Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blood & Oil

Pundits are fond of tracing the fault lines between the West and the Islamic world back to the Crusades, often in the context that Islamic extremists dwell on that past as if the perceived wrongs of that long-ago age were still fresh.

That perspective isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s mostly off the mark.

The historical roots of the West’s modern conflict with Islam really lie in the Great War, what we call World War I.

The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, which had ruled over the Middle East for 400 years, led to the creation of the nations of Iraq and Syria, and the formation of a political entity known as Palestine, with a promise from the British for the area to become a national home for the Jewish people.

The British promised much to the Arabs to entice them into the Arab Revolt (famous as the guerilla warfare arena of Lawrence of Arabia) and mostly welshed on their promises.
Historian David Fromkin calls the postwar settlement of the Middle East as “the peace to end all peace.”

This is all brilliantly laid out in a DVD titled “Blood & Oil” (available from the Deschutes Public Library). The “blood” in the title is obvious; while the war was not as gruesome as the trenches of the Western Front, it was plenty bloody. The “oil” refers to the growing recognition of the strategic value of the resources in the Middle East.

When the war started, oil was not widely recognized as a significant issue except by visionaries like Winston Churchill. By war’s end, it was, and it would ensure that the Middle East, far from fading back into obscurity in western minds, would remain at the forefront of the world’s concerns.

This is history most Americans don’t know, and it’s very well done. Check it out.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. "..and mostly welshed on their promises."
    Come on Jim. Some of my ancestors were Welsh!

  2. It's a shame that politicians and environmentalists are opposed to increased drilling and refinement in our own country. Obviously, many politicians have been bought off by foreign oil companies and governments. It would be a big help to the economy if we increased our domestic oil production; and it would also "bridge the gap" to the point in time when wind/solar/nuclear can handle the bulk of our energy usage.

    Michael Preedin, Sisters