We’re not buying it anymore!
The Hill wrote an article about how democrats want to show Saudi Arbia who’s boss if they win the 2020 election.
Surely, they’ve done focus-testing and realized Americans really don’t like Saudi Arabia. But we know from the past that the Washington consensus has no interest in forsaking Saudi Arabia (I suggest Adam Curtis’s documentary Bitter Lake for more on this, if you have 2+ hours).
Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate with a leg to stand on on this topic, since he’s been the most vocal critic of the genocide in Yemen, and as the article points out, one of the first and most vocal critics of the Saudis for assassinating Khashoggi. Not to mention, he’s the only candidate that is, at least on some level, opposed to the general imperialist worldview that necessitates working with Saudi Arabia.
“At the most recent Democratic presidential primary debate, several candidates advocated rethinking the U.S.-Saudi relationship, including former Vice President Joe Biden, who pledged to make Saudi Arabia a ‘pariah’ state.”
“In answering a question about China, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also condemned the ‘human rights violations’ of the United States ‘refuel[ing] Saudi jets to bomb Yemeni children.’
“Asked about Saudi Arabia, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said ‘we need a new foreign policy in this country,’ adding that ‘when the president did not stand up the way he should have to that killing and that dismemberment of a journalist with an American newspaper, that sent a signal to all dictators … across the world that that was OK, and that’s wrong.'”
Now, none of this is specific or ideological critiques. All they’re saying is very general. For example, Joe Biden went on a geriatric rant acting like a tough guy, with no substance, and Amy Klobuchar regurgitated empty “Evil Brown Dictator Mans are bad!” rhetoric.
At least Cory Booker acknowledged the US is aiding Saudi Arabia in genocide. But if you aren’t going to acknowledge the more overarching role of Saudi Arabia in the US, and vice versa, it rings as hollow rhetoric.
For example, an American politician will never spell out the fact that the Sauds bolster Salafist radicals, and the US bolsters the Sauds to preserve the petrodollar. This is simply the most basic premise of US-Saudi relations, but if you brought it up on national TV, it’d be the last nail in your political career coffin, and you’d be smeared as an Iranian operative.
Another interesting thing about this piece is, sprinkled throughout are quotes from Andrew Miller, from the think tank Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). POMED is a non-profit who receives most of their funding from Open Society Foundations and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. From cursory googling, POMED’s Board of Directors overlaps heavily with other think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, Brookings, and similar groups.
I don’t know how powerful POMED is, but we can gather (from the role its playing in the article, the think-tanks it associates with, its funding source, and by being a DC-based think-tank generally), that it’s pretty keyed-in on the Washington consensus position on Saudi Arabia, and the future of relations with Saudi Arabia.
The Hill writes:
“‘I do think that the relationship is in store for change. The real question is how fundamental that change will be,’ said Andrew Miller, deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy.
“‘I think it is important to understand that the mere fact that this debate is occurring about Saudi Arabia during the Democratic primary and that you have candidates who previously would be much more circumspect in what they said about Saudi Arabia criticizing them so directly is a real sign of the underlying problem for the kingdom and for Mohammed bin Salman,’ he added.
“‘The ground has shifted under their feet, and if there is a new administration, if there’s any administration other than the Trump administration, which seems determined to protect Mohammed bin Salman, I think it’s going to be very difficult for the Saudis to manage that relationship.'”
Again, I don’t know much about POMED, but based on what we do know, this wishy-washy drivel seems like the voice of the Imperialist Washington-consensus, penetrating through the big talk.
More than anything, this seems like a warning to the Saudis, like “hey guys, they might be even a little serious, might want to do damage control!”.
Ultimately, this article is a puff piece (as is almost everything published in The Hill), but I had to comment on it, because the Democratic repudiation feels like lukewarm band standing. This is only highlighted by wishy washy pablum from the think-tank expert throughout the article, which undermines any perceived assertiveness from the presidential candidates.