September 28, 2004

Arabian Tall-Tales and Myths

In drawing what appeared to be the loudest cheer of the day, he faulted the Bush administration for protecting Saudi Arabia's interests despite allegations that the country has aided terrorists. The criticism suggested Kerry is not afraid to embrace one of the most stinging themes of the film Fahrenheit 9/11, produced by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore.

"I will grant no one, no country, no sweetheart relationship a free pass," he said. "As president, I will do what President Bush has not done; I will hold the Saudis accountable."

John Kerry, taking his foreign policy talking points, quite underwhelmingly, straight from the annals of Fahrenheit 9/11.

Enter Michael Doran-- Princeton prof, expert on all things Saudi, and, er, loyal B.D. reader--who helps to debunk this intellectually lazy and dishonest meme (Houses of Saud and Bush, arms akimbo and in deep cuddle, poring over EBITDA projections for defense contracting plays over at a private equity shop near you--and as Poppy gets richer; the Wahabist fanatics in the Kingdom do as they please--the better so as the greenbacks roll in more swiftly...)

Doran's has an op-ed in todya's Orlando Sentinel (registration required)--but here are some of the key bits for convenience:

It is true that Saudi Arabia has been a major supporter of al-Qaeda -- but it is facile to suggest that the Bush administration could have done much about it in a pre-Sept. 11 world. Radical Islam's roots extend deep into Saudi society. Al-Qaeda is, in a sense, a domestic Saudi political party, the most extreme wing of a reactionary clerical camp that seeks to halt all forms of Westernization in the country. Osama bin Laden's pool of Saudi supporters is located far beyond the reach of the United States. Al-Qaeda's final defeat, therefore, will take place only at the hands of fellow Muslims, not Americans.

At best, the United States must play a strong supporting role by creating a political context that favors al-Qaeda's local enemies. Bush's speeches have pointed us toward the correct tool for this job: political reform in the Middle East. If the Democrats were serious about the Saudi threat, then they would repudiate Moore and call for Bush to take his own words about Middle Eastern reform more seriously.

But candidate Kerry tells us today that, if elected, he will withdraw our troops quickly from Iraq. In that event, with Iraq threatening to disintegrate and Iran going nuclear, Kerry would himself confront the impossibility of divorcing the Saudis. He, like Bush, would have no choice but to look to Riyadh for help in stabilizing the Persian Gulf. The Kerry plan for Iraq, therefore, promises us a permanent return to the U.S.-Saudi relationship as it existed on Sept. 10, 2001.

The Bush administration has mismanaged some aspects of the war, and it has underestimated the cost of doing Iraq right -- to say nothing of carrying out broad reform in the Middle East. But in the arena of U.S.-Saudi relations, the president must be credited with a number of achievements: He pulled U.S. troops out of the kingdom; he forced Riyadh to get serious regarding terrorist financing; and he precipitated a clash between al-Qaeda and the Saudi regime. The Moore notion of a Bush-Saudi conspiracy ignores the distance that the administration has already placed between Washington and Riyadh, not to mention the changes in Saudi policy toward al-Qaeda that followed in train.

But more to the point, for all its problems (and they are many), the Bush solution of reforming the Middle East to combat terrorism is the only serious plan on the table. The Kerry team tells us only that Bush -- operating out of dark and nefarious motives -- got everything all wrong. Kerry, however, has not even begun to explain how he intends to do better.

Indeed. So we have more heated, bogus rhetoric from the Kerry camp on matters foreign policy (this latest Saudi Arabia)--with no provision of truly viable policy alternatives. But that's increasingly what we've come to expect, isn't it?

Empty talk (I'll get tough on the Saudis!). Chimerical policy options (Bring the Europeans into Iraq!). Panic-stoking (Nuclear nightmare in NoKo--would that we had pursued another Clinton 'deal'!). Intellectual laziness (we'll 'train and equip' better! We'll eradicate poppy better!) Pretension ('I have been to Paris'; I have a secret plan) 20-20 Hindsight (I'd have done almost all of it differently [ed. note: Hell, at least tell us you would have done it all differently!). And, if all else fails, repeat after me: Fallujah, Fallujah, Fallujah...

As I said, underwhelming.

Oh, and here's more Saudi-related-Moore-conspiracy think that had made the rounds post-pumping up of the latest Woodward oeuvre's sales with all the predictable, hyped discussion of the requisite Bandar-intrigues. But, er, WTF? Oil's around $50/barrel. What gives? Don't the Saudis know Georgie is up for re-election? Or did nettlesome negative externalities spoil all the price fixing fun? Fallujah, perhaps. Yes, it's Fallujah that's to blame. Calling Rand Beers...


Posted by Gregory Djerejian at September 28, 2004 12:12 AM
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