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 at September 28, 2004 12:12 AM
Comments

It may be underwhelming, but this blaming of candidates for problems that are largely out of their control (Saudi al-Qaeda support here) has been par for the course for as long as we've had elections. Both sides do it. Obviously as the supporter of one guy you have to stress the misrepresentations of the other, and there's no problem with that, except that it's silly if you want a meaningful discussion.

Oh and specifically, I fail to see how pulling troops out of Saudi can be called an "achievement", except perhaps for bin Laden. One of his short list of stated goals, after all.

Posted by: Stefan at September 28, 2004 12:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Um, how exactly did Bush precipitate this clash between Al Qaeda and the Saudis?

Please point to concrete things Bush did to spark the conflict.

Posted by: praktike at September 28, 2004 01:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Stefan doesn't agree that it was beneficial to pull the troops out of Saudi Arabia. Just because bin Laden didn't like them, however, doesn't mean they were doing us any good there. Our troops were stationed in the kingdom to enforce the sanctions on Iraq, which were crumbling. At the same time the American military presence was an irritant to Saudi sensibilities. So the forces had outlived their usefulness. Our need to keep them in place in order to enforce a failed policy simply gave the Saudis leverage over us. Evacuating the troops while Saddam was still in power would have handed the Iraqi dictator a significant victory: the retreat would have been read by everyone in the region as an admission that we were not going to do anything about him.

On top of all this, September 11th demonstrated just how unreliable the Saudis had become as allies. Not only had they failed to curtail the anti-American activities of bin Laden on Saudi soil, but they also had proved themselves to be blissfully unaware of the threat to their own rule. Washington would have been deeply unwise to have continued to base its strategic position in the Gulf on the US-Saudi relationship. These factors played a very large role in convincing the administration to go ahead with the war.

With regard to Praktike's question, the Bush administration sparked a conflict between the Saudi regime and al-Qaeda by first collecting intelligence from Afghanistan, Guantanamo detainees, etc. It then handed over lists of names to Riyadh and demanded that the Saudi authorities round up members of al-Qaeda whose identities were known to the United States. This pressure forced the hand of the organization, which had been debating whether it was wise to carry out acts of violence inside the kingdom. It had decided not to jeopardize its sweet position in Saudi Arabia by provoking the authorities with terrorist attacks. The American pressure changed altogether al-Qaeda's cost-benefit calculation.

By pursuing the war in Iraq -- against the will of Riyadh -- the Bush administration put muscle behind its demands. The war sent a clear message to Riyadh that business as usual had ended -- that it had to start cleaning up its act. Until we started to put troops on the ground in Iraq, we were met with complete indifference from the Saudis, who basically said, "Ya, ya, ya, We've heard it all before. Why don't you stop provoking us by supporting Israel?" It's no accident that the Crown Prince started talking seriously about reform in the kingdom in late April 2003, within weeks of Saddam's fall, and that the first al-Qaeda bombs went off less than a month later, on 12 May.
It's true that the current mess in Iraq has once again taken the heat off of Riyadh and given the Saudis more leverage over us. But Kerry's notion of pulling out of Iraq won't reverse this process: it will accelerate it.
Sincerely,
Mike

Posted by: Mike Doran at September 28, 2004 02:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I believe in a "more sensitive war on terror". I keep returning to that phrase because 1) it describes something which I really do favor, and 2) Mr. Kerry's one-time use of that phrase was distorted by our Vice President, who distorts with impunity.

One aspect of a more sensitive war on terror is an appreciation of the popular Arab and Muslim grievances which al Qaeda terrorists exploit in order to increase popular support for their evil actions.

Usama bin Laden listed three grievances in his declaration of war against American civilians:
1) The suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation.
2) The suffering of the Iraqi people under UN sanctions.
3) The "occupation" of the keeper of the holiest sites of Islam -- Saudi Arabia -- by American troops.

I'm in favor to "sensitivity" to these three grievances, and quite honestly, that DOESN'T mean I'm like that warm-hearted novelist Alice Walker, who expressed sympathy for Usama bin Laden's hurt feelings soon after 9/11/01.

