War on Terror to Plain War
United States: Energy
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Bush's attempts to bully the United Nations Security Council into ratifying
whatever Washington wants to do in Iraq have been resisted by France and Russia,
and by public opinion in Europe and much of the rest of the world.
resistance is unlikely to prevent the threatened campaign against Saddam
Hussein, which is part of a global strategy instituted by a small group of
United States policy-makers who share an arrogant vision of US strategic,
military and economic interests.
States has been so involved in the war against terrorism for the past year that
it can seem that winning it is the Bush administration's sole foreign policy
objective - especially since the president has often said that this campaign is
his most important responsibility. But though enormous effort is undoubtedly
being devoted to this campaign, anti-terrorism is not the only major foreign
office, Bush has devoted equal attention to two other strategic priorities: the
modernisation and expansion of US military capabilities, and the procurement of
more foreign oil. These two priorities have independent roots, but have
intertwined together, and with the war on terrorism, to produce a unified
strategic design. It is this design, rather than any individual objective, that
now governs US foreign policy.
has neither a formal name nor a written declaration of principles; no one in
Washington has actually articulated the vision. But there is no doubt that these
intertwined priorities, have decisively shifted US military behaviour.
the nature of the change we need to look at recent US actions, and we will start
with Iraq and the Persian Gulf. There is no longer any doubt that the Bush
administration is planning an invasion of Iraq, to remove Saddam Hussein and
install a pro-US government in Baghdad. In preparation, the US Department of
Defence is expanding its already large military presence in the Persian Gulf
region. Supposedly, the sole aim of the invasion is to destroy surviving Iraqi
capabilities for the production of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and
prevent the handover of them to terrorists. But Washington is clearly also
worried about the future availability of oil from the Gulf area and is
determined to eliminate any threat - such as that of Iraq – of interruption to
the flow. American strategists want to make sure that Iraq's vast oil reserves
will be accessible to US oil companies in the future and not be exclusively
controlled by Russian, Chinese and European firms.
Then there is
Central Asia and the Caucasus. When US troops were deployed there soon after 11
September, it was said their sole objective was to support military operations
against the Taliban in Afghanistan. But with the Taliban defeated, it seems they
remain for other reasons. Given the US interest in access to the vast energy
supplies of the Caspian Sea basin, it is likely that these will include
protecting the flow of oil and natural gas from the Caspian to markets in the
West. The recent deployment of US military instructors in Georgia, which is an
important way-station for pipelines connecting the Caspian with the Black Sea
and the Mediterranean, and the announcement of US plans to refurbish a military
airbase in Kazakhstan, on the edge of the Caspian Sea make this idea credible.
And there is
Colombia. Until recently the US said that its military involvement there was
only to combat the illegal trade in narcotics. But lately the White House has
identified two other objectives for the aid programme: to combat political
violence and terrorism by Colombia's guerrilla organisations and to protect oil
pipelines from the interior to terminals and refineries on the coast. To finance
these initiatives, the Bush administration has asked Congress to approve
increases in aid, including $100m for pipeline protection.
developments, and others elsewhere, we can see the strands of US foreign policy.
It is their integration that is most significant. In future, we will not be able
to understand US foreign policy without taking the integration into account.
So we will
look at the strands, and their integration. The first, enhancing US military
capabilities, has been a main Bush priority since his electoral campaign. In a
speech at The Citadel (a military academy in Charleston, South Carolina) in
September 1999, Bush proposed the transformation of the US military
establishment. Claiming that the Clinton administration had failed to re-adjust
US military policy to the altered realities of the post-cold war era, Bush
promised comprehensively to review US strategy and "begin creating the
military of the next century",
transformation of the US defence establishment is intended to achieve two key
strategic objectives: to ensure Washington's future invulnerability by
installing an effective anti-missile defence system and
preserving US superiority in hi-tech weaponry; and to enhance the US
capacity to invade and conquer hostile regional powers like Iran, Iraq and North
'revolution in military affairs'
his support for a national missile defence system (NMD) to protect all 50
American states against attack. He also embraced the "revolution in
military affairs", using computers, advanced sensor devices, stealth
materials and hi-tech systems in future combat. These efforts, he suggested,
would ensure US superiority "into the far realm of the future".
his second objective, Bush called for a substantial expansion of power
projection capabilities -the ability to deploy powerful US forces in distant battle
zones and win against any potential enemy. This would mean new hi-tech devices,
advanced sensors and pilotless aircraft, and reducing the numbers of existing
combat units to accelerate their deployment. As Bush said: "Our forces in
the next century must be agile, lethal, readily deployable, and require a
minimum of logistical support. We must be able to project our power over long
distances, in days or weeks rather than months. On land, our heavy forces must
be lighter. Our light forces must be more lethal. All must be easier to
after inauguration, Bush ordered the Department of Defence to start implementing
the proposals in that speech, and by early 2001, he said that at his request,
the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, had begun the review. "I have
given him a broad mandate to challenge the status quo as we design a new
architecture for the defence of America and our allies." The architecture
would rely on new technologies, and would emphasise power projection. Bush
repeated that the US ground forces would be lighter and more lethal, the air
forces "will be able to strike across the world with pinpoint
accuracy" and its sea forces would maximise "our ability to project
power over land" (2).
objectives have now been embedded in the Pentagon's long-range budget.
