The U.S. Owes Saudi Arabia Nothing
The president announced tonight that he is waiting for instructions from the Saudis on what U.S. foreign policy should be:
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019
We have seen many times over the last two years how the president has been eager to do the Saudi government’s bidding and to help them cover up their crimes. Now he is giving them an opportunity to drag the U.S. into a war with Iran. Even if we were all confident that the president and his officials weren’t deceiving us about who the “culprit” was, that doesn’t mean that military action would be appropriate or legal. This should be an occasion to realize how dangerous the crisis has become and to find some way to deescalate tensions with Iran. It absolutely should not be used as a pretext for starting a war. It is a testament to the president’s own belligerence that we may once again be on the cusp of an avoidable war with Iran over something that has nothing to do with U.S. security.
The U.S. is not obliged to come to Saudi Arabia’s defense. No matter who was responsible for the attack on their oil installation, the U.S. has no business responding with military action. Saudi Arabia is not an ally in any sense of the word. We have no mutual defense treaty with them, and we are not required to come to their aid when they are attacked. In all likelihood, this attack was the result of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing aggression against Yemen, but even if it wasn’t there is no American commitment to fight on their behalf.
Even if the U.S. were obliged to come to the Saudis’ aid, the president cannot initiate hostilities on the say-so of a foreign government. An attack on Saudi Arabia is absolutely not considered an attack on the U.S., and unless Congress authorizes military action the president cannot legally order a military strike against anyone under these circumstances. If the president ordered military action against anyone in response to this attack, he would be acting illegally and violating the Constitution. Congress must make it clear that he does not have their support in this matter, and any military action that he orders will be unauthorized and unconstitutional.
Trump’s Iran policy has created this crisis, and his excessive attachment to the Saudi government threatens to make things even worse. The current situation is more proof that the administration’s Iran policy is a dangerous failure and its extremely close embrace of the Saudis is itself a threat to U.S. interests. We owe the Saudis nothing, and a president who actually put American interests first would say as much. Unfortunately, Trump has repeatedly put Saudi interests ahead of ours, and he may be about to do that again.