Bush’s foreign policy is almost all about oil

Marketplace Staff May 25, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: You could call it artistic license. Venezuela’s calling it an international insult. There’s a new video game out. It’s called Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. The plot is an invasion of the world’s number five crude oil producer. Lawmakers in Caracas say it’s just one more US try at getting rid of President Hugo Chavez. Chavez has been less than friendly to foreign oil companies. The company that makes the game denies that it’s political. Commentator John Judis says the scenario isn’t so far-fetched when you compare it with real life.

JOHN JUDIS: American foreign policy has often been about oil. But in the Bush administration, it’s almost entirely about oil.

It’s why we’re sparring with Russia and Venezuela. They have oil and we’re worried they’ll use it to throw their weight around.

Iran has oil too. And if it develops nukes, it can influence other oil producers in the region.

China wants oil as much as we do, and has tried to make deals with Russia, Venezuela and Iran.

In the administration’s new National Security Strategy, released this March, the White House warned against China acting as if they can somehow “lock up energy supplies around the world.”

Bush administration officials will say publicly they are just interested in promoting democracy. But if that were really so, why is the United States cozying up to autocrats in Equatorial Guinea or Kazakhstan? It’s all about oil.

And we broke a treaty to sell India nuclear materials. Why? Well, if India builds civilian reactors, it could cut its future oil and gas consumption. And if it builds bombs, it balances China’s power in Asia. But just to hedge our bets, we’re building up naval and air forces in Guam right now.

It’s all about oil because of supply and demand. World oil production is expected to peak in the next few decades. But world demand is also going up. And that means prices will go up. And that threatens American industry and America’s suburban, automotive way of life. And it gives oil states like Iran, Venezuela and Russia a lot of clout.

America has a choice: It can start drastically cutting its energy use and try to strike international deals that limit special access to oil. Or it can use the threat of force to lock up foreign oil markets.

The first strategy, green internationalism, might eventually fail. The second strategy, the one we’ve got now, is oil-patch unilateralism.

That only leads in one direction — toward war. And as you can see in Iraq, that’s no solution.

RYSSDAL: John Judis is senior editor at The New Republic.

Can’t leave the topic of oil without mentioning this. The House voted today to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Still has to get through the Senate, though.

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