Juan Cole, “Solar would be Cheaper: US Pentagon has spent $8 Trillion to Guard Gulf Oil,” informed Comment, 8 December 2013
It has cost the United States $8 trillion to provide military security in the Gulf since 1976. According to Roger Stern, a Princeton economist, the US has spent as much on Gulf security as it spent on the entire Cold War with the Soviet Union! In recent years through 2010 it has been $400 billion a year, though the US withdrawal from Iraq at the end of 2011 and the gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan this year and next presumably means that the figure is substantially reduced. Still, we have bases in Kuwait, Qatar and elsewhere, and a Naval HQ in Bahrain, none of which is cheap. If it were $200 billion a year, that is a fair chunk of the budget deficit the Republican Party keeps complaining about. And if we could get that $8 trillion back, it would pay down half of the national debt. …
The right argument is that we shouldn’t be using petroleum and nor should our allies. The supreme tragedy is that the US has bankrupted itself ensuring military security for the oil-producing nations of the Gulf when oil production is destroying the world. We need a crash program to get the world off petroleum, some 70% of which is used to power automobiles. People should be given incentives to move back to cities so they don’t have to commute. Better public transport is needed. Portland is an example of how a concerted push can change the urban transportation situation quickly. 8% of commuters in Portland now get to work on bicycle, 10 times more than any other American city. Portland adopted a global warming action plan in 1993 and has renewed it, and demonstrates what can be accomplished in only 20 years if a city puts its mind to it. And, we should move as quickly as possible to hybrid plugins or where practical electric vehicles (EVs).
Moreover, we should be pressuring our allies in this direction (Germany doesn’t need any encouragement but Japan and others do). Otherwise we are locking the world into as much as a 9 degrees Fahrenheit increase in average surface temperature over the next century, which could well destabilize our climate. And we are paying through the nose for the privilege! It would be like paying hundreds of billions of dollars a year to ensure that people can get access to meth, which then ruins their health.
A tiny fraction of the $8 trillion we spent through 2010 (surely it is up near $10 trillion now) on Gulf security would, if invested in research and development in solar energy and other renewables, and in reformulating our urban transportation systems, save the world. We are told we don’t have money for that effort. But we had plenty of money for aircraft carriers and wars in the Gulf.
Getting some of this security investment back by selling the Gulf nations sophisticated weaponry is a very bad idea. The bigger the conventional arms stockpiles, the greater the likelihood they will be deployed in war. The US is destabilizing the region, not stabilizing it. That would not be necessary if we weren’t dependent on petroleum. …
Read the full article here.