March 10, 2004
The Saudi War on George BushBy Ed Lasky
President Bush has provoked this response by proclaiming his intention to encourage democracy and liberalism in the
George W. Bush seriously disrupted the previous cozy relationship that
The Saudis traditionally had a symbiotic relationship with the Bush family and with George H.W. Bush's coterie among the policy elites of the Republican Party. The largesse of the Saudi royal family is legendary. The Saudi Ambassador to the
If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you would be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office.
The list of ex—office holders who propagate pro—Saudi spin is a long and disgraceful one. Hume Horan is an ex—Ambassador to
There have been some people who really do go on the Saudi payroll and work as advisors and consultants. Prince Bandar is very good about massaging and promoting relationships like that.
This phenomenon becomes self—evident in charting the history of Bush I and his White House staffers. Former President Bush I traveled the lecture circuit in Arab lands, earning upwards of $100,000 an appearance. Sentiment—tinged gifts to his Presidential Library and $500,000 to fund a scholarship in his name at Phillips Academy Andover (son George W's preparatory school, not coincidentally) are certainly important, but pale in comparison to his profits from participating in the Carlyle Group.
The Carlyle Group is a supremely successful merchant bank, which also has James Baker (Bush I consiglieri) and Brent Scowcroft (Bush I National Security Adviser) as partners. This particular investment group has enjoyed access to investment funds from the Saudi royal family. Undoubtedly, the triumvirate of former officials, none of them previously renowned for investment prowess, has handsomely prospered from the arrangement.
One—sided relationships are fleeting and rare in the political world, and one is entitled to ask what the Saudis have received in return for their munificent gestures. Publicly, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft have written editorials critical of the approach Bush II has taken towards the Middle East (particularly his support for
This sort of arrangement, a comforting one for the Saudis, whose sybaritic lifestyles promoted a level of comfort unknown to all but a few human beings in the history of mankind, began to end as the two Boeing 767s approached the World Trade Center on that fateful morning over two years ago.
The terror attacks convinced George W. Bush that
Much more importantly, in severing the ties that once bound, Bush II has declared that the ties of filial duty, which both animate and constrain the dynamics of the Saudi royal family, do not matter so much in his family. Not anymore, at least, no matter what the former appearances. In doing so, George Bush has become an apostate to the Saudis. It is not merely a matter of interests, but rather an issue of deep principle, fundamentally linked to their own way of life, and to their survival.
From the vantage point of the Saudis, Bush II is not just unreliable, but also a danger. He is a self—identified born—again Christian, and is closely allied with the religious wing of the Republican Party. In a theocratic nation which forbids the practice of Christianity, a leader linked to rival religion is anathema. In their eyes (as well as those of some of President Bush's most ardent opponents) he may seem to be something of a theocrat himself, but from a longstanding historical rival religion.
When the President's Christian moorings are combined with the exaggerated role that Jewish neo—cons supposedly have in the White House (once again the fevered imaginations of the Saudis bear some resemblance to those of the President's most extreme domestic antagonists), trouble of the most fundamental sort looms for their regime. All along, the fanatic Wahabbi wing of the clergy has preached that a holy war exists with the West, and that accommodation with the infidels can only be a tactical pause in the eventual all—out war. From their perspective, it is easy to understand why George W. Bush —— the Christian 'puppet of the Jews,' and thus the embodiment of Wahabbi nightmares —— needs to be removed from office.
How have the Saudis acted to destroy George Bush's political career? By using the 'oil weapon' to torpedo the American economy over the next eight months, and thereby weaken electoral support for George W. Bush's candidacy in November.
The Saudis have traditionally been a swing producer within OPEC, acting to ensure oil prices remain 'just so —— not too high, not too low' by increasing or decreasing their marginal production. Oil prices which are too high may encourage conservation and the development of alternative energy supplies. Prices which are too high also weaken the Western economies where
However, this historical concern seems to have been trumped by Saudi short term desires to inflict as much pain on the American economy as it can, by raising oil prices in the run—up to November.
By restricting OPEC output since the end of hostilities in
Jobs are not being created at the expected rate, and increasing voter dissatisfaction with the President is shown in public opinion polling, with jobs and the economy heading the list of concerns. Additionally, the Saudis may have been reducing their holdings of petrodollars and converting them into non—dollar denominated assets. This has hurt the value of the dollar. Money flows are difficult to follow, and currency manipulation may have unintended consequences, but a proxy for the Saudi desire to hurt America may be seen in the increasing number of oil field contracts going to non—US companies.
The other factor which may hurt Bush's chances for reelection is the situation in
On the domestic front, Saudi—funded think tanks such as the
The Saudis require stealth for their plan to succeed. They cannot be seen to be suddenly, openly, and catastrophically retaliating against President Bush, as OPEC did with its 1973 oil boycott in the wake of Israeli victory in war. The American public is in no mood to be pushed around by feudal Arab regimes. Instead, they have opted to quietly tighten the noose on the American economy, hoping to escape public blame.
The Bush Administration, which still needs to deal with the Saudis, and many other repressive Arab regimes on the receiving end of Saudi largesse, undoubtedly perceives what is going on, but is constrained by the norms of diplomacy from openly acknowledging the reality of the situation. Voices urging accommodation with the Saudis are still heard within the State Department and elsewhere in the foreign policy apparatus.
Neither the Bush Administration nor the Saudis can afford to have explicit and open conflict disrupt important ongoing common interests. Third parties also depend on the smooth flow of oil to markets. Nobody wants a cessation of Saudi oil exports or any other extreme measures, which could cripple
Nevertheless, it appears to be the case that the Saudis are engaged in a silent slow motion war with George W. Bush's Administration, aimed at limiting his Presidency to a single term. If they continue with this plan, Republicans can take nothing for granted in November.