the easiest solution would have been simply: to do business with the man! ignore everything else, and do business