The War at the End of the Dollar
By Ron Hera
Thursday, 12 April 2012
The history of the U.S. dollar is closely linked to U.S. involvement in a series of wars. The Bretton Woods Accord and the resulting world reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar were both byproducts of World War II (1939-1945). The Korean War (1950-1953) was followed six years later by the Vietnam War (1959-1975) which led to the end of the Bretton Woods system. Unfettered by the constraint of gold backing after 1971, the U.S. dollar became a weapon in the Cold War (1945–1991) between the U.S. and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). Each war corresponded with an increase in the U.S. money supply. The Gulf War (1990-1991) was followed by wars in Afghanistan, beginning in 2001, and in Iraq, beginning in 2003, and, simultaneously, by the U.S.-led War on Terror that began in 2001. Like the wars that came before them, the recent staccato of U.S. wars is correlated with increases in the U.S. money supply. The Iraq war, for example, is estimated to have cost as much as $4 trillion.
The loss of value in the U.S. dollar caused by excessive expansion of the money supply, together with rising demand for raw materials from emerging economies, has led to permanently higher global commodity prices. Higher crude oil prices, in particular, have put pressure on the U.S. economy, which is putatively in a gradual recovery from the recession that began in 2007. At the same time, international trade has begun to move away from the U.S. dollar, threatening its world reserve currency status. Given the history of the U.S. dollar, it seems likely that an eventual end of the U.S. dollar’s reign as the world reserve currency will be marked by war.
U.S. politicians are clamoring for war with Iran, the third largest oil exporter in the world. Iran refuses to sell its oil for U.S. dollars. If Iranian oil were traded in U.S. dollars, it would moderate the U.S. dollar price of crude oil and ease pressure on the U.S. economy, as well as extend the world reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar and give the U.S. economic leverage over consumers of Iranian oil, which include China and India.