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Blood for oil? Global capital, counter-insurgency and the dual logic of American energy security


The US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq coupled with the increased militarisation of international relations as part of the ‘war on terror’ has led to the development of a ‘blood for oil’ thesis that posits the centrality of oil and the economic interests of US oil corporations to American intervention in the Third World. This article argues that this thesis, whilst correct in identifying the importance of energy to US intervention, is not sufficiently attentive to the dual nature of American resource interventions whereby the American state seeks not only to ensure US oil supplies but also to maintain sufficient oil supplies for the global economy as a whole. American intervention is thus driven by oil to a large extent, but in different ways to those commonly suggested by ‘blood for oil’ theorists. In contrast to this thesis I argue that recent energy security moves to diversify oil acquisition away from the Middle East towards new areas such as South America, the Caspian region and Africa continue to be subject to this dual logic. Moreover, counter-insurgency warfare is increasingly being deployed to insulate oil-rich states from internal pressures which is in turn having a profound effect on human rights, social justice and state formation in the global South.

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* Many thanks to Eric Herring, Mick Cox, Jonathon Joseph, Columba Peoples and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments.

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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