An Arab View of the Neocons and the Oil Lobby

Emad El-din Aysha

An intellectually formidable friend and I were discussing everything under the sun at a qahwa (coffee shop) in Cairo, fairly late at night and dead in the middle of winter. I brought up Greg Palast’s account of the Iraq war and the squabbles between the two main advocates of the war – the neo-cons and the oil lobby – and speculated as to who in the West we Arabs can work with, how and on what issues. This hooked into a long-running debate I’d been having with my friend over one of his major contributions to the whole debate about the ‘debate’ between civilizations. That is, who exactly is supposed to be talking to whom?

Our conversation continued late into the night by telephone with my friend filling me in on the cultural details of the otherwise dry political, economic and institutional thrust of my argument. He would offer an intriguing idea or a sentence, usually in Arabic, and I’d rush over to my laptop and type it up, leaving him with an oversized phone bill while I had the electricity charges to worry about.


Taking Stock: The Banality of Evil

But first things first. Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse revealed through documents and taped interviews, that the neo-conservatives and the oil lobby had very different military, administrative and even economic plans, with the neo-con plan taking ultimate precedence in the invasion and occupation, except when it came to the sensitive topic of oil. Both plans predate September 11 and represent diverging agendas, interests and conceptions of ‘the’ national interest and how the Arabs, Muslims and Israelis fit into it. The pathetic story of post-war Iraq and US foreign policy in the region since the fall of Saddam is really a grisly comedy of errors driven by an endless push and pull between the oil lobby and the neo-cons, jockeying between their respective power centers in the Bush administration and the new Iraqi power structure.

In the process Iraqi society and, crucially, the economy have been torn apart, aggravating the violence, which was bad enough to begin with. Regarding Sunni resistance it is true that the cannon fodder are religious fanatics, but their commanders, who are ultimately steering the civil war, are remnants of the Saddamist ‘secular’ Arab nationalist regime. They only turned into resistance fighters when the neo-con ideologues took up the mantle of de-Ba'athification, suggested to them by the likes of Ahmed Chalabi, to pave the way for democratization. Under the rather biased guidance of America’s Shiite and Kurdish ‘allies’ this process began, and apparently ended, with de-Sunnification. Many people targeted ironically were the very same Iraqi Army and Republican Guard commanders who had been recruited by the CIA to order their troops to stand down in the face of the invaders. To avoid capture and possible execution they turned to their sectarian next of kin, the Iraqi Sunni extremists and the Arab volunteers.

Even the Qaeda-related terrorists among the wider Sunni resistance are really quite an economically motivated and rational bunch. A confidential National Security Council report, leaked to the New York Times, discovered that the Iraqi resistance is financially self-sustaining, raising tens of millions of dollars without any foreign help from the caves of the Hindu Kush or the coffers of puritanical Gulf oil sheikhs.[1] They make anywhere between $70 to $200 million by smuggling Iraqi oil and, in 2005, made an estimated $30 million from ransom money alone. The Islamic radicals, in this regard, fit the same mold as nominally Marxist rebels of south America who fund their revolutionary activities through kidnapping foreigners (tourists, executives, investors) and via drugs trafficking.

As for the Iraqi attacks on oil pipelines, they usually aren’t religious fanatics or diehard patriots but, like their counterparts in Nigeria, disgruntled ex-oil employees striking at their former source of livelihood in the ‘good old days’ of Baathism. Where did this economic desperation come from? The neo-cons, in their attempt to make Iraq into a (neo-)liberal democratic example for the Middle East, relied on corporate lobbyists to devise the economic core of their plans for Iraq. One of the most prominent, Grover Norquist, explained that the economic agenda was modeled on Pinochet’s experience in Chile that involved a prioritization of free market economics over democratization: “The right to trade, property rights, these things are not to be determined by some democratic election.”

The upshot is that all these property rights were ‘determined’ undemocratically, by the Coalition Provisional Authority, under the unelected Paul Bremer who enacted numerous  orders in this regard. Worse than mere privatization and copyright laws that bestowed royalties on foreign products of up to 50 years (Order 83), was the application of complete free trade, an absolute ban on tariff and non-tariff barriers – ‘Order 12’ – even in the face of foreign ‘dumping’.[2] As a result Iraq is awash with Chinese goods, more than any other (non-occupied, non-decimated) country in the Middle East. Iraqi agriculture was crippled too as US grain suppliers took advantage of the presence of corporate-friendly officials in the occupation authority. Businesses going bust means unemployment and desperation, which means, in a country like Iraq, political violence. And with Order 37, which forbids any future Iraqi government from reversing any of these laws, this chaos seems set to go on indefinitely.

