From the 2008 February Vanity Fair
"How Bush Stacks Up" by James Wolcott
As for Iraq, Jim Holt makes the persuasive counter-intuitive argument for this thesis in a piece for the London Review of Books called “It’s the Oil, Stupid,” which begins, “Iraq is ‘unwinnable,’ a ‘quagmire,’ a ‘fiasco’: so goes the received opinion. But there is good reason to think that, from the Bush-Cheney perspective, it is none of these things. Indeed, the US may be ‘stuck’ precisely where Bush et al want it to be, which is why there is no ‘exit strategy.’ ” Spreading democracy in the region was never the goal, a quick in-and-out never in the cards, despite Michael Gerson’s misty-eyed testimony to the contrary. The goal was to take control of Iraq’s oil resources and stand guard over its infrastructure, which is why military bases with world-capital-size airport runways and suburban comforts (miniature-golf courses, fast-food restaurants, sports fields) are under boomtown construction in Iraq. Holt writes, “The draft law that the US has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq’s 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest—including all yet to be discovered oil—under foreign corporate control for 30 years.” All in all, a pretty sweet deal for the U.S. and trans-national corporations, paid for in part thus far by the sacrifice of nearly 4,000 American troops and countless thousands of Iraqis, a necessary cost of doing business if you don’t mind having others get their hands bloody. Holt:
The occupation may seem horribly botched on the face of it, but the Bush administration’s cavalier attitude towards ‘nation-building’ has all but ensured that Iraq will end up as an American protectorate for the next few decades—a necessary condition for the extraction of its oil wealth. If the US had managed to create a strong, democratic government in an Iraq effectively secured by its own army and police force, and had then departed, what would have stopped that government from taking control of its own oil, like every other regime in the Middle East? On the assumption that the Bush-Cheney strategy is oil-centred, the tactics—dissolving the army, de-Baathification, a final ‘surge’ that has hastened internal migration—could scarcely have been more effective. The costs—a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws)—are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.