Oiling the wheels of war

It has suddenly dawned on onlookers that the conflict in Syria is heavily linked to the control of its oil fields. This may indeed be one of the factors in the conflict. Unfortunately, this is true of most conflicts. Wherever we find valuable natural resources that others seek to control — be it oil, coltan or even scarce water — we find conflict.  

For example, if we look where Myanmar’s Shwe gas fields are, the route of its pipeline to China, Chinese geopolitical interests (including importing oil without passing through the straits of Malacca) and, of course, Western geopolitical interests, we begin to see the Rohingya crisis as less about religion than about control of resources and geopolitical interests.

Unfortunately it is the little people — whose land is confiscated for the construction of pipelines and whose rivers are polluted by the associated industry — that suffer. For them, it does not matter if they are persecuted for their religion or because their villages sit on the route of a pipeline: for them, when forced to flea, the reason for the unspeakable violence they face is immaterial.

One thing is certain though: whenever usually unconcerned nations suddenly find themselves worried about the human rights of a despised people, know that the exploration and exploitation of the nation’s mineral resources is not far behind. In recent years, some nations have grown adept at exploiting populist Muslim sentiment to garner support for military intervention abroad.

The shock and awe strategy of Iraq has been replaced by the subtleties of proxy-war, in which the masses support rebel groups backed and financed by their supposed enemies. In short, we are tools — or useful idiots — who will support imperial designs, simply because we dare not ask difficult questions when our heartstrings are bing pulled. And, without a doubt, that is a tough one, when innocents are being brutalised, killed and forced to flee their homes. In this, there are no easy answers.

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