Meanwhile, in the department of background, I’ve got a column at The Week about the incredible ability of the U.S.-Saudi alliance to get ever-stronger even as our interests and values diverge further and further:
How do the Saudis do it?
The “it” is managing to get successive American administrations to offer ever-greater support even as the political context that once justified that support changes beyond recognition. . . .
The robust endurance of the Saudi-American relationship is the perfect case for illustrating the perversities of geopolitics, but it is far from the only case. Why does the United States continue to maintain close ties with Pakistan, which has been more overtly hostile to American interests than Saudi Arabia has, and who has a regional rival in India of far more potential value to America than Saudi Arabia’s rival, Iran, could ever plausibly be? In part, because imposing sanctions on Pakistan failed to prevent it from going nuclear, but damaged America’s influence within the country, while we were willing to pay for even fitful cooperation against the Taliban and al Qaeda.
So, too, with Saudi Arabia. We no longer need their oil; we are no longer trying to keep their oil out of Soviet hands; our cultures and values have almost nothing in common. But inasmuch as we have interests in their region — and we do — we have a profound interest in them being less-hostile, less-threatening, than we imagine they might be if given their full druthers.