The American Interest

Afghanistan and Oil

Writing in the New York Times on September 26, Paul Krugman insisted that the war against Afghanistan would not be “a war on behalf of the oil companies; not even a war on behalf of SUVs and McMansions.”  It was, though, going to be a war “over a natural resource that is more vital than any corporation’s profits or anyone’s luxurious consumption.”  We should not quarrel about whose oil is at stake, Krugman insisted; it is about our oil.

We were led to believe that this was a war for freedom, justice, democracy, and all that, and against terrorism, Osama, and the Taliban.  The organ of the establishment then calmly implies that the key to understanding it all is the world’s largest untapped reserve of oil and gas in the recently independent Central Asian republics.  Nobody attacks the columnist, and the paper carries no apology for his cynical distortion.  What is going on?

Apparently, the claim that it is “all about oil” is no news to the rest of the world.  The Daily Telegraph of London, among others, says that “Control of Central Asia’s oil is the real goal.”  This was the headline on a report by Ben Aris in Moscow and Ahmed Rashid in Lahore (October 23):

One of the main reasons that Washington supported the Taliban between 1994 and 1997 was the attempt by the U.S. oil...

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