But none of this had to happen or was even meant to in the early days of planning the war. The original heir apparent for post-Saddam Iraq, General Jay Garner, placed political concerns before economic ones. The order of the day for Garner was getting essential services back on track immediately and getting the various ethnic and sectarian factions to sit together and agree on holding elections as soon as possible, and that meant letting the Iraqis decide their own economic policy. That didn’t set well with the neo-cons so they got then Defence Secretary Rumsfeld to have him removed and bring Bremer in. Another sticking point with Garner concerned privatizing Iraqi oil fields, which he rightly saw as a controversial issue that would insult and inflame the Iraqis. But even though Garner vacated the premises the oil lobby made sure that Bremer couldn’t privatize this strategic asset.

The oil lobby quite literally shipped in a firefighter to put out the neo-cons’ raging free market plans in the form of Shell Oil USA’s ex-CEO, Philip Carroll, flown into Baghdad on a C-17, and from Houston no less.[3] Not that the oil lobby was any less neo-colonial than the neo-cons. Their alternative scheme involved locking a state-owned Iraqi oil company into ‘profit-sharing agreements’ with IOCs (International Oil Companies).*

I will go into the exact nature of the standoff between the neo-cons and oil lobby over privatizing Iraqi oil later but the point to be made here is that there is nothing technically conspiratorial about most of this. The neo-cons have been advocating the unseating of Saddam as the key to remaking the Middle East since the early 1990s, and done so quite openly as anyone who has visited their many, many websites will attest. As for the oil lobby, they’re a shadier bunch, but the secrecy only really resulted because they had only got their act together in the early days of the Bush administration, with news leaking out soon after. The only real crime we detect here is the Arab weakness that has opened the Arab world to violation. The only real conspiracy lies among the various Arab parties that were complicit in these violations, with the self-interested suggestions of Arab parties garnishing many of these foreign plans.

The Arab Angle

Now this diagnosis links up with the implicit agenda contained in Dr Hazem’s widely circulated works on the Arab condition: describing how the Arab masses are enslaved culturally – ‘alienated’, as he puts it – by the Arab elites.[4] The Arab Self is alienated and the agent of alienation is none other the Arab Other that uses culture and religion to maintain its stranglehold on the Arab Self.

This view goes beyond strict economic and political conceptualizations of class conflict and elite-mass relations and antagonisms because it puts the onus on culture – portraying Arabs as not just any normal group of oppressed Third Worlders. They belong to an extended family that they identity with - the Arab ‘nation’ and Muslim umma - and their elites use these abstract notions as political tools to deny them their cultural and intellectual rights. That is, the rights to avail of Western modernity and allow them to think for themselves, decide what their opinion is on matters as diverse and critical as Islam, constitutions, human and women’s rights, Arab sovereignty and human rights supervision, cultural globalization, capitalism, republics vs. monarchies, etc. etc.

It was the Arab Other who aided and abetted the Americans, whether the neo-cons or the oil lobby, to the detriment of the Arab Self. More to the point, what Palast’s work makes clear is that Arab reformers and revolutionaries, the genuine ones, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand the neo-cons actually want to liberate them from their oppressive regimes (for whatever reasons) yet are the same people who will certainly wreck their economies. On the other hand, the oil lobby, which is comfortable enough with oppressive regimes, is willing to share the economic cake with the common-folk, even bolstering the anti-American ideological cushion that helps prop up these regimes, giving the masses some sense of identity and authenticity in a world awash with American-dominated cultural signifiers.

As Rose documents in Israel: The Hijack State (1986), the US government has always been torn between supporting Israel as its most reliable ally in the region and supporting the Saudi Kingdom for its oil: “that stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”[5] The existence of one key point of US strategy, Israel, created problems for the other, the religious props upon which the Saudi kingdom rests, its status as the supposed custodian of (Sunni) Islam. The eventual answer was not to bother to reconcile these two conflictual aspects of American national security. Whether the Saudis understood this is unclear but the Israelis, more reliable allies, certainly did, as came to light in declassifled State Department documents

As Rose explains, the American government left its oil companies to their own devices in the Saudi context. The US-dominated consortium ARAMCO  “was left deliberately ‘free’ to be as ‘pro-Arab’ as it wished.” This meant supporting the brand of religious conservatism used to legitimize the regime in Saudi desert nomad eyes, namely, Wahabbism. And given the porous nature of the American decision-making process, this schizophrenic stance fed backwards into the US power setup itself with two uneasy power centers collecting round these divergent policies: namely, the oil lobby vis-à-vis the Israel lobby – and the rest is history.

