I haven’t posted about the disappearance and presumed death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi for a simple reason. This isn’t a news blog; it’s an analysis blog. Analyze what?
I have been saying all along that Mohammed bin Salman was no liberalizer; he was just trying to consolidate power. He’d taken the rubes by letting women drive. That was a shot across the bow of religious conservatives, another step in consolidating power.
Apparently, the realization that the Saudis are illiberal and likely to stay that way has come as a bolt from the blue to Robert Kagan. In his Washington Post column he blames it on Trump:
The reported murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post contributor, in a consulate in Istanbul is one of those moments. It symbolizes the departure of the United States as a restraining force against evil actors in the world. Saudi Arabia is a small nation that cannot defend itself without the support of the United States, and therefore no Saudi leader would have made such a brazen move without confidence that Washington, once the leader of the liberal world order, would do nothing.
Far be it from me to defend Trump but can Mr. Kagan name any post-war American president who’s stood up to the Saudis, denied them something they wanted? I seem to recall that President Obama supported the KSA’s illegal and immoral war against Yemen, that despite the manifest evidence of Saudi involvement in the attacks on 9/11 President Bush refused to hold the Saudis accountable, and so on back all the way to the first diplomatic contacts between the United States and Saudi Arabia in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency.
If ignoring the malevolence of the Saudi regime is a sign of the encroaching jungle, we’ve been overgrown by it for decades. They are not our friends. They are not our allies. At most they’re our clients. At best they’re our “frenemies”.