May 10, 2004
"My lands are where my dead lie buried."
Palestinian nationalism stands squarely between an American's SUV and a cheap supply of gasoline for it. The Palestinians may be doomed if America remains addicted to petroleum. The overwhelmingly powerful Israelis are taking Palestinian land with the aid of the weapons they have been given by the United States to act as its local enforcer of political stability in the Middle East. For American interests, this stability is defined by the dependability of oil production and export, and the capture and recycling of petro-dollars.
The land around the Persian Gulf holds 75% of the world's proven oil reserves, so about 660 Gb (giga-barrels = 1 billion barrels). Today, the Persian Gulf states produce 5.2 Gb/y (giga-barrels per year), which is about 20% of the world's annual production. The distribution of Persian Gulf oil reserves is: Saudi Arabia 40%, Iraq 17%, United Arab Emirates 15%, Kuwait 15%, and Iran 14% (round figures, ignoring Bahrain and Qatar). The percentage contributions to the net Persian Gulf production in 2002 were: Saudi Arabia 47%, Iran 17%, UAE 13.5%, Iraq 11%, and Kuwait 11%.
The United States consumes petroleum at a rate of 7 Gb/y, 27% of the world's annual production rate of about 26 Gb/y. Imports supply 4 Gb of this annual consumption, equivalent to a use of 11 Mb/d (million barrels per day). Of this import stream, 2.5 Mb/d comes from the Persian Gulf; 23% of US petroleum imports. The remaining 77% of the oil imported into the U.S. comes from the 25% of world reserves that lie outside the Persian Gulf. For example, 27% of US imported oil comes from either Canada or Mexico. The distribution of the roughly 220 Gb reserves of non-Persian Gulf oil is: Venezuela 36%, Russia 23%, USA 14%, Libya 14%, and Mexico 13% (ignoring nations with a combined holding of about 2%). As these non-Persian Gulf reserves are depleted, the U.S. will become increasingly dependent on its Persian Gulf sources.
To estimate economic implications, let us assume a cost of $25/b. US petroleum imports would cost $100B/y (billion per year), the portion going to the Persian Gulf being $22.8B/y. Also, a declining domestic production of oil is being consumed, today it is nearly 3 Gb annually, with a market value estimated at $75B. The present value of just the Saudi Arabian reserves would be $6.6T (trillion). In reality, the cost of oil would be expected to rise sharply as the supply diminishes and the smaller reserves are depleted, so $6.6T is a very conservative estimate of the ultimate value of the Saudi reserve. A similar estimate for the value of the Venezuelan reserve yields just under $2T.
US Middle East Insurance Policy: Price
Let us assume the U.S. wants to insure "its share" of Persian Gulf oil, which it takes to be at least 33% of an accessible Persian Gulf reserve. Accessibility could mean from politically reliable sources, so perhaps Iran and Iraq are discounted from this insurance valuation. This leaves a pool of 462 Gb, which at $25/b is valued at $11.6T. The result, in round numbers, is $4T.
What would be the insurance premium on this treasure of at least $4T, for the term covering the time till complete oil depletion, say until about 2030 to 2050? If we wanted to buy a 30-year policy today to insure $4T we would have to expect to pay at least $133B/y. If we had had the foresight to buy a longer term policy early in the lifetime of this period of oil consumption, say a 60 year policy in 1970, then we could have gotten a premium that was half as much if not lower, perhaps between $50B/y and $60B/y.
Such an insurance premium would be equivalent to 29% of the total US oil expenditure (estimated) of $175B in 2002. The U.S. was energy self-sufficient prior to about 1965, in 1970 domestic oil production peaked and has fallen steadily since (the Hubbert Peak), and today the U.S. imports over 57% of the oil it uses. The ratio of imported to domestic oil will increase rapidly now as the remnant US reserves are depleted (over 87% depletion in "the lower 48" and 95% depletion in Alaska).
