Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is in the news with quotes coming from his new book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. Mostly the quotes are about how the Bush Administration is fiscally irresponsible and Dick Cheney has fallen away from his past support for fiscal restraint. But Greenspan's comments about how the Iraq war is about oil have generated even more controversy.
Greenspan, who was the country's top voice on monetary policy at the time Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, has refrained from extensive public comment on it until now, but he made the striking comment in a new memoir out today that "the Iraq War is largely about oil." In the interview, he clarified that sentence in his 531-page book, saying that while securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House with the case for why removing Hussein was important for the global economy.
"I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan said in an interview Saturday, "I'm just saying that if somebody asked me, 'Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?' I would say it was essential."
He said that in his discussions with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, "I have never heard them basically say, 'We've got to protect the oil supplies of the world,' but that would have been my motive." Greenspan said that he made his economic argument to White House officials and that one lower-level official, whom he declined to identify, told him, "Well, unfortunately, we can't talk about oil."
Greenspan, that man who gets such enormous amounts of praise and respect as supposed central bank wizard, is saying that it was essential to take out Saddam in order to protect the oil supplies of the world. Think about that for a second. Saddam tried to invade Iran and take over Iran's oil fields. He failed. He tried to take over Kuwait and we booted him out. If George H. W. Bush's administration had been more awake they could have prevented that invasion with a well worded threat and they could have destroyed Saddam's invading forces with air power if they'd gotten ready for the invasion when Saddam started dropping hints.
As for Saddam taking over Saudi Arabia: Wasn't going to happen. The US Air Force and US Navy fliers could have used the opportunity for target practice by taking out Saddam's tanks as Iraqis tried to roll over the desert of Saudi Arabia. In a nutshell: Saddam lacked the means to take over the Gulf oil countries. First his military was damaged against Iran and then much more severely in the war over Kuwait. Then his military decayed even further under an embargo that included occasional air strikes by US and British aircraft. By the time George W. Bush took office Saddam had been defanged and he knew it.
Aside: The Middle Eastern governments have inflated their official reserves and they have far less reserves than they claim to have. So there's less oil in the Middle East to protect and less US economic interests at stake in the Middle East than you'll hear commonly claimed.
Lest you think that Greenspan really meant something else he has been kind enough to tell the Wall Street Journal about his delusion that Saddam posed some sort of threat to the Strait of Hormuz.
Tell me about your views on the importance of deposing Saddam.
My view of the second Gulf War was that getting Saddam out of there was very important, but had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, it had to do with oil. My view of Saddam over the 20 years … was that he was very critically moving towards control of the Strait of Hormuz and as a consequence of that, control of the oil market. His purpose would be very much similar to [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez’s actions and I think it would be very dangerous for us. So getting him out to me seemed a very important priority.
I try to be polite about individuals. But the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake and any prominent figure who makes lame arguments about the invasion must not go unchallenged. Saddam was moving towards control of the Strait of Hormuz? I'd be embarrassed to say something so obviously wrong. One doesn't need to do fancy calculations or read tons of history books or follow complex theories to know that Saddam was not moving toward control of the Strait of Hormuz. That's nuts. But where is this coming from? If Greenspan had this view 20 years ago then one can't blame it on senility. So what is going on? Can someone explain this? Is Greenspan overrated in general? Or is he only good at some narrow specialty and foolish about much else?
Greenspan is another example of a general problem we face: We are poorly led. We give our elites - especially our political elites - far too much respect and deference. These people are nowhere near as competent as they make themselves out to be. The really talented people in America are in investment banks and Silicon Valley start-ups. They aren't in Washington DC in high government positions. Though I bet there are some smart people on K Street manipulating the yahoos in government.
We mostly are better off if the sharpest people are in venture capital-funded start-ups and investment banks. The private sector generates the wealth. But we need some small handful of sharpies in key positions of power who can recognize when nonsense is being spoken and say no to stupid policies.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 September 17 11:15 PM Elites Betrayal And Incompetence|