It isn’t the economy stupid, or the strategic position of the western powers in the Middle East, or even how to respond to the terrible attacks in Paris on Friday, it is our refusal to quit oil and our failure to address climate change that underlies our present woes, and even more the unimagineably terrible future that will engulf every person on the planet if we do not rapidly solve this problem. In the late nineteen nineties a group of thinkers, of whom several soon became members of George Bush Jnr’s cabinet, wrote a book called The American Century. Its burden was that the big issue of the coming twenty first century would be the struggle for world domination between America and China. The victor would be he who controlled the world’s oil, and to ensure its victory America needed to gain a strategic power base in the Middle East while the century was yet young. We cannot doubt that al-Qaieda read the book and took note. Few people realise that what triggered the atrocity of 9/11 was the presence of infidel American troops polluting the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia., where both Islam’s first and second most holy sites are situated. As many Islamic fundamentalists, and not only fundamentalists, saw it, unless they acted quickly a new form of western imperialism, even more lethal than the last, would destroy their religion and infect their culture with, as they saw it, disgusting and decadent western values. And given The American Century and the whole history of western interference in the Middle East, you can hardly blame them for thinking thus, however much one might excoriate the atrocious methods they chose to put their ideas into practice. It is hard to exaggerate the folly of the Iraq War of 2003, the gullibility of those western governments who fell into the trap that had been set for them, and the extent to which what the fundamentalists who planned 9/11 foresaw has come to pass. It is the barrels of oil that are the ultimate cause of all this story.
If you wish to defeat your enemy the thing you must do before all else is to learn to read his mind. Nor should you assume that because he does atrocious things he is mad as well as bad. When they feel that what they hold most dear is lethally threatened the nicest people will do the most terrible things. We ourselves did not hesitate to burn 40,000 men, women and children alive in Hamburg, but the pilots who carried out the raids were not monsters of iniquity. It is what quite rational people sometimes feel they have to do in wars, but, because they are not monsters (and there are always some who are) they only undertake such actions with the greatest reluctance. So how should we re-act to the attacks in Paris? It may well be that the gunmen who carried out the attacks in Paris were irrational monsters of iniquity, but the majority of Muslims are not. If we gave them an alternative to the destruction of Islamic values and culture, which impression we so vigorously and crassly advertise and appear to prosecute, their support, in so far as it exists, for the horrific ISIS would wither. So what should we do? First, we should not repeat the mistake of 2003 and send armies of ground troops into Syria. We should increase our support for the Kurds and if necessary come out clearly on the side of Assat, unattractive as we find him to be, for in desperate situations my enemy’s enemy is my friend. We did not hesitate to ally with Stalin in order to defeat Hitler, albeit he starved millions of kulaks to death and sent 60 million to the gulag. Above all, we have to persuade the Islamic world that it is not our intention to destroy their religion and culture. We have to get out of the Middle East. That means we have to find alternatives to oil, but above all else we need to do that anyway. Every crisis is an opportunity and this is the heaven sent opportunity, coming in such wild and unexpected garb, that we need. We need to persuade the world that our priority is not now to grow as rich as we can – and what a turn around in our minds that will need, for currently it indisputably is – but to save the earth we all commonly share. We need to invite the Islamic world to lay all else aside and join with us in this great enterprise. Unrealistic, you say? Well what’s the alternative? All experience of wars, especially this one, tells you that they are all too easy to start and all too difficult to stop. It is fanciful to imagine that ISIS will never get hold of a nuclear bomb, and more fanciful still to imagine that they would hesitate to use it. A world in which hundreds of millions are homeless and without food and water, a scenario of which the scientists are now so solemnnly warning us and of which we are taking so little heed, in a world that also has nuclear bombs in it, how realistic is that? We are on the brink of either destroying or saving the world. Let’s put all else aside and save it.