2008 August 30 Saturday
Sarah Palin: Iraq War Not Worth It For Oil

Before becoming John McCain's vice presidential pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressed the view that the Iraq war is not worth fighting for energy.

“I always looked at Senator McCain just as a Joe Blow public member, looking from the outside in,” she said. “He’s been buttin’ heads with Republicans for years, and that’s a healthy place to be.” Then again, on McCain’s signature issue—the prosecution of the war in Iraq—she did not sound so gung-ho. Her son is a soldier, and she said, “I’m a mom, and my son is going to get deployed in September, and we better have a real clear plan for this war. And it better not have to do with oil and dependence on foreign energy.”

The fact that she's going to shortly have a son in Iraq means that she's got far more at stake in this war than McCain, Obama, and Biden. What makes it worth it to put her own son at considerable risk? If she makes it into office she'll bring a perspective that McCain needs to hear.

Lucky for Palin's son, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi leaders are trying to end street patrols by American soldiers in the summer of 2009 and to get US combat soldiers out of Iraq by the end of 2011. That, parenthetically, would remove the Iraq war as an issue in the 2012 US presidential elections.

"There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said in a speech to tribal leaders in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

"An open time limit is not acceptable in any security deal that governs the presence of the international forces," he said.

The Bush Administration is reluctant to sign up for a fixed timetable for withdrawal. The Iraqis need a timetable for internal consumption but the Iraqi leaders are reluctant to totally commit to a fixed withdrawal in case an insurgency pops up in the mean time and threatens to overthrow them.

Underlying Maliki's remarks is the political reality that he must sell the accord to a fractious political establishment and the Iraqi public, which to a large extent views the U.S. military presence as an occupation that should end as soon as possible.

"The agreement will be met with significant public discomfort," said an aide to Maliki. "So Iraqi officials will resort to using the dates mentioned in the agreement to sell it to the public, even though they might be intended to be used in a guidance way."

Bottom line: The Iraqi leaders want to remain in power and they will take whatever decision most seems like guaranteed to keep them in power.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 30 11:29 AM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate

Ando Rivali said at August 30, 2008 3:07 PM:

You do know that McCain has a son (enlisted Marine) who's already done a tour in Iraq, and Biden has a son (enlisted Marine too, I think) who's about to? Still, mothers and fathers do have different perspectives, and hers is welcome.

Dragon Horse said at August 30, 2008 8:29 PM:

"Biden's elder son, Beau, had been a partner in the Wilmington law firm of Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden & Balick, LLC until he was elected Delaware Attorney General in 2006. Beau is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, where he serves in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps. He is set to be deployed to Iraq in October 2008."

He was the son who introduced his father at the convention. Still, he is JAG, so he won't be fighting...he will likely be in the Blue Zone doing legal work.

Frank Herrmann said at August 31, 2008 6:54 PM:

Alaska has enough Clean Natural Gas to power every car in America for the next 60 years, for less than $2.00 per gallon. If Americans stopped being SUV Junkies, perhaps over a hundred years. So she says it's not worth fighting "FOR OIL". Since 70% of America's oil consumption is for transportation, she makes sense to me.

Obama voted against increased body armor for the troops, against more and better armored helicopters, against ammunition for the troops, against, against, against... Obama would scare any parent of a soldier.

Palin is far more qualified than Barack Obama. Her record of accomplishments dwarf his, if he has any at all.

It is sickening the way the leftist liberal extremists try to trash her. Shame on them.

Jesse said at September 1, 2008 12:17 PM:

Only a total partisan would say that Palin is more qualified on anything than a sitting senator. Where did she get these qualifications? Was it during her stint as a PTA leader or when she was the part-time mayor of a town of 9,000 which she left with a $20 million debt? Maybe you think that governing Alaska gives someone the experience to lead the country? Alaska's legislature meets for 90 days of the year, so at most she has presided of 180 days of legislative sessions!

She has no relevant experience. If she had any she would have mentioned it in her opening speech, where she instead spoke about her husband being a champion snow mobile rider. She couldn't even get through one speech without lying about her record on the bridge to nowhere: she was for it before she was against it. Obama was a legal scholar and has visited war zones and met with foreign leaders, he's already got her beat on foreign policy. Iraq's Prime Minister endorses Obama's plan for Iraq, can you say that about Palin?

If you're talking about this phony "executive" experience that Republicans are suddenly concerned about, tell me how much of it John McCain has? Zero. Tell me how much national experience Palin has? Zero. What a great team!

Your bogus numbers about $2.00 gallons of gas are a ridiculous pipe dream too: that means we would be producing 50% of the oil we consume! We have 3% of the world's reserves while consume 25% of the world's production, yet you think these numbers add up? Keep dreaming, it's your kind of non-thinking that has us in such terrible straits to begin with.

Randall Parker said at September 1, 2008 1:46 PM:


We are near Peak Oil. There's no way we are going to see $2/gallon gasoline again. We'll see $4 again and then $5 and $6. Probably much higher than that too.

