”If one commodity can claim credit for the startling advances seen in the world in the 20th century, in particular in developed industrialized countries, it was crude oil- soon to be dubbed ‘black gold’. ” Oil became an influential substance in the post war times, economically and also in shaping countries’ foreign policies. Whichever countries controlled oil controlled much of the world’s policies. After the increase in industrialisation and manufacture in the post war times, oil became a ‘must have’ resource, for a nation, in order for that nation to grow economically and become a self-sustaining state.
The first Bush administration reiterated the need to invade the Gulf as, “a way to defend our way of life” in the form of acquiring and maintaining the supply of cheap oil into the American interior. Post war rebuild was the main agenda as most nations fought to rebuild their states from the damages sustained during the two World Wars. A drastic rise in the demand for oil in the world became eminent and those nations that held oil resources had substantial advantage over those that did not have easy access to it.
In this essay, an outline of the role oil played in shaping post war worlds will be clearly discussed showing the various policies implemented by different nations in order to acquire the imperative resource. The general change from coal energy to oil energy was a catalyst for the increase in the rate of industrialisation. According to Yergin, Industrialisation sped up rapidly between the years 1949 and 1972. With economic recovery as the main focus of most nations affected by the catastrophes of both World Wars, oil had a vital role to play in each of the nation’s policies.
With oil consumption tripling in each and every state, governments had to accommodate for the low death rates which increased population, high employment demand and increase in consumption which meant more oil had to be imported in order for general recovery to be implemented. Japan, regarding the devastation of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, is one of the most prominent in wide spread economic recovery quickly declared they were free from post war recovery in the early 1960s as a result of their adoption of oil for industry.
Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was formed in Baghdad, Iraq on the 14th of September 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Its formation was largely associated with the grievances Arab nations had against the exploitive multinational Oil Companies that were gradually reducing oil prices to suit their Western home lands, had become powerful within the states they operated in and the oil companies boycott of the decree to nationalise all oil resources by Arab governments.
OPEC meant to take over the oil market and have the power to decide for themselves the price and production levels of the resources that were within their nation’s interior. With the successful capture of the oil resource by the Middle East nation, came large and untimed variations in price, production levels and the general supply of crude oil to the rest of the world. United States of America and other global economies, already hard felt with other problems, were now vulnerable to Middle East oil policies which could affect their nations’ economies and social well beings.
Looking into post war Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s era was characterised by the need for money to fund his expansion of uniting Arab nations into one nation under his political and Ba’athist ideologies. Hussein had Iraq export of crude oil as his main source of income however he met obstacles such as the Kuwait and United Arab Emirates (UAE) who had switched the OPEC policies to produce and sell oil at a fixed rate in order to gain demand along as a substantial profit.
Kuwait and UAE were now producing more oil than agreed in Baghdad in 1960 which resulted in more supply of oil than demanded thus reducing the price of crude oil to less than $3 a barrel. Saddam’s retaliation was to threaten Kuwait and UAE with potential invasion if they did not adjust to the previously agreed policies to stabilise oil prices. Result was a Kuwait confirmation to Saddam’s demands but however led to a feud for aid funds which led to Iraqi army invasion of Kuwait. America’s invasion of Iraqi territory was highlighted as one of the most controversial foreign policies to have been implemented by the American government.
The Persian Gulf War first initiated by president George H. W. Bush and the 2nd Persian Gulf War, implemented by the son of the former named president; George W. Bush formed the most debated policies of post war era. Most studies have come up with their own reasons as to why America decided to advance on Iraq with most highlighting the need to establish a constant supply of oil at a reasonable price, while others studies have put out that America wanted strategic positioning over its allies and rivals, save Russia, of oil seeking nations.
Although none have been verified by the American government, it is clear that the main reason for American invasion was for the sole purpose of solidifying American position in the oil market. President George, W. Bush, the then American president, stated himself that the war was, “to defend our way of life” this could be seen as a direct implication on the need to have oil, a resource that is needed in America to support their economy.
In conclusion, oil plays a vital role in shaping the world post to the World Wars. It is seemingly hard to believe that world recovery from such a devastating war could only take less than 50years leaving very little sign that there was ever a war to begin with. America remains a major power within the world with oil reserves larger than any other nation; China now boasts the world’s largest economy and Japan have recovered substantially for a nation that had very little resources to work with.