Oh, now he tells us


In this week’s Economist, a book review begins thus:

THE United States must befriend Turkey and Iran while loosening its ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Must it? Let’s see: court Turkey from a position of weakness, and put on our flirtiest nijab to see if Iran will consider downgrading us to “Sorta Kinda Satan, depending,” then loosen our ties with the region’s most successful democracy and the regrettably indispensable kingdom that sells us vital oil. It’s crazy, but it just might work! Who’s saying these brave things?

That is the central message of a new book by Stephen Kinzer, a former Middle East correspondent of the New York Times.

Ah. I’m sure these thoughts came to him when he ceased to be a Times correspondent, undertook a mental high colonic to purge his mind of the journalist’s objectivity, sat down with chin against his fist in the classic “Thinker” pose, and mused “Now how do I really think about things?”

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    Read though the magazine last night and that is exactly how far I got into the review before I flipped the page.

    Nice of them to let us know, right at the start, that we can ignore both the book and the review, confident that we are missing nothing.

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  2. Profile Photo Editor

    The weird thing is that Kinzer used to be an excellent observer of Turkey. He wrote a very good book about the country called Crescent and Star about, maybe, 10 years ago? He’s absolutely not stupid. Something very weird has happened to a lot of journalists who cover Turkey — see my earlier posts about Hugh Pope, for example. I’m not sure what happened to Kinzer. I’d like to read his book just to see how his thinking has evolved.

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    I see no problem in befriending Iranians like Neda Soltan, but we’re a little late.

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    Canada sells the United States most of its imported oil. What oil the US doesn’t get domestically or from Canada it gets from Mexico. Saudi Arabian oil represents a small, possibly even a tiny, fraction of US imports. So please enlighten me on how the thieves that make up the House of Saud are an “indispensable kingdom” to the US. The only thing that the House of Saud exports besides oil is a domestic revolution in the form or Wahhabist Islamist terror, and that’s something we can all do without. The sooner this “indispensable kingdom” and its vile leadership falls in on itself the better the world will be.

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  5. Profile Photo Member

    Actually, the US imports quite a bit of Saudi oil.  See here.  

    Lucky for us, the House of Saud puts wealth above jihad.   Not to say that Saudis and probably their leaders don’t rejoice a little when a strike is blown against Israel or the West, but the only thing standing between the US and the Saudi populace’s full-fledged hostility is the House of Saud.

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  6. Profile Photo Contributor


    I’m not sure I’m in the enlightenment business, but I can explain what I meant. Indispensable was chosen at haste; perhaps “necessary” is more like it. I have no love for the house of Saud. Zip. If ever I found myself President I would send a kind but firm letter indicating there would be no hand-holding, and never mind your customs. You reach for my hand, you’re going to get a knuckle sandwich. That’s our custom.

    That said: whether or not we get most of ours from Canada is less relevant to my point than the fact that they sit on 20% of the globe’s oil, and that makes them necessary. They are opposed to Iran’s ambitions. We have a military relationship – yes, the main airbase was closed, but there are five more, and even when they’re shut there’s probably lots of materiel pre-positioned, just as squirrels bury nuts.

    I would prefer a relationship with a secular Iran content to prosper without messianic hegemonic desires, but that seems unlikely, and it would seem unwise to cast off a lousy but sporadically useful ally to placate the mullahs.

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  7. Profile Photo Inactive


    The US has a history, not that it is unique in this, of declaring the enemy of my enemy my friend. This has not worked out well. You are correct in stressing that oil is fungible and a negative impact on Saudi production would have worldwide implications in the form of price. That said, the Saudi’s would like nothing more than to have the US take out Iran, and you can bet they would be forever ungrateful. What bothers me about arguments over sunk costs—your airbases for instance—is that the world is, I think, beyond them in that if you really want to blow something up and you are the US there is not much to stop you from doing it. Lastly, when the House of Saud goes the way of the tsars; as they surely must for even they are running out of money with which to keep everybody happy, these assets will be indefensible and likely lost to hostiles. The only way to prevent this is for the US to defend the House of Saud. At the risk of posing a hypothetical question, how likely is that?

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  8. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’m with you on Iran and trying to disconnect the country from any inclinations the leadership might have toward promoting the arrival of the 12th Imam, long may he remain in hiding. Last I heard he was in the Vatican’s secret archives, and to date only Dan Brown knows about it. Knowing Dan, though, I’m sure there’s a mediocre book in it somewhere. Apparently Tom Hank’s is looking to burnish his creds in the Middle-east and has optioned the screenplay. John Ratzenberger, I’m told by sources I deem unreliable but fun to listen to, is interested in playing a certain German Pope. I think it’s the white socks that attracted John to the role. The Adidas tie-in is for John too much to resist. It may all work if Hanks gives the Pope directorial credit, which would make the Pope the first infallible Director in Hollywood since Cecile B. De Mille. Although, James Cameron would argue the point now that the gulf oil blowout has been capped.

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  9. Profile Photo Contributor

    Cas: I see your point, but if the US did take out Iranian facilities – something I do not expect to happen – Saudi ingratitude would be somewhere down on the list between Monaco’s impact on tourism and the rote condemnation of sleek Eurocrats who privately supported the move.

    The house of Saud may not be fated to rule forever – who is? – but short-term, say, the next ten years, I expect another Prince of two to run things as usual. The regime does not seem as brittle as the Iranian regime, and hence perhaps more likely to change, however tortuously and incrementally, into something less malodorous. Whether this would be like France before the Revolution, where accommodations accelerated the overthrow, I don’t know – but regimes based on money tend to muddle along, and regimes based on faith (the 12th imam, divine right) tend to crack. Which is why I would support undermining the Iranian regime by all possible means. Surely that is the greater immediate threat.

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  10. Profile Photo Contributor

    By the way, I don’t know if Ratzenberger (John) would play a Pope-bashing role. From what I understand he’d be right at home here at Ricochet.

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