Iraqi Oil

There has been a good deal of discussion on these pages about Iraqi Oil. Finally a notion from the Congressional Democrats that we all could agree on.

Democrats plan to push legislation this spring that would force the Iraqi government to spend its own surplus in oil revenues to rebuild the country, sparing U.S. dollars.

Senator Carl Levin points out that the Iraqi government has accumulated a $30 billion surplus, while we spend $10 billion a month in borrowed money to secure their country. Time to pay the piper.


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0 Responses to Iraqi Oil

  1. Morgan Warstler says:

    Heh heh.

  2. AKA The Hammer says:

    Wasn’t that the plan to begin with? The Iraqi oil would pay for the whole shebang?


  3. Nikc says:

    Yeah! Pay american corporations vastly inflated prices to build stuff . Then it can all be blown up again.

    Explosions. Awesome!

  4. Fentex says:

    One presumes you mean U.S tax-payers when you say ‘we’ in ‘we all could agree on’.

    I don’t find it an agreeable idea, and not simply because I want the U.S to pay for its trangressions (it seeming unlikely anyone can force accountability and recompense on the U.S) but because there’s no way Iraq will be allowed to manage it’s own expenditure without it flowing through U.S owned companies.

    And that’s a profit for war, which is an offensive thought.

    If the U.S is tired of paying money for its occupation of Iraq the obvious solution is get out and leave Iraqi alone. Recompense and reparations would be nice but can hardly be expected, so in their absence simple freedom from occupation and exploitation would have to suffice.

  5. Jon Taplin says:

    Fentex- That is where I want to go as well. Everyone knows that this Imperial adventure is not going to work out. Let’s leave and the Iraqi’s can take their windfall oil profits and rebuild their country

  6. Hugo says:

    How about more like, let’s take ’em for as much as they can afford. For example, let’s put a US Dept. of Commerce trade office in Bagdad and lobby hard but on the level for US contracts. That’s what we’d do in any other war-torn country with money to buy the stuff it needs to rebuild; especially if part of what they need is downstream oil tech to keep oil and money flowing to their best customers and allies—such as We da Peeps. Why shouldn’t our John Hurt be prospering from the reconstruction of Iraq, if he’s got stuff they need and have the money to pay for? And do we really want them going to China and Russia for their stuff?

    This hair shirt approach is quite a bit too Franciscan for my taste, thanks. Should U.S. foreign policy be run on self-interest, or on some mystical notion of penitant mortification?

    Southern California was built on war profiteering, if that’s what you choose to call it. One historian has called California “the American Gibraltar”. I have absolutely no problem with that.

  7. Morgan Warstler says:

    As Obama says, for something as mere as “profits,” ewwww.

  8. John Hurt says:

    Things are not well organized in Iraq.

    The administration apparently did not anticipate how difficult it would be to bring about order, much less organization. After the mission, such as it was, was accomplished.

    And if I’m not misrepresenting Ambassador Crocker, he testified that the Afghanistan/Pakistan border is the more pressing front in the war on terror. (While most of the commitment is to Iraq.)

    In his early twenties, Lyndon Johnson turned down some real money from some Texas oil men, because he thought the country would never elect an oil man president. This shows you how liberal we have become.

    If it is true that Iraq is all about oil (and the oil interests are getting a lot of attention in this deal), it looks like our priorities are first oil, then the war on terror, though the two may be connected in some way. And there may be some things in between.

    And it is all mixed in with some grand vision of the scheme of the way the world is going to be in thirty or fifty or a hundred years, that nobody can articulate, but you’ll have to take my word for it.

  9. Morgan Warstler says:

    John, I think it is clear, the ‘terrorists” are just rational actors who want to control / weaponize oil. If that is the case, then of course, it is actually all about oil.

    Meaning they want to dole out their resources to their greatest advantage, even to the level of forcing US into the backseat of world power.

    I personally would be completely happy, if the middle east just said, “we will 100% maximize production” to serve the world interests, we will sell maximum output energy to the highest bidder, if we ever fail to do so, bomb us, now please leave us alone.

    There would be no need for schemes. OPEC can break its own back, if it really wants to play nice.

  10. Hugo says:


    Your last one-sentence paragraph nicely encapsulates liberalism-as-social-instrumentalism. And seen in that light, it doesn’t matter whether the “grand vision” is articulated or not. It matters not whether it’s called a New Jerusalem or a New Frontier or World Order; or a deal Square, New or Fair; or a Great Society or a Shining City on a Hill or a New World Order or a Bridge to the 21st Century. It’s all just delusional Thousand-Year Reich/Workers’ Paradise/Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity blather from social demolitionists who couldn’t build their own burger, much less tell you what the world is going to look like in 30 years.

