Oil is not a national security issue, study says

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August 1, 2001

Oil is not a national security issue, study says

Using the military to defend cheap commodities is inappropriate and immoral

WASHINGTON-Debate is continuing over President Bush's energy policy and "dependence on foreign oil." But according to a new study from the Cato Institute, this fear of economic dependence on the outside world has made its way into national security policy. That, the study argues, is a dangerous development.

In "Economic Security: A National Security Folly?" Donald Losman, professor of economics at the National Defense University, examines how "economic security" has become an integral part of U.S. national security strategy in the past 10 years. He argues that using military resources to defend vague notions of "economic well-being" is unwarranted and immoral.

"The best way to address economic challenges is through good economic policy, not military means," Losman says. But the drive for "economic security" means that the United States would be willing to go to war to protect the flow of commodities, such as oil, which are deemed essential.

The United States spends an estimated $30 billion to $60 billion a year on safeguarding Middle East oil supplies, even though its annual oil imports from the region totaled only $10.25 billion between 1992 and 1999. "Economic security" is still around, Losman says, because "America steadfastly clings to perceptions formed in the 1970s, and national policies continue to reflect oil paranoia." But even at today's "outrageous" prices, Losman says, "a gallon of gasoline sells for less than a gallon of Coca Cola, milk, or bottled water."

"Economic security" policies are also inconsistent, Losman says, because many commodities-such as semiconductors-are vital to the economy but do not receive military protection. But ultimately, he argues, "economic security" is immoral because "it is wrong to use our armed forces against people in foreign nations so that we can get a better deal."

"U.S. policymakers need to ask whether it is worth spilling American (or foreign) blood to keep commodity prices at 'acceptable' levels," he says. "It is one thing to fight for freedom or to deter and defeat military aggression, but spilling blood to ensure that we get cheap goods is quite another story."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 02, 2001

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