The oil lobby, then, is the dominant US contingent of what former Indian ambassador K Gajendra Singh calls the ‘US-Saud-Wahab nexus’. US oil interests, and their allies in the US government, are directly locked into an alliance with the Ibn Saud family which has its own alliance with the Wahabis. (They run the Ministry of Religious Endowments, the mosques – which they also police – and are in charge of religious missions abroad, including the infamous madrassas). The oil lobby’s pro-Arab stance has translated itself, in the long-run, into an unholy alliance between the US and Muslims extremists stretching from the Saudi regime to bin Laden and the Taliban.  As Gajendra Singh also reveals, it was the persistence of these links that blunted efforts to apprehend bin Laden in the 1990s, when in Sudan then Afghanistan, because there was active cooperation with Islamist, Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Bosnia.[6]

Bush Jr.’s forays with the Taliban in the early days of his presidency for the sake of Unicol’s Central Asian/Capsien oil pipeline are now the stuff of legend, and according to Greg Palast’s sources there was active cooperation with Islamists in Central Asia to stave off Russian domination and Iranian penetration. Wahabbbism is anti-everything unIslamic and anti-many things that are Islamic in an unWahabi way but, since the first Afghani war and the collapse of Communism, this puritanical hostility has been increasingly directed towards the US and its chief ally in the region, Israel. The neo-cons, being utterly pro-Israeli, can’t stand this and, more generally, in the post-9/11 context have been trying to stamp out the legitimization strategies of the Arab regimes that all depend on some measure of anti-Americanism.[7]

‘America’, deliberately, is used to vent people’s frustrations, as is Israel – the ‘external threat’, the ‘foreign conspiracy’, ‘imperialist intervention’ in domestic affairs, etc.[8] And this is precisely why the neo-cons advocated the privatization of Iraqi oil as the centerpiece of their plan – targeting the ‘Arab’ oil weapon. Their plan for Iraq called for the privatization of  oil with the express intent of pushing Iraqi oil production way above OPEC quotas to push oil prices down and so destroy the OPEC cartel’s ability to determine production and prices once and for all. Apart from using the oil weapon against its very originators it was meant more specifically to dislodge Saudi Arabia from the economic foundation of its power. That was the Heritage Foundation’s – Ariel Cohen specifically – take on the plan, pushing up Iraqi production to six million barrels a day to drive a permanent wedge between OPEC members and deny Saudi Arabia its ‘swing producer’ status.

What they didn’t acknowledge was that the Arab oil weapon was never Arab to begin with.  Saudi Arabia enjoyed its swing producer status because many in the US would rather put up with an extremist autocracy, provided it’s a pliant client state, than a progressive democracy like Venezuela, for instance. The State Department’s plan for Iraqi oil stated that a state-owned oil sector – prohibitively contracted to IOC’s – would “enhance the [Iraqi] government’s relationship with OPEC.”[9] So much for OPEC being the legendary enemy of the capitalist-imperialist West and for how one US administration after another desperately sought ways of punishing or dismembering the cartel. Ownership of oilfields as such isn’t as important as controlling the price of the resulting oil, which is what determines profits, as one oilman told Palast:”[10] And one objective is making sure that oil prices never go too low to threaten the profits of the oil companies. So the oil privatization plan was quietly killed while the neo-con agenda continued everywhere else, with repeated attempts by the neo-cons to muscle in on the oil sector with the oil lobby responding in kind, relying on their respective Iraqi constituencies. Again, more banal evil doings went on as the Iraqi people were trampled.

But to be fair to those Iraqis allied to the neo-cons, quite a few went along with the American invasion so as to unseat Saudi Arabia from its privileged status in OPEC and so beef up Iraq’s oil quota, which would be a good thing for everyone, save the Wahabis. So, the people to talk to are the neo-cons. It may seem odd for an Arab to advocate face-to-face negotiations with the neo-cons, supposedly all imperialists and all mad pro-Israelis. Not so.

