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Old 07-31-2011   #21
Bob's World
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No, I believe we should fix ourselves first. How we operate internally and how we interact in locations where we have convinced ourselves we have "vital" national interests at stake.

In recent days we have all watched the debate between the Democrats and Republicans. Both profess to be fighting for the American people, yet in reality the Democrats fight to preserve their President in office and the Republicans fight to take him out in the coming elections. All hard decisions are (in their minds) something to deal with "after the election." The problem is that "after the election" like tomorrow, never comes.

Some times I wonder if American politicians appreciate that even our amazing constitution can only protect them for so long. Sad bit of business to watch. Yet for how amazingly F'd up and embarrassing our elected officials are; we still are citizens of a political system that is the envy of much of the world. Little wonder so many Saudis get scarfed up in the middle of the night without warrant or charge; or scoot off to places like Yemen or the FATA to bide their time and plot their return.

But still, if we allow the percept to persist that the Saudi Royals are protected against internal and external challengers by a US insurance policy there will be those who will seek to get us to break that commitment of support. I think much of what we need to do can be done by simply going on record that it is a new era:

1. That we do not care who presides over Saudi Arabia and that we are willing to continue to work with whomever that might be, regardless of how they came to rise to power. But we won't protect that new group either, so they better be snapped in with the people or they will likely soon suffer the same fate at their hands.

2. That we do not care what form of government the Saudi people self-determine.

3. That while we will not act to protect the current or future regime from internal change, we will act to prevent external challenge.

4. That while we will not act to protect the current or future regime from internal change, we reserve the right to act decisively to preserve infrastructure deemed vital to our own national survival and to hold the same in trust until such time as such threatening disputes are resolved (So figure out a way to work this out without forcing our hand to step in).

Meanwhile I think some backroom discussions with the Royals are long overdue. They can listen or not, its their heads. Simple changes, such as putting a little more "justice" into the justice system; or either getting the Royals closer to Islam or acting to bifurcate the "keeper of Islam" role from the Royal job description, would both go a long way toward greater stability.

Some concepts that have worked well elsewhere that might be worth considering are:

1. A parliamentary system similar to Britain's, with the Royals stepping into a similar role.

2. A creation of a "Vatican City" approach to Mecca/Medina to free the KSA to evolve without the friction of having those sites holy to all Muslims within their borders.

The only truly bad idea is to just keep doing what we've been doing and hope it somehow starts to work. Every other idea has some redeeming value, though some are better than others; and any selected by the Saudi people being better than any imposed upon them.

Insurgency is illegal politics. In a land where no legal politics exist, can there be anything but insurgency? The Royals might want to install a legal offramp or two while they are at it.
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Old 07-31-2011   #22
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Second, the energy driving transnational terrorism is, IMO, primarily coming from a large number of long suppressed nationalist insurgencies that AQ and others tap into to leverage in support of their own agendas of power and control.
I'm aware of that opinion, but I'm not convinced that it's fully supportable. AQ has tried to tap into internal resentment. They've also tried, much more successfully, to tap into a widespread and rather generic Muslim resentment toward the west - Bernard Lewis calls it "aggressive self-pity" - and specific anger toward foreign intervention in Muslim lands. Of these, the latter two have been the successful narratives. AQ and its precursor organizations have always drawn their greatest support when they were rallying support against foreign intrusion in the land of the faithful. By contrast, AQ efforts to rally revolution against leaders they dislike have generally gone nowhere: they've achieved strong support from small minorities but never won the populaces and never won anything remotely resembling a critical mass of support. When AQ rallies the faithful to attack the infidel, the cheers ring out, the money flows, and the recruits come running. When they bring the fight home, they don't get much. That doesn't mean people in these countries love their governments, but it suggests that they don't see AQ as a viable domestic alternative, and they certainly don't see AQ as their champion against their own governments.

The belief that foreign fighters travel to combat zones in an effort to free their own countries remains unsupported. Foreign fighters flowed from all the same places to fight the Soviets, and foreign fighters come from many places where governments get no support from the US. "Expel the infidel from the land of the faithful" was a powerful narrative during the crusades, and it remains so today.

