The Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq is as old as the country and even much older than that. It stems from a disagreement over who should succeed Muhammed after he died in 632. Iraq was pasted together by the British and French after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The European nation builders put three groups of people into one country: the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis, who would have never associated with each other under any other circumstances. Now that we have executed Saddam Hussein and left the country, the Sunnis and Shiites are fighting again. No one should have expected anything different.
Our concern with this situation is how it will affect the stability of oil flow to Europe and the United States. Because we have neglected to fully develop our renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power, we are unfortunately dependent on Middle Eastern oil as a source of energy. Any armed conflict in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. may threaten the stable supply of oil on which we depend. What should we do about this?
There are short term and long term considerations. We could calculate that it really doesn’t matter much which tribe or ethnicity rules Iraq, or even if Iraq comes apart, as long as whoever controls the oil fields is willing to sell us oil. If that is our conclusion, then we should do nothing in the short term except watch. In the long term we should pursue the development of solar and wind power supplemented by nuclear power and natural gas. This would require investment of considerable resources to reconstruct the electrical power grid of the nation. We should do this anyway so that we are not dependent on any foreign sources of energy. It is an achievable goal that could be financed by increased gasoline taxes and elimination of subsidies such as the oil depletion allowance that we pay to oil companies. If you look at gasoline prices around the world, we pay far too little for ours here at home.
If, on the other hand, we calculate that civil wars in Iraq, which will continue until the country comes apart, will threaten the oil supply on which we now depend, then we should invade and occupy the country. In order to make sure that this option is fully considered, I believe we should do it only if three conditions are met: Congress should declare war on Iraq; the draft should be reinstituted to spread the responsibility for soldiering throughout the population; and Congress should raise taxes to pay for the war. The last time we invaded Iraq we ran up a debt on the order of a trillion dollars from which our economy still has not recovered. Meeting these three conditions would help us understand the true cost of our dependency on foreign oil.
Stephen Baird, June 13, 2014