When I was in 10th grade, our awful European History textbook stated that Otto von Bismarck initiated some social reforms in order to "take away the Socialists's bird-call". (At the time, being young and stupid, I was for the Socialists.) By analogy, addressing Arab and Muslim grievances takes away the radical Islamists's bird-call.

Since one of those Arab / Muslim grievances was the "occupation" of Saudi Arabia by U.S. troops, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia can be considered an "achievement", not for Usama bin Laden, but for the U.S.

Posted by: Arjun at September 28, 2004 02:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's not that I agree or disagree about whether the US pullout (or pushout, if you prefer) was beneficial or not.

My point was simply that it's silly to label this as an "achievement" by the Bush administration, as though it was some calculated, strategically-motivated act. It was a reactionary move. The US was pressured to leave.

Posted by: Stefan at September 28, 2004 03:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some prominent Democrats (such as Senator Biden, whom I greatly admire) complain about Fallujah in order to sound "tougher" than the Bush Administration. According to these Democrats, I suppose, "We need to go back in there right now! Don't wait until AFTER the U.S. election to conquer Fallujah -- that would be too cynical and too political! Instead, conquer Fallujah right BEFORE the U.S. election! And don't ask Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi what he thinks -- it's none of his busness! Besides, he's only a puppet!"

Posted by: Arjun at September 28, 2004 03:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for the US being pressured to leave, the US didn't really want to be there given the restrictions placed on the troops. Their only purpose was the containment of Iraq and to lesser extent the containment of Iran. But after 9/11, absolutely the only way to get out of there was to take out Saddam. Otherwise it would look like a capitulation to terror. I really wish that Clinton hadn't maintained and increased our presence in Saudi Arabia during the 90s, given the attacks on them in the country and given the onerous restrictions placed on them, especially the women.

If the Bush administration intended to precipitate a confrontation between the Saudi's and al Qaeda, they will never admit to it. It's simply something that you do not admit to in public. But there is no doubt that there actions did precipitate a conflict.
Some of the other ways, in addition to the ones listed above, that the Bush administration precipitated a conflict between al Qaeda and the Saudi government by getting whatever limited cooperation the Saudi government would offer for the war in Iraq, and then leaking its existance. The cooperation involved using the command and control facilities built on Saudi soil and a lot of fuel for the invasion. Al Qaeda and like minded groups and individuals in Saudi Arabia didn't care for even this level of support for the invasion, and let there displeasure be known by going on a violent rampage. This was something I anticipated and hoped for prior to the invasion, because I knew that this was the only way the Saudi government would take the threat they allowed to fester seriously. It's just not something that you publicly admit to hoping for, because it does involve successful acts of terrorism. For the past 25 years they have tried to preserve stability in the kingdom by nurturing and exporting Wahabbism. The only way to stop this is for the Saudi's to suffer at the hand of the monster they created.

Posted by: ATM at September 28, 2004 05:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

By the way the same idea applies to Pakistan. The only reason the Pakistani government will do what it takes to destroy Taliban and al Qaeda forces in their territory is for those same forces to become a threat to Pakistan. You have to pressure them to take just enough action against al Qaeda, so that al Qaeda starts to take actions against them. I don't think Musharraf would have done much to take on al Qaeda until al Qaeda started trying to assasinate him. Pakistan would rather maintain internal stability than stir things up.

Posted by: ATM at September 28, 2004 05:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The large-scale presence of U.S. troops in the Middle East, which is of course absolutely necessary at the moment, tends to provoke Arab and Muslim resentment. This resentment is eagerly exploited by al Qaeda terrorists for recruitment, funding, and sanctuary purposes. So unlike the neo-con cakewalk crew, I'd like to see fewer U.S. troops in the Middle East.

The regime change in Iraq has necessitated a substantial but hopefully temporary increase in the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East. While the regime change policy is not succeeding at the moment, I believe it may eventually succeed, and in that case, there may be fewer U.S. troops in the broader Middle East four years from now than there were four years ago. If that happens, it will be good for the U.S., and will certainly qualify as an American "achievement".

