The Costs of the Iraq War

Steve Mufson of The Washington Post has written about the effect of the Iraq war on the world oil market.  But even those who believed that the United States invaded Iraq to create a secure source for oil for America could not have imagined how the past five years would have turned out.”Instead of making Iraq an open economy fueled by a thriving oil sector … insurgents’ sabotage of pipelines and pumping stations … (mean) the country is still struggling in vain to raise oil output to its prewar levels of about 2.5 million barrels a day.”

The costs of the war are being paid for by the American public, both for the Defense forces and the prices at the pump.  This lack of supply – and the increased demand by China – has more than tripled the cost of oil, meaning political opponents Iran, Venezuela and Russia are growing rich and causing problems in US diplomacy.

Even those planners who honestly believed the causes for overthrowing Saddam Hussein were just acknowledge the role oil would play after the invasion.  According to Mufson, leaders in the Defense Department were hoping for increasing the world supply of oil, to drive the price down, even while the State Department was warning about the dangers of political instability from flooding the world oil markets. 

Deputy Secretary of Defense (at the time) Paul Wolfowitz   told Congress just after the invasion that he believed the country could finance its own reconstruction, generating $50 billion to $100 billion in revenues within a few years.

He laments that the US has “frittered away energy resources with little regard for the strategic consequences.”  And even though Iraq still contains significan oil reserves, it is unclear when production will begin to match expections, or if the USA can afford it when it comes.

This is a significant problem for the next president.  John McCain wants to maintain the existing course of action (presumably to maintain control over the future possiblity of oil supply).  Clinton wants to pull troops from the region gradually, and Obama wants them home soon and a diplomatic solution instead.


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