16 April 2008

Just war or cost-effective war?

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy is sponsoring this event: Do We Need to Go to War for Oil?, at which the Hoover Institution's David Henderson will speak. Here is the summary of his remarks:

Many people fear that a hostile foreign oil producer will be able to damage Americans and, for that reason, think that the U. S. government should ensure U.S. access to oil. But a hostile foreign oil producer cannot inflict more than a small amount of harm on Americans by refusing to sell oil to Americans. This harm is likely to be well under 0.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Ironically, war for oil could well drive the price of oil higher, not lower, thus costing Americans twice as taxpayers and as oil users.

I suppose we should all be happy at Henderson's conclusion that such a military conflict would not be cost effective. Nevertheless, conspicuous by its absence is any effort to determine whether a war for oil would conform to the traditional criteria for a justified war. One assumes that, if there were ever to be a net economic gain for the US, Henderson would be more favourable. So it's no for now, but maybe the US should keep its options open?

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