Interestingly, Peter, just by coincidence, I have two books on my desk right now: One is Gray Lady Down, which Encounter Books was kind enough to send me following our podcast discussion. The other is Mitchell Bard’s The Arab Lobby, which I’m supposed to be writing about for National Review (rather than procrastinating here on Ricochet). So I’m exceedingly prepared to discuss both of your posts at very great length. However, if you think I drive you hard, you should see what I’m doing to myself: I’m in an agony of self-loathing about this review, which I’ve been putting off for far too long.
Why am I putting it off, you ask? That should be easy for me to write about, shouldn’t it? Here’s the problem: I wrote my doctoral dissertation about the role of ethnic lobby groups in shaping US arms transfer policy toward the Arab-Israeli antagonists. I could therefore write ten pages about every sentence in that book, and I’m not kidding–I pretty much already have. The subject really requires a doctoral dissertation’s worth of comment; and the more you know about it, the more complicated it seems.
I’ll figure out somehow how to get it down to the length of a book review. And as an act of initial discipline, I’ll reply to your comment in two paragraphs. Here we go. Basically, Peter, our policy toward Saudi Arabia is a Cold War relic. We treat Saudi Arabia the way we do because institutionally–even though the policy is obsolete–we’re so accustomed to viewing the region through the Cold War paradigm that our foreign-policy bureaucracy applies to it Cold War habits of thought and action; at this point, almost unconsciously. It will all make a lot more sense if you assume that every institution through which we deal with the Saudis emerged or was shaped during a time when losing Saudi Arabia meant losing the Cold War.
The Cold War is over: This needs to stop. But just as it’s difficult to roll back programs for government spending–they become too deeply institutionally entrenched–it’s difficult to reverse generations’ worth of foreign-policy habits.
As for the New York Times–the book is excellent. It really explains a lot.