Overland is Australia’s finest literary journal. I was commissioned to write the lead essay for the new edition, The Resource Wars, on energy, Israel, Zionism, the Middle East and the role of the US in the region:
In a striking 2005 essay for the Atlantic, Richard A. Clarke, former chief counter-terrorism adviser on the US National Security Council, painted a picture of an America still at war with ‘terror’ in 2011. More suicide attacks on the homeland, detention of Muslims, reduced civil liberties and imperial overreach all combined in a vision of a superpower losing control over its own citizens and desperately lashing out at the world. Most ominously, Clarke predicted that, after an Iranian attack on Saudi tankers, ‘world oil prices spiked to $81 a barrel, before falling back to $72 a month later’. Just think: this piece was published in early 2005, only four years ago – yet Clarke’s fears about an oil spike now seem comically inaccurate.
‘For America’, declared then Texas governor George W. Bush in September 1999, ‘this is the time of unrivalled military power, economic promise and cultural influence.’
Less than a decade on, the world is a radically different place. The energy appetites of China and India are insatiable, countries like Nigeria and Kazakhstan find themselves at the centre of a new ‘great game’, with authoritarian leaders duchessed by oil-hungry nations, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez delivers around 10 per cent of America’s imported oil: some 1.4 million barrels per day. The years since September 11 have taught Washington a lesson in humility and the pitfalls of hubris.