RE: Greg Johnson on dropping the alliance with Israel

From: Barbara Lamar (
Date: Sun Sep 16 2001 - 11:44:32 MDT

 Mike Linksvayer wrote:

> > > But Israel has no oil. Does the US alliance with Israel help
> > > maintain access to Middle Eastern countries that do have oil?
> >
> > Yes.
> Perhaps I'm just stupid, but how? AFAIK Israel doesn't include
> access to Middle Eastern oil among its priorities.

Let me begin by saying that I am attempting to describe things from the
point of view of the leaders of the US. Barring something like global
nuclear war, I personally could probably weather a total interruption of oil
production. I live in a remote area, have photovoltaic panels that provide
for my basic electrical appliances, including water pump; I have my own
source of water (rainwater cisterns and pond); I am capable of growing
enough food to keep myself alive without the use of synthetic fertilizer or
pesticides, and I'm accustomed to living a rather rugged lifestyle. But for
most people in the US and other "first world" countries, even a 10%
reduction in oil production would be disastrous.

Maybe this will help explain why. Excerpts from PBS Online News Hour


Two-thirds of the world's oil is in the Middle East. Though the US buys
relatively little, an interdependent world economy means the Iraqi conflict
could directly, and indirectly, hurt us. Charles Krause provides a
backgrounder, followed by a discussion with Elizabeth Farnsworth and
strategic experts.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now for our discussion we turn to John Lichtblau,
chairman of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, an industry-funded
group that attracts domestic and international petroleum economics. Jessica
Mathews is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Chris
Flavin, senior vice president of Research at the World Watch Institute and
Environmental Research Group. Thank you all for being with us. And starting
with you, Mr. Lichtblau, just how dependent are we on Middle East oil?

JOHN LICHTBLAU, Petroleum Research Foundation: (New York) Well, not very
dependent. About less than 20 percent of our imports come from the Middle
East. And since only about half of our oil is imported, our dependency on
Middle East oil, overall, is about 8 or 9 percent, which is not very high,
but it's quite irrelevant how high our dependence is on Middle East oil.

It's the total oil import dependency that counts because there's only one
world oil market, and whether we buy oil from the Middle East or from South
America or from Africa, if there's any problem in any of these supply areas,
it affects the price everywhere. So if we were to shift our oil imports more
even than we've done from the Middle East to other areas, it would in no way
make our oil supplies more secure.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Flavin, are we countering, as some people say,
Saddam Hussein because of oil?

CHRIS FLAVIN, Worldwatch Institute: Saddam Hussein has us over a barrel in
the Middle East, and he knows it, and we know it, and that's why we have
such an extraordinary military commitment to that region.

I mean, as John indicated, it's really the world oil market as a whole we
need to be concerned about. Japan gets about 2/3 of its oil from the Middle
East. Our allies in Europe get a much larger share of their oil from the
Middle East. And so we as a group of industrialized countries, the whole
global economy really now is terribly dependent on the Middle East. And

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me just interrupt you here one minute. So the fact
that we get less than 20 percent from the Middle East does not mean that we'
re not dependent?

MR. FLAVIN: The key figure is that 2/3 of the world's proven oil reserves
are in the Middle East. We're all dependent there, and because we have now a
rapidly growing oil demand in China and other Asian countries, we're really
looking at a rather dangerous situation as the next decade unfolds.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH Or, let's put it this way. Does oil explain U.S. policy
in the Middle East in your view?

MS. MATHEWS: No. I mean, you know, if the Middle East grew bananas, then it
would be a different thing, and we wouldn't have the strategic interest that
we have there, but over the years we've acquired a set of strategic
interests that are much broader. And we have a history now of Saddam Hussein
that has now--that is about more than oil. It's about our position in the
world, and it's about our values versus his, and our word versus his.

We have a relationship with Israel. We have long-term concerns about Iran.
Now they're related to oil in that that's where the wealth comes from. But
they are--if you reverse it and say if we only needed to import 2 percent of
our oil or 0 percent almost, could we leave? The answer is no.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think, Mr. Lichtblau?

MR. LICHTBLAU: I think this is correct. It's not our import of oil that
matters. It's the fact that, as has been said many times, 2/3 of the world's
oil reserves are located there, and that is irreversible and permanent.
About 50 percent of world oil exports come from the Middle East to, to all
these companies, Europe, Latin--South Asia, the U.S. and so on, and we just
have to defend this area because it contains for whatever reason this kind
of volume of oil.


>The US hasn't used
> Israel as a base from which to attack countries that refuse to sell
> or raise the price of oil. Is there an implicit threat to do so?

Of course there is, although it's not usually stated in the terms you've
used. That's what maintaining a military presence is all about. Look at it
on a smaller scale. When you hire uniformed security guards to watch your
warehouse at night, your expectation is that his or her mere presence will
deter burglars.

> If so, why didn't we when OPEC was strong, or during the gulf war?

When you say "when OPEC was strong," I assume you mean in the 1970's. I
can't answer your questions about why the US government did what they did
except to say that a military attack would have been used only as a last
resort. OPEC, incidentally, was modeled on the Texas Railroad Commission,
which has controlled the production of oil in Texas since the late 1930's. I
personally think it's a very good idea to control the production of oil.
What was happening in Texas during the 30's was that owners of neighboring
tracts of land were competing to see who could suck up more oil faster, and
the price of oil fell to ridiculously low levels. I think it would have been
a good idea to slow production even more than was done in the and keep
prices higher. It would have encouraged the development of alternative
energy sources, and possibly prevented us from being in our present
predicament. The reason OPEC's interruption of oil production caused
problems in the 1970's was that US economy was already addicted to cheap oil
at the time.

With respect to the Gulf War's relevance to preserving Israel -- the point
is not that Israel is the ONLY possible staging area. As you've probably
noted, US is now discussing using Pakistan for access to Afghanistan. The
point is that Israel is reliable--that is, it can be depended on *under any
and all circumstances*.

> Israel isn't even all that close the main oil fields. Jordan
> and a bunch of desert lies between. The Persian Gulf offers much
> better access should the US wish to force producers to sell at a
> price we set.

Israel is the only *reliable* ally in the region.

> > > If
> > > oil is the objective, it'd be simpler to pay off/befriend Saudi
> > > Arabia and Kuwait than to ally with Israel.

Sure, it would be simpler if everyone would be friendly with everyone else.
But things don't always work out like that in real life.

> Not a problem. They don't all have to be friendly at the same time.
> I'd guess among Persian Gulf area oil producers, Kuwait is currently
> most friendly to the US, Iraq the least. Doesn't matter if that
> gets shuffled. It's all oil.

Review the history of the oil crisis of the 1970's. Here's a good site:

> > > Israel is able to defend itself quite nicely.
> >
> > I don't believe it's ever had to defend itself without US support.
> They've mostly managed on their own.

See my reply to Alejandro. Israel has always had aid from the US.

> What has the US provided
> apart from money and intelligence?

Huh? Don't understand what point you're trying to make.


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