Is it really ‘all about oil’?

Not everything is about oil, in Libya there is alot more at stake for the West.

Pretty much every time the Middle East and possible Western actions therein are discussed you hear the common refrain from the left; ‘it’s all about the oil’! This certainly reflects a truth. Oil is important to capitalism and the current ballooning price of a barrel of decent crude isn’t particularly helpful at this economic juncture with the world economy still somewhat fragile.

However, discussions around intervention in Libya are not just motivated by rather base economic concerns. Plenty of spare capacity exists to cover the loss of Libya’s oil production; indeed, Saudi Arabia in particular is busily increasing its production as we speak (well, I write and you read). What is more all the nations with spare capacity are still run by regimes generally congenial to Western interests so there is simply no need for the West to take control of Libya’s oil fields to guarantee its fix of the highly flammable good stuff.

Something else much deeper and much more complex is at play. The deeper nature of this probably explains why its passed the left by, unused as it is to thinking outside the confines of a very small and hermetically sealed box. For a very long time Western identity and indeed capitalist identity has been cleverly interwoven with democratic ideals, discourse and struggle. This reached something of a peak during the Cold War when communism was successfully , not unsurprisingly given the actions of Stalin and his progeny, identified in the collective mind of the masses with authoritarian dictatorship.

The language and power of the democratic ideal basically won the Cold War for capitalism and the left lost because it lost the battle for democracy. In fact, at a certain point it gave up even fighting this battle and implicitly ceded it to the right. Democratic freedom became twinned in the popular mind with free markets (in reality, free markets squash democratic freedom) and the rest as they say is history.

Other concepts like the universal concept of human rights (something that capitalism never respects in practice) became part of this discourse which has survived even till this day. Unsurprising since ruling social systems have for a very long time cloaked themselves in progressive ideals, language and a righteous defence of their position, past the Roman Empire and right back into the mists of time.

This is what is really at stake in Libya for the West, maintaining a semblance of coherency for its democratic discourse. It is also what puts the left in something of a tricky position because the fact is necessity at times forces the discourse to coincide with the actions taken. Truth can exist even in lies (and vice versa, of course); there is no contradiction there because any given thing can exist in two seemingly contradictory and mutually opposed states at the same time. Rome, for example, did in some ways bring progress to the territories it conquered and the West can and sometimes will act in ways that facilitates directly democratic advance despite this going against the grain of the social system that conditions its actions. How a given situation is resolved depends purely upon the interplay of the competing tensions at the heart of the original contradiction.

Of course, when such an advance is made; a negation of that advance will necessarily be sought. Were Gaddaffi to be removed by a foreign force then immediately the establishment of ‘law and order’ would be prioritised; in other words, the restriction of the free and independent democratic movement of the Libyan people. Nonetheless this understanding does not rule out a priori support for other more limited interventions which directly assist the peoples battle with Gaddaffi but mitigate the future ability of that outside force to suppress the Libyan people.

However, how can the left come to a sensible conclusion on this question when it so grossly simplifies the very origin of the original query? If you want a simple summation of why the left exists in a state of perpetual crisis (even when capitalism is in crisis itself) then this is simply provided. It has forgotten how to think outside its tiny, tiny box.


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About darrellgoodliffe


17 responses to “Is it really ‘all about oil’?”

  1. ulag says :

    There’s one missing perspective on the current revolutions. How would Iraq have been today, amidst this whole arab unrest, if there had been no war? Read it here.


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Thanks for the link. It was an interesting read.

    It doesn’t sound far-fetched at all; broadly speaking I think its what would have happened.


  3. Robert says :

    The problem is with assuming Iraq was doing this or that look at the two people who took us to war Bush, an intelligent chap who wears a military jacket talks a good talk ,about fight wars, yet his father kept him out of Vietnam.

    The fact is for god sake we have Iran, we have North Korea two countries which are not pretending or playing at making bombs.

    We have Robert Mugabe who is believed to have killed 300, 000 people through starvation and maybe as many as 3 million from being involved with wars, yet we all Know Tony Blair wrote to him about being a great leader.

    We all like to make out Saddam was evil he killed maybe 250,000 people, so we moved in bombed the shit out of people for what .

