Friday Night Story

Some Blood For Oil

We seem to have been fighting the same war since Hitler's lack of oil drove him to a suicide collision with Stalin and his Soviet masses during the sunset of World War II. There have been lulls in the fighting, and an endless cascade of changing participants, on either side. America has probably been the most constant presence, and if not us, then surely the British- both concerned in preserving the empires they'd built.

But the conflict I speak of was a war never declared, one whose participants were never aware enough to euphemize it a “policing action.” We have been fighting, as countries, for our survival, and as Hitler's loss had engrained in us all so thoroughly, a modern army without oil is an army without metal- and the Iraqis proved twice that modern meat armies can’t keep up- no matter their numbers- without.

During that time period, several conflicts have had the phrase, “No blood for oil” shouted over them, always to no avail. Preeminent social thinker Mary Parker Follett stressed that difficult negotiations can succeed if parties look at their underlying needs and desires, rather than relying on their unflinching stipulations. “No blood for oil,” is a very concrete demand. And obviously, over the last, we’ll round it to sixty years, that demand has been ignored wholesale. We can deduce from this that the demand must therefore be unreasonable, that, when geopolitics are considered, some bloodshed becomes a necessity in maintaining the controls to keep vast amounts of crude flowing out of relatively uncontrolled regions of the globe. An impassioned debator might state the converse, that their righteous position has been ignored by a cultural or financial elite as too costly to their ruling interest; however, this view admits defeat without acknowledging the futility of a viewpoint that has not, and continues to show no signs of, prevailing, so we can safely set it aside as a dead end.

Now it’s important we parse our emotional reaction from the debate; it’s noble that we have a visceral response to the idea of benefiting from suffering, but when that response prevents us from making progress in a debate that could possibly help curtail the very bloodletting we abhor, then those emotions become counterproductive. It has also been well documented that angry negotiators are less cooperative, pay less attention to arguments from the other side, and are less likely to seek compromise- and compromise is absolutely necessary.

Sweeping change doesn’t happen in our society, and it’s naïve to make demands with no precedence in reality. Sweeping change didn’t occur after the Emancipation Proclamation, nor after the passing of the 13th, 14th, or 15th amendments, or Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; not even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These were all landmarks in the long struggle for equal civil protections and rights, but it’s a struggle that continues even today. A more pragmatic approach would be to take that first step, and demand “less blood for oil.” I wouldn’t suggest we put a dollar figure on it, as, well, there are other factors that effect the value of currency and the price of crude, but we should be able to come to some sort of an agreement, however tentative, about the ratio of bodies to barrels.

One final point I’d like to examine is whose blood for oil. We can argue international brotherhood all we want, and the rhetoric pro and con about nationalism, patriotism and racism will spew forth from both sides. But when examining the reality of our actions, as a nation and a society, which by their nature tend towards self-interest, in the end, it becomes an "us versus them" debate. When it’s their blood, meaning the hundred-thousand-plus Iraqis (including civilians, insurgents, police, military- everybody), the thousands, maybe tens of thousands of terrorists, which we can assume are multinational, we were willing to pay a rather high price as a society. But When the American death toll reached 3000, public opinion shifted in a tangible way. So when we say no blood for oil, what we mean, largely, when examining our actions, is none of ours.

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