As Green as a Neocon

Why Iraq hawks are driving Priuses

Published: 27-Jan-2005

ident Bush has a simple policy about energy: produce more of it. The former oilman has packed his administration with veterans of the oil and coal industries. And for most of the first Bush term, his energy policy and his foreign policy were joined at the hip. Since the Bush administration believed that controlling the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf was critically important to the American economy, the invasion of Iraq seemed to serve both the president's energy goals and his foreign policy ones.

But a curious transformation is occurring in Washington, D.C., a split of foreign policy and energy policy: Many of the leading neoconservatives who pushed hard for the Iraq war are going green. James Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and staunch backer of the Iraq war, now drives a 58-miles-per-gallon Toyota Prius and has two more hybrid vehicles on order. Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy and another neocon who championed the war, has been speaking regularly in Washington about fuel efficiency and plant-based bio-fuels.

The alliance of hawks and environmentalists is new but not entirely surprising. The environmentalists are worried about global warming and air pollution. But Woolsey and Gaffney-both members of the Project for the New American Century, which began advocating military action against Saddam Hussein back in 1998-are going green for geopolitical reasons, not environmental ones. They seek to reduce the flow of American dollars to oil-rich Islamic theocracies, Saudi Arabia in particular. Petrodollars have made Saudi Arabia too rich a source of terrorist funding and Islamic radicals. Last month, Gaffney told a conference in Washington that America has become dependent on oil that is imported from countries that, "by and large, are hostile to us." This fact, he said, makes reducing oil imports "a national security imperative."

Neocons and greens first hitched up in the fall, when they jointly backed a proposal put forward by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Washington-based think tank that tracks energy and security issues. (Woolsey is on the IAGS advisory board.) The IAGS plan proposes that the federal government invest $12 billion to: encourage auto makers to build more efficient cars and consumers to buy them; develop industrial facilities to produce plant-based fuels like ethanol; and promote fuel cells for commercial use. The IAGS plan is keen on "plug-in hybrid vehicles," which use internal combustion engines in conjunction with electric motors that are powered by batteries charged by current from standard electric outlets.

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