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The Pentagon and Big Oil: Militarism and Capital Accumulation

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) introduces staff members to President George W. Bush at their Pentagon meeting Sept. 12, 2001.

Introduction

There is no question that, in the immediate aftermath and for several years following US military conquests, wars, occupations and sanctions, US multi-national corporations lost out on profitable sites for investments.  The biggest losses were in the exploitation of natural resources – in particular, gas and oil – in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.

As a result some observers speculated that there were deep fissures and contradictory interests within the US ruling class.  They argued that, on the one hand, political elites linked to pro-Israel lobbies and the military industrial power configuration, promoted a highly militarized foreign policy agenda and, on the other hand, some of the biggest and wealthiest multi-national corporations sought diplomatic solutions.

Yet this seeming ‘elite division’ did not materialize.  There is no evidence for example that the multi-national oil companies sought to oppose the Iraq, Libyan, Afghan, Syrian wars.  Nor did the powerful 10 largest oil companies with a net value of over $1.1 trillion dollars mobilize their lobbyists and influentials in the mass media to the cause of peaceful capital penetration and domination of the oil fields via neo-liberal political clients.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, the three major US oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, eager to exploit the third largest oil reserves in the world, did not engage in Congressional lobbying or exert pressure on the Bush or later Obama Administration for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  At no point did the Big Ten challenge the pro-war Israel lobby and its phony arguments that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction with an alternative policy.

Similar “political passivity” was evidenced in the run-up to the Libyan war.  Big Oil was actually signing off on lucrative oil deals, when the militarists in Washington struck again – destroying the Libyan state and tearing asunder the entire fabric of the Libyan economy.

Big oil may have bemoaned the loss of oil and profits but there was no concerted effort, t before or after the Libyan debacle, to critically examine or evaluate the loss of a major oil producing region.  In the case of economic sanctions against Iran, possessing the second largest oil reserves, the multinational corporations (MNC) again were notable by their absence from the halls of Congress and the Treasury Department where the sanctions policy was decided.  Prominent Zionist policymakers, Stuart Levey and David Cohen designed and implemented sanctions which prevented US (and EU) oil companies from investing or trading with Teheran.

In fact, despite the seeming divergence of interest between a highly militarized foreign policy and the drive of MNC to pursue the global accumulation of capital, no political conflicts erupted.  The basic question that this paper seeks to address is:  Why did the major  MNC submit to an imperial foreign policy which resulted in lost economic opportunities?

Why the MNC Fail to Oppose Imperial Militarism

There are several possible hypotheses accounting for the MNC accommodation to a highly militarized version of imperial expansion.

In the first instance, the CEO’s of the MNC may have believed that the wars, especially the Iraq war, would be short-term, and would lead to a period of stability under a client regime willing and able to privatize and de-nationalize the oil and gas sector.  In other words, the petrol elites bought into the arguments of Rumsfeld, Chaney, Wolfowitz and Feith, that the invasion and conquest would “pay for itself”.

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The Pentagon and Big Oil: Militarism and Capital Accumulation

Posted by James Petras99GetSmart

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) introduces staff members to President George W. Bush at their Pentagon meeting Sept. 12, 2001.

Introduction

There is no question that, in the immediate aftermath and for several years following US military conquests, wars, occupations and sanctions, US multi-national corporations lost out on profitable sites for investments.  The biggest losses were in the exploitation of natural resources – in particular, gas and oil – in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.

As a result some observers speculated that there were deep fissures and contradictory interests within the US ruling class.  They argued that, on the one hand, political elites linked to pro-Israel lobbies and the military industrial power configuration, promoted a highly militarized foreign policy agenda and, on the other hand, some of the biggest and wealthiest multi-national corporations sought diplomatic solutions.

Yet this seeming ‘elite division’ did not materialize.  There is no evidence for example that the multi-national oil companies sought to oppose the Iraq, Libyan, Afghan, Syrian wars.  Nor did the powerful 10 largest oil companies with a net value of over $1.1 trillion dollars mobilize their lobbyists and influentials in the mass media to the cause of peaceful capital penetration and domination of the oil fields via neo-liberal political clients.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, the three major US oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, eager to exploit the third largest oil reserves in the world, did not engage in Congressional lobbying or exert pressure on the Bush or later Obama Administration for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  At no point did the Big Ten challenge the pro-war Israel lobby and its phony arguments that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction with an alternative policy.

Similar “political passivity” was evidenced in the run-up to the Libyan war.  Big Oil was actually signing off on lucrative oil deals, when the militarists in Washington struck again – destroying the Libyan state and tearing asunder the entire fabric of the Libyan economy.

Big oil may have bemoaned the loss of oil and profits but there was no concerted effort, t before or after the Libyan debacle, to critically examine or evaluate the loss of a major oil producing region.  In the case of economic sanctions against Iran, possessing the second largest oil reserves, the multinational corporations (MNC) again were notable by their absence from the halls of Congress and the Treasury Department where the sanctions policy was decided.  Prominent Zionist policymakers, Stuart Levey and David Cohen designed and implemented sanctions which prevented US (and EU) oil companies from investing or trading with Teheran.

In fact, despite the seeming divergence of interest between a highly militarized foreign policy and the drive of MNC to pursue the global accumulation of capital, no political conflicts erupted.  The basic question that this paper seeks to address is:  Why did the major  MNC submit to an imperial foreign policy which resulted in lost economic opportunities?

Why the MNC Fail to Oppose Imperial Militarism

There are several possible hypotheses accounting for the MNC accommodation to a highly militarized version of imperial expansion.

In the first instance, the CEO’s of the MNC may have believed that the wars, especially the Iraq war, would be short-term, and would lead to a period of stability under a client regime willing and able to privatize and de-nationalize the oil and gas sector.  In other words, the petrol elites bought into the arguments of Rumsfeld, Chaney, Wolfowitz and Feith, that the invasion and conquest would “pay for itself”. (more…)

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