US Middle East Insurance Policy: Vendor
In fact, an insurance policy of this type does exist, it is called Israel. Since 1973 the average annual cost to US taxpayers for the entire spectrum of expenses that support Israel and US Middle East policy was $53.3B/y ($1.6T over 30 years). The U.S. bought this oil dependency insurance policy (from Kissinger and Associates) during the Nixon Administration, which coincided with the period between the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1967 and 1973. This was the time to buy, since US energy self-sufficiency was ending and 80% of world oil would be used up between 1970 and 2030.
If our premium remains unchanged till the end of oil, around 2030, the U.S. will have paid over $3T to protect an asset of $4T, and probably of much higher ultimate value. Our insurance will have paid to enforce a regional stability (stasis might be a better word) of 60 years that allowed for unimpeded resource extraction. Our total expenses would be the cost of the oil we depleted and the insurance on our operations (we are speaking in cold materialistic -- "free market" -- terms; environmental, cultural, social and moral factors do not enter such thinking; "This is business," as Don Vito Corleone might say in the "Godfather" movies).
Now, here is where the beauty of imperialism comes in (remember our mind-frame). The outflow of American dollars for imported oil is repatriated by selling American goods to the oil-producing countries. This is the petro-dollar cycle. This cycle can be structured so that our insurance policy pays for itself! We "sell" arms, services, and debt paper (stocks and bonds) to capture petro-dollars, and these in turn are used to implement, support and underwrite the insurance policy. At the end of the term, the U.S. will have had the benefit of both the oil extracted from the Persian Gulf, and the economic activity associated with it. What will be left behind is a withered country, depleted of resources, loaded down with masses of increasingly obsolete military equipment, with a very tiny, fabulously wealthy ruling elite, and with relatively little development for the improvement of the lives of the general population.
Indigenous nationalism and democracy are the major threats to the stability of petro-dollar imperialism. If an oil producing state with abundant reserves were to choose to invest its petro-dollar profits into internal developments that improved the health, education, personal security, economic opportunities and cultural life of its people in the broadest possible way, and for the long-term, then there would be little wealth -- beyond the initially exported crude oil -- available for extraction. Foreign investors would see such social demands on oil commerce as a heavy tax. Petro-imperialist pressure would try to influence, even undermine, such national governments so they depart from socialist policies and instead become oligarchies in collusion with petro-imperialism to rob their own nations. Look at the situation of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela today, and the actions of the Bush administration towards that nation.
From Persepolis to Washington DC: Satrapy District V: Palestina
The official amount of annual US aid to Israel is $3B, but the actual amount is higher because of many hidden and unacknowledged transfers. A total figure of $6B to $8B annually seems a reasonable guess. This is a small part of the entire insurance premium of $50B that Americans pay to protect their Persian Gulf oil dependency. Our premiums buy the stability of well-armed dictatorships and oligarchies supporting our petro-dollar cycle, and the imposing military presence of Israel, casting its long shadow over the region to remind these states every day of the distant power whose interests they must be mindful of as they go about their own local "business."
In the days of Darius the Great (521-486 BC), the Emperor of Persia, the local kingdoms along the shore of the Eastern Mediterranean were vassal states, satrapies, whose kings ruled with free hands in their local domains, so long as they supplied Darius with the tribute and obedience Persian policy required. This was often in the form of enthusiastic cooperation in Persian military campaigns. Herodotus describes the triumph of Athens, 2493 years ago, against one such Persian invasion. Under King Herod the Great (73-4 BC) Judea was a locally autonomous kingdom within the Roman Empire. Today, it is a locally autonomous state within the American Empire.
Any satrapy that became too rebellious would be occupied, probably enslaved and certainly ruled directly from the imperial center. This was the bitter and bloody experience of the Jews after their Jewish Revolt against Rome during the years 66-70. The harshness in suppressing revolts was an imperial tactic to impress other vassal states with the wisdom of obedience. The strategy for survival of many small states is to acquiesce to being dominated by an empire. As a satrapy, they gain protection while retaining a free hand locally.
