Here’s the latest noteworthy indication that (1) the globalist approach that dominated U.S. foreign policy during the pre-Trump decades is dissolving into not only incoherence but transparent virtue-signaling; and that (2) the apparent murder of Saudi journalist (and legal U.S. resident) Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of thugs linked to the Saudi monarchy is turning into a big contributor: It’s a Financial Times essay from no less than Richard N. Haass, who is nothing less than the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, which is nothing less than the world’s premier globalist think tank.
For good measure, Haass has also held senior positions in both Bush administrations and, if a mainstream, pre-Trump-style Republican ever wins the White House again, would be a likely Secretary of State or national security advisor candidate. (Full disclosure – he also preceded me at Roslyn High School on New York’s Long Island by two years, but we moved in different circles.)
Haass’ subject was no surprise. The Mainstream Media and bipartisan globalist national foreign policy establishment evidently views the Khashoggi affair as the most important story of the day. And week. And month. And possibly year.
What was striking, though, was the completely confused nature of Haass’ recommendations, and in particular, how he struggled – ultimately unsuccessfully – to reconcile the peer pressure he obviously felt to urge a (seemingly) tough U.S. response to Khashoggi’s demise, and his own convictions as a card-carrying globalist that because of the United States’ still-vital interests in the Middle East, Washington has no choice but to view Saudi Arabia’s ultimately as one of those distasteful regimes that the United States nonetheless needs as an ally.
In fact, Haass explicitly recognizes the dilemma thereby created:
“The choices facing the US and other governments are not easy. They are the latest example of the foreign policy predicament of having to deal with flawed leaders of important countries. Principle and interests inevitably collide, as they often did during the cold war and when it came to dealing with the Shah’s Iran in the 1970s.”
And he tries to make the case for “doing something” significant in coolly unsentimental terms:
“The war in Yemen, arguably Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam, is a humanitarian and strategic disaster. MbS’s [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] effort to destabilise Qatar has weakened a country that is home to the principal US military base in the region. There was also the bizarre kidnapping and detention of Lebanon’s prime minister in 2017. And the Saudis failed to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. Moreover, the fate of Mr Khashoggi will make it much more difficult to line up international support to pressure Iran. Riyadh will appear to many to be at least as much of a problem as Tehran.”
But what is the “something” that Haass believes will thread the policy needle and make clear to the royal family that “US and western support for [MbS] cannot be taken for granted?” “Distinguishing” between MbS and the rest of the Saudi monarchy. Dropping him from any White House invite lists. A “reconsideration” by American businesses of (all? some?) “partnering” with the government in Riyadh as long as MbS is in charge. “Constraints on the [Saudi] use of American-supplied military equipment and intelligence” especially for the “misguided war in Yemen.” But on efforts to counter Islamic extremists? The Iranians? Heaven only knows.
Additionally, Haass wants Western governments to press publicly “for an independent and unconstrained investigation of what happened in Istanbul.”
Sadly, however, these measures either amount to transparent bupkis, or steps that – if Haass’ words are taken at face value – could easily endanger interests that Haas and nearly all other globalists have long regarded as crucial for the United States. But it’s far from clear that these proposals should be taken at face value, or anywhere close. In fact, Haass himself argues that President Trump is correct in noting that Saudi Arabia
“is an important and valuable ally that buys significant amounts of arms, is helpful in Syria and in the fight against terrorism, and is a partner versus Iran. Saudi Arabia still produces about one out of every 10 barrels of oil in the world. Its investments are large and important to a number of businesses and projects.”
Hence this point which, for all the above analytical meandering, seems to be Haass bottom line: “[I]t could prove counter-productive and risky to call for the departure of [MbS], who enjoys broad popularity at home. The alternative to him is not clear. Broad instability would serve the interests of no one.”
Of course the Saudis will focus on these sentences above all others. But at least Haass – like other posturing globalists – has achieved the only objectives that could logically explain this exercise in internal contradiction: He preserves his globalist-in-good-standing status. And he’s signaled his supposed virtue.