U.S. Out of Saudi Arabia


Last month, Laurent Murawiec of the Rand Corporation briefed the Defense Policy Board on Saudi Arabia's links to terrorist groups, declaring the desert dictatorship "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. After the Washington Post revealed yesterday that the briefing had taken place, the administration rushed to distance itself from Murawiec's views (and, as usual, to imply that whoever leaked the report is just short of a traitor). Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia itself has made it clear that it will not be a staging ground in any attack on its former foe Iraq, with which it is now negotiating a trade agreement.

Saudi Arabia's connections to terrorism are hard to deny: As Seymour Hersh put it, it's paying "protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it." But that doesn't mean Murawiec's approach to the issue is very constructive. In the Post's words, the Rand analyst says the United States should "demand that Saudi Arabia stop supporting terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States." In other words, rather than keeping troops in Saudi Arabia to prop up its nasty government, we should keep troops in Saudi Arabia to fight its government, by expropriating its most valuable resource. There just might be some other alternatives.

I'll spell one out: We should get the troops out of Saudi Arabia altogether. This won't just end what is, in effect, an indirect subsidy to a war against American civilians. It will remove the chief grievance of the terrorists making that war. It's hard to defend a policy that encourages murderers to target us and, simultaneously, gives them aid and comfort. So why not leave?