The Affect of Oil on Geopolitical Politics Since 1945
Since about the 1860s and beyond oil has been an important and vital resource to the United States. During the modern age, it has become essential for America and industrialized nations for maintaining their way of life. A question that could be asked is how much of a role has oil played in American foreign policy? After 1945, the United States domestic reserves began to diminish. The U.S. who was once the world's largest producer of oil, began focusing its attention to other parts of the globe to provide its ever growing need for consumption. Some of these countries have now become a main source of conflict in a region that is unlike the West, sitting on top the largest known oil reserves in the world.
In pondering the above question, some evidence can be helpful in gaining a better understanding of geopolitical politics, especially when trying to grapple with the true intentions of political leaders when in concern with policies related to energy security. Oil has fueled the American way of life in numerous ways, but most notably in transportation and agriculture. All these modern conveniences depend on the abundant supply of petroleum. If this resource was threatened in any way it could wreak havoc on the American way of life potentially devastating the U.S. and world economies. Research has shown that after the past spikes in the price of oil a recession followed in the United States economy. Whether this evidence is factual or dependent on other variables is debatable. The fact is that every industrialized nation in the world depends on oil to fuel their economies to which this resource is so deeply embedded.
A clear distinction among oil exporting and importing nations is very prominent on the world stage. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to recognize the importance of foreign oil. In his historic meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia towards the end of WWII, a lasting relationship developed between the two countries that every U.S. president has henceforth sustained. This friendship has affected U.S. policy towards the Middle East when dealing with other nations in the region. The countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and Iraq all which together hold the world's largest oil reserves have strategic importance to the United States. President Jimmy Carter began a deployment of troops throughout the region following the overthrow of the Shah. The Iranian revolution removed Shah, who was pro-West, and was replaced with the Ayatollah, a leader that was unfriendly to American interests. This was the prelude to (CENTCOM), or U.S. Central Command under Ronald Reagan. Its focus in the beginning was the prevention of a Soviet invasion of Saudi Arabia, and protecting the free flow of oil. In 1991 CENTCOM and allied forces prevented the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the Gulf War. Today it is fighting the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, and, providing security throughout the region. Is this regional security important to the United States because of economic reasons?
During the Cold War, the Soviet system was heavily reliant on oil and the export of it. Being an exporter country their economy relied heavily on the sale of oil to supply consumer goods. Sudden drops in the price of oil, turmoil within the system, and other factors has led some economists to agree that oil could have been a major contributor to their government's demise. This could give a different perspective on the American and Soviet rivalry in which there are differing opinions on the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Empire.
On the Asian side of the globe the Japanese system is almost completely reliant on imported oil. Their amazing accomplishments after WWII could not have been achieved without imported petroleum. The Japanese unlike the United States are almost totally at the mercy of oil exporting countries. With the present rise in consumption due to China and India's rapid developing economies, the demand is greater than ever before. Since it is a finite resource, the ability to maintain a constant flow of oil is becoming a growing concern.
Europe, who is also heavily dependent on imported oil, is becoming increasingly concerned with the welfare of their economic system. The strong ties to the United States after WWII, seems to be shifting towards oil exporting countries like Russia. European countries within the EU are the third largest consumers of petroleum in the world, and they like Asia are also concerned with limited supply. Countries more than ever before are having more leverage on the world stage because they are oil exporters. Since they are not dependent on imported oil, they have the advantage over those countries that rely on foreign supply. Oil is traded on the world marker in dollars, which gives the United States an advantage over other competitors. Can a system such as this remain forever in the current climate that is in existence today?
Today we are bombarded with the idea of Global Warming and the damages to the environment that has been caused by petroleum. At the same time, the world is using oil more than ever before, without a real solution to the problem. To date there is no alternative that can realistically replace this natural resource. As countries are becoming more heavily reliant than ever before, what can be done to prevent a clash of national interests? As the turnip is squeezed to the last drop, what will replace "black gold?" The future of the world economy depends on it along with the way of life that it provides. Only the future will tell.