Because of the coming of Peak Oil what Palin proposes to do on energy makes more sense than what Obama proposes. Palin is basically for all energy forms: oil (offshore and ANWR), natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, waves, etc.

By contrast, Obama opposes ANWR drilling on the 2000 acres that are all that are required to get the oil. The existing Prudhoe Bay facilities built with older tech take up more ground and have not caused substantial environmental damage. The ANWR opposition is not rational.

Jesse said at September 1, 2008 2:30 PM:

Randall, thank you for your thoughtful response. Suppose you are right about ANWR. Who is going to drill this oil? Where does it go after it comes out of the ground?

Am I to believe that oil companies will invest in the infrastructure to, in a few years, start pulling oil out of ANWR and sell it exclusively to Americans at half its world market going price? Who would agree to do such a thing?

More likely, that ANWR oil is going to be a drop in the bucket of global supply. Americans will see a small decrease in the price of gasoline, nowhere near the 50% reduction claimed above. Considering inflation and the overall increasing price of oil between now and the time the oil starts coming out of ANWR, the value to Americans is dubious. No doubt this deal will involve heavy government subsidies and tax-breaks for the oil companies developing ANWR, subsidies which American taxpayers will ultimately pay.

This is another costly, flawed energy scheme which benefits only big oil producers. It is being sold to conservatives by plucking the dual emotional strings of anger over sending money to foreign interests when presumably we don't have to, and disgust over perceived government inaction. {Plainly stated, anyone who favors ANWR drilling has either not thought out the consequences or is pushing an agenda for increased oil company profits.

Randall Parker said at September 1, 2008 2:52 PM:

Jesse, I do not care if little green elves drill in ANWR as long as it gets done.

As for where it gets sold: When oil production starts dropping the US trade deficit will become so large that we are going to have a hard time importing oil or other essential raw materials from abroad. Oil coming out of Alaska will help the country's finances.

Evil oil companies: Did you know that the Western international oil companies are down to 13% of the global market and dropping? Most of the remaining oil is owned by government-controlled oil companies.

Subsidies: not necessary given the high price of oil and that oil prices are headed much higher.

Alaska's oil is owned by the government of Alaska. If it gets drilled the biggest beneficiaries will be Alaskans. The US people as a whole will benefit since the oil will make other imports more affordable and also generate tax revenue for the federal government.

Given the back-drop of Peak Oil your argument against it amounts to saying that the ship is sinking but that the people who are pumping the water out are going to make money off it. So we can't have that. Better to sink.

ANWR drilling consequences: Try thinking them out yourself. What terrible result do you expect?

Jesse said at September 1, 2008 3:06 PM:

The terrible result is that, in say five years when we do start seeing ANWR oil on the market gasoline will already be $6 / gal. For our years of investment and reneging on our promise to preserve those lands, we will see a negligible drop on an already high price of gasoline. This is time and money that would have been better spent building a raft to get off the ship instead of trying to save a sinking ship.

Randall Parker said at September 1, 2008 4:05 PM:


So we can agree that we have an energy shortage problem that is going to get worse and worse?

Okay, if we can agree with that then we can compare solutions.

Here's my take: I do not think that batteries are good enough yet for electric cars to replace liquid fueled internal combustion engine cars. A123Systems and other well funded start-ups are trying to change that. But it is going to take years. GM expects the batteries for their Chevy Volt to cost $15k per car. So the Volt is going to remain a low volume car.

The car makers are already ramping up hybrid vehicle production. But the existing cars will last a long time and most people will not be able to afford to buy a new hybrid.

Oil prices are already going high enough to let people know they've got to change their ways. Oil prices will go much higher still before ANWR oil comes into production. So the message will be even stronger before ANWR oil flows. What we need are ways to buy time to do the transition.

As for mass transit: As I have previously stated:

Before you get excited at the prospects for mass transit options such as commuter rail and buses check out Europe's experience with substituting mass transit for cars. At the following link see Figure 3: Overall mode share of distance travelled (%) in 2003 where it compares many European countries for public transport use. In spite of gasoline prices more than double that of the United States at least 80% of passenger miles traveled on the ground in Europe are done by car (with Denmark, Austria, and Ireland as exceptions). Driving smaller hybrids and living closer to work will do more to cut fuel usage than will mass transit.

America is less densely populated than Europe. European countries with high gasoline taxes and high support for mass transit still show 80%, 85%, 90% of passenger miles traveled as being by car. If that is all Europe can accomplish with high gasoline prices and mass transportation subsidies for light rail and buses why should we expect to do more?

BTW, I've written a lot on energy technologies:

• Energy Batteries
• Energy Biomass
• Energy Conservation
• Energy Electric Generators
• Energy Fossil Fuels
• Energy Geothermal
• Energy Heating
• Energy Lifestyle
• Energy Lighting
• Energy Nuclear
• Energy Solar
• Energy Tech
• Energy Transportation
• Energy Wind

Jesse said at September 1, 2008 4:42 PM:


Your position is clearly well thought out, contradictory to what I said earlier so I apologize for that. But your position is not as extreme as the one which I was arguing against originally, which holds that $2.00 / gal gasoline is supposedly within reach. My personal mission in this election is to combat such absurd misinformation so that nobody comes across it and sees it go unchallenged. Vote Obama or McCain, but I want people to make informed decisions.

