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The Saudi Visit and Trump’s Unprincipled Foreign Policy

Administration officials always try to spin the president’s words and deeds to put them in a favorable light, but this is ridiculous:

No one believes this about this trip or the Trump administration’s foreign policy in general. Trump and his advisers have made closer relations with bad regional clients and combating terrorism their top priorities, and Trump made sure to say nothing at all about how the Saudis or other despotic clients treat their people or the people of neighboring countries. Trump supports the Saudi-led coalition’s atrocious war on Yemen even more eagerly than his predecessor did (and Obama practically gave them carte blanche), and any government that does that clearly isn’t concerned about defending human rights or alleviating humanitarian disasters. If we judge the U.S. by its actions under both Obama and Trump, we have to conclude that our government is much more interested in keeping despotic clients happy and “on side” than it is in opposing their indiscriminate killing of civilians and their creation of a man-made famine.


These are the wrong policies for the U.S. for all the reasons I have stated for over two years, but it is telling that they cannot be openly defended by members of the administration. So we are treated to the fantasy that the “entire trip is about human rights” when so far it has been a show of indifference to the suffering of innocent people, especially those in Yemen that are being killed and starved to death by the president’s recent hosts and their allies.

There are always practical limits to what the U.S. can do and how much influence our government has, and there are always trade-offs to be made in foreign policy, but what we see with the Trump administration’s dealings with the Saudis and other regional clients is something much less defensible. They make no attempt to rein in or challenge the clients’ abusive behavior at any point, and instead just pretend that the abuses aren’t even happening and then celebrate war criminals for their leadership and vision. To top it off, administration officials claim that the same war criminals they helping to arm to teeth are part of a coalition dedicated to protecting human rights. That’s certainly not a principled policy [4] by any definition I recognize, and it doesn’t actually advance any U.S. interests, either.

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10 Comments To "The Saudi Visit and Trump’s Unprincipled Foreign Policy"

#1 Comment By Iron Felix On May 22, 2017 @ 9:34 pm

It is one thing to deal with the House of Saud because they rule a country afloat on oil. Everyone has to hold their nose and do this if you want to buy their oil.
But showering these thugs with hundreds of billions worth of advanced weaponry while they are the ATM for terrorists around the world is absolutely criminal. We know who funds Al-Qaeda and ISIS and it is no secret to anyone.

#2 Comment By 180 Degree Turn On May 22, 2017 @ 11:19 pm

“To top it off, administration officials claim that the same war criminals they helping to arm to teeth are part of a coalition dedicated to protecting human rights. That’s certainly not a principled policy by any definition I recognize, and it doesn’t actually advance any U.S. interests, either.”

Not to mention that it amounts to doing the complete opposite of what Trump promised to do. Instead of getting us out of the Middle East, Trump now bids fair to push us in even deeper than Bush II and Obama.

#3 Comment By Brian W On May 22, 2017 @ 11:37 pm

20 May 2017 US-Saudi Arabia seal weapons deal worth nearly $110 billion immediately, $350 billion over 10 years

Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defense contractors whose technology was part of the U.S-Saudi accord, said in a statement that the deal “will directly contribute to [Saudi Arabia’s] Vision 2030 by opening the door for thousands of highly skilled jobs in new economic sectors.”


#4 Comment By rayray On May 23, 2017 @ 11:21 am

This has been the GOP’s economic agenda since Reagan, since before Reagan really. Pour breathtaking amounts of money into the defense sector to build it up to be the weapons manufacturer to the world.

And hope that trickles down a bit.

The rest of the agenda is just identity politics for the Christian Right and pork for the bankers and CEOs. One gives populist cover to their agenda, and the other pays for the elections.

#5 Comment By jk On May 23, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

Not even creating US jobs – Creating jobs in the SA and profits go to shareholders/top management of MIC players.

#6 Comment By Hyperion On May 23, 2017 @ 4:37 pm

So much for McMaster being the adult in the room. Another wacko military guy who thinks selling weapons is about achieving human rights (or lasting “peach”).

#7 Comment By Michael J. Machnica On May 23, 2017 @ 4:40 pm

I too, feel betrayed by the actions of this administration.

They are so eager to chalk up dashes in the “Win” column because of losses (primarily due to betrayals) on the home turf that seem to be selling out for short term gain.

The President did some unconventional things against popular wisdom during the campaign and it turned out all right.

I hope and pray that it does this time as well, because election shenanigans are over and this is not a video game.

#8 Comment By at the soundcheck On May 23, 2017 @ 11:49 pm

The Saudis lowered their prices so much in order to kill competing production that the family is almost broke. Their reserves are almost empty. If the US war machine was fighting for the livelihood of the West, it could produce enough evidence and change the direction.

#9 Comment By Ollie On May 24, 2017 @ 10:02 am

Thank you to “180 degree turn”. Your post yesterday recognizes that the witless Trump or the venal Trump (you pick which Trump) is doing exactly the opposite of what he promised. He getting us deeper in instead of out of the Middle East.

The fraud continues.

#10 Comment By sherparick On May 24, 2017 @ 12:08 pm

The trip KoSA and Israel also carried a single theme of “Anti-Iran” (although pretending that Assad’s biggest ally, and Iran’s partner in Syria, Russia) does not exist. War drums are beating with the object Iran. I note that Iran’s deeply flawed Islamic Republic at least allows competition in elections and some dissent. In the KoSA dissenters regarding the House of Saud are publicly tortured and executed.

McMaster just makes himself sound silly with such statements when his boss positively oozes contempt for human rights and celebrates torturers and killers around the world.