While polls show overwhelming majorities of Americans agree that the United States needs to end its many forever wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, some in Washington’s elite foreign policy circles fear any military withdrawals, worrying about alleged vacuums our adversaries will fill. Substantial evidence, however, shows the American people have a far better grasp on what benefits our country than the so-called elite.
According to the Energy Information Administration, as recently as January 2007, the U.S. had a monthly net import of 12.2 million barrels of oil. By January 31 of this year, however, that number had been changed to a net export of .8 million barrels for the month. China, meanwhile, which only imported 3.2 million barrels of oil per day in 2007, has now significantly deepened its dependence on Middle Eastern oil and now imports more than 11 million barrels a day.
While global oil supplies remain an interest of the United States, without question the Middle East is far less critical to our security today than it was decades ago. Yet the dramatic changes in the relative importance of Middle Eastern oil for the United States and China has not been reflected in our foreign policy and military posture.
According to a study published in 2018 by the energy think tank Securing America’s Future Energy, the U.S. military spent approximately $81 billion a year in protecting global oil supplies; Michael Klare, author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, estimates the number could exceed $100 billion annually. Consider, then, the stark implications of what this level of American military support to the Middle East means.
The United States is spending exorbitant amounts of national treasure providing a military presence that helps guarantee the free flow of oil that benefits China. While we are at present a net exporter of petroleum, Beijing is dependent on the continued free flow of Middle Eastern oil for its survival—yet China spends virtually nothing to guarantee that flow while American taxpayers are left, every year, holding the bag. That needs to change.
America currently has combat troops on duty in Iraq, Syria, and in Afghanistan (until September), yet we have more than 50,000 troops in the greater Middle East on duty at any given time. This level of investment of troops and resources is clearly no longer appropriate and needs to change. It saps our country of power and prevents us from adequately funding and manning other, higher priorities.
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