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The Backlash Against Trump’s ‘No Daylight’ Saudi Policy

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky attack [1] the Trump administration’s fawning treatment of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman:

The Trump administration seems clueless and paralyzed. Right now, we have a bizarre role reversal: The Saudis are acting as if they’re the senior partner in the relationship—and have convinced Trump that the U.S. needs Saudi Arabia more than it needs the U.S. and that what the Saudis do for the U.S. requires great sacrifice on their part and isn’t in the Saudi national interest. Nothing could be further from reality. Why the administration is unwilling or unable to use the leverage it possesses to alter Saudi Arabia’s damaging behavior is not clear—but it’s not good for America.

Trump’s Saudi First foreign policy is definitely no good for the U.S., but it does serve as a useful cautionary tale about what pursuing a “no daylight” policy looks like in practice. The common hawkish complaint against Obama during his presidency was that he was too critical of “allies” and didn’t do enough to support them. When Trump came to power, he made a point of undoing that by catering to all of the whims of the reckless clients that Obama has supposedly “snubbed.” The only way to have “no daylight” with other states is if the U.S. chooses to give their interests priority over our own, and when dealing with the Saudis and other regional clients this is exactly what Trump has done. That has put the president and his officials in the ridiculous position of running interference for the Saudi government with Congress and the public.

The funny thing about a slavish “no daylight” approach to any international relationship is that it harms the relationship in question while discrediting the administration that is bending over backwards to preserve it. The more that Trump declares that his subservience to the Saudis is proof of that puts America first, the more obvious it is that no U.S. interests are served by covering up for the crown prince’s many crimes. Trump and Pompeo’s over-the-top propaganda efforts on behalf of the Saudis haven’t silenced critics or increased support for keeping U.S.-Saudi ties as they are. On the contrary, they have caused more senators to turn against the Saudi relationship and the war on Yemen to varying degrees, and they have proven that there is no Saudi outrage that they won’t try to whitewash or ignore. Maintaining “no daylight” with another state is ultimately unsustainable because no government can consistently put the interests of another state ahead of the interests of its own country, because sooner or later the citizens of that country will turn against such a noxious, one-sided relationship. That is beginning to happen with the U.S.-Saudi relationship because of Trump’s determination to put Saudi Arabia first, and the backlash is long overdue.

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4 Comments To "The Backlash Against Trump’s ‘No Daylight’ Saudi Policy"

#1 Comment By Sid Finster On December 5, 2018 @ 11:22 am

[2]

The linked article more or less conforms with my SWAG, which is that Trump behaves so slavishly towards the Saudis, because he either knew of the Khashoggi murder in advance and did nothing, or he actively consented to the murder.

The CIA knows this, which is why the story is not allowed to die. After all, it’s not as if the CIA has moral concerns over torture or murder.

#2 Comment By Not America On December 5, 2018 @ 8:28 pm

“Maintaining “no daylight” with another state is ultimately unsustainable because no government can consistently put the interests of another state ahead of the interests of its own country, because sooner or later the citizens of that country will turn against such a noxious, one-sided relationship. “

And over time, the country that enjoys the “no daylight” treatment very predictably turns into a total swine.

After Israel started receiving the “no daylight” treatment, it gave us literally no help for seventeen years during the bloody, costly fighting of the Middle East wars that followed 9/11. Even though, as Bin Laden said at the time, we were attacked on 9/11 mainly because of Israel. Not only did Israel shirk the fighting, not only did it contribute nothing towards the bills, it continued to swill foreign aid at world historical levels from the hard-pressed US taxpayer, even during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, when Americans were out of work and suffering the worst economy in a generation.

The swinish behavior of Saudi Arabia is now well known. Arrest, torture, and murder of political opponents, an illegal war in Yemen featuring the systematic starvation and bombing of children, doctors, first responders, innocent civilians.

And what did America get for “no daylight”? Easy. We got 9/11. We got seventeen years of Middle East wars. We got trillions of dollars poorer. We got Israel building more West Bank settlements, triggering more terror attacks. We got saddled with the moral stink of what Saudi Arabia does in Yemen (and to reporters), of what Israel does to unarmed protesters in Gaza.

And that’s how “no daylight” plays out.

We do what they say. They do as they please.

#3 Comment By Gaugemela On December 5, 2018 @ 10:04 pm

@Not America : “And what did America get for “no daylight”? ”

Mostly agree. But you don’t mention that when America went “no daylight” with KSA and Israel, we inherited their enemies. That’s crucially important. It’s driving the current craziness regarding Iran.

#4 Comment By john On December 6, 2018 @ 10:38 pm

I can’t even achieve “no daylight” with myself.. Part of me wants another beer (I like beer) and part of me thinks it would be wrong.