Can you tell me what is the difference between Palin and Obama's energy policies? Obama has recently come out in favor of offshore drilling contingent on our shifting our longer term efforts towards more sustainable technologies. Moreover, I have to question Governor Palin's commitment to or understanding of any environmental positions. Her record shows egregious statements about man's contribution to global warming effects, and her attempting to sue the interior secretary to remove polar bears from the endangered wildlife list because it would harm the prospects of oil companies alarms me. Though I have to admit that I'm extremely unlikely to vote against Obama at this point anyway, these are still salient points.

Regarding your numbers about EU travel patterns, it's an interesting analysis. However I think an important point to consider is that these statistics may not be comparable with American usage patterns. The report you linked to shows that the average European driver drives around 6,500 miles / year, whereas Americans drive twice that much: Americans have more miles to give up than European drivers. Consider that American cities are planned and spread out whereas most European cities are more dense. These statistics are for passenger miles, so they exclude miles which are traveled on foot. your conclusion is not necessarily warranted: it could be that Europeans are already able to walk to most of their destinations and drive so infrequently that their sensitive to the price of gas is already low.

Randall Parker said at September 1, 2008 5:30 PM:


For the record: I can't figure out whether McCain or Obama will be a worse president. I expect either to be pretty bad. So at this point I'm not going to vote for either of them.

Palin versus Obama: Well, Obama is willing to open up a part of the outer continental shelf (OCS). He doesn't say exactly which part. Just more in the Gulf of Mexico? Or East and West Coast as well? Not all of it in any case. I think Palin would go much further on OCS. Ditto McCain.

Palin supports opening up ANWR and has for years. This probably puts her ahead of McCain at this point. But I haven't looked hard at what McCain has said on drilling. I just know that McCain is for more drilling than Obama is for.

Obama's shift in drilling is in response to growing popular support for drilling. As I've previously argued prices will go high enough to cause even the Democrats to flip on ANWR. It is only a matter of time.

Still, Obama's opposition could delay ANWR production by a couple of years. That could be costly for the economy. The peak oil analysts I follow expect world Peak Oil production by 2010 or shortly thereafter. Given the lead time for getting OCS and ANWR into production we really need to lift the restrictions now.

Europeans and fewer passenger miles traveled: Sure enough. Higher energy prices, lower per capita GDPs, and denser populations mean that they do not travel as far. But here's the thing about the denser populations: They really do have higher population densities naturally. They have less land per person. It is a lot harder to get higher population densities in a country which already has its population spread out over a much larger areas. We can't snap our fingers and cause denser housing to just pop into existence.

Also, some of our rural people work on farms and mines and in forestry. They've got to be where the work is or else the work doesn't get done.

I happen to walk to work. Mass transit wouldn't help me because I walk thru an area that is extremely unlikely to have a bus that goes by where I live to where I work. Walking is not part of mass transit. It is done by individual pairs of feet. If Europeans walk more that does not mean that mass transit is more viable. It is means walking is more viable where they happen to live. So I do not see walking as a sign that mass transmit brings big benefits to Europe.

Think of it another way: Since Europeans travel fewer miles per year their low percentage of travel via mass transit is an even smaller number of miles. The key thing is that they travel fewer miles per year. Mass transit does far less to cut their energy usage than the fewer miles traveled. Also, their driving of smaller cars does more to cut their energy usage than does mass transit.

Now, let world oil production drop far enough and mass transit usage might go up. I'm not sure. But most of what we need to do to respond to declining oil production is in other areas: more efficient drive trains; smaller cars; pluggable electric cars (e.g. Chevy Volt); pure electric cars; algae biodiesel, nuclear, photovoltaics, wind turbines. Mass transit is oversold by sentimental urban dwellers on the political Left who haven't taken a hard look at the European transportation data.

And one other thing: The average American doesn't want to live in a city or in an apartment building. I think the reason for that is evolutionary.

Randall Parker said at September 1, 2008 5:35 PM:


An aside from our digression into energy policy: What I most like about Palin is that she took on the corruption of Alaska as distinct from Obama's reaction to corruption around Chicago:

Palin's record in turning out the corrupt, nepotistic old guard in Alaska will allow her to legitimately go after Obama's role as a facilitator of the Rezko-Blagojevich corruption in Illinois. With the whole world to choose from, Obama chose to become a Chicago politician, and not one of those Quixotic reformers who pop up there intermittently, such as the former junior senator from Illinois in 1999-2005, Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Obama's predecessor was dumped by the local GOP after one term because he insisted on bringing federal pitbull prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) to town, who has since sent to prison Republican governor George Ryan, bipartisan fixer Tony Rezko, and, maybe someday, current Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich.

Obama sure hasn't made that mistake of using his federal power to help clean up Illinois.

I'd rather have a Peter Fitzgerald-Sarah Palin ticket than a McCain-Palin ticket. I do not know who would make a good equivalent on the Democrat side. But I'm sure such people exist.

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