A solution to our financial problems: steal wealth from other nations

Summary:  America has the greatest military force on Earth, a terrible swift sword.  We face hard times, perhaps for a few years.  Perhaps for longer.  Will we yield to the temptation to use our power to steal from other nations?  What would our forefathers think of such a decision?

How will America react to hard times?  The Great Depression is long ago, and we have changed since then.  The 1970’s were not so bad as the 1930’s, and are much closer to us.  What solutions ran through our minds back then?

(1)  Britain Says U.S. Planned To Seize Oil In ’73 Crisis“, New York Times, 2 January 2004 — Excerpt:

“The United States government seriously contemplated using military force to seize oil fields in the Middle East during the Arab oil embargo 30 years ago, according to a declassified British government document made public on Thursday.

” The top-secret document says that President Richard M. Nixon was prepared to act more aggressively than previously thought to secure America’s oil supply if the embargo, imposed by Arab nations in retaliation for America’s support for Israel in the 1973 Middle East war, did not end.”

(2)  “Oil: The Issue of American Intervention”, Robert C. Tucker, Commentary, January 1975 — He was a prominent Sovietologist at Princeton (Wikpedia). Excerpt:

“Without intervention there is a distinct possibility of an economic and political disaster bearing … resemblance to the disaster of 1930s. … The Arab shoreline of the Gulf is a new El Dorado waiting for its conquistadors.”

(3)  Many American’s were thinking about stealing the Saudi’s oil during the tumult of the 1970’s:

  1. “Kissinger on Oil, Food, and Trade”, Business Week, 13 January 1975 — Kissinger said “I am not saying that there’s no circumstances where we would not use force.”
  2. “How US troops would seize Saudi Wells”, Sunday Times (UK), 9 February 1975 — Leaked details about a US DoD plan code-named “Dhahran Option Four” to seize the Saudi oil fields.  See this photo of the page.
  3. Seizing Arab oil“, Miles Ignotus (pseudonym of a professor and defense consultant), Harper’s, March 1975 — “How the US can break the oil cartel’s stranglehold on the world.”
  4. Oil Fields as Military Objectives – A Feasibility Study“, Congressional Research Service, 21 August 1975

(4)  And not just back then:

The temptation of power

We spend almost as much on national security (broadly defined) as the rest of the world combined, and many times that of any conceivable combination of enemies.  While that suggests considerable paranoia in the American character, it also creates the temptation to use that power.  We have lived beyond our means for many years now, borrowing from other nations.  Now the bills comes due. 

Power shifts to the new Asian manufacturing nations and the oil-rich nations of the Middle East.  We can compete  — trim down and work harder.  Buckle our belts tighter and pay our debts.

Or we can use our guns to steal.  To make it easier for our conscience, we could demonize “those dirty uncivilized terrorist-loving Arab Islamic people with their evil God.”   Its has been done before.  Sometimes successfully.

Also — Middle Eastern oil is not the only potential target. Force can gain wealth in many ways, some overt — some subtle.

What would our forefathers think?

Many were in favor of manifest destiny, grabbing as much as we could take and hold.  But not all.  Grant believed that the greed and hubris of our western expansion had a cost, which we paid in the Civil War.  See this excerpt from the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, (1885), pages 22-24, about the Causes of the Mexican War (red emphasis added):

Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation [of Texas] was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war [with Mexico] that resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.

Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. … it had but a very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize. These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does it now, sanction that institution. Soon they set up an independent government of their own … [and] offered themselves and the State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was accepted. The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot … the Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.

Let’s turn for perspective to westerns, the heart of American myth

Excerpt from Last Stand at Papago Wells by Louis L’Amour (1957), chapter 15:

There comes a time in the life of each man when he must make a decision. Grant Kimbrough had one to make now:  behind him on the sand was a fortune.  Behind him was a girl he wanted, but whether he got her or not, the gold was there.  And all that stood in his way was the load carried by his six-shooter.

It was murder, but he had killed before this.  What of the men who died during the war, and those Indians who died here?  Suppose, just suppose nobody was left alive but himself?  It could easily happen.  And if only one was left, well, who was to say how the others died?

He stared bleakly at the sand.  He had come a long way since the old days.  He shied away form the memory of his father.  He could see the old man now.  If his father had ever believed his son capable of what he now considered, his father would have killed him himself.  Yet his father had never been in such a position:  all that lay between himself and a bleak future was a few pistol bullets.

