The United States has a certain international reputation as a self-ordained law enforcer. Our country has a habit of sticking our nose into other countries’ business and declaring things fit or unfit. Most notably we pour endless amounts of money and troops into the Middle East. I’ve seen a slight pattern in the lucky nations graced with our aid – the presence of oil.
Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia – these countries are only a few that have received U.S. aid but they are similar in more ways than that: They all support large oil industries.
Let’s take a closer look at Libya, which benefited from U.S. support this year during the months of civil war leading up to former-leader Muammar Gaddafi’s death. According to British Petroleum’s 2011 Statistical Review of World Energy, Libya contains the world’s eighth largest oil fields. The country suffered from a dictatorial leader that met six months of protests with harsh military response and numerous civilian deaths.
Now consider Syria, which is located squarely in the Middle East, not far from North African Libya. Syria is currently in its eighth month of massive civilian protests against its dictatorial government, which has been sending military forces to forcibly put down outbursts. Civilian deaths are climbing into the high 3,000s as of late November. This sounds strikingly similar to the situation that existed in Libya.
Now why is it that a country so geographically close to another country experiencing similar unrest should receive less support than the latter? I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here. Syria lacks the oil fields that Libya holds in abundance. I’m aware the lack of U.S. support – and international support for that matter –can’t be boiled down to something as simple as oil but the problem still stands.
The world economy is bound to the oil industry at present; any damage sustained to refining plants or lag in production has the potential to cripple American and international markets alike. It would be in our best interest to protect our resources.
In a list of the world’s top oil exporters, the U.S. Energy Administration’s 2006 report listed Libya as 11th. Interesting, to say the least. Unfortunately for Syria, it had no chance of making that list.
So what exactly does this mean for Syria and countries like it? It seems at face value that the U.S. is more inclined to support those countries that are of financial interest to it, which, I’ll admit, would be a rational decision. The human rights activist in me, however, is furious that our “land of the free” can so casually turn away from countries that could desperately use our help. If we are so willing to help their oil-rich neighbors, I think we can afford to do the same to those less fortunate in that market.
The U.S. has built itself up into a sort of protector of nations. I am admittedly speaking with some bias in favor of democracy, but our involvement in many countries has aided in the toppling of dictatorships and an increase in people’s rights to free speech.
Being able to gather on Wall Street to voice our disapproval of the government’s decisions, to write to the president and ask for change – these are rights that we as Americans take for granted, rights that people in other nations are still dying in the hopes of winning for future generations. Financial interests or not, we owe it to the freedom fighters of our own past to give other nations a chance at freedom as well.