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A Mutual Defense Treaty with the Saudis Is Absolutely Unacceptable
Increasing U.S. commitments in the Middle East after the last thirty years of disastrous interventionism is deranged.
The Biden administration must be out of their minds:
The United States is discussing terms of a mutual defense treaty with Saudi Arabia that would resemble military pacts with Japan and South Korea, according to American officials. The move is at the center of President Biden’s high-stakes diplomacy to get the kingdom to normalize relations with Israel.
It is hard to think of a worse proposal than a mutual defense treaty with Saudi Arabia. The idea that our government would pledge to send Americans to fight and die for any despotic government is bad enough, but to pledge to defend this state in particular is truly vile. This is a government that indiscriminately bombs civilians, massacres refugees, executes political protesters en masse on bogus charges of terrorism, murders dissidents, and tortures female prisoners. This is the government that Biden wants the U.S. to pledge to protect.
It is also completely divorced from vital U.S. interests. The only time that the U.S. should bind itself to defend another country is when that country’s security is deemed to be of the utmost importance to our own, and no one can seriously argue that protecting the war criminals in Riyadh meets that standard. We also know that there would be nothing truly mutual about a defense treaty with the Saudis. The U.S. would be on the hook to defend them, but they would never have to honor their side of the bargain. If the U.S. were stupid enough to provide them with the protection that a defense treaty affords, it would encourage their government to behave even more recklessly on the assumption that the U.S. would bail them out if they got into trouble.
Increasing U.S. commitments in the Middle East after the last thirty years of disastrous interventionism is deranged. There is no rational assessment of U.S. interests in the region that supports further entanglement. The truth is that the Middle East doesn’t matter very much for U.S. security or prosperity, and our government has been wildly overinvesting in this part of the world for almost my entire lifetime. Committing to the defense of the Saudi government would be a fatal failure to learn from the past.
The most ridiculous part is that the Biden administration isn’t pursuing this because they really believe U.S. security interests demand it, but rather because it is (part of) the bribe needed to grease the wheels for Saudi-Israeli normalization. As outrageous as a defense treaty with the Saudis would be, that might not be enough by itself to get a normalization deal done. The U.S. will probably have to provide additional favors just to get the Saudis on board. After all, why should the Saudi government settle for just one huge bribe when the administration is so desperate to offer them whatever they want?
The good news is that a treaty like the ones with Japan and South Korea would require Senate ratification, and I don’t see something like this getting the two-thirds majority needed. It is still infuriating that something like is even being entertained when the U.S. should be significantly downgrading its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The Biden administration is going far beyond the usual hypocrisy that accompanies the U.S.-Saudi relationship, and they are making Trump’s obeisance to Riyadh seem modest by comparison. If the Republican candidates had a clue, they would be running against this day and night, but of course they don’t and they aren’t.
Jon Hoffman summed it up very well in his new report on Saudi Arabia for the Cato Institute:
The prevailing reasoning for maintaining a strong U.S.-Saudi relationship does not hold up to scrutiny. Saudi Arabia shares neither U.S. interests nor U.S. values. Saudi Arabia is not an ally. For this reason, Washington should stop treating it as such.
It follows that a defense treaty with Saudi Arabia is absolutely unacceptable. I expect that a broad majority of Americans and their representatives will oppose such a treaty if the president has the bad judgment to submit one to the Senate.