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17 December 2015

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The Virginian

For those who think Iraq was about getting Western companies oil contracts, it might be useful to note that - if that was the aim - it totally failed. Of the different contracts let, only one went to a US company (ExxonMobil - who has since sold down its stake to the Chinese) and one UK company (BP). The dominant players in the Iraq oil space, at least in terms of number of contracts, are the Chinese and Russians. On the services side Halliburton, Schlumberger and others are there, but Great Wall and others are getting just as much if not more business, particularly of late.

William R. Cumming

A brilliant post IMO with many significant insights. What I find of interest now for the 2016 Presidential election is the litmus test of pro regime change FP or not but I have not been able to find much of any formal historical work since 1792 in US academics or others on actual FP driven by regime change and when or if that has ever been driven by economic determinism. The first solid use of economics in historical analysis was by CHARLES BEARD at the beginning of the last century.

But using regime change as a lens IMO economics may be a factor but perhaps a misleading one in the study or adoption of US FP!

Thanks for the post!

PEACE ON EARTH!

Barish

Enlightening. I already held the opinion that the mind-set that the US had "won" and heralded an "end of history" ever since the USSR dissolved is one key component of the dreary state we find ourselves in today, but to read a concise analysis combining the raw incoherence borne in part by this hubris into a coherent picture is greatly appreciated.

Another thing: speaking of what made up the casus belli in 2003, I recently had a chat on the street where someone claimed that, supposedly, Hussein was to receive a significant delivery of tanks from Russia at that time. Is this just post factum gossip to try and steer away from the actual motivation, which was the WMD-fabrication of (thank you Mr Julian Lewis!) "dodgy dossier"-fame in the UK and Powell's clown-show for the US, or is there any substance to this?

confusedponderer

Barish,
" I already held the opinion that the mind-set that the US had "won" and heralded an "end of history" ever since the USSR dissolved is one key component of the dreary state we find ourselves in today"

I am inclined to agree with that. Fukuyama's neo-conservative 'The End of History' here pretty much rhymes for effect with Friedman's triumphant neo-liberal hymn "The Earth is Flat".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Is_Flat

As for the end of the cold war - the brave Stephen Cohen does the public an invaluable service by explaining to everyone willing to listen - if one believes the youtube videos of him speaking, mostly elderly Americans - that the notion that the US won the "cold war" is nonsense (and not how the Russians remember ending it) again and again and again if given a chance. His weekly (iirc every Tuesday) interviews on the John Batchelor show are excellent.

Jack Matlock, last US ambassador to Moscow before the end of the Cold War sais much the same as Cohen. Alas, the two aren't getting any younger and the way it seems there are few folks in the mainstream bothering to consult them.

As for the tank story, I am disinclined to believe it, given that Iraq was pretty much broke.

JJackson

CP thanks for the thoughts.
I think this overlaps with another SST meme re the 'bubbles'. I would be inclined to argue that policy is formed based on the individual policy makers world view which is in turn dependent on who and where they are. Reality as perceived from within the Beltway bubble is skewed and is itself a subset of the US MSM bubble world. I live in the UK and our bubble has a very large intersection with the US media bubble. Where the money comes in is via K Street and the PR, think-tank and lobbying mechanism which is now in such an incestuous relationship with government it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. This cabal's role is to morph objective reality into a more palatable form of 'Goodthink'. Someone posted a link recently to a new, post SU-24 shoot-down, Kissinger (whose role in policy I have never liked) interview in which I was very impressed with his strategic and analytical analysis and yet when it came to his policy suggestions, based on this understanding, they were straight Borg and I could not see any logic in his solution and conclusions based on the same data. I assumed this was due to the difference in our reality filters. SST readers seem to be a rather odd subset of individuals who have gone the extra mile to try and search out data and analysis beyond the ‘ready meals’ prepared, packaged and shipped for public consumption. Hence we have our own bubble and the dangers of groupthink however this self-selecting group are here because they are sceptical about what they are being told. Trying to make them conform would, I suspect, be like herding cats.

Nancy K

Why did we go to war? I joke with my husband that it was oi, oil and Israel, yet your article seems to imply that neither were the case. I have always enjoyed reading your posts on SST and it is my desire to not just believe everything I hear on 24/7 news on cable. In fact we canceled our cable because we were so disgusted with the media garbage.

LeaNder

I would like to have a grasp of both the person and his information channels. Not least since we are not facing WMD's with tanks here. No doubt they have destructive capacities, but it seems one of their core raison d'être is saving fighting troops. In other words I am interested in variations of a core theme: we were right, anyway. ;)

"recently had a chat on the street where someone claimed that"

not least since I watched more crazy supporters of all types of stories that WMD's had really existed, but then e.g. shipped to wherever destination or their discovery had been suppressed by evil forces. A combination of the Bush admin and media I guess.

