I made this point in a casual bloggy way, so I’m very glad to see it made more rigorously by a highly regarded author and commentator. In Time, Fareed Zakaria punctures the notion that the Saudis are the Mideastern ally which must be catered to (this has become a new neocon meme, especially useful for those who want to downplay the Israel lobby’s role in influencing American Mideast policy.) Key Zakaria graf:
If there were a prize for Most Irresponsible Foreign Policy it would surely be awarded to Saudi Arabia. It is the nation most responsible for the rise of Islamic radicalism and militancy around the world. Over the past four decades, the kingdom’s immense oil wealth has been used to underwrite the export of an extreme, intolerant and violent version of Islam preached by its Wahhabi clerics.
Quite so. There may be no sound reason to oppose the Saudis, or even to assume their kingdom will go the way of all monarchies sooner rather than later. But treating them as a highly trusted ally with veto power over American diplomacy is a bit much. Personally I was taken aback when a liberal friend, the brilliant Jim Chapin, shortly after 9/11 described the Saudis to me as a viper clasped to our bosom, but can understand where he was coming from. In any case, Saudi Arabia shouldn’t be granted any kind of veto power over our negotiations with Iran, any more than Taiwan had over our dealings with China. Be friendly. . . absolutely. Keep them informed. . . of course. Stand ready to defend them against external aggression. But remember, Saudi Arabia is the international affairs equivalent of the rich heir who never worked a day but gives nice parties. A thin reed upon which to base American diplomacy in the Mideast.
But you have to admit, it is amusing to see all this neoconservative solicitude for Saudi concerns.