Addicted to Oil: America's Relentless Drive for Energy Security
by Ian Rutledge
New York: I. B. Tauris, 2005. 336 pp. $45.
Reviewed by Gal Luft
Institute for the Analysis of Global Security
Middle East Quarterly
Millions of people around the world subscribe to the idea that an insatiable thirst for oil motivated the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Rutledge presents Addicted to Oil as "an attempt to show why those millions are correct." His historical narrative describes how decades of alleged collusion between U.S. automakers and Big Oil brought the elimination of the nation's public transport infrastructure, creating an American society based on excessive driving and gas guzzling. This structure, he claims, created severe dependence on foreign oil suppliers with profound geostrategic consequences, the latest of which is America's "defeat" in the oil war in Iraq.
While there is much merit to the claim that America's dependence on foreign oil subjects it to grave risks, and that this dependence affects U.S. foreign policy choices, Rutledge's populist argument that oil controls every facet of U.S. policy abroad makes the book akin to a printed version of Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 911 rather than a scholarly study. He sees the U.S government hijacked by an "Axis of Oil" with strong personal ties to the oil industry and (strangely) interprets Washington's support for Israel as "a crucial element in America's plans for an oil Imperium" in the Middle East.
Despite his book being heavily sourced, the author does not provide a shred of evidence to substantiate his claim that the war in Iraq was about oil. Yes, Iraq is oil rich, and America needs a lot of crude, but if oil were the only interest, would not the cheapest and easiest policy be to turn a blind eye to Saddam's brutality, lift the sanctions, and send the oil majors to drill there? Rutledge ignores such obvious arguments and instead pushes a convoluted anti-Bush and anti-neoconservative agenda. In doing so he misses an opportunity to address seriously the complicated and pressing issues related to oil dependence.
Related Topics: Oil, US policy | Gal Luft | Spring 2006 MEQ
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