    That’s funny, the thing about Lyndon being prudish on oilmen. That Hill Country schoolteacher was himself a one-man crime wave once he got the political bug. And as for oil and politics not mixing, the Rockefeller’s have had quite a run, and as you say oil never blackened the Bush dynasty. Nope, LBJ woulda made a first-rate wildcatter. The man was already steeped in crude.

    Please explain your remark about profligacy, as I’ve been pondering whether to do an MIT and just lay it all on the table (except anything restricted) instead of hoarding, and jacking up demand and then meting it out for 25 cents a kiss. You know? What should I do, John? Should I act like a schoolteacher, or like a librarian?

  11. rhb says:

    How come you don’t mention social capitalism in your litany? You know, the one our current corporate leaders rely on for subsidies, and bailouts, and just good old tax rebates. You know, the one that loves to brag that it lives in free market. Oh, by the way, did you fly American today? Use your VISA is life card?

  12. John Hurt says:


    First of all, I think that is some of your very finest work. Macro as all get out. That profligate thing I meant in the best and most appreciative way. If I knew how to make this stuff pay, I wouldn’t be posting it up here pro bono, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, but generally speaking, I think you should go full Hunter S. Thompson, get out on the trail and tell the truth. That is always the right thing to do. Well, not always, but frequently. Maybe infrequently. Or never. But at any rate, what have you got to lose?

  13. John Hurt says:


    If Opec wants to play *really* nice, it could send over a block of cheese and a fistful of posies with that broken back. *That* would be neighborly.

    And you think the terrorists (quotation marked!) are “just” rational actors and nothing more? Or less? That would fit in well with your theory, except for those times when they weren’t rational actors. I realize they would still be being rational actors even when they were acting irrationally, if I’ve got that straight, nevertheless, I’m going to have to chant that for a few incarnations before I will be able to fully incorporate it into my daily life, if that is the phrase I am looking for.

    I have to say, I don’t know what you guys are doing, but I don’t like it. I love it!

  14. Morgan Warstler says:

    Gotta love LBJ,

    “The easiest example is the rapid success of Lyndon Baines Johnson. When LBJ was staying at the Dodge Hotel, he took 4 showers, brushed his teeth 5 times and he did this with a pain-staking precision, planning to “run into” as many congressional secretaries as possible. LBJ knew that to rise in bureaucratic ranks, gaining allies and contacts was one big key factor in politics.”

    As an aside, didn’t LBJ and HL Hunt kill JFK? I thought he was in pretty thick with oilmen…

  15. Dan says:

    All you have to do is wind it up, punch in the code “LBJ”, set it on the floor, and watch the kids go crazy with delight. Hours of fun for the whole family!

    Plus you get the brand-new “HRC” code as well!

    Now how much would you pay?

  16. John Hurt says:

    Any amount.

  17. Morgan Warstler says:

    No need to wind up the newer models.

  18. Jon Taplin says:

    John Hurt- Welcome back to the discussion. We’ve missed you.

    Morgan- The only way terrorists “weaponize oil” is by blowing up the pipelines in Basra. Your rational actor theory just doesn’t work because the rational actors that are driving up the price of oil are George Bush and Dick Cheney.

  19. Morgan Warstler says:

    That’s the only way oil is weaponized? C’mon you don’t really believe the market will protect our interests, you just don’t like fighting for the free flow of oil.

  20. Jon Taplin says:

    Morgan- I though the market always produced the right outcome in your universe.

    Quite frankly, Iran would be stupid to withold oil from the market to try to raise prices or harm our system. There are too many rogue players in Venezuela and Nigeria who would gladly replace the missing Iranian oil, and the Iranian economy, already tottering would collapse.

  21. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo-“blather from social demolitionists who couldn’t build their own burger,”

    Do you know about the work of Amory Lovins, Stewart Brand, Peter Schwartz, Paul Hawken or E. F. Schumacher ? All true builders of a “bridge to the 21st Century” who are quite adept at “burger” construction. In fact most of them have been hired as consultants (Schumacher’s dead) by the Fortune 500.

    You are getting too simplistic in your jeremiad against alternative economic thinking. The whole purpose of this blog was to stop the table pounding about the evils of liberalism, neo-conservatism, libertarianism and all the other isms.

