When the war in Libya began, the U.S. government convinced a large number of war supporters that we were there to achieve the very limited goal of creating a no-fly zone in Benghazi to protect civilians from air attacks, while President Obama specifically vowed that "broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake." This no-fly zone was created in the first week, yet now, almost three months later, the war drags on without any end in sight, and NATO is no longer even hiding what has long been obvious: that its real goal is exactly the one Obama vowed would not be pursued -- regime change through the use of military force. We're in Libya to forcibly remove Gaddafi from power and replace him with a regime that we like better, i.e., one that is more accommodating to the interests of the West. That's not even a debatable proposition at this point.
What I suppose is debatable, in the most generous sense of that term, is our motive in doing this. Why -- at a time when American political leaders feel compelled to advocate politically radioactive budget cuts to reduce the deficit and when polls show Americans solidly and increasingly opposed to the war -- would the U.S. Government continue to spend huge sums of money to fight this war? Why is President Obama willing to endure self-evidently valid accusations -- even from his own Party -- that he's fighting an illegal war by brazenly flouting the requirements for Congressional approval? Why would Defense Secretary Gates risk fissures by so angrily and publicly chiding NATO allies for failing to build more Freedom Bombs to devote to the war? And why would we, to use the President's phrase, "stand idly by" while numerous other regimes -- including our close allies in Bahrain and Yemen and the one in Syria -- engage in attacks on their own people at least as heinous as those threatened by Gaddafi, yet be so devoted to targeting the Libyan leader?
Whatever the answers to those mysteries, no responsible or Serious person, by definition, would suggest that any of this -- from today's Washington Post -- has anything to do with it:
The relationship between Gaddafi and the U.S. oil industry as a whole was odd. In 2004, President George W. Bush unexpectedly lifted economic sanctions on Libya in return for its renunciation of nuclear weapons and terrorism. There was a burst of optimism among American oil executives eager to return to the Libyan oil fields they had been forced to abandon two decades earlier. . . .The entire article is worth reading, as it details how Gaddafi has progressively impeded the interests of U.S. and Western oil companies by demanding a greater share of profits and other concessions, to the point where some of those corporations were deciding that it may no longer be profitable or worthwhile to drill for oil there. But now, in a pure coincidence, there is hope on the horizon for these Western oil companies, thanks to the
Yet even before armed conflict drove the U.S. companies out of Libya this year, their relations with Gaddafi had soured. The Libyan leader demanded tough contract terms. He sought big bonus payments up front. Moreover, upset that he was not getting more U.S. government respect and recognition for his earlier concessions, he pressured the oil companies to influence U.S. policies. . . .
When Gaddafi made his deal with Bush in 2004, he had hoped that returning foreign oil companies would help boost Libya’s output . . . The U.S. government also encouraged American oil companies to go back to Libya. . . .
The companies needed little encouragement. Libya has some of the biggest and most proven oil reserves -- 43.6 billion barrels -- outside Saudi Arabia, and some of the best drilling prospects. . . . Throughout this time, oil prices kept rising, whetting the appetite for greater supplies of Libya's unusually "sweet" and "light," or high-quality, crude oil.
By the time Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited in 2008, U.S. joint ventures accounted for 510,000 of Libya's 1.7 million barrels a day of production, a State Department cable said. . . .
But all was not well. By November 2007, a State Department cable noted "growing evidence of Libyan resource nationalism." It noted that in his 2006 speech marking the founding of his regime, Gaddafi said: "Oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them. Now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money." His son made similar remarks in 2007.
Oil companies had been forced to give their local subsidiaries Libyan names, the cable said. . . .
But Libya's oil production has foundered, sagging to about 1.5 million barrels a day by early this year before unrest broke out. The big oil companies, several of which had drilled dry holes, felt that Libya was not making the best exploration prospects available. One major company privately said that it was on the verge of a discovery but that unrest cut short the project.Read the entire article here.
With the country torn by fighting, the big international oil companies are treading carefully, unwilling to throw their lot behind Gaddafi or the rebel coalition.
Yet when representatives of the rebel coalition in Benghazi spoke to the U.S.-Libya Business Council in Washington four weeks ago, representatives from ConocoPhillips and other oil firms attended, according to Richard Mintz, a public relations expert at the Harbour Group, which represents the Benghazi coalition. In another meeting in Washington, Ali Tarhouni, the lead economic policymaker in Benghazi, said oil contracts would be honored, Mintz said.
"Now you can figure out who’s going to win, and the name is not Gaddafi," Saleri said. "Certain things about the mosaic are taking shape. The Western companies are positioning themselves."
"Five years from now," he added, "Libyan production is going to be higher than right now and investments are going to come in."