Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Oil vs Everything Else

I remember that at the time of the first Gulf War, the observation that it was all about oil seemed to be quite a savvy one. Despite the US and its allies pretending that they were defending a small sovereign state against aggression, some people pointed out what was really going on. For example, Lawrence Koth, a former US assistant defense secretary: "If Kuwait grew carrots, we wouldn't give a damn".

These days, the idea that oil drives a lot of international policy is so obvious that its usually not worth pointing out anymore. But the politicians still have to pretend that their eyes are on the spread of democracy and so on.

In an article in the Financial Times, Gary Kasparov points out an important difference between the recent elections in Russia and Zimbabwe:

It is a pity for Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe does not enjoy a surplus of oil and natural gas. Without those assets his election victory is denounced as a sham and nations around the world call for him to be ousted. At this week’s G8 summit, George W. Bush, US president, denounced Mr Mugabe while sitting next to Mr Medvedev, whose hold on power is similarly counterfeit. The Russian security services’ methods are more subtle than machetes but our democracy is no more real than Zimbabwe’s. The European fantasy appears to be that oil revenue and designer boutiques will magically turn Russia into a real democracy.

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