Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum

Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum

by Michael T. Klare

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From the author of Resource Wars, a landmark assessment of the critical role of petroleum in America's actions abroad

In his pathbreaking Resource Wars, world security expert Michael T. Klare alerted us to the role of resources in conflicts in the post-Cold War world. Now, in Blood and Oil, he concentrates on a single precious commodity, petroleum, while issuing a warning to the United States-its most powerful, and most dependent, global consumer.
Since September 11th and the commencement of the "war on terror," the world's attention has been focused on the relationship between U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the oceans of crude oil that lie beneath the region's soil. Klare traces oil's impact on international affairs since World War II, revealing its influence on the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter doctrines. He shows how America's own wells are drying up as our demand increases; by 2010, the United States will need to import 60 percent of its oil. And since most of this supply will have to come from chronically unstable, often violently anti-American zones-the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, Latin America, and Africa-our dependency is bound to lead to recurrent military involvement.
With clarity and urgency, Blood and Oil delineates the United States' predicament and cautions that it is time to change our energy policies, before we spend the next decades paying for oil with blood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429900577
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/01/2007
Series: American Empire Project
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Michael T. Klare is the author of fourteen books, including Resource Wars, Blood and Oil, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet and The Race for What's Left. A regular contributor to Harper's, Foreign Affairs, and the Los Angeles Times, he is the defense analyst for The Nation and the director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst.

Michael T. Klare is the author of more than fifteen books, including Resource Wars and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. A contributor to Current History, Foreign Affairs, and the Los Angeles Times, he is the defense correspondent for The Nation and the director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Blood and Oil

The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency

By Michael T. Klare

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2004 Michael T. Klare
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0057-7


The Dependency Dilemma: Imported Oil and National Security

Tampa, Florida, is not one of the places you usually think of as a hub for American relations with the oil kingdoms of the Persian Gulf. It does not, like Houston, play host to any of the giant U.S. oil companies; it does not, like Washington, D.C., house the State Department and foreign embassies; and it does not, like New York, lay claim to the United Nations and the international news media. But Tampa does have something that none of those other cities can claim: the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), the nerve center for all U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf region, including those now under way in Afghanistan and Iraq. Centcom forces, operating as they do in the greater Middle East, occupy the front lines in the war against terrorism and play a critical role in efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. From its very inception, however, Centcom's principal task has been to protect the global flow of petroleum.

Situated at MacDill Air Force Base in south-central Tampa, Centcom is one of the five regional "unified commands" that govern American combat forces around the world. (The others are the Southern Command, based in Miami; the European Command, based in Stuttgart; the Pacific Command, based in Honolulu; and the Northern Command, based in Colorado Springs.) It is headed by a four-star general — currently General John P. Abizaid of the U.S. Army — and exercises direct command authority over all U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps contingents deployed in its "area of responsibility" (AOR), covering twenty-five mostly Muslim nations in the Persian Gulf area, the Horn of Africa, the Caspian Sea basin, and Southwest Asia. This vital but turbulent region includes Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

As its recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate, Centcom has emerged as one of the Pentagon's most important unified commands. It is not, however, the largest or best endowed. The European Command, in Stuttgart, has numerous bases in Europe and incorporates all the American forces assigned to NATO; the Pacific Command, in Honolulu, oversees powerful combat fleets and hundreds of thousands of troops in Asia and the Pacific. Centcom, in contrast, has few permanent operating bases of its own (other than MacDill) and has to borrow troops from the other commands when assembling a force to deploy in its AOR. What makes Centcom distinctive is that its forces inhabit an active war zone where American soldiers are fighting and dying on a daily basis.

The Central Command was formally established only two decades ago, on January 1, 1983. Since then, Centcom forces have fought in four major engagements: the Iran-Iraq War of 1980–88, the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the Afghanistan War of 2001, and the Iraq War of 2003. Centcom was also responsible for enforcing the containment of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime after the completion of Operation Desert Storm. Almost all the American soldiers who have died in combat since 1985 were serving under its authority, including the victims of terrorist attacks at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in June 1996 and aboard the USS Cole in October 2000.

