“I’ve predicted a lot of things, you have to say, including, ‘Get the oil, take the oil, keep the oil.’ Right? I’ve been saying that for three years, and everybody said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. I mean, this is a sovereign country. There is no country! They’ve created Isis. Hillary Clinton created Isis with Obama".
As with anything Trump utters, the meaning within the ostensible truths, wrapped up within layers of untruth, require understanding. Trump means that if the US is going to militarily intervene in the Middle East, it should do so purely in order to get the oil because that is what US foreign policy is really about anyhow.
At one level, Trump is indicating that grabbing the oil that ISIS holds is worth 'bombing them to shit' as well as to secure US energy interests. However, Trump does so while hinting at the idea Hilary Clinton and Obama created ISIS, a line that appeals to those who believe in conspiracy theories about the US creating ISIS.
The obvious fact is that it was George Bush's government in 2003 that created the failed and fractured state of Iraq that then created a Shi'ite ascendency and the driving out of Sunnis from positions of power and influence. The oil wealth of Iraq has primarily fallen into the hands of the Shi'ites and Kurds where most of the oil lies.
But what Trump has long indicated is that the oil basis for US foreign policy is purely about 'what we get from it' and not pointless designs to bring civilisation or democracy to people who are either not capable of it or do not respect it. Any war for oil, and Iraq was clearly one, should only be fought if control of the oil is secured.
This is part of Trump's 'no bullshit' stance. If 'the left' or critics of the Iraq War and US presence in the Middle East are going to criticise the US for basing its foreign policy on energy security and control over global oil reserves, then it makes no sense not to be candid about it and get the best deal for the US.
On Libya, Trump made plain,
'Qadaffi is dead and gone. So what? We have spent more than $1 billion on the Libya operation. And what are we getting in return? A huge bill, that's what. It's incredible how foolish the Obama administration is. Libya has enormous oil reserves. When the so-called "rebels" came to NATO (which is really the U.S.) and asked for help to defeat Qadaffi, we should have said, "Sure, we don't like the guy either. We will help you take out Qadaffi. But in exchange, you give us 50 percent of your oil for the next twenty-five years to pay for our military support and to say thank you for the United States doing what you could never have done on your own." The "rebels" would have jumped at the offer and said yes.
Imagine the amount of oil we could have secured for America. Our policy should be: no oil, no military support.'
The open ruthlessness of Trump's foreign policy would appear to tap into the feeling among US taxpayers that they deserve real returns on their dollars. It also dovetails with the idea that it is pointless to avoid a more aggressive pursuit of US oil interests because Muslims are not going to like the US whatever it does.
Trump clearly has his potential uses to the US oil lobby and advocates unfettered drilling no matter where. With shale oil onstream, Trump's logic is that OPEC's power should be broken and the US should get more going in order to be able to dictate the oil price. Iran, as a potential oil competitor not under US control, is the main threat.
Despite what is said, Trump is within the same tradition of pyschopathological US nationalism as George Bush but without the 'bullshit' about democracy and human rights which get in the way. Returning to a more mercenary approach to grabbing resources, backing dictators or waging wars openly for oil is considered better.
It is hard to see how Trump's policy has much diplomatic gravitas to it but, then again, this is a Republican presidential race and he would have time later to alter his stance to be less open about what US foreign policy should be 'really' about. But he is leading the way in showing how being 'candid' about 'our interests' can win support.
Written June 2016
Written June 2016