On Tuesday in the Houston Chronicle, Michael Economides addressed the question of the US taking control of Iraqi oil fields in a post-Saddam scenario. He argues that according to existing international law, such an act would be a war crime. Some aspects of such an act would also contradict the Administration’s stated position (via Colin Powell) that a democratic, post-Saddam Iraq should be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
That “for the people” part, though, highlights where there is some grey area here. What if the US military is required to take control (one would hope, temporary) of the oil fields to ensure their security? Such a move would be sure to raise criticism of American colonial imperialism (where this colonialism thing came from baffles me, we’ve never done the colonialism thing). But, what’s the alternative? One thing that gets overlooked that to be “for the people” means having some stable and transparent system of property rights (thank you, Hernando de Soto); this important fact is also currently overlooked in Venezuela. If the US military protection of the oil fields is necessary to accelerate the Iraqi process of commercializing their assets, then that counts as “for the people”, right?
So if the US were to use its military to secure the oil fields, our diplomacy and our rhetoric had better be damn sure to indicate that it’s only to secure property rights, and to enable Iraqis to establish commercial operations. And our behavior must be consistent with that, which means Iraqi operation and management, and that we skedaddle when the job’s done.