Posted by: Arjun at September 28, 2004 03:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

More incoherence from the Kerry camp, which seems to be stuck in the world of the last century. Earth to Kerry: the world does not turn on the European axis anymore. Time you learned a little bit about those complex, fence-straddling non-European frontline states that do not belong to NATO and that don't give a damn about the UN.

If you sum the various allegations made by Kerry and the Dems' leadership, you have a nullified bowl of mush.

Bush is doing the bidding of the Saudis (who opposed the overthrow of Saddam) and should overthrown Saddam.

Bush should have increased our troop strength.
Bush should endeavor to leave the Iraqi quagmire and bring our troops home as soon as possible.

Bush is needlessly alienating allies, like the French, who have opposed increased NATO troops in Afghanistan and oppose any NATO presence in Iraq. Bush has bribed and coerced non-allies (like Australia) who are needlessly endangering their own citizens' lives by participating in the Iraq folly.

Bush has installed a puppet regime in Iraq that is brutally cracking down on democracy. Bush has failed miserably to increase security in Iraq.

Re. Iran, Edwards proposes more Carterism of the sort that gave North Korea a free pass into the nuclear club.

Re. China, silence. Re. Russia, India, Turkey, Japan, silence.

Peter Beinart's right: Dean would have made at least a coherent case. Hell, anyone this side of Mikey Boy would be more coherent. When will the Dems' heavies recognize which century we're living in?

Posted by: lex at September 28, 2004 04:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For what its worth, the Saudis have ramped up production and exports of oil, but other factors have interfered with any downward movement on pricing. This is from August 12, 2004:


In an effort to calm jumpy markets, Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, said today that it held 1.3 million barrels of idle capacity that could be used to meet demand. Saudi Arabia currently produces 9.5 million barrels a day, according to the energy agency.

Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, said the kingdom was trying to ensure stability in the oil market "and prevent oil prices from escalating in a way that may negatively affect the world economy or oil demand."

"For achieving this goal, the kingdom has increased its production during the last three months to meet the growing demand for Saudi oil," he said, in a statement distributed by the Saudi Press Agency. "This increase amounted to more than one million barrels per day, bringing to more than 9.3 million barrels daily the average production of the kingdom during the past three months.

"The Saudis are trying to calm the market now and said they're ready to provide the barrels needed," said Lawrence J. Goldstein, president of the New York-based Petroleum Industry Research Foundation. "That's a welcome comment."

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 28, 2004 07:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am struck by the acknowledgement that we must negotiate with terrorists and their state sponsors:

"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."

Also by the acknowledgement that the struggle is for the hearts and minds of Muslims, who themselves must prevail over the radical fundamentalists:

"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."

I don't necessarily disagree with these points, but they do run counter to many of the opinions I have seen in this site's comments field.

Personally, I do not think the invasion of Iraq was the best way to promote democratic reform or strengthen the opponents of al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, in many instances, the opposite has occurred in the sense that the efforts of the reformers have been undermined and their popularity tarnished while the fundamentalists have grown more powerful and revered.

If your efforts are counterproductive, then no plan is better than the one you follow. But perhaps there were or are ways other than invasion to promote democratic reform. I'm not sure those have been fully fleshed out or regarded.

As for pressuring the Saudi government, perhaps some good has come out of it, although much of the movement seems to have come from our withdrawal of troops and the use of the intelligence garnered from Afghanistan and the related detainees at Guantanamo.

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 28, 2004 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It should be noted that government of Saudi Arabia is not a necessarily a state sponsor of terrorism but rather a state sponsor of wahhabism, which in the end means they are a sponsor of terrorism supporting environments. Saudi society on the otherhand is more of a sponsor of terrorism, and has been for centuries.

As for troop withdrawals, I wish we were able to withdraw them faster from the region. Generally I wish we could pull troops from most parts of the world. The simple fact is that putting them there a) puts them in harms way b) involves the subsidizing of the defense of others by the American taxpayer c) gives other nations excuses to insult us without feeling that there may be consequences in that we won't come to their aid because we are already there d) and allows other nations to allow their defense capabilities to atrophy which means they can't contribute squat.

