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The Oil Spoils of Iraq

Can U.S. allies —such as France, Russia and Germany — afford not to support war in Iraq?

February 11, 2003

Can U.S. allies —such as France, Russia and Germany — afford not to support war in Iraq?

First, we have a confession to make: We have never believed that the Bush Administration is keen on invading Iraq solely, or primarily, for its oil riches.

True, oil plays a role — especially in terms of financing the vast rebuilding needs for the former Mesopotamia.

But only crude Marxists really believe that the key equation is that — because Bush is from Texas — Iraq is about oil.

And yet, that evidently is not how some of the administration’s own chief propagandists view it. According to their never-ending stream of innuendos, the French are only faking their opposition to starting a war with Iraq at the present time.

Ultimately, so the administration seems to believe, the French will come around to supporting the U.S. war effort. And so will the Russians. And so will basically everybody else who is a player on the global stage.

Why are the administration's key people so sure of this? Because they believe that these nations' resistance to President Bush’s rushing of the war clock will be overtaken by another realization. Only if they give in now, so it is said, will they be among the victors who can enjoy the spoils of victory.

In short, what all those war opponents are seeking — according to the Bush Administration — is a stronger seat at the table in the post-war commercial phase.

They are simply holding out for better terms from the coalition. And once the die is cast, they will want to join the coalition to obtain whatever spoils they can.

Now, we are certain that commercial self-interest does play a role in guiding the affairs of nations — all nations, that is. But we also believe (along with the Bush Administration) that countries can act for other, more principled reasons at times.

What we are slow to comprehend, however, is why it is particularly the French, the Russians, the Germans, the Chinese and all the other holdouts that are to be considered prostitutes of commercialism in this instance.

After all, it implies that some of the longest-standing U.S. allies — going back well over 200 years in the case of the French — have no principles at all when it comes to matters of war and peace. That kind of disrespect is hardly the stuff out of which lasting alliances are built.

One must ask: Why cannot the French and Germans be respected for holding to their own principles — even if the Bush Administration strongly disagrees with the policy prescriptions of those principles? It should be possible to debate the key questions of confronting Iraq, without demonizing the other side.

The proposed comparison — of the United States holding up heroic principles, while the others engage in cheap mercantilism — is simply not true. But the implication of this comparison — now ever more widely circulated in Washington in a desperate effort to browbeat everybody onto the path of war — is truly troubling.

It is clear that the current U.S. government is playing fast and loose with long-term alliances, however.

In doing so, the Bush Administration is inventing all sorts of intriguing phraseologies — such as the comparison of "new Europe" to "old Europe" —that sounds cute, but ultimately holds little water.

What it all amounts to, unfortunately, is nothing less than a systematic effort at denigrating the motives of everybody who is not in full agreement with the position taken by the Bush Administration and Tony Blair.

As President Bush said time and again in his campaign, there certainly are issues on which reasonable people can disagree. The matter of war and peace surely is one such matter.

As a matter of fact, President Bush ought to appreciate the courage of the other nations that dare to have the courage to withstand the extreme U.S. political pressure to rush headlong into a war, the premises of which are more than dubious and uncertain.