An important U.S. ally

Why are we so cozy with Saudi Arabia, again?

Each year, Saudi Arabia employs, through consultants or otherwise, a host of retired American generals, diplomats, intelligence experts and others. Until now, they could assure themselves this was a win-win: lucrative for them, to be sure, but also enhancing mutual understanding with an important U.S. ally.

Now, as more and more evidence implicates Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the reported murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Saudi diplomatic property in Istanbul, the equation has changed.

Not really. Saudi Arabia is a theocratic hell-hole that abuses women and girls, foreigners, atheists, dissenters – most people it can reach, in fact. The murder of Khashoggi is just more of the same.

Fred Hiatt imagines a retired military man explaining to his daughter why he takes a paycheck from the Saudis.

“You see,” he says, “we need Saudi Arabia’s help to stand up to the really bad actor in the region — Iran.”

“Oh,” she says, hoping this answer will be more satisfying. “What makes Iran so bad?”

“Well, they don’t let their people express themselves freely, or practice the religion of their choice, or even dress the way they want,” the colonel replies.

We know what the next lines are before we read them. So Saudi Arabia does? Er, no.

Even if we still needed Saudi Arabia’s oil, which we do not; even if Saudi Arabia [were] a strong and principled ally in the region, which it is not; even if it helped push the Palestinians toward peace, or kept its promises in Yemen, or bought the weapons that Trump thinks it is going to buy. . . . No matter what Saudi Arabia offered, could its supposed friendship be worth shrugging off the ensnaring and killing of a critic whose only offense was to tell the truth?

Is that the country we want to be?

No, but I thought that long before the murder of Khashoggi.

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