I am indebted to Mr Bagehot's excellent publication for drawing my attention to an interesting book by a Mr Kenneth Pollack. Mr Pollack was at some point on the National Security Council of the United States. His book is entitled A Path Out of the Desert but of equal interest is his description of the path into the desert.
Mr Pollack is frank where others have dissimulated. I am aware of controversy both sides of the Atlantic about the source of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is an undoubted fact that the public and legislators of both nations were assured that the nation of Iraq possessed what were termed as "weapons of mass destruction". In time it became clear that these weapons did not exist and there was no reasonable evidence at the time that they might exist. The invasion was therefore a fraud.
However it is my recollection that when, occasionally, challenged on the matter the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States would affirm that they did not regret the invasion as, on the one part, the leader of Iraq was an evil person and, on the second part, that the insurgents associated with Al Qaeeda had somehow established a foothold in this nation. The title of Mr Pollack's tome epitomises the problem that then arose: that the allies were unable to pacify Afghanistan as they had diverted forces to Iraq; that whether or not Al Qaeeda had a base in Iraq prior to invasion it became established ten times over following invasion; that there is little gratitude to invaders who promise "liberation".
Mr Pollack, as I stated, is frank. The title of his first chapter is simply OIL.
And that is the nub of the matter. Mr Pollack argues that the western powers were right to secure their "strategic" interest in oil in the Middle East and that they were right to act out of "self interest". His publishers have posted his first chapter for all to read at no cost.
If anyone doubted that there was a kind of secret diplomacy lying behind the outrage of the 2003 invasion, the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocents, this is evidence indeed. Undoubtedly Britain and the USA conspired to conduct a war for commercial purposes solely.
As I have stated repeatedly over many decades, commerce and warfare should not be bedfellows. When Palmerston terrorised China over opium imports, he was wrong, morally and strategically. These are mistakes that return with interest ten-fold, undermining international relations for generations.
Civilised nations now stand on the brink of a precipice as the price of this oil rises relentlessly. There is a forgetfulness that oil is not the only lubricant of commerce and industry. The world has come to rely upon it; but that is a mistake the world has made. Variations in price have signalled many times, I suspect, that oil is expendable, that it is limited. The world economy will now have to adjust as best it can. And the invasion of Iraq in 2003 will not have made the slightest difference to the risks posed by a continued over-reliance on oil.