  22. Hugo says:

    Yes, I’m quite familiar with them, Jon, except for Amory Lovins. Fritz Schumacher was a dear friend of my late mentor, and I was about to mention Stewart Brand, but figured you all were more on top of his latest than am I. I think mine is closest to Stewart’s brand of Yankee praxis, continuously reading iterations between the extreme micro and extreme macro.

    Jon I’d like you to know that I too am sick of the “old back yonder isms”. What I’m trying to get at is the way in which [social] meliorism—for the People—clicks over via expert systems thinking into [social] instrumentalism—VIA the People. If I could put my finger on that switch—and I’ve been trying for 20 years to do so—then conceivably a way could be found to put a blocker on that switch. Without the blocker, all that we do to “make a difference” redounds to the power of systems, and therefore to those who vye for control, and therefore expansion, of those systems. I don’t know which -ism that makes me, and I’m sure neither of us cares.

    I’ve decided to take John’s advice and go Gonzo Librarian in the next 48 hours. I’m just going to lay a draft conceptual plan for our Middle School kids on you and call it a pro bono discussion piece. It’s just the thing NOT to do, so it seems like a no-brainer.

    I was just talking with your State Architects office about what might be done about the rigid, unreinforced masonry structures that form the core of your campus of buildings straddling the sometimes deadly Newport-Inglewood fault down Vermont Avenue.

    I’ll have a hypothetical to you shortly.

  23. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo- Fabulous. This is spot on “all that we do to “make a difference” redounds to the power of systems, and therefore to those who vye for control, and therefore expansion, of those systems.”

    Lets dive in.

  24. Hugo says:

    OK. As long as I can correct the spelling to “vie”!

    Sine die.

  25. Morgan Warstler says:

    Now wait a minute there professor, maybe this isn’t you obfuscating, and we mis-understand each other, so lets be clear:

    Me: Free markets all the time, except,when OPEC (not just Iran) refuses to maximize oil production, then armed intervention.

    You: Government regulation for everything, except if it entails using armed forces against our enemies to ensure our national interests (the free flow of oil) are served, then you trust the market.

    Which means, you trust them more than your trust us.

    I keep saying, MAXIMIZED production of oil equals a free market we can live with, everyone can bid on it, but if they hold one drop back, to raise the price, then that is a weapon being used against us.

    If the Middle East doesn’t want us meddling, they’d only need to maximize production. After that there really wouldn’t be anything to argue about, right? Why would we care? We could work together to peacefully pull 10Mbpd out of Iraq’s sands, as quick as possible, and get back to solving for alternative energy.

  26. Dan says:

    We flirted with the idea of cutting wheat exports to the USSR back in the 1980’s, and the response was, “That would be an act of war and we would respond accordingly. Send the wheat or else.”

    I assume that you would side with the Russians on that.

    As far as “solving for alternative energy,” the second oil prices go back down, all talk about alternative energy will cease. Detroit will immediately start producing huge cars again and we’ll party like it’s 1999. Until the next crunch.

  27. Hugo says:

    Although President Carter did impose a grain embargo of the Soviets when their tanks rolled into Afghanistan and he discovered the papal doctrine of Original Sin. He demanded that the Soviets backtrack. He even made the embargo retroactive to standing orders then unfilled, and promised farmers that the government would “eat” the surplus through storage, PRICE CONTROLS and increased grain giveaways to fight hunger abroad. (Nice little Psy Ops touch, that; you kill ’em, we’ll feed ’em.) The USSR didn’t respond as though it were an act of war to cut off their grain.

    (He also pulled us out of the amateur Olympics back when they meant something more than a trade show and Nuremburg Rally; he had his Commerce Department cut off technology sales to the USSR; he ordered the Coast Guard to keep Soviet fishing vessels out of our territorial waters; he recalled our Ambassador from Moscow and froze all arms control negotiations and ratification; he put the military on an elevated alert footing and began to activate the reserves; reinstated the draft for both sexes; sent three carrier groups to the region; declassified and leaked the news of the Neutron Bomb; and told the Soviets publicly that he would use whatever it took from our arsenal to bring them to their knees if they took another step toward the Gulf.)

  28. Morgan Warstler says:

    Dan, prices aren’t going to drop much, they just won’t rise artificially on the trend line. There will still be plenty of reason for alt.fuels. China and India will see to that.

    The alt tech itself needs to mature, many break-throughs are required between here and there, and break-throughs are less likely and far more expensive when our enemies are getting richer off our efforts.

    Wheat is a good example. Yes, the soviets would have considered it an act of war, and we’d only have done it, if we were essentially declaring one. Note, Putin actually did cut off gas to to the Ukraine in 2005. And the Ukraine wasn’t in a position to make threats back.

