Oil Price Warfare

War with Iran does not appear imminent and the prospect has not been a hot electoral issue. But Howard explains why war with oil-producing nations will likely be wholly unanticipated.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2006

Waging war in this tight-oil age will be an especially hazardous undertaking, not only tactically and economically, but also geopolitically. Preventing any sudden oil-price spike has become a strategic priority, circumscribing the maneuvering of defense architects and, for all of warfare's inherent risks, posing profound new challenges.

We can no longer assume, as we did as late as 2003, that oil markets will quickly recover from a minimal disruption in supply caused by military action in a major oil-producing region. Given the vulnerability of the global economy to oil-price shocks, as well as the political fallout from high gasoline prices, Washington's ability to use military force in various parts of the world, notably against Iran, will be significantly constrained, not least because a large body of global political opinion would pin responsibility only on Washington for the consequent damage to the global economy.

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