Hey, King Abdullah, Okay With You if We Shine Your Shoes?


Sorry to be weighing in on the Wikileaks matter so late in the day.  After taking the kids to school, I got myself a cup of coffee, sat down, opened my laptop, and, as I had promised Claire I would–if you think she’s compelling onstage, you should see the way she drives us back here in the wings–began to compose a post.  Whereupon my cell phone rang.  Whereupon one thing began leading to another.  Do you have days like that?  Days during which you feel frantically busy but that, by bedtime the same night, almost seem never to have taken place?

Anyway, in all my quick Googlings around on Wikileaks at stolen moments, I came away from the whole affair with a couple of strong feelings, one of which I’ll share right here:  I’ve had it up to here with Saudi Arabia.  Excuse me.  The Saudis, I suppose, are merely being the Saudis.  What I really mean is that I’ve had it up to here with our own government for failing to put the screws to those people.

During the Cold War, Reagan got something from “the kingdom,” as the diplomats call it, persuading the Saudis to hold down the price of oil, helping to starve the Soviets of hard currency (oil was the biggest-ticket export item the Soviets had going for them).  But what have the Saudis done for us over the last couple of decades?  Oh, just squeeze every last dollar out of us for oil that they could, then recycle those dollars by building mosques and madrassas around the world, spending billions–billions–to encourage the spread of Wahhabi Islam, the most anti-western school or strain that Islam has produced.  And what have we now learned courtesy of Wikileaks?  That the Saudis have been privately encouraging us to mount a military operation to take out the Iranian nuclear program.

The Saudis permitted us to save their country from Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War, and now they’re asking us to spend still more of our treasure, and risk still more American lives, to save them from Iran.  In return for–what?  Precisely what concessions have we wrested from them?

George W. Bush?  I’ll defend the man, stoutly, on any number of points.  But his friendship with Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador who spent ten or 15 years buying up everyone in Washington who was for sale, makes me–well, let’s just say it makes me queasy.  Barack Obama?  How does our current chief executive go about showing King Abdullah that the United States of America means business?  By bowing to the king so deeply that it looks as if he’s checking whether the king needs a shoeshine.

The emerging leaders of the GOP have distinguished themselves, beautifully, by saying sane and necessary things about domestic policy.  Now a few of them need to step up to foreign relations–and offering the Saudis a brisk reminder of just how much they owe this nation would be a mighty useful way to start.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    Peter, I agree with everything you’ve said but I think you understate the insanity of our actions. By being the only country on the planet to not aggressively exploit our own energy reserves, we consciously increase the Saudi’s leverage over us……as well as other rogue players.

    After “leaning into this left hook,” we proceed to lean into the right with our bending over backwards to facilitate the spread of Wahhabi schools – as if promoting Sharia and Jihadism is something to be encouraged.

    I struggle to find any logic in our positions and actions relating to the Saudis and/or energy.

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  2. Profile Photo Member

    Americans, with that idiosyncratic contempt for corruption, do a poor job of outbidding foreigners for ownership of the corruptible element of the political class. 

    But the Saudi’s are also masters of green diplomacy as an instrument in public relations.  On a visit to Children’s Hospital in DC, there were extensive remodeling projects underway. Courtesy of a $200M grant from the Saudi royal family.

    Saudi Arabia is also a very fragile state. They require a powerful sponsor to avoid ambitious Islamic neighbors with their own views on imperialist-imposed borders and the prestige of holding Mecca and Medina.

    Finally, when I speak to my friends from India, the US comes off as a bit of a ridiculous client state to the Muslims, especially in Pakistan and the Middle East. Any illusion that the US can serve as a reliable ally will wither abruptly under the hot plasma discharge of Indian scorn in this area.  Apparently, we have done little right since being the first foreign power to recognize Indian independence.

    Acts of the Shah of Iran alone took hours to review, and he’s been out of power for over 30 years. 

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    On the other hand, at least the Saudis appear to take the threat of an Iranian nuke more seriously than does the current administration. If it weren’tfor Stuxnet, the Persians would probably have one by now, so feckless have we been, as pointed out with increasing desperation by the House of Saud.

    I also enjoyed the King’s idea of implanting Gitmo detainees with tracking devices.