This is the situation of the Palestinians; Israel is displacing them from the territories it occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Since that time, Israel has become America's regional military presence, the key force in American policy to ensure the stability of the petro-dollar cycle. America will neither weaken nor hobble Israel out of concern for the Palestinians so that Israel cannot perform its primary imperial task, which is maintaining the ability to immediately project overwhelming power into any corner of the Middle East. The machinery and attitudes needed to perform this task make it all too easy to also brush aside the Palestinians and take their land -- that is an internal satrapy issue, not one impinging on imperial interests.
Revolts: Judea and Palestine
The occupation of Palestine is one of the leading crises of our time -- I find it difficult not to call it an atrocity. Both in its operation and intent, the Israeli occupation is on a par with the apartheid of South Africa during its last four decades (1954-1994). Much can be said about the moral dimensions of this crisis and its impact on the world's conscience, and many disturbing details can be offered to justify a conclusion that the intent of the occupation is to drive the Palestinians "away," where this away is a combination of economic slavery, exile, and death. I cannot do justice to this topic; I urge everyone to read Noam Chomsky's book Fateful Triangle.
Arguably, standards of political morality have risen significantly over the last 25 centuries. From the perspective of ancient history, Israel does show some restraint given its complete power over the Palestinians. It is probably the combination of the elements of decency within the Israeli public (basic morality) and world public pressure in sympathy with the Palestinian plight, that creates the restraining force on the Israeli drive to displace the Palestinians. Without this psychological restraint there can be no doubt that an unhindered Israeli war machine could quickly effect a Palestinian removal. This would be bloody and some would call it a genocide. Yes, that horrible word. But, you see, no one is immune from the impulse. Under this impulse we tell ourselves we are being passionately defensive, "it's either them or us." The only prevention is to see through our own lies, and admit this fact about ourselves as humans. Remember this when the opportunity to act on such impulse presents itself.
Perhaps one aspect of Israeli restraint may be their own historical memory. Remembering the expansion of the Jewish Diaspora in the year 70, after the Romans had suppressed the Jewish Revolt and destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem, may make it difficult to suppress a Palestinian Revolt with such force as to empty Palestine completely into a Palestinian Diaspora.
Israelis are intellectually developed people, so they are susceptible to these psychological factors. What could easily have been accomplished in Palestine by a three to five year land-grab and war, something of the ferocity of the 1982-1984 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and which would disperse the Palestinians into Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, has instead been turned into the slow agonizing absorption of Palestinian territory during the 37 year occupation. This will probably continue for another 30 years, as long as the American petro-dollar empire employs the Israeli satrapy.
"Waiting To Be Developed"
Since the words "genocide," "Israel," "Jews," and "Palestinians" have many layers of emotional meaning, and also appear in many politically motivated deceptions and attacks, it is necessary that I make the following point. I do not believe that Israel (both the government and its people) or Jews generally wish the Palestinians to be destroyed in a genocide, in the same way that the Nazis did wish to destroy the Jews. However, I do believe that anyone who considers themselves a "supporter of Israel," as that code phrase is used by its adherents, does wish the Palestinians to "disappear" from Palestine. Such thinking -- to the extent that it is acknowledged -- probably imagines this disappearance to be in the form of a refugee stream to be absorbed in the neighboring Arab countries and the wider world. Also, such thinking is undoubtedly quite willing to accept a proportion of this disappearance to occur as the casualties of war.
I think the clearest parallel to this attitude is that of 19th century white Americans towards the American Indians. To many of them it just seemed "natural" that the Native Americans had to disappear and die out, they were inconsistent with "progress" as it was carried in by the railroads carving through the "open" land "waiting to be developed." Today, there is a tragic nobility to the story of Crazy Horse, who led his warriors to victory at the Little Big Horn. Back then in 1876, he was probably seen by white Americans in the same way that Israelis of today saw Sheik Ahmed Yassin. In 1877, a bayonet was used for what in 2004 required a missile.
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Sources, Listed By Topic, With Notes
(All Web pages active as of 30 April 2004.)