Introducing the $379bn defence budget for fiscal year 2003 (an increase of $45bn
over 2002), Rumsfeld said: "We need rapidly deployable, fully integrated
joint forces, capable of reaching distant theatres quickly and working with our
air and sea forces to strike adversaries swiftly, successfully, and with
devastating effect" (3). Though additional resources will go to missile
defence and anti-terrorism, power projection will dominate US military
procurement and development.
September the administration added a new feature: the proposition that the US
must be able to employ force pre-emptively to prevent the possible use of
weapons of mass destruction. Such action may be necessary, argued the White
House, because of the great risk to American civilians from the potential use of
such weapons by rogue states undeterred by US retaliatory capacity. This
proposition, while rightly seen as significant departure, is quite consistent
with the administration's other two goals: ensuring the
of the US to hostile military action and enhancing its capacity to invade.
The intent to
acquire more foreign oil supplies was first evident in the report of the
national energy policy development group in May 2001, known as the "Cheney report"
after its principal author, Vice President Dick Cheney. The document is meant to
be a comprehensive plan to supply the US's growing energy needs over the next 25 years.
It incorporates some increased energy conservation, but most proposals are
aimed at expanding the supply of energy.
caused great controversy because it advocates oil drilling in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and because its authors consulted
regularly with officials of the now-disgraced Enron. Unfortunately the controversy
has deflected attention from its other aspects, particularly those bearing
on the international implications of energy policy. Only in the final
chapter is its true significance apparent, when we are told of plans
to solve the looming energy shortfall in the US by substantially increasing
foreign oil imports.
the report, US reliance on imported oil will rise from about 52% of total
consumption in 2001 to an estimated 66% in 2020 (4). Because oil use is
also rising, the US will have to import 60% more oil in 2020 than it does
today. This means that imports will have to rise from their current rate of
about 10.4m barrels a day to an estimated 16.7m barrels a day in 2020 (5).
The only way to do this is to persuade foreign suppliers to increase their
production and sell more of their output to the US.
supplying countries lack the capital to make the necessary investments in
production infrastructure, and are reluctant to allow US firms to dominate their
energy sector. The report calls on the White House to make the pursuit of
increased oil imports "a priority of our trade and foreign policy"
(6). It calls on the president and other top officials to try two ways to meet
America's growing oil requirement.
The first is
to increase imports from Persian Gulf countries, which together own about two
thirds of the world's known oil reserves. Recognising that no other region
can increase production as rapidly and substantially, the report wants a US
diplomatic effort to persuade the governments of Saudi Arabia and other
producers to allow US firms to improve the infrastructure of their countries.
aim is to increase the geographic diversity of US imports, to reduce the
economic damage that would be caused by future supply interruptions in the
ever-turbulent Middle East. "Concentration of world oil production in any
one region is a potential contribution to market instability," the report
says, so greater diversity remains important" (7). To promote diversity,
the report calls on the president and top officials to work with US energy firms
to increase oil imports from the Caspian Sea basin (especially Azerbaijan and
Kazakhstan), sub-Saharan Africa (Angola and Nigeria), and Latin America
(Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela).
does not say openly what will be obvious to any reader: almost all areas
identified as potential sources of increased oil supplies are chronically
unstable or harbour anti-American sentiments, or both. While elites in these
countries may favour increased economic co-operation with the US, other sectors
of the population often oppose such ties for nationalistic, economic or
ideological reasons. So US efforts to obtain more oil from these countries is
almost certain to provoke resistance, including terrorism and other violence.
There is an unacknowledged security dimension to the Cheney energy plan, with
considerable significance for US military policy.
between the military strategy and energy policy are striking. Without implying
any conscious intent by the administration to heighten this conjunction, it is
clear that an energy policy favouring increased US access to oil supplies in the
Persian Gulf, the Caspian, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa would be more
realistic if accompanied by a strategy favouring a big increase in US capacity
to project military power.
not senior political figures have reached this conclusion, US military officials
have certainly done so. In the Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) report of
September 2001, the Department of Defence acknowledges that "The US and its
allies will continue to depend on the energy resources of the Middle East,"
and that access to this region could be jeopardised by military threats (8). The
QDR describes the weapons and forces that the US will need to protect its
interests in the Middle East and other zones, listing the capabilities
identified in the Bush statements. American strategy "rests on the
assumption that US forces have the ability to project power worldwide," it
priority, success in the war against terrorism, was spelled out in Bush's
address to Congress nine days after the attacks on New York and Washington. This
campaign would be not limited to punitive strikes or one great battle but would
entail a "lengthy campaign" in many theatres of operation and
continuing "until every terrorist group of global reach has been found,
stopped and defeated". Bush later extended this mandate to encompass states
like Iran and Iraq, said to threaten terrorism through pursuit of nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons.