The Saudi’s are prepared (it might not be easy)

From Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Secret Saudi-U.S. Connection, Gerald Posner, on the Huffington Post —  Excerpt:

“… based on National Security Agency electronic intercepts, the Saudi Arabian government has in place a nationwide, self-destruction explosive system composed of conventional explosives and dirty bombs strategically placed at the Kingdom’s key oil ports, pipelines, pumping stations, storage tanks, offshore platforms, and backup facilities. If activated, the bombs would destroy the infrastructure of the world’s largest oil supplier, and leave the country a contaminated nuclear wasteland ensuring that the Kingdom’s oil would be unusable to anyone. The NSA file is dubbed internally Petro SE, for petroleum scorched earth.”

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Other posts about America’s future:

  1. Forecasts – Why wait? Read tomorrow’s news … today! (part I), 11 July 2006
  2. The Future of America – Why wait? Read tomorrow’s news … today! (part 2), 17 July 2008
  3. Forecasts – Why wait? Read tomorrow’s news … today! (part 3), 17 July 2006
  4. Forecasts – Why wait? Read tomorrow’s news … today! (part 4), 17 July 2006
  5. Our futures seen in snippets of the past, 16 June 2008
  6. A soft despotism for America?, 22 July 2008
  7. The transition between Imperial reigns: what will it mean for America?, 16 December 2008

50 thoughts on “A solution to our financial problems: steal wealth from other nations”

  1. mclaren: “America fought the Korean War to a draw”

    Well, it depends on your perspective. If the liquidation of N. Korea was the goal, we lost. If the liberation of S. Korea from the pocket of the Pusan perimeter was the goal, we won. If rolling back communist holdings was the goal, we won, because S. Korea had more land after the war than before. “America fought” is a highly debateable notion to, since we refused to engage the Chinese in China. Its hard to “win” when you won’t engage your attacker.

    “lost the Vietnam war decisively”

    At the end of our part of the Vietnam War, S. Vietnam still existed, and the SVA and US Army held all the provinces and capitals. Again, all the while refusing to engage the actual enemy by failing to attack Russian supply ships. The subsequent defeat of the SVA came from our failure to supply it with war material while the Russians supplied the NVA. Kind of hard for your allies to win a war without bullets and guns. Bringing a knife to a gunfight, essentially.

    “America has decisively lost both the 2nd Iraq and the current Afghanistan war.”

    Really? Saddam and the Taliban are back in power? Did Saddam and the Republican Guard rise from the dead to defeat the US Army? Did Osama bin Laden reconstitute himself from the splatter of blood and flesh on the walls of his hideout cave to lead the charge to victory?

    “especially given our sorry record of nearly continuous defeat since WW II at the hands of barefoot peasants armed with bolt-action rifles”

    Well, when you fight a war on the terms that modern liberals prefer – avoiding actual killing of anyone, and refusing to defeat your enemy psychologically if possible, you will tend to “lose” in the way you are looking at things. Ann Coulter had a succinct formula for victory after 9/11 – invade their countries, kill their political and religious leaders, and forcibly convert the people to Christianity. It would certainly work (just like WWII/unconditional surrender/de-Nazification worked to change Germany), but people such as yourself are clearly against it, so it will never happen in this day and age of kinder, gentler war and occupation.

  2. Pat: “#7. And if Mexico’s oil isn’t enough, there’s always Venezuela.”
    FM “(a) Oil reserves (in 10^9 barrels): Saudi Arabia 266, Kuwait 104, UAE 98. The US: 21.”

    The US numbers do not appear to include much of Alaska North Slope oil in ANWR and the Naval Petroleum Reserve (or whatever they are calling the vast area to the west of Prudhoe Bay.

    All the oil we will ever want for many decades to come is in the oils sands of Alberta and the heavy oil of the Orinoco in Venezeula – 1000*10^9 barrels in each.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) I cited proven reserves, the most useful for comparing different regions. The Dept of Interior estimates the US total “undiscovered, technically recoverable prospective resources in all areas” as 134 billion barrels of crude oil (source).

    With a very few possible exceptions (e.g., Tibet), subjuaging and holding foreign lands has proven impossible since 4GW was brought to maturity following WWII. People dream about occupying Saudi Arabia because its low population density might make this possible (which I very much doubt).

    Also, you confuse reserves and production. As I explain in “An urban legend to comfort America: oil is oil, even if it is not oil“, conventional oil resources are limited by production (Saudi Arabia could greatly expand its output). Unconventional reserves are large (the lower the quality of the resource, the larger its extent) but limited by production constraints. In the next 10, it is not likely that production of either Venezula heavy oil or mining of Alberta’s bitumen could produce 5 million b/day. Both now export aprox 2 million b/day. The US consumes aprox 21 million b/day today.

