Follow up on previous post “Why Energy Independence is Bad for the USA”

A reader, J-Ro, made the following comment after my original post (just scroll down a little).

Interesting theory, but I don’t think I can agree.

In my view, the Middle East is such a mess because oil is SO important to America. So important that we have to have our hands in everything, constantly intervening. The other problem with the Middle East economically is they are just as dependent on the oil economy as we are. Natural resources are tricky things for countries to manage. Take Africa, with abundant diamond reserves and all sorts of problems. Rich natural resources like oil and diamonds tend to concentrate money in the hands of a few, and leads easily to corruption and foreign influence.

Instead, without an oil economy, the Middle East can flourish as a well-rounded state. There are all sorts of sectors of the Middle East economy that don’t get the investment or attention they deserve because oil is the elephant in the room. Middle Eastern rulers have not shown the same kind of isolationist tendencies that North Korea has, so I think it is unlikely they will cut themselves off completely. Instead, without oil clouding our judgement, America will be able to deal diplomatically with these countries without a conflict of interest. I think this will greatly increase trust between our nations, and it will also make us more objective in our decisions about who to antagonize, who to attack, where to station our troops abroad, and all sorts of other important geo-political decisions.

now, i shall take a few parts of this comment and respond.

  1. J-Ro wrote,”Instead, without an oil economy, the Middle East can flourish as a well-rounded state. There are all sorts of sectors of the Middle East economy that don’t get the investment or attention they deserve because oil is the elephant in the room. ” how exactly will this happen? i am no expert on the region, but what else does the Mid-east have to offer? when oil goes out of style, what exactly are they going to sell in order to keep the economy afloat? according to CIA and wikipedia data, the region is horribly chained to oil exports with little to no other resources or industries to support themselves with once oil begins to decline. no way in hell they are going to be able to make up the huge capital shortfalls with the puny textile and fruit commodities they are involved in.
  2. J-Ro wrote, “Middle Eastern rulers have not shown the same kind of isolationist tendencies that North Korea has, so I think it is unlikely they will cut themselves off completely.” I do not think they will have a choice in this matter. once they become as insignificant as zaire or sudan, they will be isolated just as a matter of course.
  3. J-Ro wrote, “Instead, without oil clouding our judgement, America will be able to deal diplomatically with these countries without a conflict of interest.” on the contrary, i think that the only reason we deal diplomatically with these countries now is because they have something we want. when they are no longer an integral part of our economic and military machine, what use will they be to us? as it stands now, we are “nicer” to the mid-east states because they have a great potential of harming us; when they can no longer harm us we will become less flexible and will increase our demands of them.

in conclusion, USA intervention in these countries are a result of our dependence on them and once that element is gone we will abandon them. this may sound like a good thing, but the absence of USA intervention does not guarantee a country success and prosperity. look at Sudan-Darfur and Rwanda as examples. we are promoting democracy in the mid-east because we think it helps our national energy security to do so. when we no longer are chained to that we will no longer give two shits about democracy and human rights in the region. this will result in more resentment amongst its peoples as activists and reformists bear witness to the extreme indifference we will show them once we no longer care about them. we will have no concern for peace and stability in the region once oil becomes peripheral to our national interests.

3 Responses to “Follow up on previous post “Why Energy Independence is Bad for the USA””

  1. J-Ro Says:

    I agree with your general premise here. The absence of of US intervention does not guarantee a country’s success. However, it dosn’t guarantee failure either.

    Take a look at states like India, China, Turkey, or other developing countries. These countries can compete in the world economy just like anyone else. They prosper in all sorts of sectors, from technology and engineering to agriculture and manufacturing. And the US has diplomatic relations with them because we value them as trading partners, not because we want their natural resources.

    Great natural resources are both a blessing and a curse. Africa has some of the richest natural resources, from oil in Nigeria and Sudan to diamonds on Sierra Leon, to all sorts of fertile farmland. And what has that gotten them? For the most part, corruption, war, and foreign influence. Not to say that all resources are bad, but great resources without a great government behind them usually leads to chaos.

    It’s useful to think of a country like a business in this case. Businesses are foolish to rely on one revenue stream. What happens when that stream dries up? Instead, they diversify, and try and build multiple sources of revenue. Same thing with countries. To be taken serously on the world stage you need to be able to offer more than just one natural resource. You need industry, and a service sector, and innovation, and all sorts of other things that make strong countries. I think many Middle Eastern states rely too heavily on oil industry. It’s so easy, so why not? But they neglect to build a diverse economic base, and because the US depends on this oil, we prop up less than savory governments (see Egypt).

    Now, again, you’re right. Take oil out of the equation and the Middle East could take one of two paths. But think about it. Right now, they don’t even have the choice to go up or down in the world. The US has repeatedly shown we are willing to meddle and fight for their oil resources. We won’t let them get off oil if we can help it, unless we become energy independent. If we do achieve energy independence, then Middle Eastern states will have that choice. And what’s more, any advice we give them will be well received, as we’ll have less of an interest in their resources and more of an interest in cultivating them as partners.

  2. Administrator Says:

    Thanks again J-Ro! Your comments are refreshing and well thought-out, a true rarity in politics these days.

    And as most of my readers know, I am never convinced of any one idea, no matter how strongly I may argue it. Please keep the comments coming.

    Note to readers: J-Ro is a contributor (and editor?) at http://www.theseminal.com

  3. J-Ro Says:

    Yes, editor. I like your views too, well thought out, though I happen to disagree. You’re welcome to write for us anytime at The Seminal. Feel free to email me for details.

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