Home/Daniel Larison/Why Should We Want to “Keep” the Saudis?

Why Should We Want to “Keep” the Saudis?

Ibrahem Qasim/Flickr: air strike in Sana'a, May 2015

The Wall Street Journalasks “who lost the Saudis?”:

That headline question may seem premature, but it’s worth asking if only to reduce the odds that the Saudis are lost as we enter the last perilous year of the Obama Presidency.

Rather than asking “who lost” Saudi Arabia, here’s a better question: why should we want to “keep” them? Perhaps at one time the benefits of having the Saudis as a client outweighed the costs, but those days are long gone. Saudi Arabia is not only a useless and reckless client, but it is increasingly a liability. As we can see from its campaign in Yemen and its destructive meddling in Syria, it is also something of a regional menace. Saudi Arabia inculcates jihadism among Muslims in many countries, supports destabilizing policies throughout the region, wages a pitiless and stupid war against its poorer neighbor, and on top of all that it is an especially abusive despotism. The connection with the Saudis has cost the U.S. an extraordinary amount, especially over the last quarter-century, and it has gained us virtually nothing.

The U.S. hasn’t “lost” the Saudis, and it has been going out of its way over the last year not to, but it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for the U.S. if we did. The Obama administration’s failure here isn’t that they’ve alienated Riyadh, but that they’ve bent over backwards for the last several years to placate them and indulge them. The war on Yemen is the most obvious and appalling example of this, but it is representative of the extent to which the U.S. supports and covers for a client regime that provides the U.S. nothing but headaches and problems.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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