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April 7, 2003

Matthew Yglesias is perplexed:
I would just note that there’s something very odd about the neoconservative attitude to the Saudi question. The basic neocon paradox is that they’re hoping to make the Bush administration the agent of their agenda, but the entire Bush family (and the bulk of the GOP foreign policy establishment) is more-or-less a wholly-owned subsidiary of the House of Saud. What’s more, if you read the out-of-power neocons they seem to agree not only that the Saudis are bad but that Saudi Arabia, rather than Iraq or Syria, is the primary problem state in the Middle East. The solution to this has been to adopt a rigorous program of wishful thinking whereby fighting a series of wars against Saudi Arabia’s regional enemies with the assistance of the Saudi government will miraculously undermine the House of Saud’s power despite the (apparent) support of the president of the United States for the monarchy’s continued rule.

There’s doubtless some devious Strausian logic to pursuing this course of action rather than the much more obvious one of just trying to pressure the administration to distance itself from the Saudi government, but whatever it is, it’s far too esoteric for me to grasp.

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Comments on Matthew Yglesias:

johnzo ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2003, 10:24 PM:

Let me echo all the blogly praise for the Atlantic Monthly's article on the House of Saud.

The way the Atlantic paints them, the Saudis would make terrific fictional villains. They're a real depraved bunch, sucking off the oil-teat and buying their stairways to heaven. The death watch on King Faud was particularly creepy: Fahd's brothers called in truckloads of foreign doctors, seeking to extend Faud's life beyond that of elderly and reform-minded Crown Prince Abdullah, who had a strong claim on the throne. That's the stuff of a great genre epic.

I wish the Saudis were only fictional, though, because the rest of the Atlantic article is really frightening. In particular, this passage was yikes-worthy:

Just to make sure that no one upsets the workings of this system, perhaps by meddling in internal Saudi affairs, Saudi Arabia now keeps possibly as much as a trillion dollars on deposit in U.S. banks .... The Saudis hold another trillion dollars or so in the U.S. stock market. This gives them a remarkable degree of leverage in Washington.

Seems like Saudi control transcends the Bush family and their cronies. Given that, can the neocons afford to be anything but passive-aggressive towards them?

Maybe the neocons are hoping that American adventurism will touch off some kind of popular Islamist uprising in Saudi Arabia, so that the U.S. can cruise in from their new bases in Iraq, put down the revolt, garrison the 101st Airborne permanently at Abqaiq, and then usher the frightened House of Saud off to a comfy exile somewhere.


Faisal ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 12:30 AM:

[snarky]Maybe the theory is that every war we fight (with the House of Saud's support) will cause the street to get more inflamed until they rebel and overthrow the Sauds, who have to flee to Miami like people escaping Castro. Then the rebellion will form a democracy where they can vote on how much they hate us. Meanwhile, the Saudi exiles' influence will wane once they have to control their zillions from within the US rather than from thousands of miles away. It's much harder to deal with distractions like "Baywatch Nights" than, say, ruling a country.[/snarky]

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2003, 06:37 PM:

Incidentally, I just noticed an LA Times article that had a headline and sub-head something like "Saudi Arabia's slow move towards democracy: almost no one wants to rush in". My immediate thought was, if "almost no one" wants a quick transition to democratic rule, why don't they put it to a vote, and let the majority decide?

I guess I'll have to read the article to see what exactly they meant by "almost no one".