Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blood and oil

The murderous regime of the sinister and highly irrational Muammar Gaddafi has turned the full force of its military upon its own people. The horrific attacks on civilians have escalated the death toll into the tens of thousands. Indiscriminate brutality is the order of the day from the despot. This is a regime that has not one shred of legitimacy- it has forfited any right to govern. Yet the Libyan people apparently lack the strength to removed the hated and reviled regime.

Now Gaddafi is bombing his own oil installations, and the impact on the future of his own country is now creating a global challenge. The unrest across the Arab world is damaging the orderly market for oil and gas in a way that could undermine the prosperity not only of the Western world, but the entire world- rich and poor. If the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a chimera, the threat of Gaddafi's oil destruction is all too real.

In the name of the Libyan people and in the interests of humanity, it must surely now be imperative that the Gaddafi regime is removed- by force if need be.

The fact is that the oil industry- upon which we still insist on placing so much reliance for our global energy needs-is not only under pressure in the Arab world. Russia- currently producing more oil than Saudi Arabia- is also highly unstable. In the past two months the country has exported over $12 billion of capital- and this capital flight, if anything, seems set to accelerate as uncertainty continues over the future political environment. Despite being the world's energy and commodity storehouse, and despite the country now, apparently, being showing the fastest growth in the number of billionaires, according to Forbes, Russia now has a truly shocking gap between the rich and the poor.

Meanwhile the definition of what the Putin regime considers to be "strategic assets" has become so wide that few if any industries remain immune to confiscation - outright theft- by the backers of the Putin regime. The latest asset grab has been in Vodka production, and even the retail sector. There is no defence against the arbitrary actions of a government not subject to the rule of law.

This is not a recipe for success, especially when we recognize how fast the poorest in Russia are dying off. All across Europe there are anecdotes of thousands of Russians seeking new homes in the West in order to escape the pressure from armed goons in the service of the Mafia-state. If anything, the situation is worse than ever before. Russia is already in a crisis.

Elsewhere, in the face of the pressure against the Saudi Royal House, the open unrest across much of the rest of the Arab world, and the civil war in Libya, it is clear that the West faces some truly dramatic and unexpected challenges. However, there is a point in the moral compass that we must not forget, and that is the initial challenge of Gaddafi to all the norms of civilisation.

If we duck the challenge he has set us, then the negative impact in the Arab world may be severe- and all the time, the clock is ticking in Russia. The 2010 oil shock may proven more severe and more long lasting than that of 1973.

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