Weapons of mass destruction may not have been real but what is real is China's gigantic advantage over Iraqi oil since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The New York Times' Tim Arango and Clifford Krauss have published a dynamite piece on how China is now Iraq's biggest oil customer. Further, American soldiers are actually responsible for ensuring China's supply. Even though this looks bad from an American standpoint, this is a good outcome for Iraq.
If one is to believe that we really did invade Iraq to free a people under suppression and dictatorship, then by those standards China as Iraq's biggest customer is an economic victory of the war. Iraq needs to be able to grow its own economy after decades of oppressive policies. If China is investing resources, labor, and infusing the economy with cash, then in a way the U.S. invasion has succeeded in bringing economic democracy to a once-suppressed country.
The Chinese-fueled increased oil and gas production from Iraq has prevented gas prices from spiking due to the sanctions on Iranian oil.
China is now the largest importer of energy in the world, and its dependence on Iraqi oil is sign of its vulnerability. China has not only provided resources but has also accepted the low-profit terms and strict regulations offered by Iraq's government. China's state-owned oil companies are only focused on securing the oil. They are not held hostage by profit margins the way Western oil corporations are.
Arango and Krauss further detail how China is cajoling Iraqi authorities by building airports, accepting all terms and conditions without any complaints, and even speaking in Iraqi-accented Arabic.
Iraqi oil was stagnating before the 2003 U.S. invasion. Arango and Krauss explain that sanctions against Saddam Hussein had blocked any international access to Iraq's abundant resources. Then Hussein was overthrown and Iraq's democratically-elected government resumed control over oil fields.
This is where China stepped in. China's aggressive pursuit of energy security is propelled by a growing demand for energy. Chinese state-owned companies have poured "more than $2 billion a year and hundreds of workers into Iraq" since the invasion even though they have not contributed any military resources to the country-building efforts undertaken by Allied forces.
This unique advantage has allowed China to tap into as much of the country's available oil as possible. In other words, "we lost out," according to Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration who worked on Iraq oil policy.
Donald Trump echoed this view on Fox News on Monday, and blamed it as per usual on the government's failure. Except, could President Obama or the Army really have done anything else?
Instead of creating more ire with Iraqi authorities, it would be in the U.S. foreign policy's best interests to let China continue to fuel Iraq's oil businesses. It would help make the impact of U.S. troop withdrawal less damaging to Iraq. Meanwhile, the controversial developments in the U.S. natural gas extraction methods have propelled U.S. energy production enough that we won't even be needing Middle Eastern oil soon enough.
China's vulnerability with energy security is far more advantageous to U.S. influence but that advantage has to be controlled diplomatically or economically, not militarily. Nonetheless, people will justifiably be upset about the giant cost of the Iraq war that is benefiting China at this moment, but that just simply brings up one basic question - why did we invade Iraq again?