A War for Oil

Bush, the Saudis, & Iraq

I am deeply suspicious of economically determinist or conspiratorial explanations for political and historical events. The world is just too complicated, and chance and history play too large a role in the choices we face and the decisions we make. The mantra on the left that President George W. Bush’s rush to war with Iraq is about oil, oil, oil, sounds simplistic to me. Still, I must also confess that the case Bush and his advisers have made for war is so convoluted and contradictory that I have been made equally suspicious about their real motives and goals. In the absence of any convincing evidence that Iraq poses an immediate and grave danger to the United States, why has Saddam Hussein become the prime target of the "war on terrorism"? I want to put forth one theory—and it is only a theory—in the hope that it may help illuminate at least a part of this mystery.

The only chronology that I am aware of which reconstructs the Bush administration’s adoption of a policy of "regime change" in Iraq appeared in a June 14, 2002 Wall Street Journal article by Carla Anne Robbins and Jeanne Cummings. According to Robbins and Cummings, the focus on Iraq "was far from preordained." Indeed, before September 11, 2001, "an interagency review on the country was languishing." Even after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they write, "Iraq didn’t figure prominently in Bush’s thinking, particularly after...

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About the Author

Jay Mandle is the W. Branford Wiley Professor of Economics at Colgate University. He is also director of development for Democracy Matters (www.democracymatters.org).