Monday, January 15

Why Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, but not Iran, Syria?

I posted variations on this text at a few sites, and I've gotten some great responses, but so far the best has come from Haroon Moghul (dangit, why'd he delete his old blog's archives? Now how am I going to share his incredible Dubai article with people?).

The original text:

I don't get it. This morning on NPR, I heard Condoleeza Rice say something to the effect that we wouldn't be talking to Iran & Syria, asking them to stop funding Iraqi insurgents and seeing what they want in return for that.

Interestingly enough, we're not announcing that we're going to ask Saudi Arabia, etc. them what they want to get them to stop funding insurgent groups--we're going to ask them what they want to get them to do...well...just what I'm not sure...something to stop Iran & Syria from funding Iraqi insurgent groups.

But, hey, if that makes sense, and Iran's side & Saudi Arabia's side are doing the same thing, why not talk to Iran and ask them to stop Saudi Arabia from funding Iraqi insurgent groups? :-)

The point is...why are we on the Saudi-etcetera side only?

Iran has oil, too, so that can't be it. They're both states with a lot of "morality laws" and "morality police" to enforce them. They're both oppressive dictatorships who keep people who want more relevant Islamic principles as well as more liberal principles to rank higher in politics down & unheard. (The "morality laws" are the way the states pretend to be including Islamic principles in politics. They lock up the people who say, "But those aren't the aspects we considered important!" up & throw away the key.)

They just ain't so different. So what's the deal? Why are we treating them as if they were two totally different types of political system with two totally different types of interaction with religion?

What is our advantage in trying to get one side to put the other side's efforts down instead of trying to get both sides to scale their own efforts down?

I'm not asking this as, "Bush sucks!" kind of criticism.

I'm asking this to wonks who might be more perceptive or intuitive than I am.

I want to know of our proposed approach: what's in it for us, according to the approach's proponents?

Only once I know that would I consider starting to critique or criticize the policy.

Haroon replied, in a comment called, "A Few Good Reasons Why:"

When Iran overthrew its Shah in 1979, Americans learned that no native population can be so pliant as to be used, abused and manipulated solely for good as we perceive it to be. This shock, to the system, birthed our role in mutating the monster that was becoming Saddam. This realization has frightened Americans as it has all imperialists in the past: A native population, with a representative government and an ideology of resistance, cannot be crushed. The days of old-style wipe-out-the-native-resistance is gone; weaponry, media and resources are too diffuse for that brief moment in European genocide ahem expansion and Renaissance to come again.

But who then can America's ally be? Israel, of course, can never reject America -- not without ceasing to be the Israel it has, for decades, been; so long as Israelis believe they are like a colony in an alien world, they will never reject American support. (Or, if they do, it will be because they will find a bigger, better sugar daddy - just as Weizmann went from the Ottomans to the British and then the Israelis went to the Americans.) Saudi Arabia is a useful ally in this regard to, for several reasons

Firstly, it is not and never has been a real country; its population is unlikely to revolt against American interference because it has no national idea around which to rally -- and movements that have no national idea, and national base, nearly always (if not every single time) fail and fail miserably. We live in a world of nations. This is why Saudi "resistance" either goes the road of severely parochial tribalism (the reality of Saudi society, the means by which Saudis practice divide) or a malignant, internationalized Wahhabism, a la Osama Bin Laden... the means by which the Saudi royals practice conquer...

Secondly, Saudi Arabia's royal family knows that when the going gets tough, they'll go out Saddam style, albeit properly enough, with a lot more embarrassed knees-knocking. (Saddam, a brutal tyrant? Yes. A coward? No.) Saudi Arabia has no legitimate government -- it is the result of breeding aided and abetted by rentier stipends. When the going gets tough, nobody's going to care about the Saudis. Nobody. Even their support, the Wahhabi establishment, probably does du'a after every salat for a suitably sickening mass decapitation.

Not to mention oil. Oil, oil, oil.

Saudi isn't Iraq, or Egypt, or Iran, or Turkey. It isn't a country. It's a fiction that continues to be imagined by way of oil revenue, and a convenient one for US interests. Israel is too small, too controversial and, increasingly, too militarily weak to hold together the Middle East the way America wants it to be held together. America needs a new ally. But who can America rely on? Has to be a big country, of course, with money and resources. (Qatar is not Krazy Glue, in other words, and Dubai never will be.) But America learned in 1979 it can't trust a secular despot ruling over a proud, nationalistic, generally strongly-Shi'i people. We learned in 2003 that we can't even trust a well-secularized population, namely Turkey, because as a democracy, the Turks will look out for number one.

Saudi Arabia's number one is its ruling family. Saudi Arabia is America's hostage. A rich one, too. Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, they can never be as humiliated, as pathetic, as hypocritical, as militarily lame -- for all the Wahhabi bravado, their record is pretty pathetic -- as Saudi Arabia is and has been for several decades now.

Don't make friends with someone who can give you a bloody nose. This has nothing to do with human rights, with ideology, with some kind of attachment. It's power politics, plain and simple, and the Saudi royals keep digging themselves in deeper and deeper (into American pockets and defense networks.) They're useful precisely because, in the absence of their oil money, they would be useless. They know this, and know that nobody else can use them in quite the same way.

Boy, is that man good at analyzing current events through the lens of how colonialism affects decision-making today without being the annoying kind of "Colonialism is the only factor in everything!" academic that's easy to shoot down. :-)

But what a depressing outlook. Is nothing suggested in this book a realistic proposal?

Or are the suggestions about asking non-allied countries single short-/medium-term requests (modeled off of contributing diplomats' perceived "success stories" from the past) only realistic and possible for the United States when all the other states involved in a situation are of relatively equal "nationness?"

Click here for more answers I've received to my first question and my replies to those answers.
I'd love to see how you feel they compare to Haroon's response--better?
Saying the same thing?

Can you come up with anything that could be done to prove them all wrong and get us to make requests of all sides in this situation?

[insert this text later]

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