LeaNder

I missed the Kissinger link. Any chance you recall where you stumbled across it?

LeaNder

Nancy, quite early in the times a journalist on The Weekly Standard proudly wrote: "'we' are turning up the heat", someone told me what seemed to be a rather rational position, economy just like the oil economy doesn't like chaos. Made a lot of sense.

Does anyone really think they are fond of war? Somewhat cooperating. Why should they? How could they possibly prepare the resource takeover after war? Even if we assume, they didn't simply fail, but simply made blundered?

Never mind Wolfi's stupid statements when the cost for the Iraq war exploded: Iraq could after all pay war costs with oil.

confusedponderer

Nancy K,
"it was oi, oil and Israel, yet your article seems to imply that neither were the case"

No, the point is rather, while all of that was a factor there was much else, and much of it more important.

Iraq has had oil since Bush the Elder defeated Iraq, and yet ... nothing happened.

That only changed after 9/11. As you probably recall, 9/11 wasn't about oil and it wasn't about Israel either.

If you want to know what ideas spooked neocon minds, read Ledeen's book "The War Against the Terror Masters" or Mylroie's "A Study Of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America" or Perle and Frum's "An End to Evil".

When the neocons accused Saddam of being in cahoots with Al Qaeda they believed it and went on instinct to prove it. One result of these beliefs and efforts was Cheney's infamous stovepipe.

Actually, Cheney was abosulely candid about what the US were up to in Iraq, just take this from his VFW speech:

"Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace. As for the reaction of the Arab "street," the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are "sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans." Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

The reality is that these times bring not only dangers but also opportunities. In the Middle East, where so many have known only poverty and oppression, terror and tyranny, we look to the day when people can live in freedom and dignity and the young can grow up free of the conditions that breed despair, hatred, and violence."

Accept that they really believed that. It probably was the most honest part in his speech.

Undoing Iraq to change the Middle East and bring the dawn new, better future has been called, more pointedly, 'draining the fever swamp' by others. The Iraq project couldn't have been much grander in its scope and ambition - and conceit.

The Obamaites in essence where (probably still are) struck by the same disease, hold the same belief in western style liberal democracy being a natural end state, and expected that the Arab Spring would, after all, without measures as crude as those used by Bush and Cheney, spread Freedom™ in the region.

Nope. It didn't.

Christoph Stein

Thank you for this article.
I think You are right. As we know from heterodox economics, the neoliberal >marketUtopia>. The same is true for >Demokratic PeaceLiberal Democracies>, there will be >never-ending peacenever-ending peaceDemokratic Peace< is a kind of Chiliasm, as neoliberalism. Together they are maybee the greatest Utopia we ever had in history. It is an eternal salvation, in secul clothes. I think this is the connection betwen Neoliberalism, Neocon and Christianity.
As we know from the great historin Norman Cohn, chiliastik movements never have a good outcomen. I know, these are bad news, but we have to face them.

bth

Confused Ponderer

The layer cake analogy is perhaps most appropriate where economics are but one layer among many. But I wouldn't be so dismissive of economics as I've found that when economics favor individual and group actions, they tend to persist in an endeavor and when not, tend to pursue other opportunities. This tendency is perhaps best observed in ones enemies over time.

As to peak oil, I was around when this stuff was being first developed in the academic world and frankly it applies well to individual oil fields. But like most economic theories, what might work well at a microeconomic level doesn't necessarily hold at a macro-level. What works for one field has difficulty extending to political risk, to technology's evolution and to new field discoveries.

As to Cheney, perhaps he was motivated by many things, but among them was the devastated stock value of Halliburton stock he had huge positions in after near financial bankruptcy from asbestos suits and weak oil field economics at the beginning of the war. And people have short memories, but having poked around the LBJ school once upon a time in the 70s and 80s I know that KBR were Kellogg and also Brown and Root and those firms bankrolled LBJ from the 40s onward and were amply rewarded by him with massive public works projects like the water authority projects in Texas, like nuke plant construction, like NASA and most particularly with gross profiteering both companies rolled in during the Vietnam war. This I am sure was not lost on Cheney when he called his business contacts into the White House around 2001-3. I recall Cheney's stock risking over 10 fold over this period. And like in the LBJ era, money flowed into politics to back Bush II.

Now the poster named Wyoming makes some good points, but I would say there is a difference between Contribution Value, essentially Revenues less variable costs, and real earnings that cover capital costs and other fixed costs. And where we are at now, Venezuela, Iran and Russia are unable to sustain capital investments but are able to cover variable costs to a greater or lesser degree (and yes Saudi production costs were that low and were for decades). So unless things change, the Canadian, mountain states in the US and most fracking is going to go bust if prices are sustained. Also Iran will have to attract enormous foreign capital now because it can't internally fund. The same for Iraq. This makes more internationally friendly policies from Iran inevitable in my opinion.

