Friday, April 21, 2006

Oil and US Military Interests I

Note: This is the first of a series of short pieces on Pentagon and Peak Oil

For more than half a century the main concern of the US military has been to protect American interests. Until the breakdown of the Iron Curtain, Pentagon had three key objectives: to contain Soviet influence, to keep the Persian Gulf region stable, and to guarantee uninterrupted access to oil reserves.

Oil has always been a powerful weapon for shaping the US interests. An article by Elhefnawy in Spring 2006 issue of Parameters, the US Army War College Quarterly, makes this clear. He states that “Americans are prone to forget that the oil weapon was not an innovation of disgruntled Middle Eastern states, but of the United States itself, which used it with considerable effectiveness in the past—for example, in the embargo against Japan prior to America’s entry into World War II, and in the Suez crisis in 1956 against Britain and France.”

There are so many other events that can be added into the list. For example, overthrow of Iran's Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh by Anglo-American Intelligence services coincided with Mossadegh’s plans to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was replaced as Shah. Thereby Iran’s commitment to the free flow and marketing of Iranian oil become known to be a central pillar of the Nixon Doctrine.

As soon as US supported Shah of Iran was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini, Jimmy Carter made it clear at his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980 that American interests in Persian Gulf are non-negotiable: “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force,” he said.

Soon afterwards the Reagan administration began establishing military bases in the Persian Gulf. In his testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 30, 2006, Milton R. Copulos, President of National Defense Council Foundation, reminds us that “In 1983 the implicit promise to protect Persian Gulf oil supplies became an explicit element of U.S. military doctrine with the creation of the United States Central Command, CENTCOM.”

He added that “Without oil, our economy could not function, and therefore protecting our sources of oil is a legitimate defense mission, and the current military operation in Iraq is part of that mission.”

Actually this mission of Pentagon is defined nowhere clearer than in the Military Posture Statements, issued by the committee of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The following four quotes are from a paper by Mark A. Delucchi and James Murphy

Of these interests [oil security, regional stability and Soviet containment] “continued access to oil on reasonable political and economic terms is the most important to US and allied security” (Joint Chiefs of Staff, FY1982, p. 12).

“US interests in the Middle East and Southwest Asia focus largely, but not exclusively, on the region’s oil reserves” (Joint Chiefs of Staff, FY1983, p. 6).

“The United States is determined to preclude disruption or hostile control of the vital resources and to limit the spread of Soviet influence in the area. Other US interests, important in their own right but bearing heavily on the security of energy resources, include peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and increased stability throughout the region” (Joint Chiefs of Staff, FY1983, p. 6).

“The security of the Middle East and Southwest Asia is critical to the economic health of the free world and, consequently, to the security of the United States. Regional stability, Free World access to oil resources, and the limitation of Soviet influence remain important US objectives.” (Joint Chiefs of Staff, FY1988, p. 16; Joint Chiefs of Staff, FY1989, p. 21).

Between 1989 and 1993 Richard (Dick) Cheney was Secretary of Defense. Cheney regarded Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as a grave threat to US interests. He was so much into that subject that when hostilities began in January 1991, Cheney turned most other DoD matters over to Deputy Secretary Atwood. (see his bio). 10 years later he continued his unfinished job, this time as Vise President.

In the mean time, promised but hadn’t actually arrived communism broke apart in China in 1989 and in USSR in 1991, adding one billion people into consumerism. Even CIA couldn’t see that coming. So, suddenly three concerns of Pentagon were reduced to two and oil beame even more important. No surprise that Pentagon's February 18, 1992 draft of the Defense Planning Guidance for the Fiscal Years 1994-1999, was not far off reflecting this aspect.

“Various types of U.S. interests may be involved in such instances: access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil…..In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil“, was saying the report. (see, New York Times, March 8, 1992)

Since the breakdown of USSR, the neo-conservatives were calling for a military build-up to assure American global dominance in 1992. That year Paul Wolfowitz prepared (for then Defence Secretary Dick Cheney) a Defence Planning Guidance document. In that report there is a remarkable sentence “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil.” This means oil has a special place in hegonomy and empire building.

American hegomony through militarisation is also implicit in the Project for a New American Century, backed by leading neo-conservatives (including Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Woolsey and others) in June 1997. (for more on PNAC, see Sarah Meyer’s PNAC I and PNAC II reports). The National Energy Policy Development Group’s Energy Policy of 2001 is also not far from that. I will come back to that later.

In Strategic Assessment 1995, prepared by the Institute for National Strategic Studies (part of the US Department of Defence's National Defence University), it was pointed out that energy and resource issues will continue to shape international security. It also forecasts that if an oil problem arises, "US forces might be used to ensure adequate supplies.”

The report says that “The U.S. wants to ensure that Persian Gulf oil flows without supply disruptions that could inflict considerable cost on the U.S. economy. The U.S. also wants the price of oil to be relatively stable at a level that does not throw the world into recession. Finally, the U.S. seeks to prevent any restraints on free shipping of oil along the sea Lines of communication to the U.S. or its allies. For example, ensuring a reliable flow of oil from the Persian Gulf enjoys a broad consensus in the U.S. as an interest that must be defended with military force if necessary.”

In 334 pages long Strategic Assessment 1999, it was mentioned that national security depends also on successful engagement in the global economy. Therefore national defence no longer means protecting the nation from military threats alone, but economic challenges, too.

The report also has excellent predictions such as “Such rogues as Iraq and Iran are gaining strength as the U.S. strategy of dual containment becomes harder to carry out….If Iraq or Iran acquires WMD systems, they will threaten not only each other, but the entire Persian Gulf and Middle East…..U.S. policies will need to focus on protecting access to Persian Gulf oil, dampening WMD proliferation, …. U.S. forces may intervene in future crises and wars in the Persian Gulf. Energy dynamics will dictate that U.S. forces play a major role in Persian Gulf security….At present, the United States is principally responsible for defending the Persian Gulf and Western access to oil; other industrial democracies have as much interest as America in the free flow of reasonably priced oil.”

Note that in all publicly available Strategic Assessments (1995-1999), Persian Gulf in general, and Iran and Iraq, in particular were identified as the biggest threat to security of future oil supplies.

NEXT: 21st century

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