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April 3, 2003

Many Europeans have voiced their opinions that Bush is going to war in Iraq for the oil there. I've always ignored that as a naive argument, but more and more, I hear coworkers and friends who voice the same opinion, much to my surprise. Yesterday, several of us from work were out to lunch, and one of those with us started talking about the oil motives and I finally stopped him, gave my rationale for why it's not about oil, and I must say that I was quite satisfied when I saw the others nodding in approval.Here's my rationale. Bush has asked for some $80 billion to fight the war. That may cover part of the reconstruction, but most likely, another $100 to $300 billion will be needed over the next several years until Iraq is relatively stable. William Nordhaus, a Yale economist, has estimated that the total cost of the war could range anyware from $100 billion to $1.9 trillion over the next decade. There's also the cost to America (and the rest of the world) from high oil prices while the war is being fought, as well as a myriad of other economic impacts on a macro scale. We may get a little money from Britain and possibly some others, but hands down, the U.S. is footing most of the bill. Yes, Iraq has a bunch of oil, but the wells are in such bad shape, that they're producing a small fraction of what's possible, with a need of many more billions of dollars to achieve max output over the next 10-20 years. That, my friends, is a whole lotta money this war is costing us. Sure, during the reconstruction, some of Iraq's oil (probably most of what can be produced), will go to offset these costs, but they won't come anywhere near to covering a majority of the cost. A friend of mine who has a background in economics told me (I don't know his source, so I don't know the credibility), that even if the U.S. took control of Iraq from now to infinity, there wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of the war (and reconstruction). I don't have figures to confirm or dispute that, but it doesn't matter because the U.S. won't have control of Iraqi oil forever. My guess is we'd be able to use it for a few years, possibly as many as ten, but it's just not reasonable to assume that the U.S. plans on taking the oil forever. Thus, there's no way oil is going to pay for the war, not to mention provide a profit large enough to justify going to war. The only advantage I can see that's related to oil is that it might loosen up OPEC and make oil cheaper for everyone.

Posted by charr at 8:49 AM
Reader Comments

The economic points sound valid to me. Frankly, I never understood people saying we shouldn't be there because of oil. Even if oil was our ONLY motivation, destroying the utterly wicked regime of Saddam would be a GIANT gift to Iraq, let alone the world.

Posted by Renee at April 3, 2003 11:03 AM

I agree; I think there are many valid reasons for going to war. Saddam is a threat to international security and to his own, terrorized people.

Posted by Cameron at April 3, 2003 2:41 PM

The 'war for oil' claims have always bothered me. I refuse to believe that Bush and his advisors are as morally bankrupt and totally inept as they're portrayed to be by the people who make such claims.I do think that Bush ought to have made up his mind beforehand and clearly presented the real reasons that we should go to war, though. It seems we've got from him a muddled mess of confusing and sometimes contradictory reasons over the past few months, and I think that's a big part of why the action is disliked so much.I personally didn't think the intentions and goals were clear enough for us to justify a conflict of this sort. I'm neither a peacenik nor pacifist, but I think war is a serious thing that should require serious justification, not vaguely worded resolutions and poorly substantiated accusations. I think the goal of the war is something to be strived for, though, and so now that we've set the plan in motion and effectively negated any other possible ways of reaching it, I'm all for it. Perhaps it was the only way all along, but I would be a lot more comfortable about it if that case had been made a bit more plainly by the administration.

Posted by Levi at April 3, 2003 11:53 PM

It seems that you're not the only one who has consented to supporting the war. War Support Solid, Optimism Grows

Posted by dan at April 4, 2003 8:06 AM

Levi, I agree with you that Bush's goals have not been clear. He's changed reasons and goals (from Saddam coming clean to complete regime change). I think this is disappointing because I feel there are valid reasons that can morally justify the war, yet Bush has failed to hold strong to them. Rather, he's has repeatedly tried pushing the Al Queda link which is probably the weakest of any reason.

Posted by Cameron at April 4, 2003 8:34 AM

While I find the war morally justifiable, that's a slippery slope for a politician to stand on. After all, if that's a good reason in Iraq, what about in other countries? China has a miserable human rights record and we give them "Most favored nation" status.

Posted by Renee at April 4, 2003 2:23 PM

I agree. I didn't mention that because there's a lot to say regarding this topic. I don't think you can just go to war because you think it's moral; rather you need some real reasons as well (which in a way say the war is moral). In Iraq, I believe there are enough reasons to justify attacking Saddam.

Posted by Cameron at April 4, 2003 5:00 PM

There are many reasons that all together can justify war. Oil is part of that fairly long list, but it couldn't be the main reason. If we wanted the oil so bad, we could have just dropped sanctions. It would have had the same effect, and would actually be easier to make money from because a dictator is usually easier to make buisness deals with than a democratic society.

Posted by Nephi at April 12, 2003 12:47 PM

You are right, the American public is footing the bill, and we won't ever recoup all the money we spend there. But you are forgetting the fact that while we foot the bill and the soldiers die, oil companies themeselves are profiting, both from the increase in price for oil, and the huge Iraqi oil supply that is now being plundered. Bush is lining his buddies in the oil industry's pockets while robbing the American people blind. Don't forget Bush's ties to big Oil. That's how his family made their fortune. This faith in our politicians only wanting the best for america is simply untrue.

Posted by Brian at September 26, 2003 2:50 PM

You are right that the oil companies are profiting from the reconstruction, and most of those guys are friends of Bush. I believe Haliburton (who Cheney is tied to) got the largest contracts.However, before you bash the administration, you must look at the obvious necessity of huge investments in the Iraqi oil industry to get it running again. That's a necessary evil and somebody has got to do it, Americans, or someone else. What makes the problem worse is that Iraqis themselves are sabotaging the pipelines, meaning for labor and more money for the oil contractors while reducing the amount of suppliable oil.

Posted by Cameron at September 26, 2003 3:03 PM

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