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Commentary: Get Tough On Enemies

Editor's note: The Itemizer-Observer prints a variety of commentary pieces, including some it doesn't agree with, in an effort give readers a representative sample of public opinion. We have included several anti-war commentaries; this piece comes from the opposite end of the spectrum, to say the least.

By ALEX EPSTEIN

Politicians and commentators from both parties are decrying our "addiction to oil." They exhort us to embrace costly programs to reduce our consumption of oil as quickly as possible.

The primary rationale for this is national security. Our oil consumption is dangerous because, in the words of a New York Times editorial, "Oil profits that flow to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries finance ... terrorist acts."

With the same justification, President Bush has called for cutting "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025 ... making our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

But Americans are not "addicted" to oil. "Addiction" implies an intense desire for something harmful. We do not desire oil irrationally; we consume it because it is a life-sustaining product. Oil is unmatched as an efficient, safe source of energy. It enables us to ride, drive, or fly anywhere we wish ... and to trade anything with anyone anywhere in the world. We are not addicted to oil any more than we are addicted to the values it makes possible, like fresh food, going to work, or visiting loved ones.

The problem we face is not our love of oil, but oil-rich dictatorships like Iran and Saudi Arabia _ who use ill-gotten profits to spread totalitarian Islamic ideology around the world and terrorize us with their minions. The solution is not to punish ourselves by renouncing oil _ but to punish our enemies until they renounce their aggression.

As the most powerful nation on earth, the United States has many options at its disposal.

ù One means of ending the Iranian and Saudi threat would be to issue an ultimatum to these regimes: cease all anti-American aggression immediately, or be destroyed. Many, witnessing the Iraqi quagmire, might scoff at this option. But such a course is eminently practical if America's unsurpassed military forces are committed to the task, not of "rebuilding" or "liberating" these states, but of making their inhabitants fear threatening America ever again.

ù Another means of addressing the threat would be to remove Middle Eastern oil fields from Iranian and Saudi control, put them in the hands of private companies, and then employ surveillance and troops to secure that oil supply. Contrary to popular assumption, Middle Eastern dictatorships have no right to their nationalized oil fields, which should be the private property of those who work to find and extract the oil.

ù Still another option might be a comprehensive, all-out embargo by the United States and its allies to starve the leader of the enemy, Iran, until the regime crumbles and the Islamic totalitarians lose their will to fight.

Which policy is best? That's for military strategists to determine _ but our politicians and intellectuals refuse to consider any of them. Instead, they decry our "addiction to oil," condemn us for not all wanting to drive tiny hybrid cars, and urge, as penance, that we cut ourselves from the world oil market.

Can anyone honestly believe that such asceticism will protect us from attack? Saudi Arabia and Iran actively sponsored terrorism back when oil cost $10 a barrel.

Why do our leaders eagerly embrace impractical policies that punish Americans, while eschewing practical options that would punish our enemies?

Answer: Because the practical policies involve "going to war for oil," "imposing our will on the rest of the world," or "upsetting the international community," and other such foreign policy taboos.

In other words, they are "immoral" because they involve American self-assertion.

Our leaders no longer believe that America has a moral right to assert itself in self-defense. This is why we engage in self-effacing, appeasing "diplomacy." And this is why, when we actually do go to war (after such diplomacy fails), we pull our punches and declare our purpose to lavish the good life on hostile foreign peoples.

Now, after more than 2,500 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent to achieve mob rule in Iraq, we are told to give up the lifeblood of our civilization rather than wage real war. What bunk.

Could anything be more encouraging to our enemies than the knowledge that America will make Americans, not them, pay for their aggression?

_

Alex Epstein is a fellow at the conservative Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif.

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