Maybe it is a time to usher in a whole new approach to our foreign policy? As President Obama wrapped himself comfortably in the euphonious phrase of national security and ordered 300 "advisers" sent to Iraq, every liberal in this country shuddered as they collectively knew this was the beginning of another slippery slope to reengagement. You have to ask the question as to what he meant by our compelling national security interest.
At first blush, it is bizarre to find one aligned with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on questioning the need to intervene, but Paul has clearly tapped into the national mood, especially when 52 percent of electorate indicated clearly that American policies in Iraq have largely failed
To what end are these moves enhancing our national security? The president says land areas ungoverned or controlled by terrorists will serve as a training ground to export terrorism around the world. Then, there is the question of oil. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists have taken an oil refinery that supplies 310,000 barrels of oil refining, depriving Iraqis of their fuel and driving world oil prices up with the present uncertainty of supply.
Perhaps it is disrespectful to ask how the threat of terrorism is now different from two months ago or two years ago, when civil war broke out in Syria or Libya. And maybe it is naive, but how does the disruption of less than three-tenths of 1 percent of the world's daily oil consumption justify this heightened concern, other than to allow oil speculators to artificially drive up prices?
Where, exactly, is our national security being threatened? We have literally spent billions protecting ourselves from domestic threats, including limiting our civil liberties in the process, and have more problems with domestic gun violence than we could possibly have with external terrorism. This country has so many options for supplying its diminished reliance on oil imports that the conflagrations in the Middle East have little or no impact on our economy.
We are the hegemonic power and presumably prefer stability over disruption. Our allies require the oil coming from the Middle East and look to us to protect their supply lines. Iraq is targeted to supply as much as 5 million barrels of oil per day (currently estimated at 2.5 million bpd) in the future and that represents 45 percent of the future oil supplies needed to drive the world economy. We have historic relationships and alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia that seek reassurance that our military strength will provide stability in the region.
But Iraqi oil supplies haven't been disrupted; the Kurds assure us that they will increase production (flowing out through Turkey) fivefold in the territories they have secured in this fight, and the Iraqi government assures us that the oil exports from the southern part of the country have not been disrupted. Moreover, our Middle Eastern allies all have a dog in the fight through their support of one side in this conflict or another, and the only perception one can discern from here is that the U.S. has intervened in sectarian conflict brought on by the partisanship of the Iraqi Shiite government.
Isn't it time to reflect on thoughts that appear obvious to anyone outside the Beltway mindset? Why haven't we declared that the war on terrorism is over: that we will engage with terrorists the world over as a police matter, cooperate with virtually every government willing to share information and root out terrorists wherever they might hide? Why not assume that, should Iraq get split with its sectarian groupings, that we will potentially have an organized state in ISIS-controlled areas and therefore a state to hold accountable for exported terrorism? Why not see the possible disruption in the oil patch as a unique opportunity for America to address climate change, promote alternative energy, renew and enlarge our commitment to renewable technologies as a technology, where we could lead the world?
We have just been informed by the likes of Republican former Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) that life is going to become difficult, if not impossible, because of increases in carbon emissions. The report, "Risky Business," assures us that annual property losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms will amount to $35 billion; crop yields will decline 14 percent, costing farmers tens of billions of dollars and that heat wave-driven demand for electricity will increase electricity costs up to $12 billion per year.
The White House exists in a bubble of conventional thinking. Our definition of national security needs attention. There hasn't been a real adjustment since the end of the Cold War and the extension of business as usual has simply diminished the U.S. in its role as a world leader. For a moment in time, it appeared that Obama might provide insight. But that time has passed, and the need now is for a more encompassing frame of reference to come to the fore.
Russell is managing director of Cove Hill Advisory Services.