Just a reminder, as Democrats prepare to do to Saudi Arabia what they did with Russia: Democrats do not have foreign enemies; they have domestic enemies. This has been consistent since at least 1972. Always keep this in mind.
Saudi Arabia—like Russia—does not have a strong domestic US constituency, like Israel does. Unlike Russia, Saudi is not only a key pillar of American Middle East policy for generations, but one that is moving in an undeniably *positive* direction, in fits and starts.
In 1979 Jeanne Kirkpatrick wrote “Dictatorships and Double-Standards” in Commentary. It is a foundational text, and changed the way a lot of people understand foreign affairs. If you’ve never read it, read it now. If you haven’t read it in a while, go read it again.
She was surveying the national security decisions of the failed single-term of Jimmy Carter. She focused her attention on US posture toward the Shah’s Iran—an authoritarian society that was nonetheless pro-American, pro-Israel and in many ways progressive and modern.
When the Shah was under attack from within—by a coalition of hardline Shia fanatics and foreign-sponsored communist agitators—Carter decided the Shah wasn’t perfect; his regime didn’t deserve protection. The Left agreed, and the pressure to topple the regime was massive.
Kirkpatrick predicted disaster, and it soon arrived with the Ayatollah’s regime continuing to export the Islamic Revolution into neighboring countries ever since. She used this issue to posit a way of dealing with non-free, non-democratic regimes. She broke the discussion down to two different non-free types: Authoritarian and Totalitarian.
The Shah’s was an Authoritarian State. The Ayatollah’s was a Totalitarian State—every part of an individual’s life was proscribed according to the regime’s ideology. Living a relatively normal life in an authoritarian state is possible, so long as you don’t get crosswise with the authority of the regime. Totalitarian states will tell you how to live, down to the most minute detail, and enforce the state ideology. They control your mind.
Kirkpatrick noted that it’s possible to work with authoritarian states, if our interests align. Obviously, it’s in our larger interest to deal with free, democratic states in the long term—so we can do things to gently encourage authoritarians to liberalize.
Totalitarian states, on the other hand, feel they have a monopoly on truth and right itself. Their fanaticism means they will necessarily “export the revolution” and create problems regionally and globally. USSR is a perfect example. It is in our interest, therefore, to move totalitarian states toward authoritarian ones.
Which brings us back around to Saudi Arabia. KSA was always the definition of a totalitarian state. As a US ally, it was the rare exception to Kirkpatrick’s observation about states.
The events of recent years—specifically the Obama posture toward Iran—as well as technology and a generational shift toward liberalism and modernity have done a lot to shake loose the totalitarian Kingdom. It would only happen with a decrease in doctrinaire religiosity.
For the first time, though, MBS represents a path forward—a departure from totalitarian and a shift toward authoritarian. No, it’s neither suburban Virginia nor downtown Tel Aviv. But it’s moving in an unmistakable direction nonetheless.
Democrats’ attacks on MBS right now do nothing but undermine that transition. And for what conceivable benefit? Carter and Brzezinski felt good about themselves when they allowed the Shah to fall. They thought they were on the “right side of history.” They were fools.
Trump hasn’t read Kirkpatrick; he hasn’t read Thucydides. But he understands their lessons intuitively. That’s a lot more than I can say for supposedly “learned” wags who take us down a horror road of one predictable virtue-signaling failure to the next.