    They could be a useful junior partner on some very important issues, if we’d treat them as exactly that.

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    Kennedy Smith: They could be a useful junior partner on some very important issues, if we’d treat them as exactly that. · Nov 30 at 3:12am

    My father considered an opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia for about five minutes when I was young. His company had a contract with their government and they needed skill telecom hands to staff the contract. The money was unbelievable, but so were the restrictions. Our family would be pretty much limited to the American compound. I am sure my mother could not have left the compound without a headcovering of some sort, and I’m sure driving was out of the question too. I’m with you – why we continue to accede to this nonsense is simply beyond me. My visceral reaction is, “So you’ve got a problem with us? Then sit down, pal. It’s time you hear what I think about you….”

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  5. Profile Photo Member

    It is frustrating to see the Saudi attitude of whistling up the US military anytime they feel threatened. This feeling was reciprocated during the First Gulf War with referrals to the Saudi military as “speed bumps”, and the PR hullabaloo that was made when a single Saudi fighter pilot shot down a single Iraqi fighter.

    The Saudis appear to be operating under the belief that an act of Allah, or an accident of geography, has given them the right to demand external security as part of the price of each barrel of crude. Compared to this, the “Bush-Halliburton-Big Oil” conspiracies of the liberal fever-swamps seem pretty naive.

    In the Middle East, Saddam Hussein has exited with no ripples. The Saudis seem to think that “Little Squinty” can be disposed of with little mourning. I wonder how many would miss the House of Saud?

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    Since Obama’s attitude toward Islam can best be described as “ambiguous,” we can safely assume that he will never confront the Saudis in any meaningful way.

    By the way, whenever I see that video of Obama bowing low before the Saudi king, I think to myself, “Ah. So that is where his illegal foreign campaign donations came from.”

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  7. Profile Photo Contributor
    Steve MacDonald: Peter…you understate the insanity of our actions. By being the only country on the planet to not aggressively exploit our own energy reserves, we consciously increase the Saudi’s leverage over us……as well as other rogue players.

    · Nov 30 at 1:13am

    “Insanity” is the very word for it.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Contributor


    As someone who wrote article after article about how the Saudis protect their men who marry over here, get divorced over here — and then kidnap their children in defiance of court orders to take them back to the Kingdom, I’ve never been a fan of the House of Saud. And they are no fans of mine.

    However, the only moment of warmth I had for them was when reading the news that they want Iran bombed.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Inactive
    Steve MacDonald:Peter…you understate the insanity of our actions. By being the only country on the planet to not aggressively exploit our own energy reserves, we consciously increase the Saudi’s leverage over us……as well as other rogue players.

    · Nov 30 at 1:13am

    “Insanity” is the very word for it. · Nov 30 at 8:11am

    First thing that came to mind is we need to drill our own damn oil. Every link in that supply chain (except cashier at the Kwik-E-Mart) provides an opportunity for an American to build a career and a middle to upper middle-class life.

    I am grateful to live and work in one of the world’s great harbors, Los Angeles-Long Beach.

    My employer is a savy entrepreneur who built a thriving tug and barge company. Our core business is moving oil safely.

    We also bring in big ships stacked to heavens with containers, then we take them out stacked high with empty containers.

    But our steady oil business has kept us from laying off a single employee since all hell broke loose. Not one.

    As they say in Texas: We need more of that.

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  10. Profile Photo Member

    The Saudis are what they are. They used to be a pillar of our strategic stance in the region. Basically, our allies were Turkey, Israel, Iran, and the Saudis. Iran blew up in ’79, the Turks are flaking out at the moment (maybe irreversibly, maybe not), we’ve had some very hard moments with Israel over the “peace process,” and the ground in the Arab world has shifted to where it’s quite reasonable to question just how important the Saudis are to us at the moment.

    They’re not a trivial friend to have, but given that at the moment, Iran—their long-standing hated rival in a whole bunch of ways—is about to become an existential threat to them (and we seem to have an ally in Iraq), I would think that, realpolitisch angesehen, we have a whole lot more leverage over them than we used to.

    I expect we’re using it to some degree on the counter-terrorist front, but I suppose I’ll have to go dig through Wikileaks’ cables to find out…

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