Thursday, July 10, 2008

A real oil crisis...

Not to imply that what we're currently experiencing isn't an oil crisis... but the recent bellicosity of Iran got me worried about a real oil crisis that could hit us. If military conflict starts with Iran, they will in all likelihood seal off the Strait of Hormuz from all traffic - particularly oil tankers. Granted, Iran survives based on it's oil exports, but I'm sure they could manage to sell some to China, and my understanding is they already have a pipeline going north to Tehran, and that winds around the Caspian Sea, west to Europe. So the point is, Iran could seal off the Strait of Hormuz from Iraqi and Saudi oil, and as much oil as they could afford to withhold - and then sell what they need to to the West to keep themselves afloat. The Washington Post Express reported today that 40% of the world's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz... 40%!!!!! If 40% of the world's oil were taken off the market immediately, it would set off a global depression. Granted, our military would probably be well-fueled from refineries in Iraq that don't have to pass through the Strait.

That would also mean that we would be at war in the territory stretching from Iraq, through the Iraqi border with western Iran, into central Iran and the Tehran region, to the eastern border between Iran and Afghanistan, and into Afghanistan and the Pakistani border region. That span of the globe is around 2000 miles across... roughly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Salt Lake City, Utah would be a war zone.

People - this is how empires fall. We cannot go to war with Iran - I'm more and more worried that we absolutely would not recover from it. And maybe we'd by mired in a dogfight for a decade or two before China or the EU reestablished global stability, but the more I think about this, the more terrible of an idea it sounds like. And honestly, it's not just John McCain's off color jokes that I'm worried about. Who cares about those? I'm more worried that Israel is going to fire off a few rockets at Iranian nuclear facilities like they did to Iraq a couple years back.

The startling thing about this scenario that I've laid out is that nuclear weapons don't feature in it at all. Granted, nuclear weapons would make this hypothetical conflict significantly worse (although if we were to use ours, it might bring it all to a swifter conclusion), but even if there were no nukes, or if ther were nukes and we eliminated the program it doesn't matter -the cost we would pay would be enormous.

OK - this post started as a musing on what an Iranian war would do to the price of oil - but its grown a little beyond that. The American people think they are invincible, but they're not. We can fall just like anyone else. People need to understand how starting a military conflict with Iran would tear this nation apart - the economic crisis would probably rival the great depression, we would be fighting a war against both Sunnis and Shias, inflation would sky-rocket, and the food crisis would only grow worse because of fuel shortages, and you can bet that terrorism would be stepped up as a result. Not to mention what it would do to global confidence that the U.S. could pay off it's debts - and if that confidence slips, countries like China and Russia will want us to make good on our Treasury bonds (which we won't be able to afford). Granted - I'm very much setting out a worst-case scenario, but if we get engaged in this there is no way we'll get out with the same power and prestige that we've enjoyed for the last fifty years. I don't mind sitting in Iraq for a little while longer until things cool down... but we need to move out of the region and show some basic respect for state sovereignty there - even if we don't like the sovereign. If this Iran thing gets pushed any further the risk will be too great, and there cannot be a compromise any more - we would need an Obama administration. As much as I respect McCain, it would be too big of a risk.

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