The Great Game: why we fight in the Middle East
Most people are under the illusory impression that the United States and Great Britain lost the recent wars fought in the Middle East. They didn’t.
The question usually asked is why did we send in the troops (“boots on the ground”) when we could easily have looked the other way? The answer is simple: oil and gas security for our voracious economies.
We didn’t “lose”, except our equally illusory reputation for saintliness, because the pipes are still flowing.
The recipe is quite simple: nasty dictators need lots of money. We need their oil. Keep them in power and it’s a done deal.
Now the tone is beginning to change. A nasty piece of work in Syria is fighting to stay in power by slaughtering thousands of his own people. He has allegedly used “weapons of mass destruction”, chemical poisons that kill people in the most horrible way imaginable.
Obama showed his stature as a man by warning Syria’s President Assad that its use would change the game and bring the West’s wrath down upon his head. It was not about oil this time, but human decency.
Assad did it anyway, calculating that we Westerners would even tolerate him rather than let an Islamist regime in. He was right. If any attack takes place, it will be cruise missiles on non-essential strategic targets. Assad will remain in power.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole episode has been negotiated in advance between ambassadors to save everyone’s face.
For us in Great Britain, this is the Great Game. The same game we played in India, Pakistan and Kashmir in the days of Empire: manipulating leaders who support our aims through mutual interests, while ruthlessly eliminating those who don’t.
We have never sought to overthrow tyrants who play the Game with us, just those who don’t serve our interests.
But now the Game is about to change dramatically. The world is soon to be reshaped totally. And the reason?
America will, sometime soon, become self-sufficient in fossil fuels thanks to enormous shale gas reserves. Presidents will no longer be dependent on oil-rich dictators who crush the life out of their people, with the tacit support of the West.
We are about to witness the turning point of the 21st Century. The first symptom will be the impoverishment of the Middle East and North Africa. The recent revolts in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey — the Arab Spring — are just baffling symptoms of a world in the grip of massive realignments. They are political tectonic plates on the move, with a long way to go before stability is restored.
In what was Eastern Europe, shale deposits are plentiful. Poland, and other EU members, are straining to work out the best way to pursue their own interests. As this tendency evolves, do you suppose they will want to live under the cracking whip of Brussels?
As for Britain, with its deadweight of socialist, pro-EU opinion, we have hardly started. The Green Party is holding back what should be a fracking surge to prosperity. The Lib Dems in government are employing restraining tactics, the Tories are neither here nor there.
Here’s the thing: desks should be cleared in Whitehall and all opposition by civil servants swept away. A single-minded, brook no delay, policy should emerge. Get that shale gas flowing or we will miss the bonanza and fall so far behind the most dynamic leading countries, we will lack the strength to dismiss the disastrous European Union.
David Cameron is already moving in the deluded, defeatist direction, seemingly lacking the insight and the energy to grasp the greatest opportunity of the century. Fracking, not bombing is the only way to go.
The Great Game is afoot — again.
Coming soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website, mystology.com.
Author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.