The United States of America is the world’s biggest importer of crude oil, which is mainly used for transportation in cars, airplanes, and ships. This position, however, has subjected the US to numerous challenges, especially in the Middle East region. The US military has constantly been involved in the Middle East, including in countries such as Iraq for purposes of maintaining peace. This region is the leading global producer of the commodity, but it has remained politically unstable for many years. This paper seeks to highlight the reasons why the US should cut down its dependence on the Middle East’s oil and, instead, use alternative sources for its survival.
National Security Threat
Most of the countries that produce oil within the Middle East region are also members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls the amount of oil produced by its members. This practice has only seen the global oil prices rise to very high figures. The rising prices are mainly hurting the US economy owing to its huge importation of global oil. As the economy slows because of the high prices, the US further faces major challenges in the future including its economy collapsing in its entirety. This will have negative impacts on the country’s security given it is the world’s only superpower.
Projections already point to an increase of between 100 and 150 percent in global oil prices because of the fast growth rates in China and India. With a huge population size that represents one-third of the entire global population, the demand for global oil in these two countries will influence OPEC into raising prices in the next 10 to 20 years. Thus, the US should look for alternative suppliers of the commodity in order to ease the demand pressure on OPEC.
With the high spending of the US on oil from the Middle East, much of the revenues end up in the hands and individuals who are enemies of the US. For instance, in 2007 the US purchased 789,290,000 barrels of oil from the OPEC region. The price for each barrel was at an average of $98.85, implying that the total expenditure by the US was at the tune of $74,864,156,500 (Otto 7). This huge revenue amount was received by the OPEC member countries in one year, most of whom are located in the Middle East region.
With the high corruption levels and the instability within the Middle East region, a greater portion of this revenue has ended up in the hands of dissident groups that have proclaimed war on the US. Such groups, including Al Qaeda and other terror gangs, have attacked the US and other countries in the world, causing a rise in insecurity globally. In essence, continuing to buy oil from the Middle East only helps the US to fund the terrorist groups that have their offshoot in the Middle East region (Shaffer 33).
Totalitarian Political Systems
Most of the Middle Eastern regimes, including Iran, Syria, and former Iraqi government under President Saddam Hussein, are all renowned for their despotic and totalitarian kind of rule. By being dependent on the Middle East oil, the US only manages to fund these governments, thus empowering them to continue with their activities and leaving them without any incentive to change. The oil revenues are sustaining a tendency to block institutions, as well as the values that are deemed necessary for supporting a democratic, free, and market-based economy (Ehteshami and Steven 225).
What the oil revenues have managed to achieve is to put the social structure into strata, creating an extremely wealthy upper class, while the rest of the society wallops in poverty. This leaves the countries inevitable civil unrest. Indeed, the rest of the Arab world that involves the Middle East has been grappling with the Arab revolution that began in late 2010 and continues to date, with countries such as Syria being badly affected by the fighting.
As the governments in these countries concentrate much of their attention on oil revenues, there is little effort being made to sustain industrial development. For instance, Iraq has only managed to finance itself on revenues that are acquired from oil exports. There has been little incentive for evolution into other industries that would allow the country to enter into trade with other nations of the world. This only heightens the instability of a country, where the rich resources do not seem to help the countries, but rather subject them into more problems (Shojai139).
Using Oil as a Weapon
It is a well-known fact that subsequent US governments have been at loggerheads with a majority of the Middle East governments, particularly owing to ideological differences and global political stand. The military intervention by the US in some of the countries of the region, such as Iraq, as well as its position on the long-running political standoff between Israel and Palestine, has only helped to worsen the relations (Christison 264). Because of the US’ immense military power that can never be rivaled, there are higher chances that the Middle East countries could resort into using its resources as a weapon.
Before his death, former Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat hinted that the region could be forced into denying the US access to its oil resources. This revelation points at Arab leaders’ understanding of the dynamics that are involved in the US’ overreliance on Middle East oil. Such a move could be a hard blow to the economy of the US and indeed that of the whole world. Putting in place a sale boycott to America without any prior warning will push the country into a panic mode and bring the economy to a standstill. However, such repercussions can be dealt with effectively if the US seeks alternative sources for its energy demands in other parts of the world.
There is a need for the United States of America to address its overdependence of oil resources from the Middle East region. This is because the situation puts the country into a precarious position globally. America’s state of security is in the balance because of this overdependence. OPEC member countries in the Middle East have been influencing the increase in the commodity’s prices, thus pushing inflation high.
The US relies on oil for the running of its economy, thus such unprecedented price increases hurt its economy. This, in turn, also affects its expenditure on security, both nationally and globally, which is very costly. The US’ high volume acquisition of oil also generates higher revenues to the Middle East region, some of which end up in the wrong hands of dissidents who are hell-bent on fighting the US.
Christison, Kathleen. Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U. S. Middle East Policy. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California, 1999. Print.
Ehteshami, Anoushiravan and Steven Wright. Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies. Reading, UK: Ithaca Press, 2011. Print.
Otto, Zach. U.S. Dependency on Middle Eastern Oil “What are the Implications of the United States’ Dependence on Middle Eastern Oil, How Do they Affect The US and Developing Nations, And What Are The Best Ways To Remedy These Situations?”. Diss. SPEA Honors Thesis, 2009. Print.
Shaffer, Brenda. Energy Politics. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania State, 2009. Print.
Shojai, Siamack. The New Global Oil Market: Understanding Energy Issues in the World Economy. West Port, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1995. Print.