The Western ‘Other’ too needs to be dissected and differentiated into its warring factions and these groups understood for who and what they are, ferreting out the one or two crucial common interests we have. Palast’s and Rose’s revelations confirm the Nitzan-Bichler thesis that sees US foreign policy, at least in the post-Vietnam era, to be determined by the ‘Weapondollar-Petrodollar Coalition,’ which consists of the large oil companies, armament contractors and OPEC member states. What fuels this coalition are high oil prices that are in turn maintained through periodic conflicts in the region – whenever oil prices sink too low and threaten the profits of the oil barons.[11]

This was Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshom Bichler’s prediction, long before the Iraq War, that oil prices would paradoxically go up once the Americans gained control of Iraq’s oil fields, dashing in one stroke the expectations of both liberal economists and neo-Marxist thinkers.[12] My only qualm with this thesis was how the neo-cons fit into it. Nitzan and Bichler saw them as the ideological shock troops of the vested interests – arms producers and the oil sector – that got Bush elected on a platform of preemptive wars and beefed-up defense expenditures.[13] This clearly isn’t the case. The oil lobby is all for instability in the Middle East if it means armed conflicts that generate arms sales and cause a rush in the oil market (higher prices), provided that client states remain internally stable.[14]

The neo-cons build their agenda on ‘creative destruction’ (or, more oxymoronically, ‘positive instability’), and wish to extend this doctrine into US client states in the region, provided they create problems for Israel. Moreover, intra-coalition feuds extend into the realm of the OPEC members too (the standoff between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as Palast ably documented).[15] As the term itself indicates, this is not a true class alliance, as Antonio Gramsci would envision it*, but a ‘coalition of the willing’ plagued by violent conflicts and small conspiracies, if we can use the term, over the slightest differences in means and ends.

Therefore, there are some neocons that really do have Arabs’ best interests at heart and consequently it is in our advantage to talk to. One prominent example is none other than the dearly departed Paul Wolfowitz, the man who almost single-handedly persuaded Bush to invade Iraq after September 11.[16] However, Wolfowitz had a long-standing love affair with ‘moderate’ Islam ever since President Anwar el-Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem. He taught himself passable Arabic to have the pleasure of listening to Sadat’s speech in front of the Knesset, then learned passable Indonesian while the ambassador there, hoping to increase the number of moderate Muslims regimes in the Islamic world.

According to Stephen Sestanovich, “as a ‘moral man’, Wolfowitz might have found Israel the heart of the Middle East story… But as a policy maker, Turkey and the gulf and Egypt didn't loom any less large for him.”[17] Needless to say I have reservations over what he means by ‘moderate’ but it is the case that he supported the sale of AWACs to Saudi Arabia, fought against tooth and claw by the Israel lobby. In fact, Wolfowitz also helped convince the Israelis not to retaliate to Saddam’s Scuds during the First Gulf War. Therefore, Wolfowitz’s drawbacks are almost strictly intellectual as far as we are concerned – his naïveté and over-enthusiasm, the latest in a long line of Graham Greene Quiet Americans. And it’s not as if Arab intellectuals took the opportunity to fill in the gaps in his knowledge. Hopefully, in the process of talking to people like Wolfowitz we can make Western elites understand who ‘we’ are – Self and Other – and so what is really called for over here and who they should really be dealing over what and how. But we can’t expect them to do that for us.

We have to inform them of what is wrong with us and, therefore, who they likewise should focus their efforts upon. The Arab Other needs pressing while the Arab Self needs ‘de-alienating,’ encouraged to take charge of itself by being given the intellectual tools for self-determination. And as for what we Arabs should negotiate with while we’re having this conversation with them, the answer obviously is – oil. I’m talking about oil as a negotiating chip, something that will give the neo-cons what they need to counteract the power of the oil lobby and their benefactors in the Arab world. But in exchange for this we have to tip their ideological agenda on its head.


An Agenda for Change: Politics First,
then Socially Conscious Economic ‘Reform’

The whole problem with the ‘economics first’ approach, leaving aside its lack of economic sense as amply illustrated by the Iraqi disaster, is that entrenched political and bureaucratic elites have always been able to get around liberalizing reforms. They do this through co-opting the rising bourgeoisie (crony capitalism) to make sure it no longer has an interest in checking the power of the state and moving to a genuine rule of law system.[18] It is not in the interest of undemocratic regimes to liberalize and privatize because these mean handing the reigns of power to a faceless marketplace. The livelihoods of people no longer get tied to the all seeing, all-benevolent, identifiable person of Big Brother.

