BY WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, WSJ
[Mr. Mead is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the recently published “God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World” ]
[..] The end of America’s ability to safeguard the Gulf and the trade routes around it would be enormously damaging–and not just to us. Defense budgets would grow dramatically in every major power center, and Middle Eastern politics would be further destabilized, as every country sought political influence in Middle Eastern countries to ensure access to oil in the resulting free for all.
The potential for conflict and chaos is real. A world of insecure and suspicious great powers engaged in military competition over vital interests would not be a safe or happy place. Every ship that China builds to protect the increasing numbers of supertankers needed to bring oil from the Middle East to China in years ahead would also be a threat to Japan’s oil security–as well as to the oil security of India and Taiwan. European cooperation would likely be undermined as well, as countries sought to make their best deals with Russia, the Gulf states and other oil rich neighbors like Algeria.
America’s Persian Gulf policy is one of the chief ways through which the U.S. is trying to build a peaceful world and where the exercise of American power, while driven ultimately by domestic concerns and by the American national interest, provides vital public goods to the global community. The next American president, regardless of party and regardless of his or her views about the wisdom of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, will necessarily make the security of the Persian Gulf states one of America’s very highest international priorities.