On the subject of perceptions, I'd have to agree with Ken: we don't know what they are. I'd add that when we try to assess perceptions we have a powerful tendency to impose our own ideas about what perceptions ought to be, and when we listen we tend to assign the highest priority to the voices we agree with. As in most countries, there's a wide range of variance in perceptions in Saudi Arabia, and many of them are conflicted, contradictory, and vary according to circumstances. Trying to reduce to "oppressed populace struggling for democracy" is simply an imposition of our own values. It ain't that simple by a long shot, and as with most things we don't understand, we're best off staying out of it.

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What small, reasonable changes could the US make on our end to help mitigate these perceptions?
Realistically, not much. No matter what our intentions, anything we do will be perceived as an attempt to advance our own interests and gain control of the oil.

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what small, reasonable changes could the Saudis make (beyond the enhanced bribes and security efforts being employed now in response to fears driven by Arab Spring)?
Probably a lot, but that's completely outside our control. We have little or no influence there: for an example, how much attention was paid to our prescriptions re Bahrain?

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But still, if we allow the percept to persist that the Saudi Royals are protected against internal and external challengers by a US insurance policy there will be those who will seek to get us to break that commitment of support.
We will not break our commitment to protect the Saudis against external aggression... and breaking it wouldn't gain us any points with the Saudi populace anyway. No matter what they think of the royals, they don't want to be ruled by Iraqis or Iranians.

We can't break a commitment to protect the Saudis from internal challengers, because no such commitment exists. It isn't needed, and it's never been asked for. The Saudis don't need or ask for our help or permission to oppress their populace. If there is a perception that we are giving help or permission - and whether or not that perception exists remains an open question - we have to accept that it's an inaccurate perception, and we can't change it by changing the policy. We can't stop doing something we aren't doing in the first place.

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I think much of what we need to do can be done by simply going on record that it is a new era:

1. That we do not care who presides over Saudi Arabia and that we are willing to continue to work with whomever that might be, regardless of how they came to rise to power. But we won't protect that new group either, so they better be snapped in with the people or they will likely soon suffer the same fate at their hands.

2. That we do not care what form of government the Saudi people self-determine.

3. That while we will not act to protect the current or future regime from internal change, we will act to prevent external challenge.

4. That while we will not act to protect the current or future regime from internal change, we reserve the right to act decisively to preserve infrastructure deemed vital to our own national survival and to hold the same in trust until such time as such threatening disputes are resolved (So figure out a way to work this out without forcing our hand to step in).
How is that a new era? Doesn't seem all that different... and I suspect that the prevailing reaction from the Saudi populace would be along the lines of "piss off and mind your own business".

Silly to claim that we don't care who runs Saudi Arabia, though. We do care, and everybody knows it. We have to lie on occasion but we should avoid the really obvious ones.

Quote:
Meanwhile I think some backroom discussions with the Royals are long overdue. They can listen or not, its their heads. Simple changes, such as putting a little more "justice" into the justice system; or either getting the Royals closer to Islam or acting to bifurcate the "keeper of Islam" role from the Royal job description, would both go a long way toward greater stability.

Some concepts that have worked well elsewhere that might be worth considering are:

1. A parliamentary system similar to Britain's, with the Royals stepping into a similar role.

2. A creation of a "Vatican City" approach to Mecca/Medina to free the KSA to evolve without the friction of having those sites holy to all Muslims within their borders.
Ouch. To repeat a point previously made: Ttying to initiate, direct, or control political change in other countries... for me that's kind of a reverse Nike slogan: just don't do it.

What you suggest is, no matter how we sugar coat it, an effort to initiate, direct, and control political change in another country.

You might also want to consider that just because we take something up in the back room doesn't mean it stays there. How long do you think that would stay secret? Do you really want Al Jazeera, Wikileaks, and the rest of the world press trumpeting a "secret" US attempt to tell the Saudis to change their system of government and give them instructions on their relations with Islam and the holy sites?