    We are in a position to make threats. We are essentially making them right now. My only point is that all the “religious” fervor, and Western culture, and “terrorism” it is all generally folks pissed off we don’t intend to let them control their own spigots.

    So, open spigot = peace, no?

    This is infact world history. Having power. Making threats. All nation states seek to grow and extend their power, certainly not to have it diminished, by OPEC nations. I mean I get the “oh the horrors” modern attitude, but, ultimately when every other nation can be trusted to work against their self interest, than we can to, but not until then. Let them jump into the pool first.

  29. Jon Taplin says:

    Hugo-Carter’s decision to boycott the Olympics was a huge mistake. If Moscow had been flooded with cheap American goods in the Summer of 1980 (Levis was planning to open a store and Tower Records was planning to do the same), the wall would have fallen five years earlier.

    The idiots suggesting we boycott the Beijing Olympics are equally misguided.

  30. Jon Taplin says:

    Morgan- Given the sorry shape of the Iranian economy, don’t you think they are pumping oil as fast as they can?

    As for the Saudi’s, they have lied about their reserves for years to keep their OPEC quota higher than anyone elses. There biggest field is 70 years old. I don’t think that any big producer is holding back supply at $110 per barrel.

  31. Fentex says:

    How could anyone with this attitiude…

    “Free markets all the time, except,when OPEC (not just Iran) refuses to maximize oil production, then armed intervention.”

    …(which is to say “markets are fine except when they don’t deliver what I want, which I will then steal”) complain if a person mugs them on the street, taking by force what markets have denied them?

    It’s not a position one can credibly hold and yet complain of forceful resistance.

    It also seems to be a silly complaint in the first place, to imagine oil producers won’t maximize their profits, which calls for both a good price and plentiful customers.

    The amount of money involved, barring foolish interventions, can be expected to create the incentives for selling.

    Invading Iraq had nothing to do with ensuring or improving the flow of oil – five years ago, as could be seen by the price, oil was flowing just fine.

    As I’ve said before it’s hard to see any good reason for the invasion in the first place and it appears different people had different ambitions that happened to coincide with their gaining influence in the U.S executive.

    I don’t tihnk anyo of them (Bush, cheney, the neo-cons) were thinking they were going to improve the flow of oil in the short term.

    The closest ambition to that idea would seem to have been a fairly base ambition to establish permanent presence of arms in the mid-east with some ill thought out concept that it would be of benefit in gauranteeing security of supply.

    A nonsensical idea. The failure of which is evident in the dialy news.

  32. Morgan Warstler says:

    Sure they are, just putting the extra 1 mbpd out drops the price, and screws the speculators, which drops the price even more. Not to mention the dollar inflation thats been going on.

    But my bigger point / question I’m asking is, if you think the spigot is running full tilt, why isn’t it in the world’s interest for us, to go in and pump Iraq’s at 10 mbpd? It is going to take a couple years even if the biggest investments are made the western oil companies.

    Since that’s all we’re really after, and knowing the power dynamic, isn’t it much safer for everyone to just push through and seek maximized production as a global goal?

    We could even assure OPEC, we will immediately cut of domestic federal spending and keep our budget balanced, so they don’t deal with dollar inflation in their reserves.

    Jon, is there any part of you that worries this might turn out ok? As in, the Iraqi parliament keeps consolidating power, more oil contracts get signed, less deaths, and the over-arching effect is that we come away from it, not feeling like it was a horrible decision? That we might feel willing to go do it again? Is there some lesson you think we should be made to learn that justifies rooting against success? Did Vietnam not teach us our lesson?

  33. Morgan Warstler says:

    Nation states don’t steal.

  34. Hugo says:

    I wouldn’t really know, Jon. I only know that I haven’t bought Chinese goods, except occasionally in error, since Tiananmen, through the length of which place—now scrubbed clean of human pulp—the Chinese junta plans to have the Olympic torch carried immediately prior to the Opening Ceremonies. And still that torch— itself a travesty of the erstwhile Olympic Movement—will be outshone by the mere memory of the papier-mache one of 1989. Everywhere that burning flame goes it sheds travesty. Why yesterday it lighted the way for the absurdly feckless Gavin Newsom to make a travesty of the U.S. Constitution.

    But I bet you’re right about doing an American version of the British Invasion on Moscow. Bill Graham and Russ Solomon and the Haas family together could’ve pulled the rug out from under those brutal totalitarian fossils in the Kremlin. And the Wooly Mammoths would’ve even have know what hit ’em.

