The Saudis are doubling down on their denial that they had anything to do with the disappearance of Washington Post journalist and sometime Saudi insider Jamal Khashoggi: “enemies of the Kingdom,” they say are responsible. Nowadays that includes an awful lot of people, as the Washington cognoscenti rush to distance themselves from a regime once hailed as an exemplar of “reform.” It’s a stampede for the door, and soon there will be no on left standing: one rarely sees a collapse like this, at least when it comes to entire countries. One minute they’re on top of the world with Donald Trump, playing with swords and getting away with murder: the next minute they’re international pariahs.
Threatening “major consequences” if it turns out the Turks are right and the Saudis interrogated, tortured, and murdered Khashoggi, Trump may do far more than merely cut off Riyadh’s arms supply. He may decide to stop backing the Saudis entirely, abandoning their role as the anchor of US policy in the region, and subsequently downplaying and eventually abandoning the anti-Iranian obsession that has so far overshadowed our regional policy.
The anti-Trump left that bothers to pay attention to foreign policy has been bloviating for months that the President is on a “march to war” against Tehran. With the Saudis in the doghouse, the principal lobbyists on behalf of the drive to war – outside of the Israel lobby – that’s one march that’s increasingly unlikely to happen.
Also increasingly unlikely: continued US support for the Saudis’ murderous war on the Houthis of Yemen. As revulsion against what probably happened to Khashoggi spreads – they cut up his body and transported it back to the Kingdom! – the entirely correct idea that the Saudi rulers are barbarians who cannot be dealt with by civilized people will rapidly spread. This will leave only their Israeli allies – hardly in a better public relations space themselves – to defend what remains of Riyadh’s prestige.
The collapse of Saudi influence in Washington will block the war plans of the neocons in Washington who think they have a chance to turn Trump into George W. Bush. Absent the Saudis’ relentless pressure, the America Firsters in the administration who remember why Trump was elected will have the political weight to prevent another Mideast war.
Perhaps even the hardliner Iranians, who have vowed never to negotiate with Trump, will seize the moment and realize that now is the time to get Washington off their backs, although for domestic political reasons public negotiations do seem out of the question for the moderates.
One very worrisome aspect of the Saudi spectacle is the degree to which it may represent the last days of a system that is de facto terminal. Mohammed bin Salman, the 38-year-old ruthless despot who’s killed dozens of rivals and even kidnapped the Prime Minister of neighboring Lebanon, was initially seen as a harbinger of reform: it now seems that, more accurately, this Caligula-like figure represents the Saudi Kingdom at the end of its tether. In which case the question arises: what comes after the Saudi royal family? I don’t think I want to find out.
On the Korean front, Trump is running up against the reality that he’s not really in charge: the two Koreas are moving fast, far ahead of where the US is ready to go. Yet Trump may have set off a series of events that, like an avalanche, can only go in one direction. The South Koreas must follow our lead, insists the President in public, a grave insult to the government of President Moon and his people. Yet Moon just sits back and coolly observes that the US can hardly stop the two Koreas from dismantling their sanctions. The momentum is too far gone to stop or even slow down now.
Yes, we live in fascinating times, and you never know how things are going to turn out: the conventional wisdom is no guide these days. What’s needed is distinctly unconventional wisdom that avoids the partisan nonsense that dominates so much newsgathering today. We don’t operate that way: here at Antiwar.com, we give you news and analysis of the world’s hotspots without regard for the tender feelings of any politician.
We’ve been doing our job for over twenty years, the most comprehensive and cutting edge coverage of international affairs currently available on the internet – and updated constantly.
Oh yes, we’ve been doing our job, working 24/7 to debunk the War Party’s latest fusillade of lies – but we can’t continue to do it without your financial support. That’s the way we’ve carried out our mission: we’ve always been a reader-supported grassroots institution, one of the few in the world of journalism. Oh and did I tell you we have matching funds? No?
Well, looks like a bunch of generous readers got together and pledges $32,000 – but only if we can match it in smaller contributions. Yes, there’s always a catch, isn’t there? But we can make it – with your help. Please make your tax-deductible donation today.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.