Granted that past interventions have caused a lot of problems, but we aren't going to change that with more blundering well-intentioned intervention. The answer to bad intervention isn't good intervention, it's less intervention. The perceptions left from the past exist; we can't counter or change them overnight. If we mind our own business, though, those perceptions will gradually change.

PS [edit}. Americans often forget (if they ever knew) that in much of the world, even people who loathe their own governments deeply resent criticism of those governments by foreigners, especially Americans. Even when the Americans are repeating the same points as local critics, it's not perceived as support, it's perceived as self-serving intrusion and as disrespect for the nation and the culture. Again, subtlety is required, and that's not something we do well.
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Last edited by Dayuhan; 07-31-2011 at 11:21 PM.
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Old 08-01-2011   #23
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Oh the times are indeed a changing...

Some good points made in this article. Perhaps most importantly that the US not be made a tool in the never ending Sunni-Shiite divide.
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/...erous-reaction

Some good points here as well:
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/...-for-dictators

This last line from the second article is important, and with Sen Kerry as a likely replacement to Clinton as Sec State, this may also be a window into future focus:

"Influence in the region must come through new means, and actions matter. It is time for the US to create allies amongst citizens who increasingly pressure governments, and enhance authority by being the global power that consistently supports the rights of local citizens. Being on the wrong side of values that our country was built upon is not only hypocritical policy, but makes us less secure."
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 08-01-2011   #24
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"Influence in the region must come through new means, and actions matter. It is time for the US to create allies amongst citizens who increasingly pressure governments, and enhance authority by being the global power that consistently supports the rights of local citizens. Being on the wrong side of values that our country was built upon is not only hypocritical policy, but makes us less secure."
More senseless meddling in store? How nice. Not. The "bear any burden" legacy lives...
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Old 08-01-2011   #25
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Is it less "senseless meddling" when we manipulate governments of others to become what we thing will best support our own interests; regardless of the concerns, and certainly without the consent of the governed?

I won't speak for the author as to what he thinks he means by this statement; but it is consistent with my belief that in the modern information age we must learn to better account for the will of the people affected by our decisions regarding their governments and homelands. This does not mean meddle more, in fact, if done properly, should lead our own political leaders to realize they are better served by meddling less.

The Cold War was the peak of US meddling in the affairs of others.

The GWOT is merely our follow-up meddling in efforts to stem the negative effects of our Cold War meddling.

Being more cognizent of the impacts of our actions, not just on the target country, but also back at us as occurred on 9/11 and a dozen other times over the post-Cold War era, can only be a good thing. (Unless of course we use it to validate why we need to go in and change some regime...)

Getting our policy back in line with our professed principles as a nation (as defined pre-Cold War, not as morphed during and after) can only be a good thing as well.

No one likes a hypocrite, and no one likes to be judged. We've grown too used to doing far too much of both.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 08-01-2011   #26
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Is it less "senseless meddling" when we manipulate governments of others to become what we thing will best support our own interests; regardless of the concerns, and certainly without the consent of the governed?
Meddling is meddling, no matter how you qualify it and you know that.

