In the lead up to George W. Bush’s Iraq War, the American public heard alarming reports of Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. The intervention was sold as a preemptive strike against a madman capable of incalculable harm if left in power.
Once into the war, the Bush administration made some outlandish predictions: that the Iraqi people would greet US soldiers as liberators, and that Iraq’s oil revenue would pay for the war.
When antiwar activists and politicians suggested that Bush’s intervention was nothing more than a plan to widen the US footprint in the region and to shield Iraq’s oil reserves from growing oil-thirsty economies like China’s, the push back was swift and aggressive. Geo-politics were not behind this war, we were told. Even though it was painfully clear that the mission and a plan for leaving Iraq were almost nonexistent, most political leaders, including many Democrats, flinched and ran for cover rather than risk being viewed as unpatriotic and weak.
It wasn’t long before Americans learned the high price of Bush’s folly. Neither the premise nor most of the administration’s predictions about the war were true. And in a rather crude irony, a New York Times article reports that the country benefiting most from Iraq’s post-Saddam oil boom is not the US. It’s not Europe, either. China now purchases half of the oil produced by Iraq.
China did not spend any of its treasury on the war or lose a single soldier in combat, but it was a financier of Bush’s war. A portion of the national debt Bush left with taxpayers is the China tab. China’s recent military buildup and its growing economy may, it turns out, be the biggest beneficiaries of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The Times does make the case that an oil-producing Iraq, thanks largely to China’s continued investment into the region, may be a good thing because it helps create stability and jobs.
Still, it would behoove military hawks like Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham to think twice before beating the drum for military intervention into Syria. The risks for a regional war there, as we’re starting see, are far greater. And the reasons for intervening are equally unclear.