A leftover from yesterday. Even for Rudy, this is pretty Rudy: It’s not true, of course, that anything goes in war, but it’s the sort of thing you’d expect an authoritarian to say. All I ask, if we’re going to have this debate, is that we be clear about what we mean. If Trump and Giuliani want to ignore international agreements that the U.S. has signed, they should demand that we abrogate them formally. Don’t blithely insist that we can do anything we want during a war and it’ll all be kosher under existing treaties. Specify which treaties should be repealed and accept the political consequences. This guy is a former U.S. Attorney who’s a contender to be Attorney General, for cripes sake. He’s supposed to at least pretend to care about the law.
As for the practical side of this, how many American soldiers would it take to seize and hold Iraq’s oil fields once Iraqis realize our plan is to steal their most valuable resource for our own use? The virtue of Trump’s foreign policy over Clinton’s, I thought, was that it would mean fewer foreign entanglements. A decades-long operation to control and extract Iraq’s oil sounds like a pretty major entanglement.
Iraq’s oil is distributed across the country with deposits in the north and south, but the largest quantity is in the south in and around Basra province. Since Trump says he opposed the Iraq war he would not want to take all of Iraq. So the less costly approach would be to seize Basra and the oil infrastructure around it. Last week he said he would “leave a certain group behind” to hold the oil wealth for America. That group would have to be the United States military.
Obviously Iraqis will resist the loss and indefinite occupation of the most lucrative part of their country so a permanent American military presence will be necessary in Basra. How large that presence would be would depend on how much resistance it faced.
Since Basra province has over 2.5 million people, almost all Shia Arabs, their resistance alone would be challenging. But they would not be alone. The Shia- dominated government in Baghdad would support its citizens, adding to the struggle. It will turn attention away from fighting for Mosul, and focus on recovering Basra.
It will be a grueling war.
That’s the beginning. Read the rest of Bruce Riedel’s piece for a guess at what would happen diplomatically. You could understand Trump pushing this nutty idea as a matter of pure politics if the country was stuck in an energy crisis right now with gas at six dollars a gallon. But oil prices have dropped steeply over the last eight years, thanks in part to advances in U.S. shale oil production. There’s no crisis, and thus no reason to even consider expending this sort of blood and treasure. I doubt, frankly, whether Trump himself is even half-serious about it. It’s probably just some bumper-sticker thing he thought of to enhance his “politically incorrect” image. Polite society would never consider seizing Iraq’s oil — because it’s stupid, and because it would reduce the U.S. military to a band of pirates — so naturally he’s going to make a show of talking it up.
This is why it’s so hard to take Trump’s foreign-policy critique of Clinton seriously. He starts off sounding like a traditional isolationist, attacking her for intervening in Iraq and Libya, and then you blink and suddenly he’s talking about a military occupation force in Iraq to steal their oil, which makes him sound like an old-school colonialist. The common thread, I guess, is nationalism: Trump is A-OK with sending American troops to die overseas so long as the national interest at stake is so obvious and tangible that it can be placed in a barrel and sold. Humanitarian interventions, though, with more abstract national security implications? No thanks. I guess, if South Korea and eastern Europe want a continued American troop presence, they should start digging around to see what’s in the soil. Preventing a war on the Korean peninsula or a push towards Europe by Russia isn’t enough of an American interest in its own right.
One other thing. Giuliani does his best here to spin Trump’s “take the oil” position as a noble gesture for the benefit of Iraqis. He’s not saying we should keep the oil, Rudy insists, he’s saying we would reclaim it from the clutches of ISIS and then distribute it equitably. Which is a lie. Trump has been perfectly clear about what he means. Watch this short clip of him from last December chatting with Alex Jones (of course). “We should keep the oil,” he says. “You know, in the old days, to the victor belonged the spoils.” He used the line about spoils belonging to the victor as recently as last week during the NBC forum with Matt Lauer. He’s not talking about securing the oil on Iraq’s behalf to keep it away from ISIS. He’s talking about pure banditry. If that’s what Giuliani’s signed up for, he should own it.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) September 11, 2016