needs both intelligence and law enforcement efforts to locate and destroy hidden
terrorist cells; and also a military effort to destroy terrorist sanctuaries and
punish states that offer them protection or assistance. All these activities are
thought crucial to the success of the war on terrorism, but the military aspect
has attracted most attention from senior administration officials. It is this
aspect that is most closely associated with the other strands of US security
of the war in Afghanistan reflect the power projection model that Bush
delineated. In preparation for the campaign, the US airlifted large amounts of
weapons and equipment to friendly states in the area, and deployed a powerful
fleet in the Arabian Sea. Much of the fighting was done by light infantry,
supported by long-range bombers with precision-guided weapons. A high premium
was placed on battlefield manoeuvre and advanced surveillance devices to
pinpoint enemy locations day and night.
operation in Iraq will mean tens of thousands of US troops quickly inserted in
key locations across the country, with relentless air and missile attacks.
"We would not need to hold territory and protect our flanks to the same
extent [as in the Gulf war]," a senior officer told the New York Times.
"You would see a higher level of manoeuvre and airborne assault, dropping
in vertically and enveloping targets, less slogging mile by mile through the
desert" (10). The planned attack should mean wide use of US Special Forces
with armed dissident groups, as in Afghanistan.
The war on
terrorism has merged with the US effort to safeguard access to oil, especially
in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea basin. The war in Afghanistan can be
seen as an extension of the shadow war in Saudi Arabia between radical opponents
of the Saudi monarchy and the US-backed royal family. Ever since King Fahd
decided, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, to allow US troops to use his country
as their base for attacks on Iraq, Saudi extremists, led by Osama bin Laden,
have fought an underground war to topple the monarchy and drive the Americans
out. US moves to destroy al-Qaida and its support in Afghanistan can be seen as
an effort to protect the Saudi royal family and ensure access to oil (11).
the oil flow
The war on
terrorism has also merged with US efforts to safeguard the flow of Caspian oil
and natural gas to the West. These began modestly during the Clinton
administration, when the Department of Defence established links with the forces
of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and began to
provide military aid and training (12). But since 11 September, these efforts
have increased, and temporary US bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are being
made semi-permanent. There is US aid "for the refurbishment of a
strategically located air base" in Kazakhstan, which, according to the
State Department, is intended to "improve US-Kazakh military
cooperation while establishing a base along the Caspian" (13). The US will
also help Azerbaijan to begin to defend the Caspian Sea, where there have been
recent encounters between Azerbaijani oil-exploration vessels and Iranian
gunboats. These initiatives are said to help countries' participation in the war
against terrorism, but are also linked to US efforts to provide a safe
environment for the production and transport of oil.
intent of US policymakers, the three key strands of their foreign security
policy have now merged into a single strategy. Attempts to analyse them as
separate phenomena will become more difficult as they increasingly intertwine.
The only way to describe US security policy today is to speak of a unified
campaign - "the war for American supremacy" - combining elements of
all three. It is too early to gauge the significance of this, but we can make
some preliminary observations.
campaign has more vigour and momentum than its parts; it is hard to question or
criticise a strategy that integrates so many key aspects of security. When
separated, it might be possible to impose limits on one aspect - to constrain
procurement levels or troop deployments in oil regions. But when these are
combined with anti-terrorism, it is almost impossible to advocate limits. It is
highly likely that the combined campaign will very successfully gain and retain
support from Congress and the people.
enterprise has a significant risk of "mission creep" and
"overstretch": it could lead to open-ended overseas operations that
become more complex and dangerous and require ever-growing US resources and
personnel. This is the behaviour Bush warned against during his election
campaign, but now seems to have fully embraced. It appears to be the case in the
Gulf, Central Asia, and Colombia, where the combined impact of the policy
strands makes it difficult to establish limits.
test of the strategic design may well come in Iraq. Bush has made no secret of
his desire to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and the Department of Defence is
planning a US invasion. Many Arab leaders have warned Bush that such an invasion
will trigger disorder and violence throughout the Middle East. Senior Pentagon
officials have also pointed out the costs and risks of maintaining a large US
military presence in Iraq, of necessity, after Saddam Hussein has been ousted.
But none of these warnings seems to have had any effect on the White House.
www.georgewbush.com/speeches/... on December 2, 1999.
made at Norfolk Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia, 13 February 2001, on 15
Defence University, Washington DC, 31 January 2002, on March 9, 2002.
Energy Policy Development Group (Washington DC, May 2001).
(5)International Energy Outlook 2002, US Department of Energy, Energy
Information Administration, Washington DC, 2002.
Energy Policy Development Group.
Defence Review Report, US Department of Defence, Washington DC, 30 September
2001, p 4.
Times, 28 April 2002.
"The Geopolitics of War," The Nation, 5 November 2001; see also
"Line in the Sand: Saudi Role in Alliance Fuels Religious Tension in
Oil-Rich Kingdom," The Wall Street Journal, 4 October 2001.
Michael T Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict,
Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, New York, 2001).
Budget Justification: Foreign Operations, Fiscal Year 2003, US Department of
State, Washington DC, 2002.
Professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Amherst,
Massachusetts, and the author of Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global
Conflict (Metropolitan Books, New York, 2001)
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