Yet again, my comprehensive Middle East strategy for the US

by John Q on July 26, 2023

In view of the apparent end of what passed for democracy in Israel, it’s time for me to repost my comprehensive proposal for US policy covering all aspects of relationships between the US and the Middle East. It’s over the fold.



marcel proust 07.26.23 at 5:11 pm

OP: It’s over the fold.

No it’s not.


CJColucci 07.26.23 at 5:28 pm

What are those of us not on Twitter supposed to do with this?


Quite Likely 07.26.23 at 5:30 pm

Am I having a technical issue or is the joke that there’s nothing there because the US should just stop meddling with the Middle East entirely?


John Q 07.27.23 at 1:44 am

Quite Likely @3 FTW

US involvement in the Middle East has been a disaster on both sides. The entanglement with Israel is exactly of the kind George Washington warned against “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded”

The belief that the US needs to keep good relations with Saudi Arabia to manage the world supply of oil is, at best, an anachronism.


J-D 07.27.23 at 2:16 am

… to repost …

I imagine I’m not the only who has seen this before and was waiting to see who would fail to get the point.


both sides do it 07.27.23 at 7:11 pm

The belief that the US needs to keep good relations with Saudi Arabia to manage the world supply of oil is, at best, an anachronism

I’ve seen this sentiment occasionally but never an in-depth explanation. Is there a canonical text that goes into it somewhere? What’s the argument?


John Q 07.27.23 at 8:55 pm

bsdi @6 Here you go. I think all the arguments have become stronger since I wrote this


J J 07.30.23 at 5:17 pm

If you read wikipedia on the Carter Doctrine, and in particular the section on Ronald Reagan, you will see an explicit statement of same. The 1990 Gulf War after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was a specific application of the theory.

Originally (1970s) US foreign policy in the Gulf rested on the military alliance with 2 allies: KSA & the Shah of Iran. After his fall in 1979, the US aligned with KSA – and still does. 9-11, Kashoggi etc are merely blips.

US defence sales to KSA are a big part of this– it is one of America’s best customers. Not just the sale of equipment, but more importantly the training, servicing & support contracts that come with it (which over the lifecyle of the weapon systems will exceed the value of the original contract, sometimes several-fold).

The only blip was when the US Congress forbade KSA from flying US-made jets within 150 miles (?) of Israel. This led the Kingdom to sign large contracts for the Anglo-German-Italian Tornado fighter bomber/ interceptor (it was a decent attack plane but disastrous as an interceptor). This saved BAe in the early 1990s (the “Al Yamamah II” contract) when they were in financial trouble — there was a special chunk of Saudi oil production which was dedicated to it.


Gus 07.31.23 at 11:39 pm

Hi John Q #7,

I think the problem with the linked reasoning is that energy, and in particular oil, is used to produce all other resources. Also, as we have depleted other resources, the energy-intensity of continuing to produce them is increasing (eg. as the quality of iron ore decreases, more iron ore must be mined to produce a given quantity of steel, so the energy cost to produce steel continues to increase).
For this reason, I think the “oil is only 4% of GDP” comment is unhelpful. It’s a bit like saying agriculture is only 3% of global GDP — while that might be true, we’re not going to have a global economy without food. I think oil is similar (note that food production is heavily dependent on oil)
My thinking is guided by E. F. Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” which outlines the idea that the human economy is dependent on the natural economy for things we can’t make (eg. ecosystem services such as clean air and water, waste processing, natural resources, biodiversity, etc)
N.B. I support our urgent need to decarbonise, but I think this requires that we are realistic about where we are, and the pickle that we have got ourselves in. I believe our challenge is to rapidly triage the economy, removing anything that is non-essential (I think this is what is required to decarbonise — currently, most Western countries are offshoring carbon and are not decarbonising at all), so that we can maintain essential services without undue suffering. I don’t think we can achieve this without acknowledging humanity’s absolute dependence on oil for many essential needs.
Cheers, Gus


John Q 08.01.23 at 5:39 am

Gus @9 Obviously, we couldn’t live without food. But, as I pointed out, there are no purposes for which we can’t do without oil. It’s convenient, but not essential. Electricity can replace oil in transport, heating and so on. Fuel for airplanes is a bit problematic, but air travel isn’t that important as source of oil demand, and isn’t an essential human need.


J-D 08.01.23 at 6:40 am

Fuel for airplanes is a bit problematic, but air travel isn’t that important as source of oil demand, and isn’t an essential human need.

If people had to cope with living in a world where air travel had ceased, they would, obviously; but if we’re talking about adjustment on that scale, shouldn’t we be explicit about it?


JJ 08.04.23 at 2:15 pm

John Q @9

AFAIK we do not really have a carbon-free method of sea travel in the scale which we require it. We could not relocalise production of necessary manufactured goods & spare parts, nor food production, to the extent which would allow it to be carried by sailing ships.

At least not in a reasonable timeframe.

I have seen some suggestion that ships could be fueled by ammonia (NH3 ?) although Nitrous oxides are themselves greenhouse gases (from memory).

So that remains a tough one. And sea freight is vastly greater than air freight, and greater than railways (especially if you include things like barges on the Mississippi taking foodstuffs to the Gulf Coast ports; the Volga; the Rhine; the Yangtze).

In truth we don’t have good decarbonisation technologies for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) as yet – the required batteries are too heavy. Fuel cells but it’s not been done in production level quantities.


John Q 08.04.23 at 11:15 pm

JJ, I was referring specifically to oil, and to the supposedly crucial role of ME oil. The fact that it can be replaced by other carbon-based fuels (gas, or even coal) means that it isn’t crucial.

As regards decarbonization, we have most of what we need. As you say, there are some technological gaps, but the real problems are political.


Theophrastus Bombastus den Sidste 08.05.23 at 5:58 am

JJ @11

My experience is with farm equipment adapted to run anhydrous ammonia doped with about 5% propane, so I don’t know how this might scale for marine diesel, but:

The product stream is nitrogen ( N2 ) and water, with the small but necessary load of CO2.

N2 is quite low energy, relative to the inputs, which dominates the energy release.

Excepting the ubiquitous trace contaminants that always show up, any nitrogen oxides will be short lived and pass quickly to the thermodynamic sink.


Well played sir, as ever.

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