Economic reform creates rival centers of power: businessmen outside the loop who have a vested interest in keeping the state in check and who easily transform money into political leverage. The survival strategy of an authoritarian regime is to grant monopoly rights to selected, ‘safe’ businessmen, killing off efficiency gains and independent power centers through appealing to their rent-seeking instincts.

These regimes also maintain a stranglehold on political life by legitimizing themselves  through the remaining vestiges of the rentier state (low tax rates, subsidies on essential goods), not to mention holding the bourgeoisie at bay by threatening to unleash the encouraged-to-be-envious masses.[19] The problem is actually worse in the wealthier parts of the Arab world. Throughout the 1990s the Gulf states fell into economic disrepute as growth rates declined, plans to industrialize fizzled and one government after the next fell into debt. The largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, until recently had a total debt worth 107% of its GDP; $ 171 billion in domestic loans, $35 billion in foreign credit.[20]

The soaring price of oil since the Iraq War has eased the financial pressures placed on these regimes – they all now have budget surpluses with excess cash going in wild real estate speculation – and therefore have no incentive to liberalize along IMF-World Bank guidelines. (Nobody’s advocating privatization and liberalization just for the sake of privatization and liberalization, least of all a lefty like me, but if done right it can place constraint on the power of the state to the benefit of all). This is a privilege that countries like Egypt and Tunisia don’t enjoy. We can blame the oil lobby but we can’t side with the neo-cons either because the political consequences of their economic agenda are scarcely any better, if not a whole lot worse. What is called for is a halfway house, some good old-fashioned ‘embedded liberalism’ of the kind that existed under the Bretton Woods order.

Surprisingly this actually fits the neo-con agenda, in spite of their liberalizing credentials, as they are great believers in capital controls (that is, restrictions on the flow of international finances to keep track of terror financing). And even in today’s globalized world some countries have successfully employed them, such as democratic if not terribly pro-American Malaysia. More importantly, resurrecting embedded liberalism is something the neo-cons would adore because it would become a tool against the oil lobby.

Keynesianism, believe it or not, operates to the detriment of the oil lobby because growth induced full-employment economies depend, just as they did in the days of the post-war boom, on cheap oil. Low oil prices may not be to our immediate advantage as Arabs but, then again, high oil prices aren’t to our long-term advantage either. Some economic pain is called for. We can’t keep pushing back the reckoning day forever, sinking deeper and deeper into the debt spiral while we fail to industrialize, modernize our agriculture and invest in human development. (This is the ‘Dutch Disease’).[21]

Admittedly this is all overly ambitious and calls for a complete overhaul of the international economic order, beginning with the still very neo-liberal US, but more limited solutions can be implemented quite readily in the Arab context. Here we are talking about closed economies where a great many have fixed currencies or highly stable currencies backed by oil. And I’m quite confident that the European states would be happy to sanction some modicum of deficit spending in the Arab world if only because soaking up the unemployed means drying up the pools of legal and illegal migrant labor. The even more attractive prospect for the Europeans will be cheap oil, allowing them to resume their aborted post-war boom once again. (And Europe was more hospitable to readily employable immigrants back then, and the employed Muslim immigrants more well-behaved too).

Curing unemployment in the Arab world is a must for cultural reasons too, taking up the slack of all those disgruntled, college educated Arab youths who are all potential ticking time-bombs. Economically enabling people also means allowing them to do something other that eke out a living, have the time and job security to do a little thinking for a change. (There’s a lot of this in the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative, incidentally).[22] But that in itself won’t work unless there are thoughtful people whose slack needs to be taken up, the final topic I move to now.


The Missing Link: A Cultural Revolution*

What I’ve proposed, of course, presupposes enabling the Arab Self to elect its own spokesmen, something that should follow naturally from political reform. This way we can avoid the mistake made by the Americans in Iraq whereby they displaced, if not destroyed, one group of Arab Others only to replace them with another, neglecting in both cases the Alienated Arab Self. Hence, having the same old song sung, just with a new singer.

