September 11, 2001 marked a turnaround in the history of not only the United States (US) but the entire world in general and Middle East in particular. This is because of the aftermath events which have seen the US wage wars with several countries in what it terms as War on Terror. In a characteristic style, the then US president George W. Bush declared this war immediately after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon where thousands of people died. Since then, the US has been awash with rage promising to crash “terrorists” from their hideouts wherever that may be. However, several critiques have dismissed this war as a manifestation of US insatiable quest for the black gold in what has come to be known as “peak oil” theory. In the long run, several religious groups have found themselves in the middle of a war, especially with the notion that Islamic Fundamentalism drives international terror. This paper discusses the level to which US foreign policy, energy policy, and security policy have been merged together to fuel what is termed as War on Terror.
According to Lynch & Singh (2008), by being the only super power on the globe the United States was greatly devastated by the twin September 11 terrorist attack. As a result, the country under the leadership of then president hurriedly reviewed its foreign policy from a multilateral decision making to a one man’s show characterized by aggressiveness and pre-emptive style of leader. In fact, Lynch & Singh (2008) note that the country went wild and became uncontainable even with the world foremost custodian of security, the Security Council of the United Nations. With pain and anger, the country declared War on Terror. However, it was somewhat an elusive war since took a different turn as it started focusing on religious groups.
Similarly, Levy & Thompson (2011) noted that another twist came in when some critiques of the US associated this war with the dwindling of oil reserves in the world. Quintessentially, it was argued that the US was simply reacting to the imminent tragedy about to befall it in terms of insufficient oil supply. The War on Terror was and is still seen as a pretext for wanting to safeguard its interests in oil reserves located in the countries in the Middle East and Africa. However, Levy &Thompson (2011) observes that questions have arose over the merging of several policies which are unrelated and whose aftermath has been the innocent blood being shed at the battle front. Many US soldiers have died in the Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan since the War on Terror was declared ten years ago. Again, citizens have lost their lives in the countries where this war has been waged. Unfortunately, Orlov (2011) noted that this war is not about to be over anytime soon. This is because of the continued view of the war by the Islamic Fundamentalists as against their religion and are determined to continue with their fight.
In deliberate attempt to quell down the rising anger by dissenting voices across the world, the subsequent president to the US, Barack Obama, campaigned on a platform of removing the US troops in the Middle East country of Iraq whose territory had been occupied since 2003. The troops have since been withdrawn, albeit amid insecurity in the much volatile country. However, the terrorist groups have continued to thrive with new elements such as Al Shabaab of Somalia declaring their official joining in the larger Al Qaeda terror group. Today, the US under the leadership of Barack Obama is seen to be going back to the old multilateral framework of international relations with emphasis on constructive and amicable engagement without the usual combative style. Thus, special envoys are deployed to deal with thorniest problems that affect the US.
Nevertheless, Petit & Gates (2010) noted that the damage has already been made and that the US will have to scratch its head hard enough in order to exonerate itself from the accusation of a warlord. As things stand, Petit & Gates (2010) argue that there is convergence of voices across the world concerning the US attempts to merge its foreign policy, security policy, and the energy policy. The issue has continued to fuel the international war that has since claimed millions of lives. In the meantime, the country risks the plunging into a global isolation where America stands on one side and the rest of the world on the other.
US Oil Exploration and Foreign Policy
According to United States Congress House (2011), since its independence and post industrial era, the US has had a quest for oil and this has in many ways shaped its international relationship with other countries. The general predictions given by Shell Oil geologist, M. King Hubbert, in 1956 that oil production in the US will plunge come the start of 1970s has come to a reality the US need for black gold scales high. As a result, numerous efforts have been made in the energy sector including nuclear energy, solar energy, and wind energy in an attempt to meet the energy requirements of the country. According to Smil (2010), the US has the highest number of nuclear energy plants across the world today alongside other countries like Russia. However, the need for more energy supply seems like just it is not going anywhere soon forcing the country to review its international relationships with countries that have large deposits of oil.
Shimko (2009) noted that the US foreign policy has a lot to do with the need for oil than the pretext of fighting the international terrorism. He observes that the US itself has been on the forefront of abusing human rights in countries like Cuba and Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the recent efforts by the country to fight international terrorism can only be viewed in terms of the peak oil theory that has presumably hit the country. In essence, Shimko (2009) argues that oil exploration and foreign policy has been a defining feature in the US international politics. This has come with various embargos sanctions against countries like Syria and South Korea which seems to oppose the attempt of the US to have sustainable energy supply. The recent struggle in this saga is the imminent war between the US and Iran, a major supplier of oil in the world.