The issue is how much meddling in the version he and you espouse would be welcomed or tolerated -- consented to -- by those governed. I believe that is very difficult calculation and also believe that the US proclivity for overkill, intemperate action and confusion would almost guarantee we will mess it up...
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I won't speak for the author as to what he thinks he means by this statement; but it is consistent with my belief that in the modern information age we must learn to better account for the will of the people affected by our decisions regarding their governments and homelands. This does not mean meddle more, in fact, if done properly, should lead our own political leaders to realize they are better served by meddling less.
What an optimist. Politicians meddle, that's what they do. It's a lifestyle choice, a vocation and an avocation -- and it is rarely beneficial to any with whom they meddle.
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The Cold War was the peak of US meddling in the affairs of others.
Not really, we've long had a pre-disposition to meddle (see Jefferson, T; Adams, J.Q.; Monroe, J. et.al. up to and incuding Taft W.H.; Roosevelt, F.D and to Carter, J.E, Reagan, R.; Bush G.H.W.; Clinton, W.J and Bush G.W. plus Obama, B.H.). You just remember the Cold War and so does our inept media and the acedemic community. That communication explosion you cite had a part in that.
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The GWOT is merely our follow-up meddling in efforts to stem the negative effects of our Cold War meddling.
Mmm. One way to look at it. Not sure I agree totally though I acknowledge it's correct in part. That 'GWOT' (a term even Bush said should no longer be used...) was as much a reaction to correct the sins of omission of G.W.Bush's four predecessors who responded very poorly and inadequately to a series of probes from Islam. Bush did the right thing, pity his executive agents, the Armed forces, were not properly prepared or trained to do what was needed...
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Being more cognizent of the impacts of our actions... can only be a good thing as well.

No one likes a hypocrite, and no one likes to be judged. We've grown too used to doing far too much of both.
Agree on that -- We need to quit doing those things. It would be even more beneficial if we stopped 'helping' others who neither want or need our help.

Now, all you have to do is figure out how to keep a dysfunctional foreign policy crew from screwing up the drill -- an insure the force is prepared to execute whatever drill pops up. As I sad, best of luck to ye...

Oh, and in strategizing do recall that capabilities and potential probabilities must be considered. That should include such facts as that the possible courses of action and likely reactions to events by our political masters are almost certain to be rather inchoate. We too often tend to forget that. Not believing the enemy thinks like you do is a well known and generally observed fact. We often seem to forget that our bosses don't think like we do...
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Old 08-02-2011   #27
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http://www.andhranews.net/Intl/2011/...ails-12695.htm

Poor Governance at work. This is the type of governmental action designed to counter/prevent insurgents from getting up a head of effective steam (though with twitter, etc can now organize on the fly, so the Cost/Benefit/Effectiveness of such measures has changed dramatically in the past few years). This is also the type of gross injustice under the rule of law, a key component of the type of poor governance that makes the conditions of insurgency grow within an affected populace.

A populace denied legal venues to speak out or affect government WILL ultimately seek illegal venues when pushed hard enough. That is the essence of insurgency.

From the article dated 23 July:


"Human rights activists have said that a counter-terrorism law proposed by the Saudi Arabian government, that mandates jail sentences for criticizing the king, would effectively quash political dissent.

The proposed law would give the Interior Ministry broad powers and mandate jail terms for speaking against the king.

Additionally, the law would allow prisoners to be held with no bail and trials and appeals would be handled secretly, both Saudi and international rights advocates have said.

The new law gives Interior Ministry the ability to tap telephones or search houses without permission from the judiciary, The New York Times reports.
"

A critical Metric here for those who understand the drivers of insurgency:


"Saudi activists have long accused the judicial system and the Interior Ministry of a lack of respect for human rights, even when such rights exist legally."


Also important:

"Critics said the law's definitions of terrorist crimes are vague enough to encompass all manner of activity.

According to a translation provided by Amnesty International, it uses broad terms like "harming the reputation of the state."

It mandates a 10-year prison term for calling the king or a crown prince an infidel.

Some activists view the law as an attempt by Prince Nayef, the longtime interior minister, to consolidate his power and that of his son, Prince Mohammed, who runs counterterrorism operations."



What is the penalty for calling the King foolish? A piece of unsolicited advice: If you want to stay in power, if you want to retain the wealth, dignity and respect that your family has held for so long, and not always be remembered as the guy who lost it all, this is the absolute wrong direction to go. In the past, yes, this was viable. Now? No more. You cannot control the flow of information to your populace so you cannot control your populace. Now you must actually lead. Now you must actually govern. Now you must actually treat your people with dignity, respect and justice. A few small changes in approach that cost you virtually nothing to implement will make you the greatest king in the history of Saudi Arabia. Laws like this? This could cost you your throne or worse.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 08-02-2011   #28
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Are they a real ally -- or just a nation with whom we do business, have some common interests and many disconnects? I'd say the latter.
I think I'd say that they are not our ally, but that we are theirs.
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Old 08-02-2011   #29
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What is the penalty for calling the King foolish? A piece of unsolicited advice: If you want to stay in power, if you want to retain the wealth, dignity and respect that your family has held for so long, and not always be remembered as the guy who lost it all, this is the absolute wrong direction to go.
Of an Iranian acquaintance who owned a Pizza Parlor in Tehran (you haven't lived 'til you've had Pizza with shredded Lamb as the meat topping...).

