For many years the United States has been the de facto guarantor of world oil supplies. We maintain one and more recently two aircraft carrier task groups in the Indian Ocean and near the Persian Gulf. They are there not only to support our forces in Iraq and throughout the region. They are there, and will remain there, so long as the region produces a substantial portion of the consuming world’s oil supplies.
Someone has to do it, you might say, and that is true. But does that “someone” always have to be the United States?
First of all, it is possible for us to reduce our dependence on Persian Gulf oil, roughly 20 to 25 percent of our imports which themselves represent almost 70 percent of our total consumption. Suppliers such as Canada and Mexico, among others, are reliable. The Persian Gulf is not. We can choose to continue to depend on unreliable Persian Gulf oil, but we will do so at the cost of thousands if not tens of thousands of American lives in future Persian Gulf wars and tens if not hundreds of billions of tax dollars in maintaining a third to a half of all our military forces in the greater region permanently.
Instead, a new sense of international responsibility would organize a consortium of oil consuming nations, including much of Europe, that would assume collective responsibility for policing the Persian Gulf oil export routes and sea lanes. Other nations have navies and they can increase them if we convince them that, free of our dependence, we will no longer underwrite theirs.
To make matters even clearer, a zone comprising much of the Persian Gulf oil production region could be designated something like a Zone of International Interest by the United Nations which would empower the international community to guarantee the continued production and exportation of oil supplies regardless of regional political upheavals. Even if we are free of our dependence on that region, much of the world’s economy will continue to require its oil. All the more reason to make the greater Persian Gulf a specially-designated area of international responsibility.
All that is lacking is imagination and leadership.