  35. Fentex says:

    I don’t follow why anyone expects that oil ought be flowing as fast as production can manage. The commodity oil should be expected to flow at the most profitable rate for it’s owners, who, if they are at all wise, ought have a mind to future rates of production.

    If economic incentives now are encouraging reducing reliance on oil they should be leveraged to adopt alternatives. It’ll happen eventually that absolute oil scarcity will force such incentives on the world – it seems to me the most rational thing to do is work with them now.

  36. Morgan Warstler says:

    “I don’t follow why anyone expects that oil ought be flowing as fast as production can manage.”

    I’m being pretty clear – it is in our interests for it to flow at maximum. That’s why I expect it. We have the power to make it our policy, the question is, why don’t you expect it?

    Specifically to your mistaken point, IF you are trying to “get off oil,” because we ARE running out of oil, and it is in everything, and moves everything, THEN you need the price of oil to grow at the absolute slowest rate, so the cost of new technologies is not too high. BTW, you want as much of the oil profits to flow into the oil companies owned by your citizen’s pension funds as possible.

    OPEC is a cartel, with many nation states who work against our interests.

    And if you think we have to sit idly by while an organized effort to reduce the flow of oil is considered in their best interest, you are sadly mistaken. If you think we are not the types to present threats of force when our interests are being threatened, there’s nothing I can do to explain it. Access to the earth’s resources is not based on some god’s lines drawn in the sand. Lines are drawn in the sand by force and alliances, and if the lines and alliances cannot be protected and maintained by the leaders of the countries, the rulers will fall, and their system of governance is flawed.

    Note: Next time you are a dictator, when your people celebrate when your country is invaded, anytime they don’t fight to defend their government, you are in a precarious position.

    Now please Fentex,

    With Iraq fields coming online, more oil can be brought to market. The Iraqi parliament have written contracts with western companies that encourages maximum production, they are asking western oil companies to come invest more money in oil infrastructure, they are asking Petraeus to assure the oil companies that it gets safer everyday.

    Their goal, is our goal, more oil coming out of the ground. Break the back of OPEC’s cartel.

    Look, I’ll make you a deal, you support maximum oil production, keeping the cost of production of new technologies low, and I’ll support making investments the 2nd tax free favored sector of the economy – the Internet is the 1st, and see how that turned out for everyone else?

  37. Fentex says:

    I don’t follow this logic:

    [IF you are trying to “get off oil,” because we ARE running out of oil, and it is in everything, and moves everything, THEN you need the price of oil to grow at the absolute slowest rate, so the cost of new technologies is not too high]

    If you want to make alternatives cost effective, then you want them cheaper than the status quo. That means either drop their price or raise the cost of the status quo.

    Lowering the price of the staus quo does nothing to (financially) encourage alternatives.

    If I understand you you’re saying the U.S uses lots of oil and ought demand it be made cheaply available, by threat and exercise of force.

    That’s a position I do not agree with and see as no different from any piece of thuggery. It certainly doesn’t sound like something that will win friends.

    It also, if the topic is Iraq, doesn’t seem to be borne out as a good plan as evidenced by policies that have exercised force with the result of driving prices up, not down.

  38. Morgan Warstler says:

    Fentex, I’m not advocating cheaper oil, I want to keep it from being $200, $400, $800 a barrel for as long as possible.

    The price of oil in long trend is not up significantly because of Iraq, they never have produced a lot of oil. Let me repeat, the amount of oil on the market hasn’t decreased because of the war.

    The price of oil is up because of India and China, and OPEC’s machinations which encourages trader’s speculation. OPEC is much more bold & effective in trying to control the market, speculators know this, they bet on it.

    I think you don’t fully grasp what happens when the actual amount of oil on the market month-by-month begins to go down. There is no smarmy upside where we prideful capitalists all learn a good lesson, all segments of the economy all of them have expanded for 100 years based on an ever increasing supply of oil. Need more oil? Take out more oil. Everything we know is financed, structured, leveraged on this now defunct premise – it makes the credit crisis look like a bull market.

    Meanwhile, the perhaps largest supply of the cheapest oil to extract in the world is in Iraq, and we’ll be damned if we don’t control it. In our control, we ensure the throttle is open, the profits flow to western oil companies, the cost of building solar panels and nuclear plants goes down, we might survive – the world might survive.

    If we don’t put this silly middle ages jihad shit behind us now, I truly believe we are going to have to take much more drastic action in the near future, and we might even suffer serious damage ourselves. Better now to take our medicine, moral and otherwise.

