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Waging war over resources

BOOKS: Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict, Metropolitan Books, 289 pages, 2001, $26.

Review by Ashley Smith | December 7, 2001 | Page 9

U.S. LEADERS say that the war is about wiping out terrorism. But their bombs terrorize innocent Afghan people. They say it's about liberating people from the Taliban. Yet they support Northern Alliance warlords who wrecked the country in the early 1990s.

Anyone who sees the contradictions is asking, what's this war really about? Michael Klare's new book, Resource Wars, helps to answer this question.

He argues that conflicts in the world today stem from competition between countries over diminishing and essential resources, such as oil and water.

He discounts the fashionable view that war is the result of a clash of civilizations, between the Christian West and the Islamic world for instance.

Klare argues that, in place of the political and ideological conflict that characterized international relations during the Cold War, nations today have returned to a pattern of economic, political and military competition over vital resources typical in the first half of the 20th century.

Klare's discussion of the conflicts over oil in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea reveals the central driving motives of U.S. policy in the current war. Therefore, the U.S. has established bases, pre-positioned war materiel and made plans for U.S. intervention to protect oil reserves in the Persian Gulf. As Gen. Anthony Zinni told Congress in 1999, "With over 65 percent of the world's oil reserves located within the Gulf states [the U.S.] must have free access to the region's resources."

Klare shows how the U.S., in the wake of the Gulf War, has prepared for war to secure the region along three fronts: enforcing genocidal sanctions and conducting relentless bombing against Iraq, establishing a military plan to prevent Iran from threatening U.S. control of the oil shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, and funneling weapons and establishing military bases to protect the Saudi regime. The U.S. has thus established itself as the main overlord in the region.

At the same time, the U.S. has attempted to seize control of oil reserves in the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia as an alternative to the Persian Gulf. One of the underlying motives for the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan is stabilizing the country for a potential pipeline for Caspian Sea oil and establishing military bases throughout Central Asia to enforce U.S. policy.

Meanwhile, other powers--Russia, China and Iran--pursue similar aims. While the current war has papered over these underlying conflicts, they could easily reemerge.

In a stunning prediction written before the war, Klare writes that the various powers "may find themselves in a situation where their vital interests appear at risk and direct military involvement seems to offer the only solution. In this manner, the Caspian could prove the setting for a major regional conflagration."

Klare's model of the resource war is flawed when applied to those wars that can't be reduced to conflicts over resources, such as U.S. interventions in Kosovo, Somalia and Haiti. These had more to do with the U.S. asserting regional control and checking other powers. Without an understanding of this, Klare offers solutions--such as cooperation between nations and using the United Nations--that won't work.

Still, Resource Wars provides a wealth of information to cut through the lies that justify U.S. war aims.

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