US must wean itself off Mideast oil
President George W. Bush delivers the State of the Union address
to a joint session of Congress while Vice President Dick Cheney
(L) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) look on at the U.S. Capitol
in Washington January 31,
Petroleumworld.com 02 02 06
Embattled President George W. Bush said the United States must
win in Iraq and aggressively promote democracy in the Middle East
while beating an "addiction" to the region's oil.
With November legislative elections on the horizon, Bush used
his annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday to try to win
back public support, battered by the Iraq war and soaring gasoline
He also defiantly declared that the United States was the indispensable
actor on the global stage, warning that "the only alternative
to American leadership is a dramatically more dangerous and anxious
Bush made an unusual direct overture to the Iranian people, dismissed
criticisms of his democracy promotion goals after Hamas won Palestinian
elections, and rejected any hasty retreat from Iraq.
On issue after issue -- from free trade to Iraq to the US war
on terrorism -- Bush couched opposition to his leadership as a
dangerous retreat that risked making the United States less safe
and less prosperous.
"In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning
our commitments and retreating within our borders," he said.
"The road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad
and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline."
One of his central proposals hinged on what he described as "a
serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported
from unstable parts of the world," like the Middle East.
"The best way to break this addiction is through technology,"
Bush said, calling for research into ethanol, coal-fired plants,
solar and wind technologies and nuclear energy so that 75 percent
of oil imports from the Middle East can be replaced by 2025.
The goal is spectacular but The Washington Post said Wednesday
the "deadline is far off, and it's not clear what he intends
Yet even some of Bush's critics were pleasantly surprised that
a former Texas oilman would be willing to push for alternative
On Iraq, Bush said "the road of victory is the road that
will take our troops home," and he added that he hoped "progress
on the ground" in training Iraqi security forces would enable
him to bring US soldiers home.
But he said an early withdrawal of US troops would "abandon
our Iraqi allies to death and prison."
Deep in a nuclear dispute with Iran, Bush balanced a promise that
Tehran will not get atomic weapons with a message aimed directly
at the Iranian people, saying "our nation hopes one day to
be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."
The president also rejected criticisms that the victory of the
radical group Hamas in Palestinian elections called into question
his push to spread democracy worldwide as the antidote to terrorism.
"Our nation is committed to a historic, long-term goal: We
seek the end of tyranny in our world. ... The future security
of America depends on it," he said, echoing the theme of
his inauguration speech one year ago.
"Now, the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm,
reject terrorism and work for lasting peace," he said, without
renewing his warning that US aid hinged on meeting those demands.
Hamas on Wednesday accused Bush of showing blatant bias towards
"This is the same old American position, which illustrates
the extent of its bias towards Israel and the blackmail that is
being exercised towards the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman
Mushir al-Masri told AFP.
"It is a position prejudiced against the Palestinian people.
America and the international community should adopt a more balanced
position towards the Palestinian cause and not punish the Palestinian
people because of their democratic choice."
Bush also called on staunch allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia to embrace
deeper democratic reforms and predicted: "Liberty is the
future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is
the right and hope of all humanity."
In his only reference to North Korea, Bush listed that country
with Syria, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Iran as places where democracy
had yet to take root and said of their people: "The demands
of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom."
Bush's speech revealed a weakened president shying away from the
aggressive stances he adopted in years past, commentators and
"He sounded more subdued than triumphant, more realistic
than grandiose," The Washington Post wrote in an editorial.
But fortified by the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice
Samuel Alito, Bush also appealed to his conservative base, including
a call for a ban on human cloning and markets in human embryos.
02 01 06
© 2006 AFP. All rights reserved