Recently on Good Morning America, Congresswoman and presidential contender Michelle Bachmann was asked, "What is America’s number one vital interest in the Middle East."
She answered, "…our safety and security of people in the United States is always number one."
Not only was Bachmann’s response a non-descript talking-point, but it didn’t even answer the question. Unfortunately, Bachmann missed a softball that she could have, and should have, knocked out of the park, one that would have separated herself from her colleagues.
Here’s the correct answer:
America’s vital interest in the Middle East can be summed up in three words: oil, oil and oil. That’s it. If that region wasn’t sitting on such huge reserves, America wouldn’t give it a second thought, with the exception of its security guarantee to Israel.
As a Republican and Tea Party leader, Bachmann should have instinctively talked of America’s unholy reliance on foreign oil, much of it from hostile nations in the Middle East, and aggressively pushed for energy-independence.
She could have talked about how the largest natural gas deposits in the world remain virtually untapped (the Marcellus and Utica Shale); the vast oil reserves in Alaska that are closed to drilling; the Bakken Formation in North Dakota that holds over 4 billion barrels; the petroleum reserves under the Rockies that could well be the largest on the planet; the fact that we’re not drilling offshore , and that production has not yet resumed in the Gulf.
She could have then explained that, if we focused on these domestic sources, we wouldn’t be paying $4/gallon and watching inflation rise, nor would we be fretting about the Middle Eastern uprisings, and who we should be supporting.
But she didn’t. And that’s too bad, because otherwise, Bachmann’s voice on the national stage is an important one.
The fact is that if a leader doesn’t understand, or can’t articulate, solutions to the single-biggest problem facing America — being bent over a barrel because of our energy dependence — then their effectiveness is extremely limited.
And because neither Party, nor current and past Administrations, have done anything to achieve energy independence, America is now involved in yet another Middle Eastern conflict with no clear objectives. The only things being accomplished are creating more uncertainty in world markets and placing American military personnel in danger. And for what?
Several points to consider:
1) There is no question why the U.S. is involved. It’s not about stopping a brutal dictator, nor is it about civilian deaths. And it’s not about democracy and freedom for the Libyans. It’s simply because Libya produces a lot of oil. If it was really about any of the aforementioned reasons, we’d be forcefully engaged in most countries around the globe, since democracies are the exception. Just look at the Rwandan conflict: 20 percent of the population was slaughtered, but it had no oil. Result: no intervention. A little truth for why we are in Libya would go a long way.
2) So much for Obama’s campaign pledges of "no more wars of choice," and "no blood for oil."
3) Gaddafi, while certainly no angel, has not been the thorn in America’s side he once was. He admitted complicity in the Pan Am 103 bombing and paid reparations, dismantled his nuclear weapons program and, understanding the new world order after the 9/11 attacks, stopped harboring terrorists. As a result, Libya was taken off the U.S. government’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list by the Bush Administration, with then- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stating Libya was being rewarded for its "renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation Libya has provided to the United States" in the war on terror. And the flow of Libyan oil has been unimpeded. So much for the brutal dictator theory.
4) Who exactly are the rebels we are supporting by bombing the country and establishing the No Fly Zone? Are they all James Madison-types looking to establish a democratic Republic? Or are they the Muslim Brotherhood— or worse? Given many Middle Easterners’ track record of viewing the United States as the Great Satan, the odds probably aren’t favorable that we’ll be singing Kumbaya with them a few months from now.
5) A No-Fly Zone does not make a democracy. Okay, we are preventing Gaddafi from using his aircraft. But what happens when he starts whipping the rebels anyway? Do we bomb his troops and tanks? Do we send in Special Forces? What happens when a pilot is shot down— as just happened? More important, what happens when a similar situation arises in Saudi Arabia, and civilians get mowed down — as they will, since the King isn’t going quietly. Do we establish a No Fly Zone over The Kingdom? Do we bomb them, too? Not a chance in the world.
Despite all the questions, there are no answers, and the coalition, if you can call it that, has already begun splitting apart.
6) We lose no matter how you slice it. The majority of Libyan oil is sold to Italy and France, yet America has been roped in to do their heavy lifting. Why? And as more Libyans die from allied airstrikes, America will get blamed on the Arab Street. Gaddafi’s claim of another "Crusade " against a Muslim nation will hit home to millions of Muslims across the world, vastly undermining any goodwill that may have been generated over the last several years and bolstering terrorist recruitment. And the support of the worthless Arab League, whose officials are already back-tracking, means nothing. It’s not their planes doing the bombing, but ours. We get all the negatives and none of the positives while the Arab League gets the best of both worlds.
The United States’ involvement in Libya, a nation that in no manner attacked America or caused it harm, sets an extremely dangerous precedent. Ironically, this effort, executed with no foresight and one that has absolutely no endgame, further endangers our national security. Playing into the mentality of millions of Muslims that the U.S. seeks to dominate their countries will only enflame anti-American feelings.
George Washington could not have been more right when he advised against foreign entanglements and intervening in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. That wisdom is proof that modern advances will never be a substitute for old-fashioned common sense.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative
reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries
and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including
The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick
Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in
Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national
television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]