During the new decade of the 21st century, it’s entirely possible that someone will have enough common sense to ask why we are wasting our time, resources, and valuable lives in the Middle East and Afghanistan when we are not wanted there. At some point, we could realize that the primary reason Al Qaeda is angry at us is that we are occupying their Holy Land.

Before Lawrence of Arabia and the British mandates, nobody gave much thought to the Middle East. Then one day, somebody struck oil there. Americans think oil is important, and we don’t want a whole section of the globe reverting to the Dark Ages. It is a real crisis. If we were to avoid the area altogether and put our money and energy elsewhere, then that decision would definitely create an international crisis. Oil is that important. The option is atomic energy, and while Pakistan has the bomb, we sure don’t want Iran getting one. Therefore, we’ll continue to fiddle and fume while the Middle East burns … and pumps oil.

But is oil that important? John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., was the son of a New York Baptist patent medicine peddler who moved to Cleveland and got into the oil business — that is, the vegetable oil business. It was not until much later, when Drake and his compatriots struck oil in Pennsylvania and Rockefeller combined oil companies into the Standard Oil trust that petroleum became more than just a patent medicine.

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