The West as a whole, and not just the US, needs to build credibility with the Arab Self, prove to Arabs that they removed Saddam because he was a tyrant, not just to replace him with a compliant Arab Other. Owning up to past mistakes is a cheap price to pay for stability; stability rooted in the substantive legitimacy of representative Arab regimes and by extension stability for the West. Their interests in the region and the security of their homelands from our chief export after oil – terrorism. In the long run this would spare the West another September 11th attack. Cultural alienation is the real barrier inhibiting a healthy dialogue between the Arabs and the West. That is, the Arab Self and the Western Other. When one talks of cross-cultural or ‘civizational’ dialogue, one must ask how ‘representative’ the speakers are of respective communities, after all. Moreover, the West must understand that the last shelter, last bullet, of the Arab Other are the ulema, the experts in religion – the experts in religious excuse making, that is. This could have disastrous consequences, as we’ve seen in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, now in Iraq with the Arab volunteers, and again (possibly) as Iran and Saudi Arabia square up for a confrontation over the Iraqi carcass.

A face-to-face approach is something that should be facilitated by the globalizing communications revolution allowing direct conversations with that portion of intellectuals who aren’t co-opted by the state. In fact, what we want is not only intellectuals, to avoid constructing, ipso facto, a new intellectual elite. We want just representatives of the Self, the common man, the poet, the singer, the civil servant, the seller on the street, the peasant, etc. The medium of television is important because it transcends the literate/illiterate divide, yet another problem in the Arab world. Such conduits – including Al-Jazeera, English and Arabic – would come in handy in this regard, official American reservations notwithstanding.

Internet connectivity is already an instrument of transparency and accountability while blogs and chatting increase communication and exchange of ideas and attitudes. All this will help facilitate mass psychological rehabilitation, getting people out of the prison cell they’ve become all too used to. It would be unfair to ask the Arab Self to all of a sudden to take responsibility of itself and make its own choices. Not that economics is far away from this since a key requirement to overcoming informational barriers involves breaking informational ‘monopolies’, on PCs, software, internet servers and mobile phones.

Moreover, we don’t want top-down reform but a grass-roots intellectual revolution, with a special focus on the cultural industries. Institutional reform is called for here in several areas, such as making religious institutions both more independent of the state and less independent of society (subjecting it to popular accountability through increased transparency). Without this all you will get is a new song with an old singer, preaching from the bully pulpit about ‘moderation’ in the most immoderate way possible, transforming tolerance into a new dogma whose adherents alone will go to heaven while the extremist will be consigned to hell.

Absolute musts in this regard include legislation that  encourages think-tanks and research centers, even if funded from abroad or established by foreigners. These are the veritable brains trust that will both employ the unemployed certificate holders – who are the chief recruits of Islamists – and help people here figure out what’s wrong with the economy and polity and help get it fixed. Another must involves getting the publishing industry out of its current fix. The impossibility of making a living from writing is chocking the life out of high culture in the Arab world. Nothing sells except sensationalism (celebrities and sex scandals), cookbooks, archaic religious and literary texts and books on fortune telling, not to forget conspiracy trash about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

We should also be open minded and merciful, giving the Arab Other the chance to reintegrate itself with the Self but, bearing in mind that if it refuses, then it is up to the foreign Other, who helped put these people in power in the first place, to clean up their own mess. We don’t want another repeat of the Saddam execution, about whose ‘vengeful’ character even George W. Bush was forced to  express reservations, (despite his record as governor of Texas). Thanks to the transparently sectarian motives of the executioners, and the timing of the lynching, Saddam’s ghost may haunt us as he goes down in Arab history as a Sunni martyr. As my friend suggested to me, Saddam should have been kept alive to be subjected to a battery of psychological texts, used as a case study of Arab dictatorship: ‘Otherness’.

Ultimately a great deal of this depends on a return to interventionist Keynesian economics. While this may seem unfeasible in the near future, given the hold of neo-liberalism in Western power centers and globally, it is quite feasible in the Arab world. Ideally, one should be talking to everyone in the West, chiefly the West’s own alienated Self – opposition parties, unions, minority groups, human rights organizations, charities, academics, NGOs, etc. – but as dialogues with the Vatican have demonstrated in the past, it is equally important to talk to the decision-makers too. They hold the key to economic decision-making, after all!


Special thanks to Dr Hazem Khairy for providing much of the cultural content of this article, Jonathan Nitzan for his political economics of Mideast tolerance and K Gajendra Singh for forwarding highly relevant material on past and present petro-political controversies.