Monday, October 14, 2002

It isn't about oil, but, well, then again it is.

Oct. 14, 2002 | With a strong congressional war resolution in his pocket, President Bush now must convince a handful of world powers on the United Nations Security Council to sign off on his campaign against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. By all accounts, it remains a tough sell. The days leading up to the council's vote will feature lofty debate and pointed questions about U.S. intentions, but the actual deal may be cut behind the scenes, where foreign policy matters far less than nationalism, brinksmanship and greed.

Billions of dollars in old debts and billions of gallons of untapped Iraqi oil seem to be critical to the stalemate. Russia and France are anxious to make sure that their long-established energy interests in Baghdad are respected in a post-Saddam world, and that U.S. and British companies are not given economic preference in the region. While both countries seem to be generally concerned about America's military plans, experts say those concerns could be greatly allayed in the form of upfront White House concessions.

Rea points us to this link. It isn't just left-wing conspiracy types that think this, you know?

Hours after Congress authorized President Bush to use force in Iraq, an economic adviser under four U.S. presidents told Grand Rapids business leaders Friday that going to war "is probably the most bullish thing I can think of."

Former FDIC chairman Bill Seidman, who served during the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and the senior Bush administrations, said defeating Saddam Hussein and controlling Iraqi oil is "at least as important as eliminating weapons of mass destruction."

Seidman, a chief commentator for CNBC, said the prevailing view that a war would prolong and even deepen a bear market is the "most misleading to the market today."

"Oil prices fluctuating is a very large drag on the economy -- ours and the world's," said Seidman, 81. "If we are in Iraq, nobody can use oil as a weapon."

Speaking to a crowd of 35 at the Peninsular Club, Seidman had just arrived from a State Department briefing in which the Bush administration outlined for the first time a post-Saddam power structure in Iraq.

"I think probably the most bullish thing I can think of today is winning the war. We are planning to set up a MacArthur-like" government, said Seidman, referring to U.S. General Douglas MacArthur's temporary rule over Japan after its surrender in World War II.

"Getting control of that oil," and thereby gaining sway with neighboring Saudi Arabia's oil production, "will make a vast difference (to the economy) in all sorts of things, but particularly the price of oil."

"Having the two major oil producers not part of any radical Muslim or any other unfriendly government," he said after the speech, would be "a huge additional factor in the world's economy."

Seidman said he was befuddled by popular warnings of a further economic slide in the event of war with Iraq.

But he's not surprised the Bush administration isn't the one heralding a return to profitability by way of war.

"I deny it, specifically, on behalf of the government," Seidman said, joking.