    It is sad we don’t all have war gardens. But that failure doesn’t mean we don’t get to still control the worlds post-oil future. It is our job, becuase somebody has to do it.

  39. Morgan Warstler says:

    “I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.

    The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about “””

  40. Jon Taplin says:

    For me, The U.S. has been in a fantasy land about gas prices for 25 years. After the 70’s embargoes, while the Europeans and Asians raised taxes on gas to send market signals to reduce fuel consumption, the U.S. refused and lived in a fools paradise. Now we are caught flatfooted with a weak currency and an infrastructure (sprawl, 10,000 mile supply chain for WalMart, Fuel based industrial farming, etc) based on cheap gas. Guess what. Thats no longer possible, Morgan and all your fantasies about pumping swing supply out of Iraq are just that–Fantasies.

    There is NO EVIDENCE that major producers are not pumping to the max, including the Saudis.

    “Jon, is there any part of you that worries this might turn out ok? “-You misunderstand me. My purpose here is to stop you from living in the 6 year dream of Iraqi War success. At least Gates and the Joint Chief’s realize, that the best outcome is to keep drawing down in the hope that we don’t break the Army for the next ten years and have to institute the draft.

    You have no idea how many G.I.’s are in Iraq and Afghanistan under stop loss orders. Declare victory and go home.

  41. John Hurt says:

    While we look every day for good news from Iraq, this is not it. This is the most high risk adventure the US has ever undertaken. It could all come completely apart more easily than it could come together. By a long shot. At the very least, we better be ready for it to come completely apart.

  42. Morgan Warstler says:

    I think McCain, Gates, Petraeus, even Obama believe the best outcome is to keep drawing down troops in Iraq.

    It won’t happen on a set schedule, but Jon, you’d have to admit, that if we make the same gains ove rthe last 14 months, we’ve made over the last 14 months, we will declare victory and come home.

    To your stop loss complaint, Bush is reducing tours to 12 months in /out, down from 15.

    I’d expect during these next 14 months to see another 1mbpd (total 3.4mbpd) increase in Iraq oil output, and multiple political gains made by the Iraqi parliment.

    Some great real Basra insight from Kaus:

    “Iraqi Offensive Against Militia is Raising Concerns on Stability”–Headline on April 8 NYT story. Uh oh. And it’s a front-page story–sounds like the whole Maliki government might collapse. But we shouldn’t hide our heads! Let’s confront the bad news unearthed in “interviews with dozens of Iraqi politicians, government leaders, analysts and ordinary citizens” by the nine (9) Times reporters who contributed. Here’s the story:

    A crackdown on the Mahdi Army militia is creating potentially destabilizing political and military tensions in Iraq, pitting a stronger government alliance against the force that has won past showdowns …

    “Potentially destabilizing.” Hmm. That’s a bit weaker, no? A lot of things are “potentially destabilizing,” like having sectarian militias in control of your major port city! And what’s this about “stronger government alliance.” It’s stronger, and as a result there are increased “concerns” about its “stability”? Perverse and dialectical!

    Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s military operations against the Mahdi Army that Mr. Sadr leads have at least temporarily pacified Sunni political leaders …

    So the Sunni political leaders are pissed off! Oh wait, no, they’re pacified. This doesn’t sound so unstable, yet. Ah, but it’s only “at least temporarily.” Maybe the long run is where the “concerns on stability” are raising. That must be it!

    And both the Kurds and some of Mr. Maliki’s Shiite political rivals, who also resent Mr. Sadr’s rising power, have been driven closer to Mr. Maliki. This may give him more traction to pass laws and broker deals.

    Now Maliki has two additional sets of allies, and “more traction.” The instability better be coming soon, because this is beginning to sound like the makings of, you know, stability.

    But the badly coordinated push into Basra has unleashed a new barrage of attacks on American and Iraqi forces and has led to open fighting between Shiite militias.

    Aha! He launched an attack, which led to … fighting! But we already know he launched the attack. That’s what strengthened his ties to the Sunnis, Kurds, and other Shiite groups.

    Figures compiled by the American military showed that attacks specifically on military targets in Baghdad more than tripled in March, one of many indications that violence has begun to rise again after months of gains in the wake of an American troop increase.

    Violence rose in March. Maliki launched his attacks March 25, meaning that most of the rising March violence happened before the (potentially) destabilizing crackdown. Blinded by conventional notions of time and causation, you might even suspect the rising violence prompted the crackdown.

