The United States became a net importer of oil after World War II and according to the Set America Free Coalition, it currently imports two-thirds of our oil to fuel 97% of our transportation needs. This increasing dependence, coupled with the geopolitical rivalries of the Cold War, led successive U.S. administrations to make foreign policy decisions that continue to impact us today.
For decades the U.S. backed repressive Middle Eastern governments as a way to limit Soviet influence in the region and effectively control the supply and price of oil. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union sought influence over the price and distribution of the region’s energy resources and neither government thought particularly carefully about the consequences of their decisions to back local leaders who manipulated and oppressed their populations with impunity in order to remain in power.
Decades later, the militant Islamist movement the U.S. government spawned to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s turned against the United States and attacked us on September 11, 2001. Though oil is seldom discussed in connection with September 11th and the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden has articulated a clear connection between repressive Middle Eastern governments and their supply of oil to the West in return for our governments’ continued patronage. (Whether or not we find palatable what someone has to say who is responsible for the killing innocent civilians, to be oblivious of bin Laden’s motives or to disregard his grievances as illegitimate is foolish and will only result in more death on all sides. Bin Laden’s message- though not necessarily his tactics -resonates throughout much of the Middle East because it is rooted in history.)
We now find ourselves in our ninth year in Afghanistan with no end to the conflict in sight. Over one thousand Americans have lost their lives in Afghanistan; the U.S. military has killed an unknown number of innocent Afghan civilians in pursuit of a mission that has become increasingly ambiguous from a national security standpoint; hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on a dubious nation-building effort, a substantial amount of which has been lost to corruption; and the unnecessary expansion of this conflict has attracted increasing numbers of young men to terrorism against the West.
Oil is not the reason the U.S. invaded Afghanistan; nor is it the sole reason Al Qaeda was formed against the U.S. Nevertheless there is a connection that must be addressed if we are to avoid future conflicts, almost all of which have a root in resource disputes.
We cannot substantially reduce our dependence on foreign oil by drilling for domestic sources, nor will we end our dependence on oil altogether overnight. There is no magic solution but the obstacles are political rather than technological. Members of Congress frequently praise “our brave men and women in uniform” but if they continue to do nothing to address our dependence on oil their words mean nothing. Nine years of bloodshed is nine years too long. It is time for a change of course.
For more information on the history of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations go to http://sovereigniraq.wordpress.com/resources/
For information on how you can support our troops go to http://www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery