A major shift in thinking is under way in the US. Neo- conservatives who viewed energy conservation in much the same light as Satanism and paedophilia a year ago are in earnest dialogue with environmentalists and hard-headed exponents of realpolitik about how to reduce America's dependency on imported oil. A powerful coalition is emerging in support of energy independence, but the main force propelling this shift is not an increase in environmental awareness. It is the unending fiasco in Iraq.
Paul Wolfowitz " one of the chief architects of the disaster, and the new president of the World Bank " predicted the war would be self-financing. He was confident that once Saddam was toppled Iraq would float to prosperity and democracy on a sea of cheap oil. In fact, as could be foreseen, Iraq under US occupation is the site of an intractable guerrilla conflict, with the country's oil facilities under continuous attack. The price of oil has risen, and America faces the daunting prospect of paying for its fix of imported energy in shrinking dollars.
Against this background a new breed of geo-Greens is looking for ways to make America self-sufficient in energy. Globalisation is advancing alongside intensifying competition among the great powers for control of the planet's oil reserves, and at the same time it is triggering a movement to autarchy. Struggling to extricate itself from the chaos it has created in Iraq, the ' last superpower' is increasingly receptive to schemes that hold out the promise of sheltering it from a turbulent world. Alongside the movement for energy independence, increasing numbers of Americans are questioning the benefits of free trade. It cannot be long before some version of protectionism is once again received wisdom in the US.
Thomas Friedman is one of globalisation's most indefatigable cheerleaders, and there is a certain poetic logic in the fact that he is now a leading voice in the movement to insulate the US from the highly competitive world that globalisation has created. Friedman " a widely influential columnist on foreign affairs at the New York Times " published his bestselling The Lexus and the Olive Tree in 1999. It remains a canonical statement of the beliefs that shaped the late Nineties. The World Is Flat seems set to have a similar role in shaping thinking in the latter half of the present decade.
Despite the momentous events that have occurred since, Friedman's view of the world beyond America's shores is unchanged. The flat world he sees around him is America writ large, and much of the book is a Babbit-like secular sermon on the virtues of the American way. For Friedman, any country that rejects American-style globalisation is pathological, and in a passage that reads like a self-parody he compares such benighted lands to alcoholics. 'What the world needs today,' he writes, 'is a club that would be modelled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It would be called Developing Countries Anonymous (DCA). And just as at the first AA meeting you attend you have to stand up and say, 'my name is Thomas Friedman and I'm an alcoholic', so at Developing Countries Anonymous, countries would have to stand up at their first meeting and say, 'my name is Syria and I'm underdeveloped'. …