    In Iraq, where perceived power is a key to real authority, Iraqis saw the Mahdi Army stopping Mr. Maliki’s Basra assault cold, then melting away when Mr. Sadr ordered them to lay down their arms.

    Talking about “perceived power” conveniently allows the NYT to avoid reporting whether the actual events in Basra conform to its description of “Iraqis[‘]” perceptions. (The one Iraqi man on the street who is quoted says something a bit different: “I think Maliki and America are more powerful than [the Mahdi Army], but Maliki alone would be smashed by it.” He is the first and last “ordinary citizen” in the story.)

    I know, I know, you somehow think Mickey Kaus is not as smart as you. Please don’t be silly. Pay it real mind. Things might continue to get better.

    Moral of the story: We may actually be able to “declare victory” – the kind fo vicotry you seem to loathe. The kind that makes it RIGHT.

  43. Morgan Warstler says:

    “Take energy. Today, 70 percent of it comes from fossil fuels, a 19th-century technology. But if we could capture just one ten-thousandth of the sunlight that falls on Earth, we could meet 100 percent of the world’s energy needs using this renewable and environmentally friendly source. We can’t do that now because solar panels rely on old technology, making them expensive, inefficient, heavy and hard to install. But a new generation of panels based on nanotechnology (which manipulates matter at the level of molecules) is starting to overcome these obstacles. The tipping point at which energy from solar panels will actually be less expensive than fossil fuels is only a few years away. The power we are generating from solar is doubling every two years; at that rate, it will be able to meet all our energy needs within 20 years.

    Nanotechnology itself is an information technology and therefore subject to what I call the “law of accelerating returns,” a continual doubling of capability about every year. Venture capital groups and high-tech companies are investing billions of dollars in these new renewable energy technologies. I’m confident that the day is close at hand when we will be able to obtain energy from sunlight using nano-engineered solar panels and store it for use on cloudy days in nano-engineered fuel cells for less than it costs to use environmentally damaging fossil fuels.”

  44. Ken Ballweg says:

    My goodness, so much energy expended supporting the notion of being able to “declare victory” in Iraq.

    Sadly, America has already lost so much in this war, it runs the risk of being our equivalent of the USSR’s Afghanistan fiasco.

    We have squandered the ability of our military to wage any future “necessary” war without the draft and a massive war tax; ironically at the same time we have developed a deeply rooted public mind set that neither would ever be acceptable. We have lost our solvency. We have sacrificed status and are regarded as both hostile and vulnerable world wide. Given the first two loses, there is very little we can do if someone actually decides to take advantage of that vulnerability. Given that there are years of commitment and cost left just by the shear fact of what it will take to disengage from the area on any level, I don’t see much hope for it getting better.

    I could add the cost of lives, civilian and military, but I suspect that would not be a persuasive argument to someone who is willing to go to war to sustain maximum oil flow. But that does have an impact on the willingness of the American people to support any necessary war. The blurring of the boundaries between justified (WW II, Kuwait) vs. questionable necessity (Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq) saps the will of the public to support any war. Look at the public (as opposed to the leadership’s) lack of will to put soldiers in harms way, until the 9/11 attacks made it seem not just justifiable, but necessary.

    Ironically, now the line between justifiable and questionable military conflict is being redrawn, and the bills yet due are not going to make it any easier for the invasion to force OPEC to pump at maximum that you advocate, to ever happen.

    I fail to see this possible “victory” you hope to declare as being anything other than pyrrhic, and delusional. Granted the multinationals may find more than a few ways to make it work for them, but that has nothing to do with a “victory” for the American public.

  45. Morgan Warstler says:

    The hits just keep on coming:

    “Baghdad – The recent fight in Basra between Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen was about more than a government bid to reassert itself in a city where Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army was digging in. It was also about oil – and smuggling.

    Before the assault began on March 23, the Iraqi government drew up a list of about 200 suspected oil smugglers it hoped to round up – including the brother of the governor of Basra Province and, according to Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, several leaders linked to Mr. Sadr’s militia.

    For the government, which relies on oil revenues to fund most of its budget, the financial stakes are immense. While there are no accurate figures, an Iraqi parliamentary committee says that losses from oil smuggling run $5 billion a year.

    “We have cleansed large swaths on both sides of Shatt al-Arab that were being used to smuggle oil products and other materials,” says Mr. Shahristani, who spoke during an interview at the Oil Ministry in Baghdad on Monday, describing the government achievements in Basra so far.

    “Many of the gangs are colluding with local officials, powerful parties, or militias; it’s a web of interrelations,” he says.

