I have been thinking about the situation in the Middle East and also the rise of oil prices, peak oil, and the problem of a world economy based on energy scarcity rather than abundance. There is, I believe, a way to solve the problems in the Middle East, and the energy problems facing the world, at the same time. But it requires thinking "outside the box."
Middle Eastern nations must take the lead in freeing the world from dependence on their oil. This is not only their best strategy for the future of their nations and their people, but also it is what will ultimately be best for the region and the whole world.
It is inevitable that someone is going to invent a new technology that frees the world from dependence on fossil fuels. When that happens all oil empires will suddenly collapse. Far-sighted, visionary leaders in oil-producing nations must ensure that their nations are in position to lead the coming non-fossil-fuel energy revolution. This is the wisdom of "cannibalize yourself before someone else does."
Middle Eastern nations should invest more heavily than any other nations in inventing and supplying new alternative energy technologies. For example: hydrogen, solar, biofuels, zero point energy, magnetic power, and the many new emerging alternatives to fossil fuels. This is a huge opportunity for the Middle East not only for economic reasons, but also because it may just be the key to bringing about long-term sustainable peace in the region.
There is a finite supply of oil in the Middle East -- the game will and must eventually end. Are Middle Eastern nations thinking far enough ahead about this or not? There is a tremendous opportunity for them if they can take the initiative on this front and there is an equally tremendous risk if they do not. If they do not have a major stake in whatever comes after fossil fuels, they will be left with nothing when whatever is next inevitably happens (which might be very soon).
Any Middle Eastern leader who is not thinking very seriously about this issue right now is selling their people short. I sincerely advise them to make this a major focus going forward. Not only will this help them to improve quality of life for their people now and in the future, but it is the best way to help bring about world peace. The Middle East has the potential to lead a huge and lucrative global energy Renaissance. All it takes is vision and courage to push the frontier and to think outside of the box.
If Middle Eastern nations annually invested hundreds of billions of dollars into research and development of alternative fuels and alternative energy technologies, they could definitely capture and lead the market in post-fossil-fuel energy technologies. They could provide energy itself to the global grid, as well as technologies for utilizing or generating non-fossil-fuel energy such as new kinds of engines or components, generators, batteries, fuel cells, and more.
By doing this, they could achieve two important goals: Their land would no longer be strategically important to other nations and so the foreign military presence in the region would diminish and eventually leave altogether, and secondly, they could ensure a tremendous long-term revenue stream for their nations (via patents, manufacturing, and supply of products). The Middle East could become a world center of excellence in alternative energy. This is really the future of the Middle East. They must sell abundance, not scarcity. They must lead the world in this.
Middle Eastern nations have another huge asset besides what is under the ground -- it is what is above the ground -- the sun and space itself. They have a lot of open space and a lot of sunlight annually. It is the perfect place to create enormous solar collection farms, and wind farms. It would also be an ideal location to position rectennas for receiving space-based solar power (via microwave transmission). These are just the near-term opportunities. Longer-term, the Middle Eastern nations should and can develop specialized R&D labs, university programs, and major global corporations to develop, license and sell green energy, and alternative energy technologies to the rest of the world.
There are of course other very difficult political and social issues to resolve -- for example the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rise of Islamic radicalism, corruption, human rights, terrorism, etc. But I believe that the best way to make really positive progress towards resolving these problems is to focus on improving the level of education, economic prosperity and stability, self-esteem, and long-term opportunity in the region.
If the oil issue wasn't there complicating all of the other problems in the region, it would change the game radically for everyone and might open up a range of new potential solutions that today are not even possible to consider.
My personal belief is that terrorism and war are obsolete and never solve problems. Violence begets violence and that will never lead to peace or prosperity in the Middle East. The solution is economic prosperity, education, human rights, and freedom. With regard to Israel, I believe that peaceful co-existence between Israel and other Middle-Eastern powers can and must be achieved, but that this will be easier to achieve once the oil issue is off the table. Why? Because once the oil issue is off the table, much of the funding for terrorism will vanish. Similarly much of the foreign interest in a strong military presence in the region will also vanish. This will significantly de-escalate and de-militarize the conflict for both sides, thus making it more likely that a peaceful, lasting solution can be found.
Ultimately, for a long-term peace in the Middle East to take place, moderates on all sides need to be driving the process. But moderates lead only when civilizations are prosperous and safe -- when their people feel they have a good enough quality of life and future that they don't want to risk losing that. A major step in this direction is to improve the economic situation for lower and middle-class citizens of Middle Eastern countries. People who have happy families, good incomes, and bright futures generally do not want to fight wars or become suicide bombers. Instead of pouring money into terrorism, counter-terrorism, military might, secret weapons, etc, money should be poured into creating and building more opportunity and prosperity for everyday citizens of the Arab world.
Fossil fuels are the real enemy of peace and prosperity worldwide: they are finite, dwindling, and controlled only by a minority as well as outside influences. This must change if peace and prosperity for the Middle East is truly important. In fact, there is a much great opportunity in renewable energy and alternative energy than fossil fuels. We must shift our world from one that is based on control of finite resources, to one that is based on distribution and use of abundant and/or renewable resources. This is the really the best path for the Middle East, and the rest of the world.