Iraq really IS about oil
has blogged a piece which summarises his conclusions about US motivations for wanting to invade Iraq. John's views are:
"To a man who has only a hammer, everything looks like a nail". For the last decade, Americans have been told that their armed forces are more powerful than the rest of the world put together, that they are the only superpower and so on. Although S11 shook this faith in some ways, the aftermath reinforced it in others. ...
But the fragments of Al Qaeda have learned the lesson of Afghanistan. They are hiding in cities around the world and behind the skirts of people like Abu Bakar Bashir, who defy the authorities to produce the evidence of their guilt. Carrier battle groups and predator drones are of no use against this kind of enemy. So attention is focused on Saddam Hussein who is at least a plausible nail to be hit with the hammer of US military superiority. ..."
There may be an element of truth in John's hypothesis, just as a contributor to his comment box may be partly right when he suggests that the Iraq invasion plan is an example of the precautionary principle: "For years, imagining "worst case" scenarios was just that - imagination. After Sept. 11, the US realized that dreams aren't the only thing that can come true, nightmares can come true too. ... Unfortunately for Saddam, he is the next big target among those who analyze "worst case" scenarios."
However, I think there is a much more compelling argument for taking effective steps to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Here is my contribution to the debate on John's blog:
But here is an alternative proposition. It really IS about oil, but not in the purely economic dominance sense the Left typically implies.
First, although the Bush government has made occasional efforts to assert a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, they haven't done so seriously, presumably because there is no evidence for it. But, the enthusiasm of some Administration figures to make the link is understandable, and does not of itself prove that they are merely looking for any excuse to attack Iraq because they have a "hammer" and want to use it, as you put it.
It isn't all that likely that Saddam would arm terrorists with nuclear or other WOMD, but the possibility can't be ruled out. However, Saddam DOES pose a real and serious threat to his own people, to regional stability (including the possibility of again invading a weaker Arab neighbour), and to Israel.
However, none of these factors, separately or together, appears adequate to explain the extent of US enthusiasm for invading Iraq. Nor does Dubbya's "he tried to kill my dad" excuse.
BUT, here is the possible link with the war against terrorism. Almost all the recent expansion of Muslim fundamentalist extremism emanates from "madrassa" (if that's the correct spelling) created, funded, sponsored and directed by prominent, wealthy Saudi Arabians. That was certainly true of the expansion of extremism into Afghanistan and Pakistan, and several African countries. I suspect it's also true of the rise of extremism in Indonesia (Jemaah Islamiah etc).
At present, access to Saudi oil remains sufficiently important to America and the West that Bush can't afford to move too aggressively against the Saudis, despite their obvious sponsorship of terrorism. However, Iraq has oil reserves not much smaller than Saudi Arabia. If Iraq were liberated and governed by a western-friendly (and hopefully democratic) government, so that availability of its oil on ordinary commercial terms was assured, America's hands would be freed to insist much more aggressively that the Saudi Arabian government take effective measures against its own citizens who are the REAL sponsors of most international terrorism. That insistence would, implicitly, be backed by the threat of US force if effective action was not taken. Given the probable role of Al Qaeda and Saudi money in the Bali bombings, such a US strategy might reasonably be argued to be very much in Australia's national interest as well.
On this theory, the reason why the US has not spelled out its real
intentions more clearly is that they can't afford to admit that Saudi Arabia is their real ultimate target until they have secured Iraq as a reliable alternative source of oil supplies. Thus, they have no choice but to dissemble and trot out whatever vaguely convincing rationales that may be available. That may be why the Bush administration's explanations for its enthusiasm for regime change sound so partial and unconvincing to many people. For me, the combination of this scenario, and the fact that regime change would rid the world of a dangerous tyrant who clearly aspires to nuclear weapons capacity, provides abundant justification for military action, as long as the objective can be achieved without massive Iraqi civilian loss of life. In the real world, pacifist solutions aren't always the best option, as September 11 graphically demonstrated.
In essence this is the Ralph Peters
position stripped of the macho rhetoric which is apparently compulsory for American right wing columnists and their Australian wannabe counterparts. Don Arthur
also has a good analytical piece on all this. Don makes the valid point that most op-ed columnists of all ideological hues are positing explanations for Bali with totally inadequate supporting data, and are really doing little more than using Bali as a pretxt for recycling their personal prejudicies.
However, although Don is right, I don't agree that we should all eschew speculative efforts to make sense of Bali until all the facts are available. Democratic civic dialogue in the media and the blogosphere are important parts of the process of eventually reaching a viable shared understanding of the significance of catastrophic events, and a viable plan on how to respond. Stupid and prejudiced statements are bound to be made along the way, but that's a necessary part of the process. Talking through a catastrophe that has deeply affected all of us is also an important aspect of the grieving and healing process. It can't and shouldn't be postponed merely because some people fear that dangerous and ill-considered decisions might be made in the heat of the moment. I don't think that happened in the US in the wake of September 11, and I see no sign of it happening in Australia either. In any event, exhorting bloggers or op-ed pundits not to talk about Bali has a rather Canute-like flavour IMHO.