Monday, March 24, 2003

WE GET LETTERS: My old buddy and logorrheic mentor Harry Broertjes weighs in:

... Like you, I think war was the last resort, and I reluctantly concluded that the last resort had been reached. Enough dots accumulated over the years that, when connected, produced a low-rez but credible picture of what was likely to happen in the absence of disarming and deposing Saddam Hussein.

As Tony Blair put it last week, “What was shocking about 11 September was not just the slaughter of the innocent, but the knowledge that had the terrorists been able to, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000, and the more the suffering, the greater the terrorists’ rejoicing.” I don’t doubt that allowed the opportunity, Saddam would have given the terrorists that ability.

On the nose, Harry. It was never necessary that the Bush administration prove a direct, demonstrable link between Saddam and al Qaeda -- and it was a significant strategic error that his team kept trying to sell the American public on that tenous connection, providing, as it did, mostly grist for the opposition.

...The most frequently cited reason in opposition to the war, however, tells me that some of the marchers are either bubbleheads or people with other agendas. It’s the notion that this is a war about oil.

Let’s see now. If the United States wanted to grab someone’s oil, what would be the easiest way to go about it? Send a quarter-million troops halfway around the world, spend billions of dollars to unleash weapons of mass destruction on a country that presumably still has a few of its own, and piss off much of the rest of the world in the process? Or maybe just ship 10,000 or 15,000 troops into our own backyard and steal Venezuela’s oil fields, which produce more than either Iraq’s or Kuwait’s? Or, hell, why not just take Canada’s oil? (That’d teach ‘em to boo The Star-Spangled Banner at hockey games.)

Besides which, presumably until just a few weeks ago, the United States got eight percent of its oil imports from Iraq, or about four percent of its total consumption. We were already getting Iraq’s oil the old-fashioned way -- by paying for it -- and both the Iraqis and the Americans didn’t seem too put out by that particular bit of reality.

So when people carry signs or shout “No blood for oil,” my reaction is pretty much the same as it would be if they used the N-word in conversation, or started spouting biblical prophecy as the cornerstone of their worldview: I tune them out. No reasonable discussion is possible.

I can't come up with the link on short notice, but it was very likely a post on Asymmetrical Information which laid bare the economic idiocy of the "no blood for oil" meme. The Cliff Notes version is essentially this:

If it were truly "all about oil" -- if Bush really wanted to reward his oil-industry buddies and party donors -- then flooding the worldwide petroleum market with cheap Iraqi oil is the absolute last thing he'd want to do.

Oh, sure -- theoretically, Bush could try to throw a few new consulting gigs to Cheney's pals at Halliburton -- but that's awfully petty stuff in the scheme of things.

What the American oil industry really craves is short supply and high demand -- in other words, conditions which maintain stable high prices. And here's the conundrum: Once the Iraqi oil fields are producing at anything near full capacity again, the worldwide oil market will collapse. In fact, oil futures are already dropping precipitously, in anticipation of the inevitable.

(I'd love to hear one no-blood-for-oiler make a rational case that the chairman of ExxonMobil is looking forward to the next annual stockholders' meeting, when market conditions may not even be able to sustain a price of $20 per barrel by the end of April.)

Harry concludes:

Meanwhile, over on Earth-3, Jay Zilber’s poll went something like this:

A gigantic oil spill has inundated Crawford, Texas, bringing certain death to 1,000 people along with Bush, who is vacationing there. An anti-war protester wearing a “No blood for oil” button is the only person who can save them, by flipping a switch at the gushing wellhead. What should he do?

• Let them all drown in oil. A thousand lives is a small price to pay to get rid of Bush.

• Throw Bush a pretzel so he’ll choke to death before the oil gets him.

Yipe. You really gotta start your own blog, Harry. I wouldn't touch that one with a 300-foot oil derrick.


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