    Shatt al-Arab, a haven for smugglers, is the 120-mile waterway formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers at Qurnah in Basra Province and runs to the Persian Gulf.

    Shahristani says the Basra assault, which was led by Iraqi forces and backed up by the US and British militaries, will allow better control of vital oil resources and facilities, curb smuggling, and help boost production to 3 million barrels per day (b.p.d.) by the end of the year, which would be the highest level in 20 years.”

    That’s 600K bpd more in just 8 months a 33% increase. Compound that at the same rate of increase for 2 more years and 2011 is 7M bpd.

  46. Morgan Warstler says:

    The OPEC back to break:

    “Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah said he had ordered some new oil discoveries left untapped to preserve oil wealth in the world’s top exporter for future generations, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

    “I keep no secret from you that when there were some new finds, I told them, ‘no, leave it in the ground, with grace from god, our children need it’,” King Abdullah said in remarks made late on Saturday.

    US President George W Bush in January urged the Saudi King to help tame soaring prices by encouraging Opec to pump more oil. On separate trips to Saudi Arabia this year, the US Energy Secretary also asked for more oil, while the Vice-President discussed high prices with the king.

    The kingdom has spent billions on building over 2 million bpd of spare crude capacity and is the only country in the world able to bring online large volumes of crude supply quickly to deal with unexpected supply shortages.

    Opec held production steady at meetings in February and March despite calls for more oil from the US and other consumers. Opec officials blame the high price on factors beyond the group’s control such as the weak dollar, investment flows into commodities and speculation. Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi said last week that global oil markets were well supplied and there was no need to put more oil on the market, despite prices hitting a record of over $112 a barrel last week.

    Saudi Arabia has trimmed its output to around 9 million bpd to reflect lower customer demand, a Saudi oil source said on Friday. The kingdom had in previous months pumped around 9.2 million bpd. Crude demand traditionally dips at this time of year after the end of winter as refiners carry out maintenance and prepare to meet summer demand.

    Saudi production capacity stands at around 11.3 million bpd, and is scheduled to rise to 12. 5 million bpd next year. (Reuters)”

  47. P. Cross says:

    For what it’s worth from the beginning I believe that the unstated purpose in Iraq was to have the 4 TH. I.D sitting in Iraq to keep our options open. It’s the economy stupid. Like it or not It was in response to 911. 911 was an attack on the very essence of our society and our ability to protect it.

    Political correctness/expediency seems to be such a constraint on good sense and forthrightness that the door is left wide open for political opportunists that are more interested in a political/social philosophy than the long term well being of the country.

    The world is very much like a men’s/boys locker room. It’s made up of the meek, the strong silent types, some with character some none. There always seems to be a bully or two and there are the ones that nobody screws with. Some of these are alpha males and some just want to be left alone, all face challenges. These are not negotiated roles. If you you are one of the strong, occasionally you will have to defend yourself from the bullies. If you do not then you lose everybody’s respect, this always leads to more trouble. The weak well they always are in for it. It is very Darwinian.

    Oh! By the way, show of hands please, who wants to actually win this war?

    Jon, I don’t think that if we had backed up the truck to unload the products of capitalism that they would have been very well received. I think you confuse communism with consumerism. They had no freedom to choose either.

    Many years ago I worked with a man that fought on the western side of the eastern front. He was adamant that with enough bullets they win, Russia loses. The Russians made war by sending their young men into the guns until the western side of the eastern front ran out of bullets. As it turned out the eastern side had more young men that were willing to die for mother Russia than the western side had bullets. After the 1st. Gulf war they realized that they were in for total annihilation in a ground war with us. We could kill them all real easy, a nuclear war was out of the question so ipso fatso the cold war ended. I think we won.

    As an unabashed pragmatic existentialist I am struggling with the realities of liberal/socialist/fascist politicos. I’m not sure where that came from, I hope it wasn’t to strong.

    Perry Cross

  48. Jon Taplin says:

    Perry-One question. Is Dick Cheney “the strong silent type” or “the bully” in your “the world as high school” trope?

  49. P. Cross says:

    Jon- It was a metaphor on nation interaction not specific individuals. Even though if Bill Clinton had manned up and did what was best for our country we may have avoided terrorists viewing us a weak sisters ripe for the taking. Bin Laden said as much.

  50. Morgan Warstler says:

    Jon, why is it you don’t get the high school analogy? It makes total sense to me.

    Does it just offend your senses? How could you ever see the US as a “bully?” I’m really interested.

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