Shimko (2009) cites another twist in the quest for oil and the peak oil theory as the more vivid association of Islam and terror. Various theories speculate that the continued association of Islamic fundamentalists with terror continues to impact negatively not only in terms of the fight against terror but also in the existence of cohesive foreign policy in the US and the countries purported to host Muslim terrorist. A recent incident where the long time terror fugitive Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan seems to put impetus on the claims advanced by the US that many terror suspects are hiding in the Middle East. However, Rapier (2012) notes that the Middle East which is largely an oil producing region dominated by Islamic religion views this as a sufficient reason for US to exercise its aggression in their sovereign states. They also accuse the US of being reactive rather than proactive towards the incidences of terrorism. As a result, the US resolves to unorthodox means of using coercive diplomacy and armed intervention in fighting the terror.
Additionally, longitudinal studies have continually pointed to different reasons for these reactive mechanisms in fighting terror when it comes to the US. As mentioned by Rapier (2012), American experience in foreign policy has always been associated the country’s quest for oil. The US has a rich history in foreign policy since its independence in late 18th century to present day. Pillar (2004), notes that throughout history, foreign policy in the US has changed to suit the present needs of the country. He enumerates the use of precedents and elite practices of the US policy in foreign matters, moralism of US exceptionalism as well as an expansionist policy in international relation as some of the approaches that the country has been using when it comes to tackling its problems.
On the contrary, Pillar (2004) notes that the US itself argues that as the custodian of world peace, its War on Terror has nothing to do with oil but a lot with its security and the security of the entire world. As argued by the then US secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld, as long as the Islam world continues to harbor terrorists, the US will act in its own interests and the interests of the world regardless of the criticisms leveled against it. It is notable that this stand has been sustained since the war was declared even though it has been relaxed a bit with the Obama administration that came in power in 2008. But the critics view this as a long overdue step by the country and question its ability to fighting a single handed war against an evolving terror group which cannot exactly be pinpointed out. A case in point is the entry of the US in Iraq in 2003. This was in the pretext or disarming the Saddam administration of weapons of mass destruction. Pillar (2004) notes that after a bloody war during which thousands of people including the US soldiers were killed, and Saddam eliminated, the US failed to retrieve the weapons of mass destruction. The Saddam administration had earlier on vehemently denied possession of weapons of mass destruction. After a stint of close to a decade, the US had to withdraw its troops from the Iraqi soil amid shame and criticism.
As a result, this helped in cementing of the claims that the only interest of the US in the Middle East and Africa is oil. This is because most of the countries in these regions that seem to fall prey to the heinous acts of the US are endowed by oil deposits. The US on the other hand has found itself between the factions of interplay of contending policy elites that influence foreign policy making in the country. Pillar (2004) points out in his assessment of available options that even the though the containment and intervention using armed forces in the War on Terror will remain part and parcel of the US foreign policy for sometimes to come, dialogue and diplomatic options is more promising in the future of the country.
Peak Oil Theory
According to Leffler (2005), the deterioration of oil deposit in the US was predicted by the Shell Oil geologist, M. King Hubbert, in 1956. Since then the country has witnessed dwindling volumes of oil production coupled with increasing demand. But this fact has not been publicly accepted, instead the US government has resolved to explore other options to solving this problem without causing panic to the country. It is notable the country has taken great strides in trying to meet the need for energy. However, this is not enough because as population increases, fuel prices continue to be on the upward trend and environment changes. Some of the steps that the country had made in resolving this problem include the use of nuclear, solar and wind energy as well as other forms of energy sources with some still being under investigation.
In addition Leffler (2005) explains that the peak oil theory proposes that oil like any other resources with are finite in nature will reach a peak production stage. This stage will however not last forever as it will eventually see the declining oil supply. As indicated earlier, this fact came to the US long time before actually the peak oil theory started occurring but it was dismissed as a false observation. Furthermore, Leffler (2005) noted that this observation though was made more than fifty years ago is still receiving divergent views on the practicability and occurrence of such. However, there is lack of consensus among the geologists and economists on if and when the theory can occur with some citing the advanced technology as the panacea to this doomsday scenario.
