"Gates Says U.S. Resolved to Remain in Persian Gulf."
We all know the sentiments in the linked article to be true and held more or less universally in Washington, with occasional dissent from figures too marginal or isolated to matter. We all understand that the Persian Gulf is a "vital strategic region," and we all know what it is about the region that makes it vitally strategic. Some of us understand that regardless of the future disposition of the world's recoverable petroleum resources, the best, simplest, and most universally beneficial way to acquire those supplies still extant would be to follow Jim Henley's simple insight:
But what American access to oil reasonably requires is nothing more nor less than a functioning oil market. Oil costs money. Producers will want to sell for a profit. Buyers will want to get the best possible price. The juice itself is fungible. Iran can sign all the deals they want with Russian and Chinese companies, for instance, but that doesn’t keep Americans from buying gasoline. Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower undertook a deliberate, decade-long program of edging Britain and France out of control of Middle Eastern oil regimes. Will anyone argue that British and French consumers received a drop less petroleum as a consequence?The basis of American foreign policy was supposed to be what you might call Washingtonian commercialism. Perhaps we never really practiced it, but it was and is a good and decent basis for dealing with other nations in the world. Trade with those nations that have something to offer on reasonable and reasonably equitable terms. There are plenty of excuses for pursuing other paths, and most of them begin with the staggeringly facile rationale that "the world is more complicated now." That seems to me to be a debatable point anyway. Global intercourse is as old as civilization, and growth in speed and scope don't change the most basic economic facts: people will buy what they want and sell what they have as long as the means of exchange exist.
I am of the belief that there are grave moral shortcomings in our policy of dominance toward the other nations of the world. For all the euphemisms and cloth-renting over dead civilians--the regrettable but necessary byproducts of a somehow otherwise just military policy--there remains a simple, numerical truth. Many more people died at the hands of the American military last year than at the hands of terrorists. And the year before that. And the year before that. That's not even a reflection of the various estimated "surplus deaths" caused by our occupation of Iraq. It's just a reflection of the dozens or even hundreds of people who die in a a Somali village every time we decide to bomb this or that terrorist. It's a reflection of our continued air war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reducing moral considerations of relative wrong to body counts is incorrect, and terrorism is just as condemnable for its deliberate targetting of civilians. Still the fact remains: we keep killing people. The United States of America is the deadliest regime in the world at the moment. But even absent moral considerations, there are practical impediments to our dreams of conquest. We have neither the resources, the skills, nor the wherewithal to accomplish the regional hegemony we seek, and the longer we seek it without achieving it, the more justified and more effective will be opposition to our plans.
The sad conclusion is that no American defeat in Iraq will suffice unless it gives birth to a serious and long-lasting disinclination to using military force in anything other than direct self-defense. This isn't something you'll hear from the Democratic wing of the War Party, who remain ga-ga over The Troops, each and every one of them a moral exemplar except, of course, when not. It's sad that Americans have to die in Iraq, and most of the soldiers there didn't choose to go, and I don't quibble with the long tradition of providing ordinary soldiers amnesty from punishment for the criminal policies of their leaders. Nonetheless, we have to understand that our soldiers are fighting a war of aggression and occupation, and that they are the enemy of justice and peace in Iraq just as much as any death squad.
50,000 dead in Vietnam barely restrained our imperial dreams for a decade-and-a-half before Mr. Morning in America reopened the bomb bay doors. I try to look at these things with good humor, or at least gallows humor, but I tremble a little when I consider what punishment we'll require as a nation to understand how terribly wrong we've been.