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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.