Bush administration officials are seriously considering proposals that the United States tap Iraq’s oil to help pay the cost of a military occupation, a move that likely would prove highly inflammatory in an Arab world already suspicious of U.S. motives in Iraq.
….There are strong advocates inside the administration, including the White House, for appropriating the oil funds as “spoils of war,? according to a source who has been briefed by participants in the dialogue.
I can’t tell you how much I hope this isn’t true. I have no love for the Bush administration, but I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt on their motives and conduct in the campaign against Iraq. But it’s getting harder every day.
The morality of appropriating Iraqi oil doesn’t seem to matter to these guys, but shouldn’t they at least be concerned about the practical consequences? The entire Arab world would turn against us, European suspicions would be justified, and every small country in the world ? already spooked by our “axis of evil” talk and newly minted doctrine of preemptive war ? would start charging headlong down the path of trying to get hold of their own WMDs in case they’re the next country in our crosshairs.
For millennia the proper response of a victorious country in war was to punish the loser and demand reparations. After World War II, the United States ? partly from virtuous motives and partly out of fear of communism ? figured out that rebuilding its former enemies was a better idea. And it worked pretty well.
We have a chance to do the same here. It won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, and the possibility of failure is high even with the best of intentions, but it would be disastrous not to try. Any other plan would send us well down the road of becoming a world pariah, and only after it’s too late will the neocon hawks discover that even the world’s sole superpower can’t exist without friends.
There’s only one piece of good news here: the idea apparently comes from Dick Cheney’s office. Colin Powell seems to have perfected the art of letting Cheney shoot himself in the foot for a while before gently shooing him out of the room and taking things over. Hopefully the same thing will happen here.