The BBC this evening reports President Obama declaring that he ‘will not hesitate’ to use force to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. ‘Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment – I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon’.
Why would he want to embroil his country in a conflict that would lead to massive loss of life and lead to some future US President struggling to find a face-saving exit strategy?
Why would he attack Iran? Because it’s not about oil; a simple check of United States’ energy statistics reveals that Persian Gulf oil is not critical to US economic welfare.
Oil may once have been the principal motivation behind United States involvement in Middle Eastern affairs, but that motivation is dwindling. The United States Energy Information Administration provides extraordinarily detailed data on the country’s energy production and consumption, its energy imports and exports.
The United States depends upon imports for less than half of its petroleum requirements, and, of the 49% of petroleum that is imported, 49% is from the Western hemisphere and just 18% is from the Persian Gulf. Just 9% of American petroleum consumption comes from a region that has so preoccupied US politicians and military forces.
A wise US President would be looking at the development of untapped domestic reserves and at greater co-operation with Canada. A wise US President would not be contemplating a conflict that would, to use the words of Donald Rumsfeld, have massive ‘unknown unknowns’.
The logical foreign policy path for the United States is not to embark upon a path toward conflict, but to begin to disengage from the Middle East, where its experiences, while securing oil supplies, have brought considerable pain. The Old World, with its stagnant populations in Europe and the rise of religious fundamentalism further east offers there is little by way of enduring economic interest. The economic centre of gravity has shifted eastward, India and China are the rising powers, a logical US President would be turning his attention westward across the Pacific rather than eastward across the Atlantic.
It is illogical to allow US foreign policy to be shaped by people attached to a particular Old Testament worldview that includes the dominance of one’s neighbours. The Left of the Democratic Party would have no wish for war; the libertarian Right of the Republican Party would wish for a withdrawal of American troops overseas and the reduction of Government spending; who wants to bomb Iran?
It simply doesn’t make sense.