Donald Trump has a habit of speaking in a way almost embarrassing in its abruptness sometimes. And when he declares, regarding Iraq or other hotspots, “Take the oil” it is so politically incorrect under Obama Administration philosophies that even a hard core conservative like myself has to flinch just a bit.
But as with so many other politically incorrect Trump statements, when you get past the shock effect and start to serious consider the statement, you begin to see options and opportunities.
Trump did say “take the oil” and what if we did? What if this was not the Yankee imperialist action that it seems on the surface but rather a calculated move to help the people in the region to regain control over their own territory?
What if we took control of the oil, sold it on the global market and then put the revenues in escrow?
The first benefit is denial. It would deny ISIS the use of those funds, it would deny corrupt government officials the opportunity to steal these funds.
How often have we seen even our allies in the region abuse funds and aid and equipment provided with the best intentions? But once we provide them we lose control? How often have we provided these resources only to encounter an intransigent authority corrupted by religious or regional interests at the expense of the security of their country?
The second benefit is control. It has always been said “he who has the gold, makes the rules.” If we agree to rebuild a country after a devastating war, we (or the U.N. or other arbiters) can bring in professional project managers to manage rebuilding the nations infrastructure. No more channeling funds to the cousin of the mayor, or diverting to buy extra shoulder fired rockets.
If you have noticed, Trump takes a hard line. This is standard in business, you can always soften later, but you can never go back to a hard line once you have crossed it. So he let’s folks know that some of the funds may be used to pay our own bills.
It might very well be a bad idea to keep the money ourselves, but if the locals believe the money may never be released to them, they have no option but to cooperate. We call the shots, we release the money only where it can be accounted for.
On the other hand, if Trump were to follow Obama’s example and say the money would definitely be released to the locals, he would be tied up in courts and negotiations for years.
Could there be unintended consequences? Of course. If ISIS gets a sponsor with deep pockets, it could be difficult to continue to hold the oil. But more locals would be on our side, and we would at least have access to disable the wells before we left. Not much of a downside.