As hypothesized by Levy &Thompson (2011)in their study the economy of many countries including the US, life is dependent on the supply of cheap oil. As reflected in the dwindling discovery of oil deposits surpassed by its production requirement, peak in oil and natural gas is either already happening or is just about to occur. This is hinged on the reason that oil is a limited natural commodity and therefore will at one time get depleted if more natural oil fields are discovered. Unfortunately, large oil fields were the first ones to be discovered and have since been depleted and what remains are remote deposits with little volumes of oil. Equally, Levy & Thompson (2011)observe that this is not likely much as the ever increasing demands of oil in the US coupled by the increasing industrialization in emerging economies like China and Brazil which equally compete for oil from oil producing countries in Africa and the Middle East have caused much strain on the resource.
Much debate has been generated on the topic of peak oil with some scholars and politicians questioning the distinction between the peak oil and oil depletion. However, Lynch & Singh (2008) note that much differences exist between the two with the former referring to a period where maximum production potential of a particular oil well, oil field or by the means of deductive logic across the whole world. What this means is that peak oil should not be embraced by one single country since it is a problem that is bound to befall all the nations across the globe. This raises the questions to why the US should pick up this theory in a personal manner and use it to advance its interest and quest for energy in countries that are facing the same fate.
On the other hand, Lynch & Singh (2008) note that oil depletion is different from peak oil theory in that this refers to a continuous period during which there is decrease in the amount of oil in the reserves. They argue that this would lead to the eventual exhaustion and decrease of the oil supply of the world. He adds that oil depletion theory presumes that advanced technology fastens the rate of oil drilling and exponential increase in the production of oil from oil field. Thus, this efficiently enhanced means of extracting oil eventually leads to peaking of oil production followed by a decline until the whole field is depleted.
Peak Oil, 9/11 and the War on Terror
According to Leffler (2005), there is a closed knit relationship between the peak oil theory, 9/11, and the War on Terror as propagated by the US government. Despite the fact that earlier on and to some extent nowadays peak oil theory has been dismissed as trumpets of doom, this theory has come to define many of the policies not only in the US but also in other countries of the world. As things stand now, the 9/11 attack on the US was simply a panacea to crab an opportunity that the US had been waiting for a long time so as to guard its own interest. This is because the declaration of War on Terror on Islamic Fundamentalists was done in a haphazard way which led to other countries to suspect the real intentions of the US.
Leffler (2005) writes that the 9/11 attack on the US was widely condemned across the world. However, it is the way in which the US reacted in the aftermath of the unfortunate event that led to the US allies, except the United Kingdom, distancing themselves from the activities of the US. Islam fundamentalists saw this as an act of aggression on their land and that they had to do everything to protect their land. Moreover, this war stopped from being viewed as a good intention of removing war mongers from the world to self interest largely defined in terms of decreasing supply of energy in the US. But one would earnestly ask how the US which is largely endowed with natural resources coupled with huge technological capability would fail to meet its need for energy. Leffler (2005) further observes that most views point to the fact that for a long time, the US has been wary of the imminent peak oil and oil depletion theories and as thus it has ever been in hurry to safeguard its energy sector. This is done through concerted efforts to grab all available and potential oil field across the world for future use.
As a result, Kunstler (2006) notes that peak oil theory has greatly influenced the foreign policies in the US. This is true in several ways according to Kunstler (2006). One, it has changed the way some countries deal with the US as it has become a usual suspect in any of its dealings. He further notes that the US itself has become self aware of the emergence of terror groups which although can be termed as virtual still poses as a threat to the security of the world. This mutual suspect, US on one hand and the oil producing countries on the other, has played a major role in the current policy formulation in energy sector, security and international relationship.
Quintessentially, Kunstler (2006) argues that even as the US tries to change its image under new guard in likes of Obama through trying to mend fences with countries like Iraq, the damage has already been done in the international relationship with any of oil producing countries. He argues that the US will have to work a little harder to return the trust of those countries. Leffler (2005) contents that in any event, the damage on the international relationship between largely Muslim countries endowed with large oil deposits and the world’s only superpower remains in limbo as even the causes of war continue to multiply.
War on Terror itself as observed by Leffler (2005) is a difficulty war to achieve any reasonable results. This is because even though it is supported by many people in the US, it has only helped to fuel hatred towards the US as a country. This has witnessed emergence of suicide bombers who are ready to lose their lives if a single citizen of the US is killed in a bomb. Even more great is when the US soldier is killed in the battle front. Leffler (2005) argues that all these point to the way War on Terror has not helped in reducing insecurity in the world but has rather increased the existent of such groups as the Islamic fundamentalism who now poses even more threat to the security and stability of the world.
