William Engdahl, journalist, historian and economist, accounts the formation and operation of the global power structure since 1850 in his book A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. Gripping in its prose, Engdahl provides provocative evidence of our political, economic and ideological structures, colluding in an imperialistic attitude to secure rights to crude oil.
For those frustrated by the lack of a consistent narrative in current events may find this historical perspective a quintessential perspective. Engdahl’s thesis accounts for WWI, the departure of the gold standard to the ‘petrodollar’, the pushing of anti-growth literature, and much more. The points he makes can be well extended beyond this book’s publication in 2004, especially when looking into the Libyan and Syrian conflicts, the Greek debt crisis and the argument against climate change. The book is to be aired as a four part documentary at RT.com‘s program Watching the Hawks on November 15th, 2016.
Engdahl contends the reason the Great War happened is attributed to a network of secret military alliances exacerbating the assassination of Franz Ferdinand into an all-out war. But it’s rarely explained why these alliances formed in the first place. According to Engdahl, they resulted in a major balance of power shift caused by the emergence of crude oil as the bedrock of a modern military and economic engine.
Britain, the superpower of the day and without any petroleum reserves of her own, moved forward in securing Middle Eastern oil supplies during the war through British activities in Egypt and with the help of the Sykes-Picot agreement with France. The war was waged by a bankrupt Britain, as Engdahl points to a fact history often neglects to mention. The result was that Britain became heavily indebted to New York banks, whose men “sat at the table [at] Versailles to draw up the bill for the great war.”
The burdensome debt obligations, which is widely regarded as the seeds for WW2 were written by Anglo-American banks and, according to Engdahl, have vast similarities to IMF agreements with debtor nations like Greece. That aside, it was the first time in history that US interests held the economic power of debt over both Britain and Germany, or, more specifically, that economic interests of American banks, with major stakes in American oil firms held economic power over Europe.
Debt to the Anglo-American financial interests only grew after WW2, as the USD was too be the world reserve currency after Breton Woods. The agreement by which an ounce of gold will always be attainable at $35 couldn’t survive the massive costs imposed by the Vietnam War, by which the Federal Reserve printed past their gold reserves. While many attribute a French desire to buy its gold reserves back from the USA as the reason why Nixon suspended the gold standard in 1971, few accounts mesh this occurrence.
According to Engdahl, this occurrence was part of a new global strategy hashed out through the Bilderberg meetings. The ‘demonetization of the dollar was to only buy time’ Engdahl writes, ‘to impose a new paradigm shift’ into what Henry Kissinger called the ‘petrodollar’ system.
With the worlds reserve currency now a fiat currency, there needed to be a way to drive demand for that currency, or its wealth was to be looted through inflation. The strategy, by which Engdhal provides photographic evidence of a confidential protocol of the 1973 Bilderberg meeting at Saltsjobaden, Sweden, was to elevate the price of oil by instituting monopoly pricing on the market, force as much oil as possible to be sold in American dollars, and have the profits accumulated by producing countries to be reinvested in US treasury bonds.
OPEC’s rise to dominance following the Yom Kipper war insured that countries dependent on its oil, such as West Germany, now were to pay exorbitant monopoly prices for crude in American dollars, having the dual effect of suppressing growth of Americans competitors while increasing the value of its currency. The outcome was as expected, the retardation of economic growth against America’s competitors and massive demand for American dollars (insuring a strong dollar). The imperative for oil to be sold in USD is obvious today in the toppling of Iraq and Libya.
However, such actions did not coincide with a strong manufacturing base in the U.S. Policy then, under Kissingers’ Security Council Study Memorandum 200, was to ensure that if America wasn’t to have a strong manufacturing base, no other countries would either. Such an implication was the beginning of America’s anti-growth policies, which commissioned think tanks to shape public opinion.
“Beginning in the 1970’s” Engdahl writes, “an awesome propaganda offensive was launched from select think tanks and journals.” Books were commissioned such as Only One Earth, with the express intent of popularizing an environmentalist ideology which supported their anti-growth strategy that touted the dangers of nuclear energy, peak oil and even population control. Such parallels are evident when growth inhibiting solutions such as carbon taxes are imposed in response to our current environmental ‘threat’ of anthropogenic climate change.
A Century of War’s central tenets concern the intersection of politics, finance and oil, and how each accounts for the development and behavior of our current global power structure. While Engdahl’s work could do with more citation, his sources he does have are of high quality. His inflammatory rhetoric may also invoke anger which goes unaccounted for as his book fails to postulate on the creation of checks and balances in this power structure.
But overall, the book is a great historical guide for those not wishing to repeat history.