  3. Robert Petersen

    A war simply for the sake of conquest would demand a completely different mindset than the one you find today in the United States. The Americans live in a democracy and while the government commits a lot of crimes it will always have to try to dress its wars as wars of liberation or something like that. A war simply for the sake of conquest is difficult to imagine under the current circumstances. Compare the United States with the Third Reich in 1939, where even officers like Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was convinced that Germany deserved living space in the East and that people like the Poles only deserved to exist as cheap labor for German agriculture. Not only the elite, but also the common people were convinced Germany deserved to rule Europe. I can’t find a similar sort of mindset with the possible exception of the Neoconservatives and they have been discredited ever since the invasion of Iraq. Unless you change the mindset of the Americans it is very difficult to see the United States as a new “Fourth Reich” with “living space” in the Middle East.

    Of course I don’t deny the American Government won’t invade other countries, but it just can’t call it wars of conquest and instead the Government has to call it a crusade for democracy or something like that. There is an American empire, but it is full of inconsistencies and contradictions which explains why Bush thinks it is okay to torture and Obama doesn’t. And when people (like in Afghanistan or Iraq) resist liberation and casualties mount people will ask what this was all about. Most Americans have no stomach for “Lebensraum”.

    Please also notice that when the United States decided to invade Iraq it decided to invade the weakest of the members of the Axis of Evil. If it would take several years to quell resistance in Iraq how long would it take against a far more determined and stronger enemy like say Iran? Or Saudi Arabia? One thing is to go into that country and occupy it, but as we have learned it is far from the same as controlling the country. And very expensive by the way.

  4. Fabius Maximus note: Enough of this crazy discussion about use of atomic weapons. If you believe that others (or their relatives, allies, or fellow Muslims) could find no way to strike back at America after we incinerate millions, and that the rest of the world would tolerate such an insane and criminal act — then I feel sorry for you. And I am sad that such people are found in our nation. Further advocacy of atomic warfare will be deleted and the authors permanently banned.

    syrfr: “Tough to perform the Hajj if the site is a piece of glass.
    FM: “I assume you are kidding (or insane). They easily could strike back at the US. … And with their money they could buy nukes.”

    FM, you are vastly overestimating them and underestimating the destructive power of 1000 megaton hydrogen bombs.

    1) After a few dozen are dropped on various Saudi sites, “they” would no longer exist, having gone to meet their 72 virgins, and if “they” did, most remaining would soon die of dehydration and starvation and radiation poisoning. Are you forgetting that they live in a desert, dependent for surivival in an inhospitable climate upon electricity to run pumps moving water and fuel?

    2) The notion of Arabs striking at the US in any meaningful way following a nuclear blitz of Arabia is laughable. With what force are they going to project power? If with Arabs living in the US, don’t you think they would be rounded up and placed in camps relatively quickly if such a threat seemed remotely imminent? A US Government willing to nuke Arabia would certainly have little compunction regarding internment of Arabs, or even their outright summary execution.

    3) Any money that the Arabs happen to have is in the main a bunch of electrons inside our computer system, or is intrinsically worthless scraps of white cloth paper with green ink on them. Much of their gold is held in the basement vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY. Their vulnerability to a “bank error” or a refusal to honor their bonds and currency is rather obvious. That’s what happens when you trade things with actual value (oil and gas) for things that are actually worthless (colorful scraps of cloth paper, computer database entries). The Chinese are facing the same dilemma, having traded away 15 years of productive work for a monetary crap sandwich from the US Treasury that they bought with their overseas profits.

    4) The factor of religious doubt would necessarily creep in as well. Mecca is a focal point of the Muslim religion. Were it to become a sheet of fused sand and rubble along with Riyadh and Al Khobar and Medina, it would certainly bring the veracity of the religion into question in the minds of many believers, leading to self-doubt, rage at being deluded, and other anti-personal and anti-social behavior. It would be the equivalent, for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, of killing all their Bishops and Priests – no Bishops and Priests – no sacraments, no possiblity of making new Bishops and priests, no future continuity of religion, direct contradiction of the Biblical promises of Christ. This would actually be the worst result for us, because of the unpredictability of the behavior of the world’s Muslims following such an action.

  5. Erasmus: “The most valuable resource in the world in any system is people; next is land which cannot be possessed without the former being within the fold or thoroughly dominated, something which only lasts for a little while usually.”

    Yes! “To populate is to govern.” Americans show no desire to produce a surplus population necessary to hold on to foreign lands permanently. In fact native born Americans seem to want to commit national suicide, just like the Europeans.

    Britain gained an empire when her mothers were birthing huge families of 7, 12, and 16 children and too many of them started surviving childhood. All those people had to go somewhere. So off they went to America, Canada, Australia, S. Africa, etc.