One thing I have to say about withdrawing troops from the Middle East. The very fact that their mere presence offends Arabs and Muslims reflects very poorly on them. So while I agree we should get out, I'm not so sure we should do so because we are being sensitive, because what we are being sensitive to is their religious bigotry, racism, tribalism and xenophobia.

Posted by: ATM at September 28, 2004 11:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ATM,

I take your point about the delineation between the Saudi government's support for Wahhabism as opposed to al-Qaeda, but I think that some elements in the Saudi ruling class have blurred that line - even government ministers. Certainly some of the funding can be traced back to government figures, even if not an official government position.

Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between Wahhabism and al-Qaeda since al-Qaeda itself is becoming more of an ideology and less of a centralized structure. In that sense, al-Qaeda is winning because their ideology, and the copycat organizations it inspires, is spreading faster than we can contain it.

It is imperative that we take some of the appeal out of the al-Qaeda narrative. That is easier said than done, but ignoring the ideological battlefield would be catastrophe.

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 29, 2004 12:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael Doren debunks the Mooreonic conversion. Good show!

Posted by: Capt American at September 29, 2004 12:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ATM is right: religious bigotry, racism, tribalism and xenophobia are widespread and pernicious phenomena in the Middle East.

On the other hand, nationalism is a normal sentiment. Pat Buchanan recently told Chris Matthews he understood nationalism in other countries, because as Americans we want leaders who are "the same race, the same color, the same religion as we are." While I was perplexed by the fact that Pat Buchanan apparently doesn't think I'm an American, I understand Pat Buchanan's point.

I'm a personal beneficiary of the legacy of British imperialism in India, but on a personal level, I don't anything that reminds me of imperialism. For example, while I felt that Lieutenant General Jay Garner was modest and respectful, I felt that Ambassador Paul Bremer was immodest and disrespectful.

It is conceivable and understandable to me that Arabs might see Western troops as an unwanted reminder of imperialism, and as President Bush correctly pointed out, "Nobody likes to be occupied."

Posted by: Arjun at September 29, 2004 04:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The saudis tried to work out a deal with Bush. Bush told them what he wanted and they told him what they wanted. They wanted US troops out of saudi arabia, and they wnted a peaceful solution to the israel/palestine problem. Both of those caused them trouble. Getting TV pictures of israelis shooting palestinians and bombing palestinians etc made it hard for the saudis. Their subjects wanted them to do something about it and they looked weak when they couldn't do anything.

Bush agreed to the deal. He had a vision of two peaceful sovereign nations, israel and palestine.

Bush got the troops out of saudi arabia. But instead of doing *anything* toward a deal with israel and palestine, he instead invaded iraq. Now the saudis see TV pictures of israelis shooting and bombing palestinians, and inbetween those they see pictures of us shooting and bombing iraqis. Abu Ghraib didn't help either.

The saudis have a strong sense of personal honor, it's a serious thing to welsh on a deal. (Not to say they'd never do it, but it's a serious thing that they won't do lightly.) No matter how bad Kerry is for them, how can they expect Bush to take them seriously if he breaks his personal word and completely gets away with it?

There was a story some moths ago that Bush asked the saudis for low gasoline prices for the election, and they promised him that. Both sides denied it. It wasn't true.

The reason gasoline prices have been dropping even while oil prices are rising is a complicated domestic one. Part of it is that american refineries have been set to make more gasoline and less fuel oil etc. So there's no gasoline shortage but there may be a fuel oil shortage coming up, after the election.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 30, 2004 07:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

I have no doubt that high ranking officials in Saudi Arabia funded and supported al Qaeda and other Wahhabi terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia and Iran are not efficient police states and have no single center of power unlike in a dictatorship with one man at definitely at the top like in Iraq under Saddam or North Korea. There is a balance of power between different factions in the ruling class, and different factions have different views and do things that other factions object to. It should be noted that the Saudi government shouldn't need to resort to supporting al Qaeda if they agreed with bin Laden's top demands. They could have asked the US to leave and they could have asked for something to be about the sanctions against Iraq.

