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Middle East oil source of many U.S. problems

The cost of the United States military defending and procuring crude oil is nearly impossible to calculate.

Begin with the fact that our $500 billion-plus military budget equals the military budgets of the rest of the world combined, and the Pentagon can’t account for trillions of dollars. The military-industrial complex is the biggest special interest group.

Defending foreign crude oil supplies was understood in 1945, when President Franklin Roosevelt guaranteed Saudi Arabia’s security in exchange for its oil. Protecting Middle East oil continued with President Carter’s Rapid Deployment Force in 1979 and President Reagan’s U.S. Central Command in 1983.

The National Defense Council Foundation estimates all “hidden” oil-related costs at $825 billion per year. This is the equivalent of adding about $8.50 to the cost of a gallon of gasoline refined from the Persian Gulf.

Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Princeton, published a peer-reviewed study on the cost of keeping aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf from 1976 to 2007. Because carriers patrol the Gulf with the explicit mission of securing oil shipments, attributing the costs to oil was legitimate. He calculated the cost over three decades to be $7.3 trillion.

The invasion of Iraq was about oil. Peter Maas, author of “Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil,” cites a 2008 study by Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes. They calculate the cost of the Iraq war — everything spent up to that point and likely to be spent in ensuing years — at a minimum of $3 trillion.

The U.S. military in the Middle East has been a rallying cry for anti-Americanism and Islamic fundamentalism. The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security says world competition for dwindling oil reserves will force the United States to increase its Middle East presence, leading to more terrorism and instability. The likely result will send the price of oil through the ceiling in the next two decades.

Neil Nissenbaum