Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Dreams of the powerless | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In our popular folklore, the female hyena dreams of certain things. It is said it can predict whether it will be clear or clouded. But often, our dreams are impossible. In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush promised US citizens that, before 2025, their country will not longer need to import oil from aboard, including the Arab world. At the moment, the country imports more than half its oil. On the other hand, in the Arab world, calls were made to boycott western products and instead trade with India, Malaysia, Pakistan and other Eastern countries.

Bush was not candid in his speech and Arab boycott planners are destined to fail as they are unable to do without western products. The US Department of Energy estimates that, in twenty years’ time, a quarter of the country’s imports will be from the Middle East. Our hospitals, industries, planes and our oil rely on a supply and demand relationship with the West. As for the industries of India and Malaysia , they are mostly western, irrespective of how national and innovative they appear to be.

One might wonder why every new US President feels the need to promise his people that he will tackle the country’s reliance on foreign oil and specifically that which comes from the Middle East , a highly volatile region? US Presidents are well-aware that such promises are music to the people’s ears and are sure to earn them much needed popular support. They also know that it is unlikely this will ever happen, so long as oil is the number one source of energy. This is why President Bush set a 20 year deadline. In two decades, another president would be in the White House and US citizens would have long forgotten his promise.

Why do writers inflame passions and suggest that doing without western goods is a simple matter? Because they know that such an experiment is difficult to prove. It is impossible for us to stop buying medicine and airplanes, as well as exporting oil for which western technology is needed. A realistic analysis soon reveals that these popular promises cannot be implemented. The first to revolt against any proposed boycott, on either side, will be the people.

In the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein’s government continued to export oil and Washington continued to buy it, despite the animosity between the two regimes. As for the boycott of a single product such as butter, cheese or furniture, which can be substituted for other products, it is possible. But boycotting medicine or airplane spare parts is not comparable.

Those who sell promises and pledges to the people should prove they are true.