    We ran an embargo, on Iraq and it was telling, except for France ignoring it, but Saddam was an out cast and he was struggling, it is not for us to go around the world getting rid of Tyrants. But if we do then we cannot stop at one or two we must remove all. Funny how Libya and the up rising put Oil at $115 a barrel yesterday, it’s now dropped back down to $97.

    Oil is vital to the world because we need it, we could not live without it, we will have in the next 50 years look at different ways, but not until we have checked out if we have Oil in the Antarctic or the north pole. Do not forget Labour has given permission to seek Oil within the UK, those nodding donkets the UK have the mess of oil running all over the place may not be long before it’s in a field next to you.

    But what was Iraq about, was it to remove such an evil man, a man put in place by the CIA of course, or was it about getting rid of an embargo.

    Look at where the US troops raced to once in Iraq to the Oil fields, does not take much imagination to look at Bush and see chap who want to put right what he saw as a mistake his father made, wished to be seen in history as a man who made good, but was not man enough to fight a war himself.

    One thing about the old kings within the UK, they went to war got out the swords and did it them selves, these days we have hero with rifles, but once in a wheelchair they become zero’s.

    Bush and Blair two men who had more interest in what history would say, plus of course the old bank balance.


  4. Gillig says :

    An out of box post.
    Excusing the obvious effects of medication;
    It’s much like what Gaddaffi said in his speech.


  5. Robert says :

    well medication or no medication if you go to a bloke kiss him on both checks take his money sell him guns, lay in his bed, what do you expect pity.

    The fact is this murdering scum killed a Police officer in London, but that OK, he blew up a plane, but thats ok, how much ammunition do you want to buy, as Peter Hain said in Wales this, week it keeps ten thousand people in work.

    Problem with many if they thought they could get a few bob they kiss this chap ass.

    same as people joining labour from other parties and then telling us they were once proud socialist, bull shit is easy


  6. Gillig says :

    It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that too many European countries are still more worried about stability in the Middle East than about democracy. The cosy stitch up by the political class serves no one’s interest but theirs, but they believe their own bullshit and think they are some kind of model democratic structure. Too many EU leaders have respected the autocrats of North Africa and have coveted the kind of power they have wielded until now. In truth the EU is only a model for a modernised version of the totalitarian autocracy being thrown off by the people in North Africa. The only difference being the illusion of democracy where in truth none exists. When are people like you going to get it through your thick heads that the EU is not democratic? If anything the EU acts in much the same way as Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi, selecting its own leaders and imposing laws and regulations on the people of member states through entities that are unelected and unaccountable.


  7. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I fail to see the similarity myself.


    I’m really not sure who you are ranting at now. On the one hand you seem to be against interventionism in Iraq. Fair enough. So am I.

    I get that you don’t like New Labour. Neither do I. However, this understandable position seems then to get lost in a generalised hostility to the Labour Party and indeed the labour movement as a whole. This is where I disagree with you.


  8. Gillig says :

    The similarity is in the need for an interpreter.


  9. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Questions are what comments are for. 🙂


  10. Gillig says :

    Questions are what answers are for.
    Questions you don’t like get ignored.
    “How will labour govern the country after 2004, when the majority of UK MEP’s are UKIP?”


  11. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Errr because MEP’s don’t run the country, MP’s do and errr how many of them does UKIP have?


  12. Gillig says :

    More than Labour. Do your Err Homework.
    You want the European Union to run this country, check your manifesto.


  13. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Do yours. I was asking how many *MP’s* UKIP have and the answer is, of course, 0, so not more than Labour then?

    No we don’t *rolls eyes*…


  14. Gillig says :

    How will you justify membership of the European Union after 2004, when the majority of UK MEP’s are UKIP?”


  15. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Because they are not members of the legislature that decides this issue; besides, a majority of MP’s coming from one Party does not make either a singular or multiples of its policies therefore a priori democratically legitimate.


  16. Gillig says :

    It will show a clear majority wish to leave the European Union.
    The European Union will not be able to ignore this even if Labour think they can.


  17. darrellgoodliffe says :


    If it does then I would submit the majority is deeply misguided and ever were we too leave it would severely damage Britain in every way imaginable.


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