Geography, Economics and why the Middle East is such a pain in the ass

The Middle East is in the news again…or maybe I should say it’s in the news still.  It seems to be a constant thing…probably because it is.  And it has been for a good portion of recorded history.  Take a look at this map…

That’s Russia at the top of the map, China on the right edge and France on the left edge. All that in an area roughly equivalent to North America.  Look at all the different countries, cultures and histories involved.  Now think back to High School World History and Sunday School and remember what you learned about:

Marco Polo
The Old Testament
The New Testament
The Spice and Silk Caravan routes
The Crusades
The Roman Empire
The Empire of Alexander the Great
The Persian Empire
The Mongol Empire
The Ottoman Empire

What do they all have in common? They all either happened in the Middle East or passed through there on their way to somewhere else. Simply put, up until fairly recently, a big, damn portion of Human History happened in or around the Middle East.

OK.  Fine.  But that’s all ancient history, right?  Nope.  The Ottoman Empire didn’t end until 1922.  That happened in part because they were pushed out by the British Empire during World War I.  And let’s not forget the discovery of oil in the region in 1908.

OK.  But that’s still a long time ago.  So what?  Well, then there’s World War II.  A big portion of that happened in and around the Middle East. That makes it a bit more recent.  Take the Cold War into consideration and we’re up to the 50’s and 60’s.

The oil and the Cold War were what really brought the U.S. into the Middle East.  We need oil to run our economy so we couldn’t let Communism win in the region.  Looking at things from the point of view of someone native to the area, the U.S. and the Soviet Union (and now Russia) are just the latest in a long, long, long history of people NOT from there screwing around with the people that ARE from there.

Maybe I should correct what I said earlier.  Simply put, a big, damn portion of Human History happened (and is still happening) in or around the Middle East.  Geography made the area important.  It was the natural cross-roads for caravan routes in the ancient world and that’s been continued with more modern innovations like the Suez Canal.

But the reason for all the traveling through, fighting over and drilling for oil beneath boils down to one thing.  Money.  More money has been generated in the Middle East than just about any other region on the planet.  That’s the real reason the Middle East has always been so important.

However, the game has changed.  Instead of just being pawns in someone else’s game, the locals have gotten rich enough (again) to start playing in the game themselves…and a lot of them are pissed off about how they’ve been treated throughout history and are still being treated.  This means that along with the locals trying to direct their own lives there are people that have decided that they want to direct other people’s lives as well…the same way others have been trying to direct their’s and their ancestors since time out of mind.

The thing is, they’re taking a more direct approach.  They’re trying to enforce their will on others through violence…and again, there are historical precedents whether you’re talking about the actions of Europeans and Muslims during the Crusades or the tactics of the Jewish Sicarii during the Roman Empire or the actions of the Barbary Pirates that led to the formation of the United States Navy in 1794.

But just because somebody was a murdering, thieving asshole a long time ago is no excuse for someone else to be one.  I’m not surprised some of them are pissed about how things are and have been in the Middle East.  I would be if it was me.  So would most Americans.  Imagine how we’d feel if all that fighting, looting, killing, etc was happening in the Midwest instead of the Middle East.  But nothing…NOTHING…justifies terrorism and only cowards murder innocents and unarmed civilians.  Dress it up in whatever religious or moral rhetoric you choose.  It’s still murder and the perpetrators are still cowards.

So how do we fix the problem?  At this particular point in time, the big attraction in the Middle East isn’t trade routes, it’s oil.  The locals have gotten rich selling it to the rest of the world and all the trouble makers are using some of that money to buy the weapons and cause trouble.  So to fix the problem you need to find a substitute for oil that doesn’t come from the Middle East.  Cut off the money supply and that tree with wither and die.

The only problem with that solution is that we don’t have an oil alternative.  So we need to do what the United States does better than anyone else.  Innovate and invent one.  Whether it’s bio-diesel from algae or alcohol from corn or  unobtanium from whatever-the-hell, we need it.  And we need it now!  And once we have it we need to sell the product…not the process…to the rest of the world for LESS than an equivalent amount of oil.

It won’t be easy and it wont’ be cheap but it’s the best long-term strategy for this country to fix the problem with the Middle East.  And it’ll work…until the next problem crops up there.  Sooner or later, it will.  History says so.

Comments are closed.