This week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Congress to approve nearly $190 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, increasing initial projections by more than a third.
Testifying before the Appropriations Committee, Gates said the extra money was necessary to buy vehicles that can protect troops against roadside bombs, refurbish equipment worn down by combat and consolidate U.S. bases in Iraq.
There is disagreement regarding whether the military efforts are succeeding but one obvious failure is the inability to increase Iraq's oil production to prewar levels, let alone expand production to fulfill the nation's economic potential.
Iraq is second only to Saudi Arabia in known oil reserves. Despite years of rebuilding following the invasion by allied forces, petroleum production continues to fall short of targets, due to insurgency vandalism, poor field management, and corruption.
Iraq has the potential to pay for all of its infrastructure needs as well as its own defense against insurgents with oil revenue, at least in theory.
It is ironic that many still regard the U.S. involvement in Iraq to be a neo-colonial grab for control of oil. Far from profiting from our involvement in Iraq, it has been a burden costing hundreds of billions of dollars to our country, as well as thousands of lives.
Some might see that to be a naive assessment, with the real profiteers being the oil company stockholders and executives who are willing to accept an increased burden shared by all taxpayers in exchange for personal profit.
This assessment is simply not supported by what has actually been happening. Control of oil resources in Iraq has never been in the hands of either the U.S. government or of private U.S. industries, nor are there any plans for that to happen.
There are potential profits to be made by private companies based in the U.S, and Europe investing in developing Iraqi's oil reserves, but to believe that this was the motivation for the invasion is stretching conspiracy theory beyond its usual thinly stretched limit.
We do not suggest that oil production in Iraq should directly pay America for expenses. Oil revenues need to pay for Iraqi government services and be distributed evenly so that all of the Iraqi people have a stake in keeping the flow going.
Getting out from under the massive burden, both militarily and economically, would be profit enough for America,