Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Skepticism Is Not Isolated

Not too long ago I expressed what some would doubtless consider surprising skepticism at the Bush Administration's plan to sell Saudi Arabia another $20 billion worth of our top-of-the-line military hardware. My argument was that F-15 fighters would do little to counter Iranian nuclear missiles, and what with the momentum built up behind a U.S. retreat from the Middle East, all this weaponry may end up in the hands of the Islamist regimes that replace Hosni Mubarek in Egypt and, of course, the House of Saud.

It appears I'm far from the only right-of-center-ite to see problems with this prospective transaction (via the Tank):

[T]he wisdom of arming the Saudis hinges in no small part on Riyadh remaining for the next few decades what it has been for the past six: a nominal ally of the U.S. It hinges, too, on the likelihood that the deal will advance American interests, and not just those of the Boeing Corporation, much as the two are sometimes confused. In both cases there is considerable room for doubt...

But whatever direction Saudi Arabia takes in the future, there's also the question of what the U.S. gets from the arms sale. In an interview Sunday with Fox News' Chris Wallace, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that "the Saudi government announced that it's going to put an embassy in Baghdad, something that we have hoped they would do for quite some time." The State Department has also tried to entice Saudi Arabia to attend a regional peace conference with Israel later this year.

In fact, the Saudis have not announced their intention to put an embassy in Baghdad, merely their willingness to discuss it with an Iraqi government they have demonized at every turn. They remain similarly equivocal about the conference. It's an old Saudi ploy. In November 1981, Abdullah, then the kingdom's deputy prime minister, mooted a "plan" that promised recognition of Israel at a time when he was seeking to buy AWACs radar planes from the Reagan Administration. The sale was approved; the plan disappeared...

Equally misguided is the Administration's argument that arming the Saudis is necessary to counterbalance the growing power of Iran. If containment is what the U.S. wants, Saudi F-15s will not be of much use against an Iranian bomb. But those fighters might ultimately find their use against Iraq's Shiite-led democratic government, whose air force consists mainly of junkyard Warsaw Pact equipment. Why we have neglected Iraq's justified military needs while lavishing top-of-the-line equipment on the Saudis is a mystery future historians will have to ponder.

I would imagine one reason is that we didn't want state-of-the-art American military equipment falling into the hands of our enemies after an Islamist takeover of Iraq. That's frankly the only circumstance in which I can envision the Saudis attacking northward. But then again, as I contended last week, why would the mullahgarchy send their mediocre regular forces into Iraq and Saudi Arabia when they could simply use nuclear blackmail to bring both countries into submission instead?

We do have a habit of distributing our war toys hither and yon and ending up facing them in depressingly avoidable combat. The seemingly obvious answer to that dilemma - that we should do our own fighting and finish these conflicts before they can fully flare against us instead of arming proxies of questionable reliability - somehow never makes it onto the drawing board.

Well, I take that back, it did - briefly - half a decade ago, after bloodthirsty foreigners invaded our country and murdered three thousand of us. It'll be long time - and a lot of needlessly spilled American blood - before such hard-headed prescience recurs again.