With congressional approval of action in Iraq moving us closer to what now seems inevitable action in Iraq, it is only a matter of time before the drumbeat of “blood for oil” becomes deafening (that is, unless blood for rice overtakes it). It is worth remembering, however, that some of the countries most prominent in their opposition to the war also stand to profit the most from propping up Saddam Hussein’s power. For example, France is the Iraq’s leading import partner--22.5% of Iraq’s total yearly imports are from France. China and Russia tie for 3rd place with 5.8% respectively. Not to leave out the Germans, a 1993 study of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control suggested Germany was the worst western offender in terms of selling Iraq the goods necessary to bolster its war machine, including the sale of the vital components to extend the range of its SCUD missiles.
If the United States really just wanted oil, we could simply lift the sanctions and call the policy “engagement.” Given this possibility, the accusation of “blood for oil” just doesn’t carry much weight. By contrast, from a raw, economic perspective, many of Iraq’s current trading partners may believe that they would be better served by propping up Hussein, thereby keeping the U.S. alienated to trade with Iraq. Of course, they would fair better if the sanctions were dropped—but they would fair even better in a world in which they could trade freely with Iraq, but the U.S. chose not to because of our concerns about Hussein. I would like to think that this is an unlikely scenario to explain the actions of our Eurasian friends, but such an explanation is at least as plausible, if not more so, than one which suggests the U.S. is willing to spend billions of dollars and risk the lives of our young men and women on a war whose "oil" objective could be achieved by fiat. So the next time you hear another country making noises about “blood for oil,” it is worth considering that the real blood for oil trade-off may in fact be made by those who advocate no action at all.