The problem with fighting al Qaeda in the tactical environment that existed right after 9/11 is that despite their successes in the US the most vulnerable targets for terrorism were our forces deployed in the middle east who were participating in containment. As long as they are there they will be a far easier target for al Qaeda. Successful attacks against those forces would keep the organization alive and improve the recruiting ability. But as a result of 9/11 we could no longer pull them out without looking like we capitulated to the demands of terrorists until the reason for them to be there in first place no longer is an issue. This made Iraq the central problem, and made it so that the road out of the Middle East passed through Baghdad. Obviously this is a difficult road to traverse, but given that our losses and injuries in the containment of Iraq from the end of the Gulf War I to 9/11 were so high, the costs of finally solving the Saddam problem became acceptable to me. It's better to lose troops who are actively trying to improve the situation and pushing for a solution than to lose troops in who are sitting ducks in a never ending containment operation. I wish that the Bush administration made this argument in supporting action against Iraq, though I can understand why they would saying this so as to avoid any hint of the idea that they are doing this because they are taking terrorist demands into consideration.

Posted by: ATM at September 30, 2004 08:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The end of the last sentence should be:

though I can understand why they would not say this so as to avoid any hint of the idea that they are doing this because they are taking terrorist demands into consideration.

Posted by: ATM at September 30, 2004 08:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nationalism is a normal sentiment in nations where everyone feels they are treated fairly by their government and their fellow countrymen. Nationalism in most countries is strong because most people are a member of the dominant ethinic group. Nationalism doesn't seem to me to be as strong in most of the Middle East because in most countries there is one racial, ethnic or religious group, often a minority, that is ascendant over the rest and takes advantage of their position. We have also seen a number of trannational movements in the ME like Wahhabism or Pan-Arabism or Ba'athism that is supported by one religious or racial group in a country that would be objected to by other groups in the country.

I would say that the predominant nationalism in the US, despite what Buchanan and like minded people think, is based on political theory and ideas rather than on race or religion. The Constitution for most people is the basis of our nationalism. I don't think there is any country quite like that, because it is only possible in a country that was built on immigration and with a independent streak. Canadians and Australians have accepted a lot of immigrants but at the same time their historical ties to the UK are stronger. Besides if there is such a thing as Canadian nationalism, it's really them trying to find a way to show that they are not American. And Quebec complicates the issue of defining a national identity.

Posted by: ATM at September 30, 2004 08:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It was with great pleasure that my office at the US Embassy in Riyadh hosted Mike Doran during a visit in 2002. His candor caught the Saudis' attention, and kept it.

I'll argue, though, a somewhat different argument. It was mutually satisfactory to both the US and the Saudis to have US forces--other than limited numbers involved in training missions--leave the KSA.

The Saudis weren't really under popular pressure to get US troops out: most Saudis didn't even know they were there. "Losing" 5K troops in a country that size was easy, particularly since the US forces were well-dispersed. No one, for instance, saw the increase in US--and allied--troop strength at Pr. Sultan Airbase as war with Iraq grew closer. The 3K normally stationed there went to close to 25K. And to this day, most Americans, and Saudis, aren't aware that the war was directed from PSAB.

The Saudis did get pressure from UBL, though, and that pressure was relayed through multiple sources antipathetic to the Saudis for any number of reasons.

For the US, having troops in the KSA was just getting to be a royal pain. Troops did not relish the assignment. Families were miserable there. Single troops--male and female--were bored to death and had very little to do with their free time. Off-base, they were way out of their comfort zones and didn't know how to deal with a seriously different culture.

When the war in Iraq made Operation Southern Watch unecessary, both sides were equally delighted to say "enough" and for the US to leave.

Neither side pressured the other, but both were happy the circumstances allowed a mutually favorable outcome.

I'll draw a line distinguishing Wahhabism and Al-Qaeda, as well.

Wahhabism certainly creates favorable conditions for extremism. It is intolerant and narrow-minded. But the Saudis inadvertently compounded their problem of fundamentalism when they recruited teachers from Egypt, Pakistan and India during the 1950s-60s to staff their schools. The teachers available to live in a hell-hole were those who could no longer stay in their own environments: Muslim Brothers and Deobandis who were being threatened with jail or death for their own extremist interpretations of Islam.

