Addicts

Is America misbehaving like an oil addict?

An interesting letter in the 5 September International Herald Tribune:

President George W. Bush has rightly pointed out that America is addicted to oil, but he fails to note the predictable consequences. Addicts break into houses, steal stuff and shoot people. America is breaking into countries, stealing stuff and shooting people. Why is anyone surprised that those homeowners object to our addictive behavior?

Sheila Stoll Morcote, Switzerland

If this were the whole truth, where’s the flood of looted oil? But Ms Morcote’s image does resonate with the sheer weirdness of the Bush Administration’s foreign adventures. Compulsive, short-termist, and reckless persistence in behaviour that an ounce of commonsense shows to be self-destructive does look very like addiction. But if not to oil, to what? Ambition, like Macbeth or Napoleon? Self-justification, like the inquisitors? Glory, like Alexander and Achilles? Subjugation, like Don Juan?

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

15 thoughts on “Addicts”

  1. 'looted oil' means preserving access to that oil at any cost.
    By which criterion US Middle East policy fits– the deployment of forces, the interventions, etc. Implementation of the Carter Doctrine.
    Of course in the purest form (First Gulf War) the Saudis went so far as to *pay* for our intervention, in hard cash.
    (US Israel policy doesn't fit the criterion, unless one is truly Machiavellian in one's world view ie that somehow backing Israel makes the conservative oil producing Arab regimes more compliant)
    From a realist perspective, no other explanation of US mid eastern policy makes any real sense.
    There is a whole raft of naivety in what the US does in the Middle East, mixed in with some truly Machiavellian cynicism.
    It does rather remind me of our (ie British) misdoings in the region since the 19th century, ranging from the idealistic (and arguably highly anti semitic, in terms of getting rid of the Jews in Europe) Balfour Declaration through the maximally cynical Picot-Sykes secret agreement, carving up Arabia and Palestine between us and the French. And at the heart, the business interests of Anglo and French oil companies and the Royal Navy (which had switched from coal to oil).
    Add dropping bombs on tribesmen in Iraq, and mustard gas on the Kurds (I mean Weapons of Mass Destruction) and you have the recipe for a real mess. Gertrude Bell committed suicide over it.
    Since we were driven out of Palestine, and Iraq, by guerilla war, I think there is a precedent here.

  2. "If this were the whole truth, where's the flood of looted oil?"
    I see, so just because an addict breaks into a house looking for drugs, there must be drugs in the house or, at the very least, the addict must inevitably be able to take drugs from the house for us to believe they actually broke into the house and ransacked it in order to steal drugs.
    Just because an addict goes looking to steal oil doesn't mean they are going to find it or be able to haul it away if they do – and that doesn't mean the addict can't and won't destroy the premises and take other things.

  3. "If this were the whole truth, where's the flood of looted oil?"
    Addicts aren't neccesarily good burglars.

  4. I'd go with money as the object of addiction, with power (and the gratification of having others fear one's power) as a close second.

  5. Basically, the clumsy burglar dropped the Ming vase and broke it before he could cart it off — and Iraq is too chaotic to control the oil fields and pipeilines effectively. You do recall that we were promised that Iraq's oil would pay for its liberation. It wasn't lack of intention, but bothched execution.

  6. Well, first of all the addict breaks into the house to steal money and/or stuff to sell, not looking for the object of his addiction in that location.
    But that is a nit. My actual answer is: consider the possibility that the current situation in the Middle East is exactly what Dick Cheney hopes/hoped to acheive. Then work back from there to the motivation/desires. Such a process provides a far more coherent explanation than trying to apply any poli sci or "Foreign Affairs" theory.
    Cranky

  7. It seems to be helplessly naive to take the theory that Bush invaded Iraq "for the oil" and operationalize that theory as, "get the oil" and conclude Bush failed in that hypothetical mission.
    A more plausible hypothesis derived from the same general theory is that he invaded to prevent the sanctions regime from collapsing and Iraqi oil being diverted to the hands of the Russians and French, who were giving huge loans to Saddam and a little technical help in the oil fields. Bush succeeded in preventing restoration of Iraqi oil production, raising world oil prices and profits, benefitting his friends at Halliburton, Exxon/Mobil, and Dubai mightily.

  8. >If this were the whole truth, where's the flood of looted oil?
    Perhaps you'd like to check out the official US figures on imported petroleum at:
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data
    Iraq is number 6 in the upper table (crude oil – the lower table is crude oil + natural gas + refined products), and has been for the last year that I have been following the numbers. Most of Iraq's oil can't be pumped out of the ground because of RPGs hitting pipelines which severely limits the amount of oil exported. We're currently keeping 1/3 of the oil that Iraq pumps out of the ground.
    In addition, the largest pipelines go through Basra which is pretty close to being enemy territory in addition to being Iraq's only port.
    Pemex's own numbers show that their Cantarell field is in serious decline and is expected, by the end of 2007, to drop 70% from their May 2006 numbers (Cantarell supplies 60% of Mexico's crude oil). See that row for Mexico? Expect that whole row to vanish by the end of 2007.

  9. "
    But that is a nit. My actual answer is: consider the possibility that the current situation in the Middle East is exactly what Dick Cheney hopes/hoped to acheive. Then work back from there to the motivation/desires. Such a process provides a far more coherent explanation than trying to apply any poli sci or "Foreign Affairs" theory.
    "
    Cheney is an Iranian agent? Others have suggested this, but I didn't think Cranky was on board with this theory.
    On the other hand, this does explain all the anti-Iran blustering, as a wait to divert investigation into the truth. I imagine Klaus Fuchs spent a fair bit of time ranting about the evils of Bolshevism.

  10. In contrast, you are saying, the Clinton policy of negotiating with Yassir Arafat has a long history of success? European foreign policy has a long history of success in the Mideast? European forein policy has a long history of success anywhere? Are those your claims?
    Sorry to bring reality into this little fantasy domain. You can all go back to dreamland now.

  11. Y81, yes, Clinton's policies were very successful. If you'd like proof, just look at what Bush & Co have wrought.
    BTW – you're not very fast; a good troll can scream 'KLINTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!' within the first three posts.

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