He'd previously owned one in New York and had moved back home. He once told me that in NY, they told him when he could open and had to close, how many people he could hire and what he had to pay them, where he had to buy his ingredients, how high his fire extinguishers had to be off the floor.

In Tehran, he opened and closed when he felt like it, hired and paid who he wanted, bought whatever he wanted, didn't even have to possess a fire extinguisher.

Another difference was that in NY, he could stand in the middle of the sidewalk and scream "The President is a stupid SOB" while in Tehran, he could not stand on the sidewalk and scream "The Shah is a stupid SOB."
He then asked "Now you tell me where there is more freedom?"

It does not have to be our way to be right. Freedom -- and oppression -- are in the minds of the residents and outsiders may not view things the same way.
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Old 08-02-2011   #30
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I think I'd say that they are not our ally, but that we are theirs.
We are or will be if we feel like it at a given time but will drop or ignore them totally if it suits us. In the meantime, they are simply a habit, foolishly foisted on us by FDR -- and as any American knows, if Franklin did it, it must be honored and retained -- even if what we have done to it since wildly exceeds any ideas of FDR.

In discussing relationships with nations, people are prone to equate a nation's actions and reactions with those of humans. Bad mistake. Nations don't have morals or a conscience (nor do many humans but that's another thread... ).

The whole Middle East involvement thing is a habit -- and not a good one. We should've moved on forty plus years ago.

That statement also applies, broadly, to oil...

The US national polity is a bundle of conflicts. There is little political continuity but due to inertia and lack of imagination plus an arcane budgeting system, entirely too much policy continuity. Things get started for good reason and usually fairly sensibly -- but they then take on a life of their own and morph in strange and wondrous ways -- and they become habitual -- no matter how stupid they have become.

However with respect to 'friends' and 'allies' there really are none other than temporarily when convenient. We, like Palmerston's Britain, only have interests. That's as it should be...
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Old 08-02-2011   #31
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Concur on the interests focus.

(Eric Wendt recently published a piece called the "Green Beret Volckmann Program." The one fault I have with it is that he rationalized the need in terms of dealing more effectively with AQ. I would (do, and will) argue that such a program has great merit, but must be focused and prioritized by where we assess our greatest interests to lie. Friends and enemies come and go, or just switch hats, but interests are indeed much more durable.)
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 08-02-2011   #32
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A piece of unsolicited advice: If you want to stay in power, if you want to retain the wealth, dignity and respect that your family has held for so long, and not always be remembered as the guy who lost it all, this is the absolute wrong direction to go. In the past, yes, this was viable. Now? No more. You cannot control the flow of information to your populace so you cannot control your populace. Now you must actually lead. Now you must actually govern. Now you must actually treat your people with dignity, respect and justice. A few small changes in approach that cost you virtually nothing to implement will make you the greatest king in the history of Saudi Arabia. Laws like this? This could cost you your throne or worse.
All very well said, but the truth is that they don't care what you think, they don't care what I think, and they don't care what the US Government thinks. We saw that in Bahrain, and we'll see it again. The President, the DoS, and both houses of Congress could jump up and sing the above in 3 part harmony and it would change exactly nothing. At this point they have more leverage on us than we do on them. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have signed up for some $120 billion in arms purchases from the US, enough to keep the US defense industry afloat for another decade or two. Everything they are buying could be had from other sources as well... and if the US-Saudi relationship got fussy, how many seconds do you think it would be before the Chinese, Russians, French, British, Germans, and a bunch of others had offers on the table?

How many well-paid American manufacturing jobs are involved? Exact counts vary, but Congress ain't gonna mess with that with the economy where it sits now. We may indulge in a bit of talk here and there, but both sides know we won't rock that boat.

I actually think you overestimate the unrest in the Kingdom. It's dropped off quite a bit since the bad days in the 90s, when the oil glut and the US military presence nearly brought things to a head. Like the Chinese, I suspect that the Saudis are likely to hold it together until there's a real economic crunch, which in Saudi Arabia may not happen until the oil runs out.

People seek liberty, but they also seek security and prosperity. When I'm in the Gulf I read a real desire for change, but it's tempered by an overwhelming fear that change could bring chaos and disorder and eventual foreign control. A substantial part of the populaces of these countries has something to lose, and they're very much aware that they could lose it.

I can't count how many times I've been told, in that part of the world, that American efforts at democracy promotion are a conspiracy to weaken and divide them and exploit those divisions to gain control of the oil. We will (the refrain goes) support parties that support our interests, undercut those that don't, foster internal division and cultivate chaos, manipulate elections, and take over. That may not be true (though given history they can be pardoned for believing it), but as you say, it is perceived as truth.

The whole assumption of "enraged populace struggling against despotic regime" is a construct imposed by outsiders because it's consistent with their views. There's some truth to it, but it's by no means the whole picture... and if we build policy around the assumption that it is the whole picture - or the assumption that we have to mount our white horse and ride to the rescue of these aggrieved populaces - we're likely to step on our equipment in a major way.

They will do what they want, and they will reap whatever consequences come. The consequences may land on us as well, even though we have little or no influence on what happens... but that's fair enough, our actions and our mistakes often have major influence on people who have zero influence on our policies. Our fault for getting addicted to a commodity we haven't got...
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Old 08-02-2011   #33
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I worked with a fellow who had spent several years working in the oil business in Saudi Arabia. He said one day his Saudi colleagues were bitching about something the State Department had done in a none too subtle way and he said, “Look, how much do you have to do with your government’s foreign policy? Probably about as much as I do.” Not to say that there aren’t stark contrasts between living your life as a citizen of and in Saudi Arabia and doing the same in the U.S., of course.
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Old 10-15-2011   #34
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http://news.yahoo.com/ny-judge-al-qa...002608127.html

I recommend we send this bill to the King.

It was due to our policy of preserving his family in power that created the causal linkage between his oppressive regime at home and the decision of a handful of Saudi insurgents working with AQ to attack the US to advance their ultimate goal of bringing the Saudi reign down.

Now, granted, that is an arrangement that US officials entered into and sustained of their own free will; but the only thing we seem less willing to do than recognize the role of Saudi governance in the birth and growth of AQ, is to recognize the role of US-Saudi foreign policy in the same.
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Old 10-16-2011   #35
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It was due to our policy of preserving his family in power that created the causal linkage between his oppressive regime at home and the decision of a handful of Saudi insurgents working with AQ to attack the US to advance their ultimate goal of bringing the Saudi reign down.
Have we ever preserved the Saud family in the face of a domestic threat? The hypothesis that American support has allowed the Saudis to avoid evolutionary changes that would have been necessary without that support seems to me historically insupportable.

Both the description of the 9/11 terrorists as "insurgents" and the causative link you suggest remain largely speculative... part of the picture doubtless, but only one part. Exaggerating that part and focusing on it to the exclusion of the many other parts does not improve our understanding of the entire picture.
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Old 10-16-2011   #36
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It was due to our policy of preserving his family in power that created the causal linkage between his oppressive regime at home and the decision of a handful of Saudi insurgents working with AQ to attack the US to advance their ultimate goal of bringing the Saudi reign down.
You may have seen something that purports to be proof of that. I have not and I therefor question the validity of the "causal linkage" portion that statement. It smacks of a standing broad jump at a convenient conclusion...

Had you said contributed in part, I would likely have just kept driving but "causal linkage" smacks of more positivism than seems warranted. I don't think this -- or the whole 'governance is the cause of it all' thing -- is nearly as simple as you'd like...
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Old 10-16-2011   #37
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You may have seen something that purports to be proof of that. I have not and I therefor question the validity of the "causal linkage" portion that statement. It smacks of a standing broad jump at a convenient conclusion...

Had you said contributed in part, I would likely have just kept driving but "causal linkage" smacks of more positivism than seems warranted. I don't think this -- or the whole 'governance is the cause of it all' thing -- is nearly as simple as you'd like...
Actually, much of this is very simple, it is just inconvenient. Complexity if vastly over-rated and over-sold of late.

As to Dayuhan, the Saudi's are a major purchaser of US military hardware, yet while certainly their Wahabist doctrine makes them a sworn enemy of Shia Iran, that is their problem and not ours. They employ the majority of what they buy for internal purposes, as they know (as do the Iranians) we will come running if any true external threat should emerge. So, yes, protecting the Saudi regime has been a central component of our Middle Eastern foreign policy since at least 1944.

bin Laden and most of the 9/11 attackers, and the core of AQ are Saudi for a reason. They hate the Saudi regime and the US for a reason. We can ignore it or address it. So far ignoring it is not working.

We've invested Billions, perhaps Trillions in "complex." Would it kill us, given the failure of that to do much more than kill a bunch of individuals while at the same time stimulating the overall organization to grow and become more wide-spread and durable, to switch to cheap, simple, and smart for a change??

The nature of US - Saudi relationship; and the nature of Saudi governance, is the core of the war on terrorism. I stand by that. I have yet to see anything that would prove that wrong, but I am open to informed arguments on the topic.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 10-16-2011   #38
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Default Pat answers only work for guys named Pat...

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bin Laden and most of the 9/11 attackers, and the core of AQ are Saudi for a reason. They hate the Saudi regime and the US for a reason. We can ignore it or address it. So far ignoring it is not working.

We've invested Billions, perhaps Trillions in "complex." ...become more wide-spread and durable, to switch to cheap, simple, and smart for a change??

The nature of US - Saudi relationship; and the nature of Saudi governance, is the core of the war on terrorism.
Aside from the fact I suspect the reasons for things are not as clear cut as you wish to assume -- ask any kid why he joined the US Army...

Trillions are not necessary; cheap, simple and smart are desirable, no question. Dogmatism is cheap but it isn't smart.

I thought you disliked the term "war on terrorism?"

We're not going to agree on this aspect, we never have. While I agree that Saudis have taken advantage of us and agree that our relationship with them needs change, they are far from the only opponent out there. It is possible to over-simplify things...

Poor governance is not the only cause of insurgency.

My perception, right or wrong, is that you've got some bad cases of tunnel vision and while we agree on many things, we still do not agree on those two things. That's okay, we can disagree. The good news I'm not going to influence anyone in a position of power. You may. I suggest one thing only...

Be careful.
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Old 10-16-2011   #39
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the Saudi's are a major purchaser of US military hardware, yet while certainly their Wahabist doctrine makes them a sworn enemy of Shia Iran, that is their problem and not ours.
The issue between the Saudis and the Iranians is not just about Wahhabi vs Shi'a, it's about two regional powers glaring at each other across a whole lot of a very valuable resource. It is our problem, like it or not, because if a fight breaks out the price of oil will go to the stratosphere and stay there. The US desire to keep Gulf oil out of the hands of Iran (or in prior days Saddam) has nothing to do with support for the Saudis. It's self defense.

Saudi arms purchases are not US aid to Saudi Arabia. If anything it's Saudi aid to the US: those purchases do a great deal to keep our defense industries viable, and the Saudis could easily buy the stuff elsewhere.

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They employ the majority of what they buy for internal purposes...
When was the last time you saw Saudi F15s or M1s used against domestic opponents. They probably would if they thought they had to, but they haven't had to: they've never faced an internal threat that required more than a police response... a very ugly police response, yes, but not one that requires any help from the US. The Saudis don't need our help to manage their populace, and they sure as hell aren't going to ask our permission or pay attention to our objections.

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as they know (as do the Iranians) we will come running if any true external threat should emerge. So, yes, protecting the Saudi regime has been a central component of our Middle Eastern foreign policy since at least 1944.
Protecting the Saudi regime against external aggression has been a central component of our Middle Eastern foreign policy. We haven't had to protect them from domestic dissent.

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bin Laden and most of the 9/11 attackers, and the core of AQ are Saudi for a reason. They hate the Saudi regime and the US for a reason. We can ignore it or address it. So far ignoring it is not working.
They hate the US for a wide variety of reasons, and they're pursuing a variety of goals, many of which are proactive, not responsive. You focus on one small portion of that picture, because it fits the model you're trying to present.

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Would it kill us, given the failure of that to do much more than kill a bunch of individuals while at the same time stimulating the overall organization to grow and become more wide-spread and durable, to switch to cheap, simple, and smart for a change??

The nature of US - Saudi relationship; and the nature of Saudi governance, is the core of the war on terrorism. I stand by that. I have yet to see anything that would prove that wrong, but I am open to informed arguments on the topic.
You've seen a number of informed arguments, but you've already made up your mind.

Would you care to elaborate on "cheap, simple, and smart"? The suggestions you've made in the past have typically been based on the premise that the US has far more influence on Saudi domestic policy than the US actually has, and that's a very risky premise. Any plan based on urging or encouraging the Saudis to change the way they govern is really pointless from the start. It might feel good, but it will have no more effect on the Saudis than the periodic European criticisms of US policy have on us. Neither will it be appreciated by th Saudi populace: no matter how they feel about their own government, they hate it when we lecture them. It doesn't come off as support for the populace, it comes off as arrogant, patronizing, contempt for their nation and culture.
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Old 10-17-2011   #40
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Default This mostly indicates how little Gen Petraeus understands this problem

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Dayuhan,

I suppose what General Petraeus says is indicative, in a speech in London on the 18th September 2009:



From: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/news/news.cgi?id=749

The other issue that few seem to raise publically is the external role of Saudi agencies in promoting their version of Islam and the number of scholars studying there. Other threads may have touched upon this and IIRC reference was made to Saudi funding appearing in parts of Nigeria.

davidbfpo
What the governments of the Arabian Peninsula have been doing under the guise of "counter-extremist" programs are in fact ramped up efforts to suppress those members of their populaces who dare to challenge what are widely recognized as some of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.

We have spun this problem in terms favorable to the US and these dodgy allies by branding these revolutionaries as "extremists" or "terrorists" or "radical islamists" or any of a wide range of disparaging terms. This is what governments do. The fact that Yemen is the best physical terrain to hide in from one's government leads various insurgent members from a number of states to flee to their for physical santuary. The fact that the rural tribes of Yemen are equally oppressed and dissatisfied with their own government provides a populace base for this sanctuary as well. Of course AQ goes to Yemen as well to conduct their UW campaign to support these nationalist insurgent movements.

We need to set our Kool-Aid down and step back and put all of the intel products we are using to drive our thinking under a strategic microscope and as free from the bias of our relationships with the governments of the region and our concern over interests related to oil and access to critical sea lanes that oil and other commodities travel through as well. These things are important, vitally so. But we must evolve in our approaches to securing them.

Propping up friendly despots is obsolete. Just because we have done it for generations does not mean it cannot be obsolete now.

The US applied an offical policy of ethnic cleansing to the Native Americans; we now recognize that as obsolete in the current environment.

The US applied an offical policy of slavery to develop the agriculture of the South; we now recognize that as obsolete in the current environment.

Similarly the US applied an offical policy of adopting and sustaining a collection of despots in power throughout our colonial and cold war eras to help secure our interests; we need to now recognize this apporach as obsolete as well.
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