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Wednesday, August 07, 2002
The Case Against the Saudis

Here's something I've been meaning to write for a long time. It's not really about the culture wars, but more about the war on terrorism. I hope you guys don't mind the foray into political issues!

The latest news is that the Saudi government will not allow U.S. troops to launch an attack against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq (an action I support). This is only further proof that our real enemy in the war on terrorism is Saudi Arabia. In a briefing last month to an advisory board to the Pentagon, a Rand Corp. analyst reached the same conclusion (thanks to National Review's 'The Corner' for the links). It appears now that the end of the war on terror will only come with the end of the Saudi regime.

As my dad is fond of pointing out, before the oil shock of 1973, radical, fundamentalist Islam was only a marginal ideology in the Muslim world. Secular Egypt and Lebanon were the cultural centers of the Arab world, and people were exposed to contemporary Arab art and music (quick question: how many Arab musicians can you name?). The major political trends in the Middle East combined Leninist socialism with pan-Arab sensibilities. This pan-Arab movement was distinctly secular and leftist, and was completely different from the theocratic, pan-Islamism we are seeing today.

The drastic rise in oil prices in the 1970s changed all of that. With the center of Muslim wealth and power shifting to Saudi Arabia (by far the largest oil producer in the Middle East), the dominant political export of the region became Wahhabi radicalism. Since then, the U.S. has treated the Saudis as valuable friends and allies, while the entire time the Saudis have been proliferating a message of hatred and violence towards America. Their regime is awfully reppressive and generally backward (your arm gets chopped off if you steal a loaf of bread in the 'Kingdom'). While America allowed radical Islam to thrive, radical Islam turned around and waged war with America.

This brings us back to the Saudi reluctance to support a war in Iraq. Eleven years ago, when the battle-hardened Iraqi army was at the borders of Saudi Arabia, the Saudis did everything in their power to help us diffuse that threat. Today, when it doesn't serve their purpose anymore, they calmly snub us while maintaining that they also believe in ending radical Islamic terrorism. But, as the Rand briefing states, "the Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader." It becomes clearer every day that the end game in the war on terror will be regime (and hopefully name) change in Saudi Arabia.