Although Centcom's AOR stretches more than three thousand miles, from Egypt in the east to Kyrgyzstan in the west, its geographic and strategic heart is the Persian Gulf basin, the home of approximately two-thirds of the earth's known petroleum reserves. This area contains the world's five leading producers of oil — Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — and many of its most important suppliers of natural gas. Every day, tankers carrying approximately 14 million barrels of petroleum traverse the Gulf proper and pass through the narrow Strait of Hormuz on their way to markets around the world. Keeping this channel open and defeating any and all threats to the steady production of Persian Gulf oil is the overriding responsibility of Centcom forces.

The Central Command's basic mission was originally enunciated in the Carter Doctrine of January 23, 1980, which designated the secure flow of Persian Gulf oil as a "vital interest" of the United States. Claiming that this key interest was threatened by the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (which had begun in December 1979) and the near-simultaneous rise of a radical Islamic regime in Iran, President Jimmy Carter told Congress that Washington would use "any means necessary, including military force," to keep the oil flowing. At that time, however, the United States had few forces in the Gulf and only a limited capacity to deploy additional troops in the region; moreover, authority over any American forces that might be deployed there was divided between the European and the Pacific commands, complicating coordination. In order to back up his proclamation, Carter established the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF) at MacDill Air Force Base and gave it responsibility for combat operations in the Gulf. Three years later, on January 1, 1983, President Ronald Reagan elevated the RDJTF, naming it the Central Command (because it encompasses the "central region" between Europe and Asia) and putting it on an equal footing with the other regional commands.

U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility

Centcom's critical role in protecting the nation's and its allies' oil supply finds blunt expression in the testimony its commanders in chief regularly deliver to Congress. "America's vital interests in the Central Region are longstanding," General J. H. Binford Peay III told a House subcommittee in 1997. "With over 65 percent of the world's oil reserves located in the Gulf states of the region — from which the United States imports nearly 20 percent of its needs; Western Europe, 43 percent; and Japan, 68 percent — the international community must have free and unfettered access to the region's resources." Any disruption in this flow, he warned, "would intensify the volatility of the world oil market [and] precipitate economic calamity for developed and developing nations alike." All of Peay's successors have echoed this judgment.

Centcom's forces got their first taste of combat in 1987, when President Reagan ordered U.S. warships to escort Kuwaiti tankers — hastily re-flagged with the American ensign — while traversing the Persian Gulf and to protect them from attack by Iran and Iraq, then in the final throes of their bloody eight-year war. Such action was essential, Reagan declared, to demonstrate the "U.S. commitment to the flow of oil through the Gulf." Three years later, in August 1990, President George H. W. Bush used similar language to justify the deployment of Centcom forces in Saudi Arabia, to deter a possible attack by the Iraqi forces then encamped in Kuwait. "Our nation now imports nearly half the oil it consumes and could face a major threat to its economic independence," he said in a nationally televised address on August 8. Hence, "the sovereign independence of Saudi Arabia is of vital interest to the United States."

The ensuing Persian Gulf War introduced the American public and the international press to Centcom's most memorable leader: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the brash and forceful architect of Operation Desert Storm. General Schwarzkopf is widely credited with the dramatic "Hail Mary" maneuver that led to the rapid encirclement and defeat of the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. At that point, Schwarzkopf — acting under orders from the president — ceased military operations and commenced what was to become the "containment" of Iraq. Enforcing the containment strategy — including the no-fly zone in southern Iraq and the UN-imposed blockade in the Gulf proper — occupied Centcom forces for the next twelve years, until the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.

