Strategic interest and defining victory

George Lakoff offers a frame to consider about Iraq and the ME.

Greenspan’s revelation and the contracts (PSA oil contracts) need to be discussed openly. The question must be asked, “Is our military there for the sake of oil?”

I have been struck by the use of the word “victory” by the right wing, especially by its propaganda arm, Freedom’s Watch. Usually, “victory” is used in reference to a war between countries over territory, where there is a definable enemy. That is not the case in Iraq, where we have for four years had an occupation, not a “war,” and there has been no clear enemy. We have mostly been fighting Iraqis we were supposed to be rescuing. “Victory” makes no sense for such an occupation. And even Petraeus has said that only a political, not a military, settlement is possible. In what sense can keeping troops there for 9 or 10 years or longer, as Petraeus has suggested, be a “victory”?

What is most frightening is that they may mean what they say, that they may have a concept of “victory” that makes sense to them but not to the rest of the country. If the goal of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been to guarantee access to Iraqi oil for the next 30 years, then any result guaranteeing oil profits for American oil companies would count as “victory.” Suppose the present killing and chaos were to continue, forcing us to keep our troops there indefinitely, but allowing the oil companies to prosper under our protection. That would be a “victory.” Or if the Iraqi army and police force were to develop in a few years and keep order there protecting American investments and workers, that too would be “victory.” If the country broke up into three distinct states or autonomous governments, that too would be “victory” as long as oil profits were guaranteed and Americans in the oil industry protected. And it doesn’t matter if a Republican president keeps the troops there or a Democratic president does. It is still an oil company “victory” …

Indeed, Kurdistan’s PSA contract last week with Hunt Oil suggests the latter form of “victory.” As Paul Krugman observed in the New York Times on September 14, “the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.” Hunt Oil seems to have had the first taste of “victory.”

If that is “victory,” what is “defeat” and who is being “defeated?” The troops who would have to stay to protect the oil investments would, person by person, suffer defeat — a defeat of the spirit and, for too many, of the body. And most of America would suffer a defeat, especially our taxpayers who have paid a trillion dollars that could have gone for health care for all, for excellent schools and college educations, for rebuilding Louisiana and Mississippi, for shoring up our infrastructure and bridges, and for protecting our environment. Victory for the oil companies, defeat for most of America.

Global Policy Forum offers an analysis:

Our key findings are:

At an oil price of $40 per barrel, Iraq stands to lose between $74 billion and $194 billion over the lifetime of the proposed contracts (2), from only the first 12 oilfields to be developed. These estimates, based on conservative assumptions, represent between two and seven times the current Iraqi government budget.

Under the likely terms of the contracts, oil company rates of return from investing in Iraq would range from 42% to 162%, far in excess of usual industry minimum target of around 12% return on investment.

Hormats, in his visit here, said protection of energy sources was the big idea for defense as well as whatever he thought terrorists were, which he did not define.

If the premise is only ‘half right’ for Iraq, if true believers thought so many ideas actually came together for the sake of democracy, vital US interests, and humanitarian concerns as the other half of the goalposts, does it still justify the profits from the PSA’s for the 80 working oilfields and already discovered oil, and does it not poison the professed concern?

“Victory” is certainly a flexible idea, but it feels to me we are paying twice, first to be hijacked, second to be rescued.


Greenspan corrected in a follow-up interview. [Bob Woodward in Monday’s Washington Post] He was only saying that “taking out Saddam was essential” for “oil security” and the global economy.

I fail to see the difference given the way the things are working. Opportunity costs.