Although the war in Iraq could cost up to $140 billion, the long-term boost provided to the global economy by Saddam Hussein’s removal from power would greatly exceed the initial costs of war. Lawrence Lindsey, President Bush’s economic advisor, said increased oil production in a free Iraq would drive down oil prices. “When there is a regime change in Iraq, you could add 3 million to 5 million barrels [per day] of production to world supply,” he said. “The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”
Over the past 10 years, the world economy has grown extensively, even with the threat of terrorism present. If much of this threat of terror is removed with a successful regime change in Iraq, the world economy could grow to an even greater extent. With less uncertainty about rogue regimes, businesses and governments around the world will have more incentive to invest in underdeveloped areas once occupied by terrorist regimes.
After a successful regime change, an interim U.S.-backed government would pave the way for democracy in Iraq. In the Middle East, where over two-thirds of the world’s oil is produced, a force such as the U.S. military would have a stabilizing effect on the region, and thus be beneficial for the world economy.
Russia, France and China, three members of the U.N. Security Council, cry about potential human rights issues and the sovereign rights of Iraq, but in essence, they wish to maintain their current stakes in Iraqi oil. With a new regime in place, Britain would replace France as the chief European dealer in Iraqi oil and equipment, and the $8 billion debt owed to Russia and China by Iraq would likely be repudiated. Over the past 12 years, energy executives from the three countries have negotiated provisional agreements with Hussein to begin major oil development projects on the day that U.N. sanctions are finally revoked. Back in 1997, the Russian companies Lukoil, NK Zarubezhneft and Machinoimport signed a 23-year, $3.5 billion contract guaranteeing them access to the colossal West Qurna oil field — which may hold up to 15 billion barrels — once sanctions are lifted. Last week, the Iraqi newspaper Al-Zawra indicated that another Russian firm had solidified an arrangement to drill wells south of Basra. Where these three countries are more concerned with their own selfish economic interests, the United States is interested in bringing democracy to an impoverished people and removing barriers to spur world economic growth.
A state-owned French company, TotalFinaElf, meanwhile, has recently been maneuvering to gain exploration rights in Iraq’s Majnoon field, which has projected reserves of 20-30 billion barrels. In addition, China National Petroleum Corporation is contracted to repair and develop sections of the Rumaila production zone, which was badly damaged during the 1991 Gulf War. These agreements, of course, might not necessarily be honored by a post-Hussein Iraqi government. The extermination of Baghdad’s totalitarian despot could thereby mean less revenue and less influence for energy companies in all three nations.
OPEC nations have good reason to protest the war as well. When the U.S.-backed Iraqi government declines to join OPEC, world markets will flood with cheap oil. In order to remain competitive, OPEC nations will be forced to reduce prices. Since much of the world economy is still driven by oil, perhaps the world’s number one energy source, reducing its price would have extremely beneficial effects on the world economy, especially those of developing nations. With money saved from oil, nations can undergo more investment in other critical areas of the economy, such as development, healthcare, education, etc.
Anti-war protesters may contend that the Bush administration is only pushing for regime change out of narrow economic self-interest. But if they are upset with countries whose foreign policy in Iraq is being determined by petroleum investments, the protesters should redirect their ire toward Europe and Asia. Hussein has used lucrative oil contracts with Russian, French and Chinese businesses as effective diplomatic weapons in his attempt to stave off a U.S.-led invasion.
Thankfully for both America and the world, President Bush is not an oil-hungry imperialist, but rather a strong leader with the courage and moral clarity to eschew those who seek oil money through appeasement. Despite continued opposition from what New York Times columnist William Safire has aptly dubbed the “Paris-Moscow-Beijing axis of greed,” the United States will soon be compelled to topple a lethally armed megalomaniac and liberate the Iraqi people.
Philip Shaw is a junior in Calhoun College.