Tho' Merlin sware the 60's should come again
The Oil Drum is suggesting that Saudi Arabian oil production is now declining due to depletion. It juxtaposes declining Saudi production against its rising recovery effort. They're running harder but they're slowing down. From the data, he reaches the conclusion that yes, the Kingdom is running out of oil. In particular Stuart Staniford concludes:
I suggest that this is likely to place severe political strains on Saudi Arabia within a year or two at most.
- Saudi Arabian oil production is now in decline.
- The decline rate during the first year is very high (8%), akin to decline rates in other places developed with modern horizontal drilling techniques such as the North Sea.
- Declines are rather unlikely to be arrested, and may well accelerate.
- Matt Simmons appears to be right in Twilight in the Desert, but the warning did not come until after declines had actually begun.
Oil Drum's prediction of declining Saudi Oil might be read in conjunction with Rami Khouri's piece in the Lebanese Daily Star, in which he argues that the state system created by European Powers at the end of World War 1 is now collapsing, in part because the fall of Saddam shook the region to its foundations, but also because it was unstable to begin with.
Do not pity or jeer Washington alone, for every single player in this tale - the United States, Hizbullah, the Lebanese government, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia - wriggles uncomfortably in the mess they collectively created through their shortsighted policies of recent years. I suspect this mirrors something much bigger: We are in the midst of a potentially historic moment when the modern Arab state order that was created by the Europeans in circa 1920 has started to break down, in what we might perhaps call the Great Arab Unraveling.
Shattered Iraq is the immediate driver of this possible dissolution and reconfiguration of an Arab state system that had held together rather well for nearly four generations. It is only the most dramatic case of an Arab country that wrestles with its own coherence, legitimacy, and viability. Lebanon and Palestine have struggled with their statehood for half a century; Somalia has quietly dropped out of this game; Kuwait vanished in 1990 and quickly reappeared; Yemen split, reunited, split, fought a war, and reunited; Sudan spins like a centrifuge, with national and tribal forces pushing away from a centralized state; Morocco and the Western Sahara dance gingerly around their logical association; and internal tensions plague other Arab countries to varying degrees.
A learned British friend reminded me this week of the mixed legacy of countries manufactured by Europe at the Paris peace conference after World War I: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Iraq. Not an inspiring record. The Anglo-American war to change the Iraqi regime has triggered wider regional tensions, unleashing powerful and often antagonistic forces of ethnic, religious and tribal identities, most of which have formed their own militias. All militias thrive on Arab, Iranian, or Western support. It is no surprise that Washington now may be indirectly assisting Sunni fundamentalist radicals of the ilk who attacked the US in recent years. America, welcome to the Middle East.
The end of Saddam demonstrated how the collapse of a Middle Eastern state -- so outwardly solid -- produced effects similar to that of a submarine whose pressure hull has failed at depth. Through every crack the seething currents of radical Islamism, ethnic hatred and the politics of terror sought their way in. America, having torpedoed Saddam found that patching the hull was not only difficult, but possibly hopeless. If oil begins to run out in the Middle East, whatever the schemes for American withdrawal, Iraq will not be so much past as prologue.
One of the tacit hopes of the antiwar movement is that the clock can somehow be set back to the late 1990s if only troop withdrawals from Iraq were begun today. If the two pundits above are correct, the Middle East will become more and not less volatile. Whoever becomes President in 2008 must come to terms with the possibility that the world has truly changed. Only with that realization will come the acceptance that new institutions and strategies are required to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The twentieth, the from which the vision of today's leaders springs, is gone forever.
Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
"Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world;
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."
And slowly answer'd Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."