Victor Davis Hanson

The U.S. still worries about tiny democratic Israel surrounded by existential enemies pledged to destroy the Jewish state. But Israel's own sudden oil and natural gas bonanza is enriching its economy and will soon offer a source of reliable fuel supplies to nearby Europe.

Most likely, Europe's past opportunistic disdain of Israel and fawning over Arab autocracies were based entirely on oil politics. In the future, the fair-weather European Union will as likely move away from the Middle East as it will pledge a newfound friendship with the once unpopular but now resource-rich Israel.

Visiting Persepolis, the Egyptian pyramids, Leptis Magna, or the Roman and Christian sites in the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria is not worth the madness that is now the price of Middle East tourism. The European Union and the United States are tired of Middle East terrorism -- after 50 years of Yasser Arafat's secular brand and Osama bin Laden's Islamic bookend.

Europe's southeastern Mediterranean flank on the Middle East is a financial and political mess. Most of the West is as likely to shun bankrupt Greece as it is to be wary of Recep Erdogan's new Ottoman Turkey.

While the Middle East failed to transform its oil riches of the last half-century into stable, transparent societies, Asia globalized and embraced the free market.

The resulting self-generated riches in the Pacific do not derive from the accident of oil under the ground of Singapore, Hong Kong or Taipei, but rather from global competitiveness and internal reforms. If China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan 60 years ago were as poor as the Middle East, they are now the economic equals to Europe and North America. Their motto is to borrow from and then beat -- not envy or blame game -- the West.

For now, Western tourists and students still mostly avoid Amman, Baghdad, Benghazi, Cairo and Damascus. American soldiers are drawing down from the bases of the Middle East. And soon, huge American-bound oil tankers will not crowd each other at the docks of the Persian Gulf.

You see, the Middle East is not so much dangerous, challenging or vital to Western interests as it is becoming irrelevant.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.