Oil is selling for close to $110 a barrel and gasoline for around $4 a gallon. Bad news for motorists. Marvelous news for jihadists.
Yet many of our elected leaders still don’t get it: The rising cost of gasoline is not just an energy dilemma and an economic drag. It’s a national-security threat. We are fighting a war and we are funding both sides — transferring unprecedented amounts of wealth to those who openly declare themselves our enemies.
Iran’s rulers are using oil money to develop nuclear weapons and fund terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, that are now staging a slow-motion coup in Lebanon, and Hamas, which is committed to the extermination of Israel. A generous share of the money that goes to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations ends up in the coffers of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Hugo Chàvez spends Venezuela’s petro-dollars to expand his influence and that of his Iranian allies throughout Latin America.
The war we are fighting is unconventional, but our enemies are not so different from those we have faced in the past. In the 20th century, free nations were threatened by Nazis, whose goal was global rule by a race, and Communists, whose goal was global rule by a class. Today, the challenge comes from regimes and movements committed to global rule by members of a religious group.
In World War II, Roosevelt and Churchill understood that Hitler could not win if he was denied access to the oil fields of North Africa and Central Asia. In the Cold War, Reagan’s use of economic weapons was key to bringing about collapse of the Soviet Union.
Of course, we can’t deny oil to OPEC, the cartel that sits on more than three-quarters of the world’s conventional reserves. But we could implement policies designed to break oil’s virtual monopoly as a transportation fuel, stabilize and even reduce fuel prices, and diminish the ability of hostile oil-producing regimes to wage economic warfare against us.
Such polices would include increasing — rather than decreasing — domestic oil production, and speeding — rather than delaying — the pipeline project that would bring oil mined from Canadian sands to the U.S. Conservation is good, too. But these measures can be only part of the solution.
As Jim Woolsey, former director of Central Intelligence and current chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Anne Korin, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, recently noted, OPEC is “a conspiracy in restraint of trade.” That means that when non-OPEC countries “drill more, OPEC simply drills less and drives prices back up.” If demand is reduced through conservation, “OPEC again drills less and prices zip back up.”
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, can and sometimes will agree to boost production to moderate prices. But should America’s economic and national security really be left in the hands of Arabian monarchs who fund Wahhabi clerics preaching hatred for Christians and Jews? And does anyone believe that the kind of turmoil we’ve recently witnessed across much of the Arab world could not break out on Saudi soil as well? Even a brief period of instability could produce a panic in the oil markets that would shake the entire world economy.
What we desperately need and should encourage is a competitive transportation-fuel market. We — or most of us, anyway — know the value of competition. If the price of Coke goes up, you can switch to Pepsi. If the price of beef climbs too high, you can eat lamb or chicken. You’re not satisfied with ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR? Switch to Fox. But, at the moment, when the price of gasoline goes up you have no choice but to pay or change your lifestyle — in some cases dramatically.