Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fighting Ourselves

After my first lecture in this course, I could not seem to get a few things Dr. Webber presented off of my mind. Every person I spoke with that day got to hear my view on the subject, and several interesting conversations came of it all....

First of all, I had never heard of WWII being an "oil war". This idea intrigued me at first, but I didn't trust it really. Then, I spoke with Erin about the course she took during a study abroad that was entirely dedicated to proving the WWII and oil connection. I began to research a bit and came across the chapter linked above. The author sites a U.S. business with funding the Germans' progression towards war. He connects the Rockefeller family to "the major contribution made by Standard Oil of New Jersey to the Nazi war machine." Besides the war in Europe, I also discovered Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in response to the U.S. joining in embargo efforts to cut Japan's oil imports, that counted for 80% of their nation's totals. It all makes sense to me now, war always seems to be over love or commodities (as my wise father said). But I still have some questions: How come I never read about any of this in my History textbooks throughout school?
Was this my own oversight, or is this information kept from us? Why do I think WWII was about saving the World from Hitler's wrath? Probably the same reason I would think the war in Iraq is about democracy and saving the World from "Terrorism", right?

The other ideas that fascinated me were the quotes on our Department of Defense. I grew up in an Air Force family and I have always admired our nation's flying protectors. I never thought about how they are 57% of the World's single largest energy customer, but it makes sense. The military leader's of our great nation should have a philosophical struggle with the war we now find ourselves in. We are sending so many young men over to fight for and protect our oil interests in the Middle East, so we can continue fueling jet planes that are sent out on these "use or lose" missions so budgets are not cut for the future. It is obvious to me now that we have gotten way in over our heads, if the best and smartest of the USAF cannot figure this Catch 22 out yet. How do we get ourselves out of this vicious cycle of spinning our very expensive wheels? At what point do we say enough is enough, no one is winning here?

In one last conversation about all of these conflicting ideas, I was lead to watch the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. The movie presents some very interesting connections between the Bush family and the Middle East. The more I thought about everything, I realized similarities among events. The chapter linked above explains that Standard Oil faced charges of treason during WWII, for supporting the enemy. I immediately thought we should have charged Bush with treason (or at least the Carlyle Group), but is he not our leader, our Commander in Chief? I knew theatMoore's movie was created to invoke this angry reaction, and I know how emotional I can get about all this. But so much is clear now. We live in a World so intertwined economically, politically, and even ethically that it might be that we are committing treason against ourselves, our very own nation...

1 comment:

John Losinger said...

Two books you might find interesting regarding oil's role in WWII:

Edward S. Miller, Bankrupting the Enemy (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2007), pp. 156-167.

Matthew Yeomans, Oil: Anatomy of an Industry (New York: The New Press, 2004), pp. 13-15.

In the former, Miller argues that although the oil embargo has historically been attributed as the main impetus for Japan's preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. financial freeze on Japan's international reserves had the most devastating effect.

The U.S. not only cut off all of its oil exports to Japan, which at the time constituted approximately 80% of Japan's imports, but also crippled its ability to even buy oil and other war-related supplies by freezing its illiquid currency (the yen).

In the latter, Yeomans also has an interesting take on the Japanese/oil aspects of WWII. He points out that although Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was partially successful in destroying a significant portion of the U.S. naval fleet, it failed to simultaneously destroy the 4 1/2 million barrels of oil also stored at Pearl Harbor. Doing so would have destroyed America's entire Pacific oil reserves; rendering the entire fleet immobile.

Yeomans also makes an interesting connection between Germany's "blitzkrieg" attacks and oil. The tactic was largely employed due to the fact that "Hitler knew he didn't have enough oil to compete in long, drawn-out battles. To counter this weakness, Germany had two goals in mind-it's Panzer tank divisions would punch through Russia and snatch the Baku oil fields before continuing on to secure the grand prize of Iraq and Iran."

As Hitler himself lamented, "Unless we get the Baku oil, the war is lost." He was right. In 1944, Germany's Sixth Army division literally ran out of gas and was stranded outside of Stalingrad. Even though the division only "needed to fight for thirty miles to escape...their tanks only had twenty miles of fuel in them."

The paramount issue of oil also bedeviled the Allies as well. Lack of fuel prevented General George Patton and his Third Army division from an early and decisive invasion of Germany in 1944.

General Patton eloquently summed-up oil's paramount importance in the war by exclaiming, "my men can eat their belts, but my tanks have gotta have gas."