Over the weekend, Peter wondered why it should be necessary for the Obama administration to step up U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf region even as we withdraw all remaining troops from Iraq.
A way to make the presence of troops in the Gulf less pressing would be to increase our domestic oil production from 40% to 65% of our needs, which, with vast new finds in the Dakotas, offshore, the west, and in Alaska, is actually practicable, along with converting much of our fleet to natural gas, whose domestic reserves seemed to have doubled if not tripled in the last five years. In the next 10 years, the Western Hemisphere, from Brazil to Alberta, will produce as much oil and gas as the Gulf. That would relegate that region to something like the Horn of Africa, a key transit point for global commerce, but not a place where the U.S. would invest blood and treasure to keep it quiet 24/7.
In general the stationing of troops after successful wars—Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Balkans, Iraq—has led to consensual governments which were in our longterm interests. And if there is not ongoing fighting and if the host is willing to pick up some of the costs, then the expenses of such deployments are not that much greater than having the troops based at home—with the caveat, of course, that it is much more likely to intervene and use troops abroad somewhere than when they are home.
As for defending corrupt, rich, and often anti-American Gulf monarchies, as we did in 1991 with Kuwait: I think the thinking is one of bad and worse choices. Yes, they are all that above, but they are not quite Irans or Saddam's Iraq, which translated vast oil revenues into attacking neighbors or—overtly— funding international terrorism. A now duplicitous Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or Qatar openly playing the role of Iran or Iraq in the 1980s, or even a Gaddafi around 1980, would ultimately be a worse nightmare. So we put troops in the area, blush over the hypocrisies and costs involved, and shrug that the alternative might be worse. For some reason, this administration cannot grasp that a national effort to produce more gas, oil, and coal in this hemisphere—possible now in a way it was not in 2000— means less money for and less tension with the Arab Islamic Middle East, and also less environmental damage, given that we or the Canadians can extract fossil fuels far more greenly than can a Russia or Nigeria. Otherwise, it is more hundreds of billions of borrowed American money to Islamists, sheiks, and dictators, and more Solyndras and government-made Chevy Volts at home.