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Hearing of the House Select Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee - Shock and Oil: Where Military Concerns Meet Consumer, Climate Crises


Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of the House Select Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee - Shock and Oil: Where Military Concerns Meet Consumer, Climate Crises


REP. JOHN LARSON (D-CT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank both the admiral and Ms. Browner for being here.

And let me go on record as saying that, you know, I think that the scenarios can be very useful and instructive, but I want to acknowledge right from the outset that because of his Martin Sheen- like qualities, that I think Ed Markey should be cast as president of the United States, that -- you know, as a role befitting the chairman of the committee. Now, some may say that isn't that a patently suck- up move, and yes, it is -- So I hope that my legislation will be considered in order when the day arrives, but --

Admiral, you mentioned something very interesting in the scenarios as it was laid out, and as I understand it, with the consequences confronting you with the potential shut-off of supplies from Iran and Venezuela. Here's my question.

In a situation such as that, you said that by virtue of the fact that we're dealing with unfriendly states, that it almost becomes a de facto military situation. So the question is in this scenario, where would the military deem to strike, if necessary, to recapture supplies, this hemisphere, or in the Middle East?

And then bringing it to reality, because I think that's what makes these useful, should Americans be concerned when we have yet another battle group doing maneuvers in the Persian Gulf?

ADM. BLAIR: I think the connection between military force and oil supplies is a little more subtle than that. We don't go in and take over oil fields and sort of run them with soldiers and contractors. That's not really the point. I don't think we invaded Iraq to get their oil.

But what I'm saying is the fact that that region supplies a commodity which is so fundamentally important to the United States means the United States is ineluctably involved in the affairs of that region and will have to have a much deeper involvement in them so that when one state threatens another or invades another, as Iraq invaded Kuwait back in 1991, an issue in which military force clearly has an application, we'll -- we'll do it. We'll use military force there.

The military situations that clearly call for a military response in that part of the world are threatens in closing the Straits of Hormuz, the scenario that we had in the tanker wars in the mid-1980s when both Iraq and Iran were attacking oil tankers, and we ended up reflagging and escorting them.

So it's not so much that militarily we go in and take over oil fields, which is not a very useful alternative. It's that we are in the region, and when military forces is used, the United States has got to consider what we do with our forces and we kind of get sucked into it the way we have, over time.

What I think is going on here is that as the -- if the United States has a very great vulnerability to short-term interruptions and countries like Venezuela and Iran, who are no friends of this country can sort of throttle back for a while, it doesn't hurt them really badly, hurts us, it gives them advantages across the board in dealing with their interests as opposed to ours, which are -- which -- (cross talk).

REP. LARSON: So these maneuvers in the Persian Gulf should be viewed as saber-rattling to assist diplomacy, or are they concerns that members of Congress in any scenario should be very much aware of?

ADM. BLAIR: Yeah -- I took the uniform off five years ago. It wasn't my area, and we've got good people who took our places there, and I think you need to talk to them.

REP. LARSON: And you said you weren't a good politician! (Laughter.)

MS. BROWNER: (Laughs.) If I might just note, in this scenario, one of the things that did unfold from, I think it was the secretary of Defense, was a question for the president, should we change the selective service registration requirements to capture women. And secondly, should we begin thinking about some form of a draft, because the concern in this scenario that he was bringing to the table is that the military is stretched very, very thin.

I might also note that in this scenario, the president is not in the room. There's sort of an Oz-esque figure behind a curtain. So Mr. Markey would have to peek in occasionally. But you would be a great secretary of Treasury.


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