The middle east has a disproportionate amount of our attention because of its oil. I really don’t think anyone disagrees with that.
And I think pretty much everyone will agree that whether or not we’ve peaked in production of oil, demand has outstripped supply. That is, there is no slack, and were there to be a spike in production demand would rapidly subsume it. (Boy am I longwinded. Rephrased – more is wanted.) Functionally this has much of the same impact as ‘true’ peak oil in that we’ll see alternatives and efficiencies developed to cope with the shortfall.
What doesn’t have full agreement is that the oil from the middle east has probably peaked – at ‘best’, it’s near the peak. Production will begin to draw down – slowly at first, and more noticeably within the next decade. Even improvements in retrieval won’t make that much difference.
And that is where my insight came from. See, I realized…
That the ‘excessive attention’ being given to the middle east has a finite lifespan. As little as ten years, possibly for another 40, but probably in about 20 years we’ll care no more about Saudi Arabia than we do about Brazil or Korea. It’ll matter, but it won’t have such a disproportionate sway upon our attention. Barring, of course, the political inertia that always follows the decline of a Major Influence. (See the effect and interrelationship of Algeria and France to get an idea there.)
Now what this means is that any plan for the middle east that needs a generation to reach fruition — such as our current plan for Iraq — needs to ask the very important question as to whether this is immaterial in regard to Iraq’s importance due to oil. I suspect it’s not been asked, and I suspect the answer is “no” – that if oil were less important then the rest of the region wouldn’t matter either. But I don’t know that, and intend to do some searching for an answer or two.