My observation about oil economics over the decades is that it fails to account for political risk - both domestic and international. This is because political risk is hard to predict and must more volatile than people want to consider. If political instability were to befall Saudi Arabia tomorrow, one could easily see prices doubling at the blink of an eye.

Another thing that is different now is that renewables like wind and solar seem to have attained a critical mass in production that they didnt' have in the 80s or 90s. This means that manufacturing economics, production curves and so on are going to continue to put downward pressure on oil and gas. And the politics of pollution have permanently ended coal in the US and Europe and if it leads to pollution induced social unrest in China or India leaders in those countries will respond to avoid political risk to the Communist party in the case of China and to economic frustrations building in India against reasonable expectations.

One of the reasons economics factored so prominently in the cake layers early in the 20th century was because there were a series of wars in central America driven by the United Fruit Company and later by rubber and later still by oil which meant navies for the UK, Japan, France and the US.

Last and I apologize for the long post, you can denote a different policy from ISIS than from other Sunni extremists. IS plans around economic realities because I think its hidden brains are probably former Baathists and looking at the long haul. I would contrast that with the fodder they send as human car bombs and with al Qaida. IS goes for oil and gas fields, dams that control water and electricity, for refineries, grain silos, wheat fields and natural gas pipelines routes. They then use these resources to negotiate or trade with Kurds in Iraq over oil, Turkey over oil and trucking, the Iraq government over water, with other Sunni warring factions in Syria over diesel, with Assad over natural gas for electrical power plants just to name a few. And I would note ISIS is moving on oil fields in Libya as we speak as a back up plan. IS goes for a lot of things but one thing is certain, their leadership as distinct from other true believers seems to go for the money as a factor in their plans. So why aren't they destabilizing Saudi Arabia and Qater? One wonders when the lion eats the lion tamer who thinks he is in control.

Babak Makkinejad

CP:

I think the belief that West (the 4 Western Diocletian States and their North American Offshoots) are the pinnacle of civilization is an accurate statement.

It is also clear that the civilizational achievement of Western Diocletian states cannot be extended easily or readily much beyond its historical boundaries - not in Eastern Europe, not in the Far East, not in the Middle East and certainly not in all of Africa.

Just about the only country that Western Diocletia states have succeeded in extending their civilization quite successfully has been Spain - Romania, Bulgaria, Southern Slavs and others are not Western.

This is a failure of a development paradigm and a programme over at least 160 years.

This failure is what Westerners do not seem to be willing to accept or even acknowledges; that their civilization and culture, however attractive in very many aspects, cannot be extended, adopted, or transplanted in its totality or in parts anywhere outside of the Western Europe.

Just as per old Persian saying that the best bread is from Yazd, the best women are from Georgia and the best wine is from Shiraz; the best democracy is in UK, the best engineering in Germany, the best art in Italy, and the best philosophy in France.

That is, may be the Anglo-Saxon races are best equipped to uphold the Rule of Law, and the Italians and French are best equipped to operate the machinery of representative government.

There are about 15 thinkers - Plato, Thucydides, Vergil, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Vico, Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Smith, Ricardo - whose ideas dominate the construction of durable political orders all over the world.

To say that such ideas as their could be applied, un-modified and in-digested - to the diversity of a planet inhabited by 7 billion people is folly.

And this foolishness dominates both the thinking of Western Diocletian states as well as the thinking of all those people in lesser civilizations that wish and aspire to live - someday - in a country that resembles France.

Either way, none of these people are willing to admit failure.

confusedponderer

bth,
Interesting. On a whim:

ISIS wants to form a new state and you cannot have a state without respources, people and an economy to sustain it. That is why ISIS appears as such an aberration in contrast to the US. Here economy is indeed essential, but it is also a means to an end to ISIS.

The US already has respources, people and an economy to sustain it. That enables the US, because of incomparably greater wealth, to fight non-essential luxury wars of choice. Put more pointedly, the US can afford fighting wars and interventions in pursuit of ultimately moralistic goals as an end in itself.

Mark Gaughan

CP,
I used to think that we invaded Iraq because of the oil. But you, pl, and others have convinced me that I was wrong. Thank you all.

Babak Makkinejad

You are not taking the metaphor "'we' are turning up the heat" to its logical conclusions; "We are cooking human beings; inflicting pain and distress and injury on them."

So much for the inheritors of Enlightenment Tradition - not different at all than Joseph Stalin.

