Tuesday, January 07, 2003

He's Halfway There

St. Louis Park's own Thomas Friedman is a columnist who I find frustrating to read. He's not a Molly Ivins or Paul Krugman type where I find myself in opposition to nearly every sentiment they express and often utter a string of obscenities at the breakfast table as I read their dreck. In fact even though I would consider him to be fairly liberal he's had a number of columns since September 11th that I've largely been in agreement with. His real problem is consistency and his message is often muddled by conflicting desires. His latest column A War for Oil? is no different. In it he acknowledges something that has been anathema for many liberals; waging war for oil is not necessarily a bad thing. Well at least he allows that it can be one of the factors that justifies war:

The primary reason the Bush team is more focused on Saddam is because if he were to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it might give him the leverage he has long sought — not to attack us, but to extend his influence over the world's largest source of oil, the Persian Gulf.

But wait a minute. There is nothing illegitimate or immoral about the U.S. being concerned that an evil, megalomaniacal dictator might acquire excessive influence over the natural resource that powers the world's industrial base.

This is essentially what the Gulf War was all about; protecting a significant portion of the world's oil supply from falling under Saddam's whim. Of course to admit that the United States has a right to defend against the takeover of such a strategic resource invalidates the "No Blood For Oil" cry of the anti-war Left and so most liberals shy away from it.

But just when you're ready to credit Friedman with some good common sense logic he qualifies his statement by attaching strings to it:

I have no problem with a war for oil — if we accompany it with a real program for energy conservation. But when we tell the world that we couldn't care less about climate change, that we feel entitled to drive whatever big cars we feel like, that we feel entitled to consume however much oil we like, the message we send is that a war for oil in the gulf is not a war to protect the world's right to economic survival — but our right to indulge. Now that will be seen as immoral.

So if we don't sign the Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gases and don't toughen fuel emission standards then our war for oil is immoral? Isn't a strategic resource a strategic resource regardless of whether we use it to power SUVs or Ford Fiestas? Would not the rest of the world be worse off with Saddam in control of the Middle East oil supply whether we reduce greenhouse gases or not?

Friedman's problem is common for liberals. They have a guilty conscience about acting out of self-interest placing more value on why you do something, rather than on the action itself and the results it achieves.

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