Boy, when it comes to Saudi Arabia, that Condi Rice and Bob Gates sure drive a tough bargain.
Visiting "the kingdom" (the grating, fairytale nickname for that oil-rich human-rights pit), the U.S. secretaries of state and defense delivered a blunt message: If you keep fomenting and financing global jihad; if you keep teaching and preaching the eradication or repression of non-Muslims; if you keep trampling human rights, women's rights, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech; and if you keep supporting Sunni insurgents in Iraq who are battling American troops, then the United States will be forced to act. Yessir, you can bet your bottom petro-dollar. You Saudis keep doing all that bad stuff and Uncle Sam is going to ... deliver $20 billion of cutting edge weaponry to you, ASAP.
That'll fix them.
Or will it fix us? It's easy to get things mixed up unless you remember the latest version of the Bush Doctrine: You're either with us, or we sell you smart bombs.
In the Bush administration, such appeasement counts as Grand Strategy. As the leading Sunni state, Saudi Arabia is supposed to serve as a counterbalance to Shiite Iranian terror-statism. Forget about Saudi Arabian terror-statism. And please don't wonder what happens if/when jihad revolutionaries, already thought to have infiltrated Saudi security forces, get their hands on our smart bombs. Inspired by the teachings of James Baker -- practically an honorary Saudi princeling -- Condi, Bob and George see the Saudis as Our Moderate Allies. Who cares if they promote jihad doctrine? Who cares if they sponsor Hamas? Who cares how many Saudis support (or belong to) Al Qaeda?
The Saudis and their fellow Sunni states, including Egypt and Jordan, are supposed to agree with the Bush administration that they have a stake in stabilizing Shiite-majority Iraq -- which, in Bushland, is supposed to serve as a curb on Shiite Iran, and not simply turn into the natural ally thereof. It's in the Sunni states' interests, the Grand Strategy goes, to help stabilize Iraq and to support the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians -- or, rather, between Israel and "good" Fatah Palestinians, not "bad" Hamas Palestinians. Never mind that both groups' charters call for the destruction of Israel. And never mind Saudi support for Hamas.
The Sunnis aren't buying the administration's worldview, which, in politically correct fashion, ignores the $64,000 Islamic question: Why on Allah's green earth would these states want to staunch the bleeding of ideological enemy No. 1 in Iraq? Of course, these same states are happy to buy American guns and ammo. Which may make Condi, Bob and George masters of let's-make-a-deal politick. However, that's not saying much.
But the Saudis have promised to open an embassy in Baghdad and come to peace talks with Israel, administration boosters will say. Well, not exactly. The Saudis said they will consider opening the embassy and consider coming to a peace conference. Frankly, opening that Baghdad embassy makes Saudi sense (so much easier to supply insurgents in Iraq using the diplomatic pouch). But since when is the presence of a world-class human rights violator at a peace conference something worth groveling for?
Answer: Since this week, when the United States, represented by Rice, signed a joint statement endorsing the Saudi's pet peace plan, the one that sends Israel back to indefensible, pre-1967 borders. What comes in return? Arab recognition of Israel. (Oh, joy! The retrograde human rights violators might possibly recognize the freedom-loving democracy!) This is one big booby prize. It also marks a momentous shift in American policy that proves one calamitous truth: Jihad terrorism works.
It's a dispiriting truth for a dispiriting time. American resolve has given way to American submission, and almost no one has noticed. Very little outrage over the Saudi sale has bubbled over, even in what could still be called the war camp. Israelis themselves have expressed little or no dissent. So far, with the exception of New Jersey Republican Rep. Mike Ferguson, the anti-Saudi support group seems centered in a small segment of the Democratic Left: New York Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner, Florida Congressman Robert Wexler, leftist writer Robert Scheer, and presidential candidate John Edwards. Which leaves us where, exactly? Somehow, it seems appropriate to reply: wandering in the wilderness.