If there are stones that could/should be cast at the Saudis, among them is their utter carelessness.

Figuring that they had "good, safe fundamentalists" teaching their kids, they didn't bother to keep track of just what was happening. They did the same thing in not policing how charitable donations were being used/abused. Too much trust was put in people who looked good only because they had strict Islamic credentials.

Posted by: John Burgess at October 1, 2004 12:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A little help, here?

I'm trying to track down when exactly I read an article in the New Yorker about Pakistani Warlords being caught between the Pakistani government and Al Queda. It was this summer, and I need it for a project I'm working on. Basically, I thought the intelligent, thoughtful readers/commentators on this site would be my best bet on finding someone else who read it. Does this ring any bells with anyone? Thanks.

Posted by: Scott Gimple at October 8, 2004 12:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al Qaeda was able to function when it hi-jacked Afganistan and then developed a safe area for their training of terrorists and specialists to help carry out their terrorist acts. The Western societies cannot stop well planned terrorist acts, all the time. Look at England with the IRA, the IRA admitted that they weren't successful all the time, but the limited times that they were successful made life fairly difficult for the English.
To stop al Qaeda Bush was correct, retake Afganistan and remove al Qaeda. This was a brilliant action by President Bush. The next problem was to remove other countries that would support terriorism. Iran would have been the logical choice, except for their location and the tighter control of the radical clerics. Iraq became the best choice, The people are more assertive and capable, they could be self-sufficient, with oil and being able to feed themselfs. Bringing Iraq into being a secular nation, ( I don't like the word secular) but with more liberty, self-sufficiency it can be a leader in the middle-east for improving the standards for all middle-eastern countries.
It would also be a wedge between Syria and Iran, isolating them and removing opportunities for making trouble.
Usama Bin Laden is a spoiled rich kid with an ego to match his money. He was involved in fighting the Russians, but it took American money and equipment to defeat the Russians. I have read that when Saddam invaded Kuwait, he offered his arab fighters in Afganistan to defeat the Iraqis and the Saudi's turned him down, and that is the cause of his deep hatred for the Saudi Royal family.
Bush is the only person that has a good vision on defeating terrorism and it has worked very well. Of course not everything will work perfectly all the time, but so far Bush is way ahead of anyone else.
Kerry is a rich spoiled boy, without a clue on how to solve the problem. The Democrates settled for a boy to do a man's job.

Posted by: Harold Cutler at October 20, 2004 03:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al Qaeda was able to function when it hi-jacked Afganistan and then developed a safe area for their training of terrorists and specialists to help carry out their terrorist acts. The Western societies cannot stop well planned terrorist acts, all the time. Look at England with the IRA, the IRA admitted that they weren't successful all the time, but the limited times that they were successful made life fairly difficult for the English.
To stop al Qaeda Bush was correct, retake Afganistan and remove al Qaeda. This was a brilliant action by President Bush. The next problem was to remove other countries that would support terriorism. Iran would have been the logical choice, except for their location and the tighter control of the radical clerics. Iraq became the best choice, The people are more assertive and capable, they could be self-sufficient, with oil and being able to feed themselfs. Bringing Iraq into being a secular nation, ( I don't like the word secular) but with more liberty, self-sufficiency it can be a leader in the middle-east for improving the standards for all middle-eastern countries.
It would also be a wedge between Syria and Iran, isolating them and removing opportunities for making trouble.
Usama Bin Laden is a spoiled rich kid with an ego to match his money. He was involved in fighting the Russians, but it took American money and equipment to defeat the Russians. I have read that when Saddam invaded Kuwait, he offered his arab fighters in Afganistan to defeat the Iraqis and the Saudi's turned him down, and that is the cause of his deep hatred for the Saudi Royal family.
Bush is the only person that has a good vision on defeating terrorism and it has worked very well. Of course not everything will work perfectly all the time, but so far Bush is way ahead of anyone else.

