Surely we can all grasp how this will play in the ME: Saudi towel-head at the ranch with Bush--all smiles...Was there a pig-free Bar-B-Que involved? Perhaps this was a very public way of letting his electorate know that he is worried about gas prices. If so, I hope they are smart enough to see how this plays into the left's vacuous grassy-knoll logic (no, I'm not saying that we should give a shit about the tin-hat crews' thinking).
We know that the Saudi royal family has a royal pain in the ass in the form of home-grown terrorism and that it threatens the shieks as much as the cowboys. We also know that the Saudis have given us much political and intelligence support throughout the Iraq compaign. That being said, we also are treated on a regular basis to snippets like this from Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan, chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council:
This is the appointed Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, one of the right hand men of the Crown Prince. The direct result? Articles like this that close with comforting words:
"If someone knows that he is capable of entering Iraq in order to join the fight, and if his intention is to raise up the word of God, then he is free to do so," says Luhaidan in Arabic on the tape. He warns Iraq is risky because "evil satellites and drone aircraft" watch the borders. But he says going is religiously permissible. "The lawfulness of his action is in fighting an enemy who is fighting Muslims and came for war," says Luhaidan.
In return the Bush administration has softened demands for wide-scale political reform in Saudi Arabia. In briefing reporters Rice and Hadley refused to comment on whether President Bush had pressed Abdullah to release the three dissidents and their lawyer jailed after signing a petition calling for the kingdom to be turned into a constitutional monarchy. While insisting that Washington would continue to call upon the Saudi government to encourage "wider participation" in government, Rice stressed "this is going to be a Saudi process, and something that is going to reflect the approach, history and culture of that country". Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser Hadley praised Riyadh's effort in the fight against terrorist groups, saying the "Saudis had made really good progress in fighting terror". It must have all played like music to the ears of Saudi officials.If we are to believe the author, the Saudies will get a pass from the radical reform we are supporting elsewhere in the region because it issued a few statements supporting the removal of Syria from Lebanon. This is not comforting, seeing as Saudi Arabia still sees the occasional honor killing or the occasional stoning of a heretic.
The joint statement issued at the end of the summit also pledged Washington's support for Saudi membership of the WTO and announced the formation of a joint foreign ministerial committee to follow up on discussions on strategic issues. The Americans also promised to ease the restrictions that led to a sharp decline in Saudi visitors to the US following the 11 September attacks.
I'm with Victor Davis Hanson when he states:
The next problem we face is not that we have pushed democracy too abruptly in once-hostile lands, but that we have not pushed it enough into so-called friendly territory. It is, of course, dangerous to promote democracy in the Middle East, but more dangerous still to pause in our efforts, and, finally, most dangerous of all to quit before seeing this bold gambit through to its logical end, an end that alone will end the pathologies that led to September 11.Hansen maintains that the most powerful aspect of Bush's ME policy is its absolutism, and I have to agree. That aspect of his foreign policy has served America well overall. The most recent manifestation of that was the excellent news that Israel is getting bunker-busters from the US (hat tip- Charles and Noah). It just seemed strange that the news came the same week as the pig-less Bar-B-Que.
Perhaps I am asking too much, after all he is the president, not Allah. It would be foolish to flush our entire economy into the toilet by shunning the Saudis. I just think that in this current climate, when the entire world is watching our experiment in the ME, the very appearance of evil should be avoided.
Noah Adds: Don’t worry Sean, I happen to know that they’re just good friends (though with privileges) and that they’re still seeing other people. It’s not serious, although there are rumors that Saudi Crown Douchebag is going to pop the question and ask Bush to join his harem. Whitehouse insiders say that Bush will accept no diamond under five carats and Saudi Crown Douchebag is only willing to go to three. America is safe!