The degree to which the 2003 war with Iraq was driven by American concern over the safety of Persian Gulf oil supplies is a complex and controversial issue that I will examine carefully later in this book. Suffice it to say here that, from the vantage of officers and enlisted personnel in the U.S. Central Command, the invasion of Iraq is only the latest in a series of military engagements in the Gulf proceeding from the Carter Doctrine. This history helps to explain why the very first military objective of Operation Iraqi Freedom was to secure control over the oil fields and refineries of southern Iraq, and why, following the initial U.S. incursion into Baghdad, American forces seized and occupied the Oil Ministry while allowing looters to overrun all the other government buildings in the neighborhood.

Although Saddam Hussein no longer controls Iraq, and his military has been largely destroyed, Centcom's work is far from finished. American troops continue to guard the pipelines that carry Iraqi crude to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and to protect oil facilities elsewhere in the country. Some of this work is being turned over to private guards and Iraqi police units, but American forces will continue to play a crucial role in defending Iraq's highly vulnerable petroleum infrastructure against attack for some time. Elsewhere in the Gulf, Centcom ships and planes continue to monitor the incessant oil-tanker traffic and guard the Strait of Hormuz. Farther north, still other Centcom units serve at American military bases in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. No other regional command shoulders so many responsibilities or faces so much danger on a day-to-day basis.

From every indication, Centcom's responsibilities — and the perils they entail — will grow, not diminish, in the years ahead. The United States is becoming ever more dependent on petroleum from the Persian Gulf area and Central Asia, and ensuring access to that energy source will inevitably entangle American forces in the multitude of ethnic, religious, and political conflicts that trouble the region. Notwithstanding the many American troops now deployed in Centcom's AOR and the many battles they have fought and won, the area is no more stable today than it was in January 1980, when President Carter issued his proclamation. Although we cannot foresee the precise nature and timing of the next crisis the Central Command will address, it's safe to predict that its forces will see combat in the Persian Gulf once more — and that such intervention will be repeated again and again until the last barrel of oil is extracted from the Gulf's prolific but highly vulnerable reservoirs.

Moreover, soldiers from the other regional commands are increasingly being committed to oil-related operations of this sort. Already troops from the Southern Command (Southcom) are helping to defend Colombia's Cano Limón pipeline, a vital link between oil fields in the interior and refineries on the coast, which has been under recurring attack from leftist guerrillas. Likewise, soldiers from the European Command (Eurcom) are training local forces to protect the newly constructed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in Georgia. Eurcom also oversees all U.S. forces deployed in Africa (except in the Horn, which falls under Centcom's jurisdiction) and has begun seeking bases from which to support future operations to defend the region's oil facilities. Finally, the ships and planes of the U.S. Pacific Command (Pacom) are patrolling vital tanker routes in the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, and the western Pacific.

Taken together, these developments lead to an inescapable conclusion: that the American military is being used more and more for the protection of overseas oil fields and the supply routes that connect them to the United States and its allies. Such endeavors, once largely confined to the Gulf area, are now being extended to unstable oil regions in other parts of the world. Slowly but surely, the U.S. military is being converted into a global oil-protection service.

How did this situation arise? Why have America's armed services been assigned this demanding and hazardous role? What are the long-term consequences of this decision? To answer these critical questions, it is first necessary to look at petroleum itself and consider its pivotal role in shaping the American economy. Likewise, it is essential to assess oil's place in the evolution of American security policy and the implications of the nation's growing dependence on imported supplies.

"Petroleum," the energy expert Edward L. Morse says, "has proven to be the most versatile fuel source ever discovered, situated at the core of the modern industrial economy." This has certainly been the case in the United States, where oil is a major source of energy and a key driver of economic growth. Petroleum provides approximately 40 percent of the nation's total energy supply — far more than any other source. (Natural gas supplies 24 percent, coal 23 percent, nuclear power 8 percent, and all others 5 percent.) Oil serves many functions — powering industry, heating homes and schools, providing the raw material for plastics and a wide range of other products — but it is in transportation that its role is most essential. At present, petroleum products account for 97 percent of all fuel used by America's mammoth fleets of cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains, and ships.

