America's / the West's fatal addiction to (Arab) Oil.

The following letter appeared in the UK's Independent (national) newspaper on Sep 18th - one week after the US terrorist atrocities:

The Power of Oil

Sir: In Robert Fisk's insightful analysis of the terrorist attack ("The awesome cruelty of a doomed people", 12 September), one dimension is missing: geopolitics, Without the West's need for oil, it is more than likely that the post-Ottoman societies would have been allowed to stagger on miserably, and the Jewish immigration would then have been seen in more equivocal terms, consistent with the history of European attitudes to Jews.

We may appreciate this point with some questions. First, what turned Osama bin Laden from a protege of the Americans into their enemy? It was the permanent presence of American military installations on the soil (holy to him) of Saudi Arabia. Why were they there? To prepare for another ground war against Iraq, or to be ready to seize the oil wells in the case of instability in Saudi Arabia?

Second, when the scale of our retribution is envisaged, it will doubtless be assessed partly in terms of its economic cost, conveniently measured in dollars per barrel of oil on the world market. Planners will ask, "Should we have a $30 strike, or a $40 or $50 strike?" Considering how damaging have been the effects of previous price rises or, conversely the great economic benefit the West has had from reliable, cheap oil we see how by this accident of geology the West is dependent on the Islamic societies.

The first attempt to break free from that dependence, through nuclear power, has failed. The development of "alternatives" for energy policy, crucial for our long-term geopolitical safety, has lagged, largely through shortsightedness and greed. The need for the rich West to obtain cheap oil from the poor Middle East should therefore not be overlooked as a systematic source of the tensions that occasionally explode with such ghastly effects.

Jerome R
London EC2

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