The claim is often made that we invaded Iraq in 2003 to secure our access to its oil reserves, or, more cynically, to secure the profits of US energy-related companies. To me this policy made sense, at least in the short term. It was morally reprehensible and would probably hurt us in the long run but at least I could understand it. It made a lot more sense than the reasons the Bush administration announced: non-existent WMDs, non-existent cooperation between Saddam and Osama bin Laden, and fulfilling the non-existent desires of the Iraqi masses to adopt electoral democracy and become close allies of the United States.
If securing access to oil were our real strategy, I would have expected us to cordon off the oil fields, empty the region of its indigenous inhabitants, and pump the place dry. As I said, morally reprehensible but a coherent strategy. We didn’t do that, of course. So perhaps we had a more sophisticated plan to achieve the same results? If so, it didn’t work very well. The average price of a barrel of domestic crude in 2002 in March 2013 dollars was $29.49. For 2012, it was $87.68. So we invested some $3 trillion (up from the original estimate of $80 billion), and what we got for it was a tripling of oil prices. Some bargain. Continue reading