Most analysts believe that oil will remain the nation's principal source of energy for many years to come. This is so because other sources of energy are either too scarce (natural gas, hydropower), too costly (wind, solar), or too harmful in generating by-products (carbon dioxide in the case of coal, radioactive waste in the case of nuclear power). Petroleum, by contrast, is relatively abundant, reasonably affordable, and generates less CO than coal does. So it will likely remain the primary source of fuel for America's industries, communities, and transportation systems for the foreseeable future. In fact, the Department of Energy predicts that petroleum will account for approximately the same proportion of America's total energy supply in 2025, 41 percent, that it does today.

The United States was the first country in the world to develop a large-scale petroleum industry — an endeavor that began in 1859, when pioneering developers struck oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania — and this industry has played a central role in sustaining the nation's economic growth for the past 145 years. Copious domestic oil output gave rise to America's first large multinational corporations, among them John D. Rockefeller's legendary Standard Oil Company, the progenitor of such industry giants as Exxon Mobil, Chevron (now combined with Texaco), Amoco (now part of British Petroleum [BP]), and Atlantic Richfield (now also part of BP). Abundant and relatively cheap oil was also essential to the rise of such other mammoth enterprises as the Big Three automobile manufacturers, DuPont and other chemical companies, and the large airline and freight companies. These firms and others like them have generated much of the nation's wealth and employed many of its workers over the past century.

It is nearly impossible to chronicle all the ways petroleum contributes to the vibrancy of the American economy. Because rapid and reliable transportation is so vital to the functioning of virtually every industry and enterprise, an abundant supply of affordable oil has been a major spur of economic growth and expansion. Private automobiles and cheap gasoline made possible the suburbanization of America, with all its housing developments, malls, office parks, and associated infrastructure. Petroleum provides the "feedstock," or basic raw material, for paints, plastics, pharmaceuticals, textile fibers, and a host of other products. The nation's highly productive agricultural industries also rely on petroleum to power farm machinery and provide the feedstock for pesticides, herbicides, and other key materials. And the booming tourism and recreation industry utterly relies on affordable car, bus, and airplane travel.

A painful reminder of the critical role that oil plays in the U.S. economy is the fact that nearly every economic recession since World War II has come on the heels of a global petroleum shortage and an accompanying surge in prices. Many readers will remember the Arab oil embargo and the OPEC price increases of 1973–74, which resulted in endless lines at gas stations and a severe economic contraction. Long gas lines and another contraction followed the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and a similar if shorter episode followed the August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. More recently, a global shortage of petroleum triggered the lingering economic downturn of 2001–2002 and threatened to slow or abort the recovery of 2004. To be sure, other factors have played a role in these events, but in each case a shortage of petroleum set the downturn in motion.

Just as petroleum fuels the economy, it also plays an essential role in U.S. national security. The American military relies more than that of any other nation on oil-powered ships, planes, helicopters, and armored vehicles to transport troops into battle and rain down weapons on its foes. Although the Pentagon may boast of its ever-advancing use of computers and other high-tech devices, the fighting machines that form the backbone of the U.S. military are entirely dependent on petroleum. Without an abundant and reliable supply of oil, the Department of Defense could neither rush its forces to distant battlefields nor keep them supplied once deployed there.


Excerpted from Blood and Oil by Michael T. Klare. Copyright © 2004 Michael T. Klare. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. The Dependency Dilemma: Imported Oil and National Security,
2. Lethal Embrace: The American Alliance with Saudi Arabia,
3. Choosing Dependency: The Energy Strategy of the Bush Administration,
4. Trapped in the Gulf: The Irresistible Lure of Bountiful Petroleum,
5. No Safe Havens: Oil and Conflict Beyond the Persian Gulf,
6. Geopolitics Reborn: The U.S.-Russian-Chinese Struggle in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Basin,
7. Escaping the Dilemma: A Strategy for Energy Autonomy and Integrity,

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