1. Robert Collier, "Oil Erupts As Issue In Presidential Campaign," San Francisco Chronicle, 20 April 2004,
see table and figure "World Oil By The Numbers,"
"$22 to $28 a barrel"
World Crude Oil Production, Mb/d, (top 10), 2003: Russia 8.49, Saudi Arabia 8.48, U.S. 7.92, Iran 3.79, Mexico 3.79, China 3.41, Norway 3.25, U.K. 2.28, Venezuela 2.01, Iraq 1.33.
Proven Oil Reserves, Gb, (top 10), end of 2001: Saudi Arabia 261.8, Iraq 112.5, UAE 97.8, Kuwait 96.5, Iran 89.7, Venezuela 77.7, Russia 48.6, U.S. 30.4, Libya 29.5, Mexico 26.9.
Top World Oil Exporters, Mb/d, Jan.-May 2002: Saudi Arabia 6.6, Russia 4.8, Norway 3.1, Iran 2.4, Venezuela 2.3, UAE 1.9, Nigeria 1.8, Mexico 1.6, Iraq 1.6, Kuwait 1.6.
[Sources: US Department of Energy, British Petroleum, International Energy Agency]
2. "Oil" (Harpers.org),
Feb 2002: Percentage of oil imported by the U.S. last year that came from Persian Gulf countries: 23 [US Department of Energy]
Percentage of oil imported by the U.S. last year that came from Canada and Mexico: 27 [US Department of Energy]
April 2002: Estimated amount the United States spends each year safeguarding oil supplies in the Persian Gulf: $50,000,000,000 [Council on Foreign Relations (N.Y.C.)]
Estimated value of US crude-oil imports from the Persian Gulf last year: $19,000,000,000 [US Energy Information Administration / Harper's research]
June 2003: Percentage change since 1973 in overall U.S. energy consumption: +27 [US Department of Energy]
Percentage change since 1973 in U.S. oil imports: +86 [US Department of Energy]
3. "Crude Oil Imports From Persian Gulf 2002," Energy Information Administration, US DOE,
Imports from "JANUARY - DECEMBER 2002, (Thousands of Barrels), Total: 3,336,175, Persian Gulf: 807,640, % Persian Gulf: 24%." "Persian Gulf includes = Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates."
4. US "Petroleum Overview (1949-2002)," Energy Information Administration, US DOE,
5. Manuel García, Jr., "Oil, Population And Global Warming," Swans, 15 March 2004,
6. "Energy," Swans,
7. David R. Francis, "Economist Tallies Swelling Cost Of Israel To US," The Christian Science Monitor, 9 December 2002,
http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1209/p16s01-wmgn.htm, "Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. Adjusting the official aid to 2001 dollars in purchasing power, Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973. In addition, the U.S. has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel. "Consequently, politically, if not administratively, those outlays are part of the total package of support for Israel," argues Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College, for a recent conference at the University of Maine."
8. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle (The United States, Israel and the Palestinians), South End Press, 1999, ISBN 0-89608-601-1, http://www.southendpress.org/books/fateful2.shtml
Articles On Ancient History
9. "Satraps and Satrapies," Livius,
10. "King Herod the Great," Livius,
11. "Wars between the Jews and Romans," Livius, The Jewish Revolt (66-70), and the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (70),
12. "Diaspora," Livius,
13. Crazy Horse Memorial,
14. Crazy Horse Tashunca-uitco (1849-1877),
Genocides, And Their Political Uses
15. Gilles d'Aymery, "The Politics Of Anti-Semitism Part I: Smear, Slander, And Intimidation," Swans, 26 April 2004,
16. Letters to the Editor, (Regarding Manuel García's "Which Holocaust Matters?")" Swans, 26 April 2004,
17. Manuel García, Jr., "Which Holocaust Matters?" Swans, 12 April 2004,
18. Carl Gustav Jung, The Undiscovered Self, 1957.
America the 'beautiful' on Swans
US Genocide of Indian Nations on Swans
Manuel García, Jr. is a graduate aerospace engineer, working as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He did underground nuclear testing between 1978 and 1992. He is concerned with employee rights and unionization at the nuclear weapons labs, and the larger issue of their social costs. Otherwise, he is an amateur poet who is fascinated by the physics of fluids, zen sensibility, and the impact of truth.
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