Posted by: Harold Cutler at October 20, 2004 03:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al Qaeda was able to function when it hi-jacked Afganistan and then developed a safe area for their training of terrorists and specialists to help carry out their terrorist acts. The Western societies cannot stop well planned terrorist acts, all the time. Look at England with the IRA, the IRA admitted that they weren't successful all the time, but the limited times that they were successful made life fairly difficult for the English.
To stop al Qaeda Bush was correct, retake Afganistan and remove al Qaeda. This was a brilliant action by President Bush. The next problem was to remove other countries that would support terriorism. Iran would have been the logical choice, except for their location and the tighter control of the radical clerics. Iraq became the best choice, The people are more assertive and capable, they could be self-sufficient, with oil and being able to feed themselfs. Bringing Iraq into being a secular nation, ( I don't like the word secular) but with more liberty, self-sufficiency it can be a leader in the middle-east for improving the standards for all middle-eastern countries.
It would also be a wedge between Syria and Iran, isolating them and removing opportunities for making trouble.
Usama Bin Laden is a spoiled rich kid with an ego to match his money. He was involved in fighting the Russians, but it took American money and equipment to defeat the Russians. I have read that when Saddam invaded Kuwait, he offered his arab fighters in Afganistan to defeat the Iraqis and the Saudi's turned him down, and that is the cause of his deep hatred for the Saudi Royal family.
Bush is the only person that has a good vision on defeating terrorism and it has worked very well. Of course not everything will work perfectly all the time, but so far Bush is way ahead of anyone else.

Posted by: Harold Cutler at October 20, 2004 03:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al Qaeda was able to function when it hi-jacked Afganistan and then developed a safe area for their training of terrorists and specialists to help carry out their terrorist acts. The Western societies cannot stop well planned terrorist acts, all the time. Look at England with the IRA, the IRA admitted that they weren't successful all the time, but the limited times that they were successful made life fairly difficult for the English.
To stop al Qaeda Bush was correct, retake Afganistan and remove al Qaeda. This was a brilliant action by President Bush. The next problem was to remove other countries that would support terriorism. Iran would have been the logical choice, except for their location and the tighter control of the radical clerics. Iraq became the best choice, The people are more assertive and capable, they could be self-sufficient, with oil and being able to feed themselfs. Bringing Iraq into being a secular nation, ( I don't like the word secular) but with more liberty, self-sufficiency it can be a leader in the middle-east for improving the standards for all middle-eastern countries.
It would also be a wedge between Syria and Iran, isolating them and removing opportunities for making trouble.
Usama Bin Laden is a spoiled rich kid with an ego to match his money. He was involved in fighting the Russians, but it took American money and equipment to defeat the Russians. I have read that when Saddam invaded Kuwait, he offered his arab fighters in Afganistan to defeat the Iraqis and the Saudi's turned him down, and that is the cause of his deep hatred for the Saudi Royal family.
Bush is the only person that has a good vision on defeating terrorism and it has worked very well. Of course not everything will work perfectly all the time, but so far Bush is way ahead of anyone else.

Posted by: Harold Cutler at October 20, 2004 03:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It looks good to see my name for three different letters, but I apologize. I had two rejections for writing derogatory remarks about someone. So apologize for slandering UBL,

Posted by: Harold Cutler at October 20, 2004 04:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It looks good to see my name for three different letters, but I apologize. I had two rejections for writing derogatory remarks about someone. So I apologize for slandering UBL,

Posted by: Harold Cutler at October 20, 2004 04:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Reviews of Belgravia Dispatch
"Awake"
--New York Times
"Must-read list"
--Washington Times
"Always Thoughtful"
--Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
"Pompous Ass"
--an anonymous blogospheric commenter
Recent Entries
Search
English Language Media
Foreign Affairs Commentariat
Non-English Language Press
U.S. Blogs
Western Europe
France
United Kingdom
Germany
Italy
Netherlands
Spain
Central and Eastern Europe
CIS/FSU
Russia
Armenia
East Asia
China
Japan
South Korea
Middle East
Egypt
Israel
Lebanon
Syria
Columnists
Think Tanks
Security
Books
B.D. In the Press
Archives
Categories
Syndicate this site:
XML RSS RDF

G2E

Powered by