Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Blood for Oil? What About Nukes?

Written by johnleemk on 10:07:10 am Mar 4, 2007.

An anonymous reader does not mince his words. Criticising American foreign policy in response to The War Drums Beat for Iran, he writes:

If Iran is as void of natural resources as Rwanda or Somalia, the Americans would steer a thousand miles clear of it. Even if the Ayatollahs and mullahs begged them to come

Unfortunately, I think he seems to be suffering from a rabid case of anti-Americanism. Of course the Americans are motivated by self-interest, and it's ridiculous to deny that they aren't tempted by all the oil in the Middle East — but pretending that oil is the only fact seems quite off the mark to me.

First of all, you have to distinguish between the American government and the American people. The government might be interested in the oil, but most Americans I've talked to who support military intervention in the Middle East aren't.

Rather, the American people seem to believe in military intervention for two reasons. The first is plainly self-interest; they believe that Iraq posed and Iran poses a major military threat to the US. The other is more altruistic; they want to spread their brand of democracy and enlightenment to the Middle East.

It is difficult to speculate about the motivations of the American government, but I would argue that even if oil is a major factor in their deliberations, it is far from the only factor.

After all, consider that the Middle East is overwhelmingly Muslim. If you favour an interpretation of geopolitics based on a clash of the cultures, you would view this as a major factor in the overwhelmingly Christian United States' decisions. Certainly, religion appears to have played a strong role in the unwavering American support for Israel.

And, of course, the issue that I kept harping upon in the original Iran article is nuclear weapons. Remember, the stated reason for invading Iraq was the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and there's no reason to believe that many (if not all) members of the Bush administration believed in this rationale. Why should things be any different for Iran?

If an authoritarian theocracy whose President has threatened to wipe another sovereign nation off the map gets its hands on nuclear weapons, I think it would be a major cause for concern. This is especially so since Iran is predominantly Muslim, and thus a possible contributor to Muslim fundamentalist terrorism.

Even if you take oil out of the equation, there are a myriad number of reasons for why the Americans would still be interested in sabre-rattling with Iran. After all, the Americans played the same game with the barren North Korea, though they recently and prudently secured a deal to curtail further development of nuclear arms by the North Koreans.

I think we cannot allow our overwhelming anti-American bias to get in the way of reason. The US may be horridly misguided and misled, but its motives are often good, and natural resources are just one of many factors in determining its foreign policy.

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