In 1965 I sat in an Air Force ROTC class at the University of Tennessee and listened to an Air Force major explain the "Domino Theory" i.e. why it was important for us to protect and defend Vietnam. The theory went that if the U.S. allowed the North Vietnamese communists to prevail in Vietnam that countries such as Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and, according to the theory, most of Southeast Asia and even Indonesia would be swept away by the specter of godless communism.
During the summer of 1988, the state headquarters of the Texas Army National Guard asked me to escort the county judge of Nacogdoches County Texas to Fort Hood to observe the 20,000 members of the 49th Armored Division participate in their annual war games. The purpose here was to generate more support for the National Guard from civilian leaders. What I remember most about this experience was flying in a helicopter to a small mountain where a National Guard division element had a tactical operations center (TOC). The brigade commander who was in charge took great pride in showing us a map of Germany and Eastern Europe and exclaiming, "Gentleman this is where the next war will be fought!"
We lost Vietnam, but communism certainly didn't "sweep" all of Southeast Asia or Indonesia. Contrary to the National Guard brigade commander's enthusiastic assertion, the next war the United States Army was involved in after 1988 was not in Germany, but in the sands of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait during Desert Storm.
The reasons for our being in Iraq are clouded by political rhetoric depending upon who is doing the talking – Democrats, Republicans, or the Bush Administration (which now seems quite separated from both).
Representative John Murtha (D) from Pennsylvania thinks we should redeploy. Karl Rove, major spinmeister of the Bush Administration, and a fewer number of Republicans are proclaiming that we should not "cut and run." Hillary Clinton – a major presidential hopeful - was recently booed when she suggested we should stay the course. No doubt, with a majority of Americans disapproving of our presence in Iraq, this war will affect the political landscape this fall and in the presidential election of 2008. However, will political change remove us from Iraq? I seriously doubt it.
If you have had the dubious joy – like I do - of filling the dual tanks of a Ford F-150 pickup truck, you know the price of gasoline has seriously escalated. Reading about the state of the world's oil markets and how fragile they are does not reassure me that the price is going down or that the situation will ever improve. If the nutcase dictator in Venezuela or other nutcases in other OPEC states were to cut off oil production or do something simple like selling more oil to the Chinese – we are in deep mud. China is already making major moves to tighten financial influence on major oil producers such as Kazakhstan - oil that years ago would have been ours by Divine Right - or at least that is how Americans have traditionally perceived their access to the world's oil supply.
Iraq's oil has more to do with this war than all the political yammering that we are hearing these days. Despite the calls for energy independence most of us are not going to buy into that concept until the day comes that we absolutely cannot afford the price of gasoline. That day is not here yet.
Neither George Bush, nor any other political leader of today's ilk – Democratic or Republican – has the intestinal courage to impose the restrictions on our gas consuming habits that will bring about energy independence.
So if we listen to Murtha's call to get out of Iraq, then what happens?
Joe Sixpack, Eighteen Hole Bill, NASCAR Fred, and Sally Soccermom – who don't read – are not enlightened to how serious this Shiite-Sunni rivalry really is. A bunch of ragheads killing our kids - they think.
I'll make it simple. It's like the doctrinal differences between Southern Baptists and Mormons. Pleasant people on the outside, but heaven forbid if either were to try to dominate the other. The Sunni's in Iraq are the minority and the Shiites are the majority. Now that they're free of the Sunni - Saddam Hussein - the Shiites want it all and the Sunnis don't want to let it go. Simple, let them fight it out you say. Wrong, the fighting would endanger the oil fields, which have the third largest reserve of conventional oil in the world. Not all of that oil is coming out of the ground yet, but I think you can see why the world's largest oil consumer (us) would be concerned about losing our access to it and the right to exploit it.
Okay, so the Shiites and Sunnis kiss and make up - can our troops come home? Nope. Let's look at the percentages. The Shiites compose 65% of the Iraqi population and living next-door in Iran is another large aggressive group of Shiites that make up 89% of that country's population.
It is not in the best interests of the United State that these brothers get together. If we leave Iraq, they just might. The Iranian theocracy hates us worse than the Iraqis hate us.
Can you believe we have young people working in high levels of our government who can barely remember the Ayatollah and the hostage crisis?
The fanatical leadership of Iran would destroy the oil fields of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the rest of the Gulf States if they thought it would seriously harm the U.S. and destroy or weaken Israel. This is not scary rhetoric on my part, but a pretty well documented tenet of Iranian national objectives. Iran funds both the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations in Palestine, and has the ultimate goal to unify the two. This is not good for the U.S. or Israel.
So – to the wishful thinkers among you that think a sea change in this country's politics will bring about a military departure from Iraq – keep wishing and hoping, but I don't think it's going to happen in our lifetimes… American combat deaths may stabilize, but don't expect redeployment.
If the choice is between blood and oil, Americans will always choose oil. An election will not change that.