Blake Hounshell takes a look at George W. Bush getting friendly with King Fahd and writes, “if you’re a gasoline-consuming American, you’re deeply complicit in this marriage, too. So laugh all you want at Bush, but he kisses Saudi cheek for thee—just as U.S. presidents have done for decades. There’s nothing particularly unique about Bush’s relationship with the Saudis.” Justin Logan vigorously dissents.
I’m with Justin here. It’s true that Bush isn’t unique in this regard, but a very broad swathe of the American political elite has a level of personal friendliness with vicious Arab dictators that’s totally unjustifiable in terms of the basic politics or economics of oil. The United States has what I’d deem an unduly chilly relationship with Venezuela at the moment, but the oil still flows and Citgo stations are still around. The process by which oil-rich states in the Persian Gulf export oil to oil-consuming states is a business arrangement for mutual advantage driven by the exchange of money for fuel. Maintaining it requires us to, yes, not deliberately launch any massive destabilizing operations in the region.
But it doesn’t require our policies to be especially friendly to the regimes at hand, and it certainly doesn’t require the unseemly degree of friendliness that you often see. At gatherings of the great and the good, one often sees some Arab princeling or queen treated as the equivalent to an entrepreneur or a democratically elected politician, and there’s just no reason to do that.