If there is one thing that Obama’s current problems with Syria – and his own big mouth – indicate, it is that we have fought the War on Terror for twelve years and we are still no closer to actually escaping the crux of the problem. This is the one true failing of the Bush Administration and Obama, who tried to brand himself as the anti-Bush, has failed to cope with it too.
The problem can be summarised as follows. We are at war with a strain of Radical Islam that seeks the destruction of all other ways of life (including Muslims who don’t share their beliefs). This ideology is closely linked to states like Saudi Arabia, where the Royal Family cannot crush it without risking their own position, and festers in places where law and order are a joke. In places like Libya, Egypt, Palestine or even parts of Afghanistan, the Islamists often seem the better option when compared to tyrannical governments.
Once in power, or closely linked to power (as in Saudi), these so-called Islamists will do two things; they reshape local society to fit their views on what a society should be like and they begin spreading their ideology as far as they can. Naturally, there is no thought of surrendering power. Like all other ideological movements throughout the century, the radicals are convinced that they know best. The views of those who disagree with them are clearly misguided and can be disregarded. (And then those who disagree are exterminated.)
However, it is our ties to the Middle East that pose the gravest danger. We need oil from the Middle East. Without oil, the global economy would break down. This means that we cannot afford to manhandle Saudi Arabia into dealing with the terrorists; there are limits to how far we can push them in the right direction. This gives Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing states an advantage that they use to manipulate global affairs in their favour. It also helps to fund the spread of the Saudi-approved version of Islam, which produces terrorists and insurgents for the wars in various countries. (Those schools in Pakistan that provide cannon fodder for the wars are funded by Saudi Arabia.) This is the improvised explosive device that must be disarmed carefully – or the world will shiver when it finally detonates.
You think not? Osama Bin Laden would not have been a menace to global society if he hadn’t been extremely wealthy. Funding a full-fledged terrorist network, complete with base camps in Afghanistan, was not exactly cheap. It is funding that made the difference between a tiny band of fighters and an international terrorist network. It is this funding that we have to cut off at source.
Which brings us back to the crux of the problem. If chaos spreads out of Syria, it will weaken the Middle Eastern governments and further destabilise the world economy. No matter the truth of the claims that chemical weapons were used, Obama and his cabinet have to worry about the effects of not intervening just as much as they have to worry about actually intervening. But why should we have to worry about this at all?
Oil. If sources of oil are threatened, the economy will take a nasty hit.
Not that this is the only problem. Let us consider just how many European countries rushed to invest in Libya once the sanctions were lifted. Somehow, those countries discovered that Libya suddenly had colossal leverage over them when there were political disputes. (Indeed, maintaining the balance between offending a dictator and offending the rebels, who might inherit Libya, was a major headache during the Libyan Intervention.) When those investments were threatened, Western Governments generally backed down. The jingle-jangle of money made it harder to take action against Libya.
Put crudely, we are effectively paying for the noose our enemies intend to wrap around our necks.
To some extent, the Bush Administration did attempt to come to terms with this problem. If Iraq were to be liberated, Iraqi oil could flow into the global market and make it harder for the Saudis to manipulate the world in their favour. However, the occupation was poorly planned, at least partly because few were willing to admit that opening up those reserves of oil was as important as spreading democracy and the rule of law.
However, the Bush Administration (and now the Obama Administration) have not gone far enough.
We will not win this war until we show those who follow this destructive ideology that it is a road to hell. In order to do this, we must show them that they can achieve nothing for themselves. The glory days of Islamic civilisation are long past and the Islamists, all unwitting, are destroying the spark that might allow Islam to regenerate itself. Very little, save oil, is produced in the Middle East. Where Israel made the desert bloom, the Arabs have not. One might well conclude that oil was a curse, not a blessing. When the oil runs out, the Middle East will collapse.
It is this dependency that we have to overcome.
We got a clear warning during the oil boycott. We didn’t listen.
We got a clear warning when Saddam invaded Kuwait. We didn’t listen.
We got a clear warning when it became clear that OBL had strong ties to Saudi Arabia. We didn’t listen.
We got a clear warning when Putin started playing with energy exports to manipulate Europe. We didn’t listen.
We should have unleashed a project on a greater scale than the Manhattan Project, one to research new sources of energy and, perhaps more immediately important, conserve oil. (I read once that if the US produced cars to EU standards, demands for gas would drop sharply. I don’t know if that is actually true (automobile requirements are different) but it’s definitely something to research.) Cold fusion. Space-based solar-power collectors. Geothermal power. Improved nuclear reactors. Instead of a ham-handed search for inefficient ‘green’ energy, we should be searching for ways to reduce the oil dependency and escape the black hole.
Or we could just start drilling in the US, which the Greens seem to have blocked.
This will allow us to win. Can they drink oil? No – and absent a buyer, oil is largely worthless. Without the funds coming in from the West, Saudi Arabia and the other oil-producing states will be thrown back on their own resources. Their governments, held up by oil, will collapse. Let their population see, as comprehensively as the Russians saw in 1991, the essential bankruptcy of their system. Let ‘Islam is the only solution’ be tested in real life, without a lifeline from the West.
This is what we have to do.
They know it. Do you think that it was a coincidence that an anti-fracking film was sponsored by Abu Dhabi?
Time is running out. Oil is essentially a finite resource; it can and it will run out. (A book, Twilight in the Desert, argues that Saudi Arabia is already approaching the end of its oil reserves.) The time to escape this black hole is now.
Too much time has already been wasted. Either we deal with the problem now or our descendents will look back and curse our names.
(A short introduction to Fracking and its potential can be found here.)