With America’s military withdrawal from Iraq and Ben Rhodes’s recent explanation of a plan to draw down US forces in the Gulf to a 1990 level, in combination with the revolts against the autocratic regimes the United States has thrown in its lot with, a major rethinking of America’s security posture in the Middle East seems to be in the making.
Toby Jones, whose previous article in the Atlantic I wrote about here, has another piece arguing that the US needs to militarily withdraw from the entire Persian Gulf, and asserts that this will both give the United States more leverage, stabilize the region, and reduce threats to the United States. Jones argues that the Gulf is less important than it previously has been to energy security:
The world today is awash in oil and natural gas. Protecting the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to global markets is far less necessary than it once was. Over the past generation, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the other oil producers in the region have grown accustomed to bloated national budgets and expensive state-run, cradle-to-grave welfare services, which means that there is greater pressure on them to sell oil than to horde it.
It is true that oil sources outside the Gulf are growing in importance, and I agree that more US resources should be directed towards ensuring their development and reliability. However, the concern here is not about the Persian Gulf states “hoarding” oil, but using military force or the threat of it to drive up prices, deter Western interference with their internal affairs, or, in the extreme case, seize fields to monopolize supply. The desire is less about buying or selling than controlling and manipulating. Though exploration and global recession have mediated some of the problems of high oil prices, the likely future increase in oil demand from growing countries may change this happy state of affairs. Continue reading