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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 22nd, 2005
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This is a MUST READ for anyone interested in the effect dependence on oil has on geo-politics, and how we managed to maneuver ourselves into an indefensible corner. He keeps lamenting how our self centered attitude has caused misery in all those places that were coursed with having oil, or being traversed by pipelines. There is no give away here if I will mention that the title of the last chapter is: “Escaping the Dilemma: Strategy for Energy Autonomy and Integrity”.

By integrity Klare means: “a state of affairs in which we make decisions on energy policy in accordance with fundamental American values and with a view to the nation’s long-term interests”. He advocates – “a ‘paradigm shift’ – a complete rethinking of our basic outlook on this critical issue.” In this he is encouraged by the placards he saw, carried by a coalition of Christian and Jewish leaders, that say “What Would Jesus Drive?” He puts forward proposals to this effect.

Klare has plenty to say about the present Administration in Washington, not mincing words when he describes individual backgrounds, but the real value of this book is in the elucidation of the history of US involvement in the global oil trade. He makes it clear that the problem was endemic to all Administrations going back to Roosevelt. This is the area I would like to point out in this book review. This is something the press usually forgets to consider these days.

As WWII proceeded, and it was basically being fought with oil of American provenance, by 1941-43, a consensus was formed in Washington that in the future the US should conserve its domestic reserves and use more oil from foreign sources. On February 16, 1943, Roosevelt declared that “the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to defense of the United States” (the Roosevelt Doctrine). In June 1943, Under Secretary William C. Bullitt informed President Roosevelt that by imposing direct US government controls on Saudi Arabian concessions the estimated oil reserves of the US would be approximately doubled. In 1944, Commodore Andrew F. Carter of the Army-Navy Petroleum Board informed Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox “that known petroleum reserves within the continental limits of the US are inadequate to meet over a period of years either the wartime needs of the US or the needs of the civilian economy once normal conditions are established.” On February 14, 1945, on his way back from the Yalta meeting with Stalin and Churchill, President Roosevelt on board of USS Quincy met in Egypt with King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud who never before traveled outside his kingdom,arrived with an entourage of “Bedouin bodyguards, household slaves and the royal astrologer.” It is commonly accepted that the two leaders forged right there the agreement that obliges the US to protect Saudi sovereignty in return for a Saudi pledge to uphold American firm’s dominance of the oil fields. Further, as per the Iranian – Soviet crisis of 1945-46, it seems that at Yalta the US President was more interested in blocking the Soviet advance towards the source of oil then in the fate of the European states. In effect, the Russian backed down from that incursion into Iran when agreements at Yalta were invoked by the US. This event is mentioned as the first salvo of the cold war but the day may yet come that documents will show that Poland and Eastern Europe lost out because the Middle East oil was of higher future value to the US President. (- PJ)

Klare, having started with Roosevelt, mentions how Truman and Eisenhower and Nixon followed up with their own doctrines for the protection of the Saudi oil sources. Then in 1963 President Kennedy ordered US planes to the region in order to convince Gamal Abdul Nasser and his Yemeni allies to forget targeting the Saudis. Eventually, Klare shows how another Democrat, President Carter, and his Carter Doctrine for the Middle East , being faced in 1979 with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the Iranian Islamic revolution, declared the US ready to use any means necessary to keep the oil flowing. He established the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF) at MacDill Air Force Base and gave it responsibility for combat in the Gulf. January 1, 1983, President Reagan elevated RDJTF to become the Central Command encompassing the region between Europe and Asia the “central region”. Today, Tampa based, CENTCOM is in charge of the region stretching from Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia in Africa, to the new free states of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan – call it the Middle East Oil patch.

Bush Senior implemented the Carter Doctrine, and then another Democrat, President Clinton, extended the Carter Doctrine to the Caspian Sea basin and to the protection of pipelines built to move that oil to markets. New areas of conflict came thus into this oil network – Chechnya, Abkhazia, Adzharia, Nagorno-Karabakh… Looking south to Latin America and also to Africa does not provide us any respite either. All possible non – Middle East suppliers of oil: Angola, Azerbaijian, Colombia, Nigeria, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Venezuela, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome e Principe, Sudan are engulfed in internal strife. Oil is a questionable blessing to these countries. Will the present Administration just go from war to war? The new geo-politics include the US-China-Russia triangle. How will this play out?

As said, my intention was here only to point out from the extensive material in Klare’s book, that Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton had in major part implemented a policy set by the military-industry cabal, without having had a background in the oil industry, just as much, if not even more, then the obvious target – the present inhabitants of the White House. There surely must be better ways to work for the future of the US and the world at large.

Please read Klare’s book.

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