ABC News’ Bret Hovell has been reporting about Sen. John McCain’s remarks today on the goal of U.S. energy independence meaning never having to send U.S. troops to the Middle East again.
“I just want to promise you this, my friends,” McCain said in Denver, “I will have an energy policy, that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East. That will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”
Some interpreted the remarks to mean McCain was implying our troops are currently in the Middle East because of oil.
McCain later said he didn’t mean that. That he voted to go to war because he thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That he was referring to the first Gulf War, which was fought for several reasons, “but also we didn’t want them to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil.”
McCain hadn’t mentioned the first Gulf War at all, though, as Hovell points out. The back-and-forth on the topic continued throughout the day; McCain went on to say that oil is, of course, a factor when making national security decision. You should check out Bret’s report.
In January 2003, before the war in Iraq started, The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote, “Any war we launch in Iraq will certainly be — in part — about oil. To deny that is laughable. … There is nothing illegitimate or immoral about the U.S. being concerned that an evil, megalomaniacal dictator might acquire excessive influence over the natural resource that powers the world’s industrial base.”
There is remarkable sensitivity every time oil is raised as a reason for conflict. In the summer of 2003, a bad translation portrayed then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as implying the U.S. was in Iraq, and not in North Korea, because Iraq was “swimming in a sea of oil.” The actual comments were more complex.
Wolfowitz had been asked why the U.S. would attack Iraq, which had no nuclear weapons, as opposed to North Korea, which likely does.
“Look, the primary difference — to put it a little too simply — between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil,” Wolfowitz said. “In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that, I believe, is a major point of leverage, whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similaritiesm but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances, which are very different.”
More recently, Alan Greenspan wrote in his memoir that “the Iraq War is largely about oil.”