    The future and all the land of the world will belong to those who are willing to populate it.

  6. Fabius Maximus replies: I assume you are kidding (or insane). They easily could strike back at the US. Bioweapons, for instance. And with their money they could buy nukes.

    But the point is not to make them strike back. It is to make them fear the loss of something important so much that they do not strike in the first place for fear of its loss. As Sting noted, the Russians cared for their children too and so, MAD worked. But when enough people, or leaders of people, believe that death by infidel means an express elevator to Heaven, well, what do you threaten? How do you make MAD work? And if MAD no longer works, why have so many nukes? Wouldn’t a few Tridents full be enough?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: No more advocacy of atomic warfare on this site. Having nukes for self-defense is bad enough; using them to extort oil from Saudi Arabia is crazy. I don’t know if it violates the comment policy as uncivil or not topical — perhaps just being nuts suffices. Take it somewhere else; perhaps a site about mental health.

  7. I think there’s some confusion about the theft involved in the Mexican American War and Grant’s quote. It’s not necessarily Texas. Grant talks about broader causes and broader events–US involvement in the Texan war for independence inevitably dragged us into the Mexican American War, which netted us significant portions of some seven states, NOT including Texas. I think the former that is the “theft” in question when it comes to ’47. If you look at the Whig opposition (easily available on wikipedia) many felt that the war and annexation of Texas were related to an internal struggle over slavery, hence his conclusion that the US Civil War was the culmination of a sequence of events including the Texan/Manifest Destiny adventurism.

    In a modern context, it’s not hard to make the connection that Afghanistan and Iraq could lead to some kind of outright land grab in the Arabian peninsula. I’m not sure I am skillful enough to distill our modern ideological differences into clear causes that might lead us to that frightful possibility, but Democratic evangelism and the expansion of resources for our currently starved oil industry *could* lead in that direction.

    More likely than not, though, it won’t. For a variety of reasons: the Saudis are politically valuable to us (for what we/MNCs already control, whatever influence they have over Sunnis in Iraq, for not overtly hating us and funding our enemies), we have little appetite for another war (remember the rumblings and furor over a strike against Iran?), and there’s a lot of internal pressure pushing us to create new technologies rather than expand the exploitation of current energy sources. That being said, I’m sure someone is war gaming the scenario. The Venezuelans often complain that we are plotting an invasion. I don’t believe that is at all likely, but I bet we do have a some vague contingency plan for it.

    As for taxes being theft, well, as long as I call the police when someone steals from me, I am happy to pay taxes. That doesn’t mean I like all government expenditures, but it does mean I give the government consent to levy taxes. I might not have signed the dotted line, but I’m certainly not going to jail for withholding it. If enough people prefer to go to jail than pay taxes, then that will be the end of taxes. Just because one voice does not sway a politician doesn’t mean that ten million won’t. To complain about the country going in the wrong direction is worthless. If you don’t like it, form a PAC. Any blame gaming is an abrogation of your responsibility as a citizen.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for the background on the Mexican-American War, and esp for your comment about the responsibilities that go along with citizenship. From the discussion on this site, this seems to have been forgotten by many Americans.

  8. While I do not think there is any value to our maintaining a presence in A. for the 30/50 years our alleged objectives will require to be realized, it occurs to me that since we are there, why doesn’t the U.S. Army take control of the Opium? We could regulate the price and begin to create ways to wean users off the drug and take a very large fraction of the illegal drug off the market, unless of course the “legal” producers begin to divert, which they will. In any event, opium is the only thing in A., other than antiquities and human souls, worth anything and failing to control it is curiously “puritanical” don’t you think?

  9. Fabius Maximus replies: No more advocacy of atomic warfare on this site. Having nukes for self-defense is bad enough; using them to extort oil from Saudi Arabia is crazy. I don’t know if it violates the comment policy as uncivil or not topical — perhaps just being nuts suffices. Take it somewhere else; perhaps a site about mental health.

    Understood. My point was to discover what willingness there was to utilize the ultimate weapons even to threaten. Its clear that we as a population won’t go there under any circumstances. But without their threat, could we really steal Saudi Arabia’s oil, or, say, Bolivia’s lithium? I don’t think so. So, without that willingness to even threaten, this discussion should end in the acknowledgement that we couldn’t possibly steal anyone’s anything. Our military has proven itself to be offensively defensive in nature, since holding gains (especially of technologically delicate plant and equipment) against a really pissed off populace, supported by probably more than editorials form the rest of the world would be an order of magnitude more difficult than Iraq has proven to be.

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