Ghost ship

"9/11 wasn't about oil and it wasn't about Israel either"
I think I'd tend to disagree with you there, according to OBL, it was one of the primary issues:
"(Q1) Why are we fighting and opposing you?"
As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing
you? The answer is very simple:
(1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.
a) You attacked us in Palestine:"
OBL's 'letter to America'
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver

Babak Makkinejad

"Draining the Swamp" - recalling the words of this NKVD colonel during the purges in USSR:

"Stalin is dealing with the dirt and garbage of human progress."

Christoph Stein

Thank you for this article.
I think You are right. As we know from heterodox economics, the neoliberal >marketUtopia>. The same is true for >Demokratic PeaceLiberal Democracies>, there will be >never-ending peacenever-ending peaceDemokratic Peace< is a kind of Chiliasm, as neoliberalism. Together they are maybee the greatest Utopia we ever had in history. It is an eternal salvation, in secul clothes. I think this is the connection betwen Neoliberalism, Neocon and Christianity.
As we know from the great historin Norman Cohn, chiliastik movements never have a good outcomen. I know, these are bad news, but we have to face them.

JJackson

I have found it for you, the HatTip should go to Origin as he linked to in a comment on one of his own post in November.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VMmnWuCneg&feature=player_embedded

I am always trying to find old half-remembered posts but SST has a problem I have yet to solve.
I used
[kissinger OR youtube site:http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015]
The problem here is that the comments sections can get so long that you sometimes need to click 'Show more comments' to access all of them - Google omits this step and so some things get missed.

Nancy K

Nope you are right, it didn't. Thank you for your reply and references to books.

tim s

cp, I think that 9/11 is still too much of an open issue with too many unknowns to know what it was or wasn't about.

As far as what spooked the Neocon minds, the books referenced and the authors don't stand in high regard for great writing and factuality. They may be more for propoganda purposes more than anything else. I mean, are Judith Miller (cowriter with Mylroie) or Perle more like true writers or are they politicals? Are the books to explain or to lure?

Same with Cheney. I can't swallow the idea that a speach by him to the public is supposed to be a window to his soul showing him largely concerned about the poor suffering people of the ME. He was a corporate CEO and a politician - these people can't be taken at their public word.

Is the ME about oil & money exclusively? No - I'll agree with you. On the level that these people operate, it IS all about power. They want as much control over this region as possible. With control, they get the oil and the money. There is no separating out power from money and oil, however.

confusedponderer

I read that, see your point and think you get me wrong.

Yes, Osama said all that, but at the end it was still all about the 19 being a shahid.

Certainly, when someone has a problem with you, you have a problem with him. But that doesn't mean you have to accept his premise for conflict.

It is clear that the US didn't accept Al Qaeda's premise. It played little role in the US reaction to 9/11.

The US retain their bases in Saudi Arabia as we speak, in fact invaded Iraq out of Saudi Arabia in 2003. US support for Israel continues unabated if it hasn't increased, despite Bibi being his insufferable self.

In fact, in their attempt to remake Iraq and the Greater Middle East the Bush administration aimed on tackling Al Qaeda on a different level - by 'changing the game', or 'draining the swamp', since "extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad" and "moderates throughout the region would take heart".

I.e. the US wanted to change conditions in the Greater Middle East so terrorists wouldn't have appeal anymore, by Freedomising autocratic regimes, if necessary by force. They would then be replaced by friendly, democratic governments, which are inherently peaceful, and in one fell swoop Israel's problems with her hostile neighbours would be solved, too.

Heureka!

confusedponderer

tim s,
of course these books are propaganda. That is the very point.

It was iirc Wolfowitz who immediately after the 9/11 attacks insisted that the highjackers must have had state sponsorship, and he immediately suspected Saddam. The necocons believed.

Throw in Cheney's 1% doctrine and you have a situation in which the Bushmen were grimly determined to prevent another 9/11. Not all of them may have believed it as firmly, but it was plausible enough to expend all that effort to sift through the raw intel to find whatever information confirming their prexisting biases.

The stovepipe makes considerably more sense with belief than without. The use of torture also betrays the sense of urgency and emergency they must have felt.

In that light, one may modify 'belief' to a sense that Cheney and his people thought it too risky not to assume the worst, and to start from there, and that 'worst' included the consiparcy theories peddled by Ledeen, Mylroie, Perle and Frum.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/10/27/the-stovepipe

Peter J A Wright,

Question. Where do Brzezinski et al - who do not seem to be that interested in R2P - fit in to the above analysis?

The Russians are forever looking at the 'Geopolitical Strategy' of this American political faction, a faction that is usually described as 'neocon'. They are seemingly convinced that that strategy, the strategy of ensuring American predominance by weakening or even dismembering potential competitors, is the primary neocon strategy and the main threat the RF faces.

Do the Russians have the right of it? Is this in truth the neocon strategy?

Peter J A Wright

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