May 2 2013

Could the Middle East Become Irrelevant?

Charlotte Hays

The Middle East is a scary region with lots of clout thanks to its oil.

But is that changing?

Victor Davis Hanson has an incredibly interesting piece headlined “An Irrelevant Middle East.” In it, Hanson proposes that oil discoveries elsewhere in the world will render the Middle East less able to flex its muscles. He writes:

With the 20th-century development of large gas and oil supplies in the Persian Gulf and North Africa, an Arab-led OPEC more or less dictated the foreign policy of thirsty oil importers like the United States and Europe. No wonder U.S. Central Command has remained America’s military-command hot spot.

Yet the Middle East is becoming irrelevant. The discovery of enormous new oil and gas reserves along with the use of new oil-recovery technology in North America and China is steadily curbing the demand for Middle Eastern oil. Soon, countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are going to have less income and geostrategic clout. In both Iran and the Gulf, domestic demand is rising, while there is neither the technical know-how nor the water to master the new art of fracking to sustain exports.

What this says to me is that the United States, which also has abundant energy resources, should not allow the president’s bias against fossil fuels and his subservience to rich environmentalists inhibit our developing these resources. Signing off on Keystone Pipeline XL might be a good way for President Obama to signal that he wants the U.S. to get in on this bonanza.

When I was reading this and thinking what it might mean for the world, I did have two concerns. Israel was one. On Israel, Hanson writes:

Most likely, Europe’s past opportunistic disdain of Israel and fawning over Arab autocracies were based entirely on oil politics. In the future, the fair-weather European Union will as likely move away from the Middle East as it will pledge a newfound friendship with the once unpopular but now resource-rich Israel.

But Israel would still be surrounded by hostile neighbors. Perhaps the rest of the world would not be as loath to come to her defense if it were not fearful of Middle Eastern tyrants and mullahs.

My other concern is that, just because it has less clout, the Middle East won't hate the West any less. But it would have less money to develop weapons against the West.

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