One of the most politically repulsive places in the world is unraveling before us. Tunisia and Egypt seem on their way to some form of better governance, Bahrain is in the negotiating phase. There are terrible events in Libya here things are in the balance, but the people are bravely fighting for something better. First, let me say how much I admire these brave people. They are standing up for something they believe in. A better future for themselves and their children. For too long the Middle East and North Africa has been ruled by despots backed up by the west for their own economic convenience.
How far back do you have to go to see western manipulation in the region. Probably as far back as the declining years of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th Century. Since then, the region has seen one global power after another spread its mucky hands within it. Two world Wars, the Suez Crisis, the Cold War, the more recent Gulf Wars. At first it was communications, and now more importantly, oil, the fifth pillar of the world economy.
Compared to the fall of communism in 1989-90, the response from us, the morally high western governments has been relatively poor. But back then, we really did have a higher moral ground. Now, with a weakened economy, a shift in the balance of power to Asia, it is clear that the influence of the USA (and by extension, us in Europe) is on the wane. Our governments are not really looking forward to a fall in the Middle East. After all, the despots of this region may be bastards, but they are our bastards, to paraphrase.
Speaking to a friend yesterday, he said that all the recessions suffered by the west since the Second World War was as a result of oil shocks either directly or indirectly. The economy of the Western world is in the shits, and the last thing we need is a bout of freedom in the Middle East instead of pliable leaders who will sell oil at reasonable levels to us. Yes, the price of oil is what, $120 at the moment, but try thinking of $500 per barrel. Trust me, we would have no choice but to keep buying the stuff, we are completely dependent on it. And that is what is keeping a lot of western leaders awake at night. Not the effects on people in the Middle East, but what will happen to their own constituents if this revolution really gets lit up.