Saudi Arabia Deal | A Farewell to Arms

Quick thoughts …

So, what is the Saudi-arms deal about?

Well, this is one aspect of what former President Dwight Eisenhower warned about in his famed “military establishment” speech on Jan. 17, 1961: “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.”

Eisenhower was concerned with the costs of an arms race with the Soviet Union, and the resources it would take from other important areas in American society. We have that same concern today, and more — acquiescing our democratic values for the sake of jobs, oil and a perceived  “win” in the fight against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia will continue to use those arms to kill people in Yemen and flex its muscles to Iran. Apparently, the U.S. is okay with the shrapnel of detonated weapons plastered with “MADE IN THE U.S.A.” lying on the ground next to dead Yemenis. Just so long as the U.S. gets to bolster its defense industry, securing jobs in 44 states — which is why Congress always votes for this deadly deal.

Don’t be fooled into buying the Trump Administration’s phrasing of the deal as a “symbol of America’s renewed commitment to security in the Persian Gulf.” It means death and death only. When Derek H. Chollet, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under Pres. Barack Obama, says he sees this deal as “continuity”, what’s lost in that single-word ambiguity is that the arms deal is more about the Saudis fighting for us at OPEC than anything else. (That’s why Sec. of State Rex Tillerson is on this trip. Maybe he can work some deals for Exxon too and his Russian pals at Rosneft.)

It’s the continual mutual suck-up by two countries using the other. It’s the continuation of decades of failed policies in the Middle East. Some may see these American moves, especially paired with Obama’s Iran deal, as a brilliant way to fund a stalemate — feeding the appetites of both sides. But in truth this musty deal is an example of the failure of the political imagination and turns a blind eye to human rights for the sake of American jobs, oil and other peoples’ lives.

And now, even more dangerously, we’ve got the publicly mute Jared Kushner calling Marillyn A. Hewson — the chief executive of Lockheed Martin — in a late-night phone call (to make himself look important), asking her if she can cut the price of Thaad for the Saudis — like he was bartering in a Nogales trinket market.

There’s nothing historic about this, despite Tillerson calling it as such today. Chollet’s word, “continuity”, may be ambiguous but it’s not far from the the truth. This deal isn’t about Islam or fighting terrorism. It’s about going on with going on. Continuing the continuing, never mind the limbs and disintegration of American values. We’re getting in deeper with Saudi Arabia,  leaning toward the Philippines and Russia, in policy moves that are more than uncomfortable. His naive administration was busy doing the “sword dance” and getting so suckered by Saudi pomp that it adopted the Saudi position against Iran, surely a bad actor on the international stage, but nonetheless a fighter against Sunni Jihadi terrorism.

Tillerson mentioned “Iranian extremism” while speaking to the press with Adel al-Jubeir, but never forget 15 of 19 911 terrorists were born in Saudi Arabia, not Iran. To steal a phrase from writer Ernest Hemingway, this is nothing more than a farewell to arms — in both armaments and appendages.  — DDR

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