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How to End the Oil Curse

Stop Trading With Autocrats

Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in 1991. Wikimedia Commons

For the past 40 years, the greatest threats to the West have emerged from oil-exporting states. Oil funded Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Libya’s support for terrorist groups, and the build-up of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal in the 1970s and 1980s. More recently, it has funded the rise of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Russia’s aggression in Crimea, and Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

Oil provides rulers with a source of unaccountable power, perhaps the largest such source in the world. Outside of democracies, oil revenues flow to whichever regime or armed group controls the wells by force. These revenues allow leaders to dominate their people through coercion and patronage (as in Iran and Russia) and provide armed groups with the resources to wage civil war (as in Iraq and Yemen). They have also empowered regimes to indoctrinate their populations with intolerant ideologies

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