“…Washington also has other reasons — Israel, Iran, terrorism — to remain engaged in the Middle East. Indeed, it is booming U.S. oil production — along with that of Iraq and Saudi Arabia — that has allowed such stringent sanctions on Iran without triggering another great oil shock. Both producers and customers well remember how energy crises swiftly followed the end of previous Gulf security orders, such as the withdrawal of British forces from the small Gulf states in 1971 and the fall of the shah of Iran in 1979.Nevertheless, Washington is battling a fiscal crisis, and it’s searching for ways to reduce its military commitments. That has led some to wonder whether others should share more of the burden of guaranteeing energy security. The Arab Gulf states, looking nervously at America’s oil boom, worry they might be left to the tender mercies of Iran. As a result, they have begun to deepen relations with their Asian customers, though predominantly with Japan and South Korea rather than China. At the moment, however, they are not worried enough about the big threat: a slump in oil prices colliding with bloated budgets.
Energy windfalls can be a blessing and a curse: An oil boom allowed Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s regime to coast through the 1970s and avoid vital reform. Without drawing a false analogy between the United States and the Soviet Union, Americans should still be wary of allowing swelling oil and gas revenues to divert them from addressing deep domestic economic, environmental, and political problems, or tempt them into reckless overseas adventures. Beijing, meanwhile, may find that it is energy that compels deep changes in how it engages with its own people and the rest of the world. …”