A more recent incident is the uprising in the Arab world which again has painted an oblique picture of where exactly the US stands in matters of international relationship. For instance, Heinberg (2005) writes that the US declared openly its support of the insurgents in Libya which saw the leader Muammar Gaddafi killed. Libya is known to be among the biggest producer of oil in the world hence the problem of peak oil theory could not help but to draw it into the saga. This is in spite of the fact that the critiques or supporters of this assertion do not seem to realize that U.S and Libya has had their horns locked for a long time. A good example is the misunderstanding over the Lockerbie bombing of a US airplane.
Alternative Energy and Alternative Strategies
At a time marked by unprecedented technological advances in all sectors, it is important for countries across the world to consider options for new forms of energy. According to Griffith (2004), the only panacea to the problem facing not only the US but the entire world is to look for alternative sources of energy rather than rely on the unlimited oil production. Scholars have warned that while it may be possible that peak oil theory is just that, a theory, it is important that this theory is not taken for granted. It is understood that the theory has the potential of providing a quick and sustainable solution.
Griffith (2004) noted that many options have been rounded up as the big break that the world has been waiting for. For instance, nuclear plants have been constructed solar power utilized natural gas among other options. But the recent Fukushima accident in Japan during an earthquake also points out the cracks in the options that have been exploited so far. Thus, some opponents of nuclear energy have argued that the energy is more dangerous than the war that the US has been waging in oil field countries even though it is viewed as a self interest approach to solving the problem. After all, Heinberg (2005) notes that if the US fights and wins oil deposits in Iraq and Pakistan or in Libya, the advantage accrued will be enjoyed by its citizens and not the rest of the world. In the meantime, nuclear energy if embraced everywhere, it will help many people to meet their energy needs even though the energy is dangerous to the entire world.
There is also divergent of views among the people themselves as to whether the world is going to experience peak oil in really sense. Ghanea Bassiri (2010) notes that the main source of argument has been whether this is not simply a rush to increase the prices of the commodity. It may also be true that they have managed to increase the prices as witnessed by the sky rocketing of oil prices each year. However, GhaneaBassiri (2010) observes this is the real issue. He suggests that people should not be concerned more on whether or not peak oil can occur but rather if the available alternative energy sources are safe, viable and economical in their use. Other challenges to use of oil besides the peak oil theory should be to look for energy sources that will be efficient in preserving the environment thus a source that is carbon free like solar energy.
Similarly, Dreyfuss (2006) notes that alternative energy sources have been applauded as the much needed break to the challenges of peak oil. For instance, Dreyfuss (2006) notes that China which until late was among the biggest consumer of oil per capita has greatly reduced its energy consumption through the mandatory use of solar energy in all new buildings. Evidently, this in a sarcastic way relieves the country of the struggle for the limited oil and leaves it to the US which has the same capability. The country seems to still believe that oil is the only solution to the problem of peaking energy production. Though the overall energy situation in the world is oblique, Dreyfuss (2006) notes that with the embracing of alternative energy sources it is possible to avoid many of the hustle and bustles that accompanied by the realization of an imminent peak oil supply.
But embracing alternative sources of energy can equally be challenging if people still get the misinformation on the state of energy in the world. In the long run, Benjamin (2005) argues that all alternative energy can be available but still foreign policy with other countries remains strained. The strategy in this case is to have a clear effort to educate the public on the advantages and disadvantages of the available alternative sources of energy, and also explain to them why the prices of the traditional sources such as oil and gas are higher. This will probably enable people to change how they use the energy in order to turn them into an energy preserving nation rather than providing alternative energy. After all, the same energy may also be peaked just like the oil energy.
Abdullah (2005) observes that another strategy is to convince the international world to separate the issues of international security with the scramble for dwindling oil deposits. It is important that there is international peace especially in light of advanced technology which is capable of enabling massive attack a bigger region of the world. But Abdullah (2005) argues that this cannot be done and should not be done at the detriment of the very international security that is sought to be kept.
From the discussion above, it is evident that the question of peak oil has still remained one of the thorny issues in the world. The discussion has also shown that oil field just like any other limited resources can be depleted if the demand level exits the production level. Many issues such as foreign policy, energy policy, and security policy have continuously been intertwined in the search for cheap energy by the US. This has had varied impact and interpretation in the search for sustainable energy in the world. A good example is the use of alternative energy such as solar and wind which are lauded as efficient and effective in preserving the environment. Inasmuch as all indications shows that the world is running out of nonrenewable energy such as oil, alternative sources will continue to be discovered especially with the availability of advanced technology. May be, just may be the proponents of doomsday scenario of a world without energy did not envisage the boom in technology.