November 1, 2018

US-Saudi Relations

Editor's note: here's Annafi's op-ed published yesterday critiquing NBC's decision to fire Megyn Kelly. Please share far and wide!

USA Today

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “called for a halt to hostilities [in Yemen] within 30 days.”

AP News


Many on both sides are advocating withdrawing US support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

  • “The changing political tide around the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia is unmistakable: from traditional hawks and Saudi-defenders like Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio to foreign-policy restrainers like Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, there is an emerging consensus about a pullback.” According to retired Lt. Col. Danny Davis of Defense Priorities, “Mattis and Pompeo are finally acknowledging reality: there is no military solution to the civil war in Yemen and there is no strategic rationale for U.S. involvement.” The National Interest
  • “The crisis in United States-Saudi relations precipitated by the brazen murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises a critical question [about our continued cooperation with the Crown Prince]... The United States was wrong to hitch our wagon to Prince Mohammed, but we would be even more foolish to continue to do so... It should be United States policy, in conjunction with our allies, to sideline the crown prince... we should terminate all military support for the misbegotten Yemen campaign and pressure the Saudis to reach a negotiated settlement.” New York Times

Other opinions below.


See past issues

From the Left

The left takes Mueller’s letter and Barr’s testimony as confirmation that Barr is behaving more like Trump’s defense attorney than the U.S. Attorney General.

“For most people, one man whose gruesome death we can envision has more political power than 40 nameless kids and their nameless bereaved families... For three years Saudi Arabia has, with American help, inflicted obscene misery on the people of Yemen... Yemeni children were dying because of the U.S. and Saudi war well before Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, and they continue to die after. If we are so easily seduced by a simple story, the details we ignore may be monstrous."

The Week

“In the end, Bin Salman could pay more dearly for the life of one critical journalist than for all of Saudi Arabia’s other destructive actions."

The Guardian

An Alabama Doctor writes that one of her patients “was 22 weeks pregnant and had a condition called preeclampsia, which is when high blood pressure puts the health of the mother and baby at risk and can result in death. The only option in that situation was to immediately deliver. The patient understood the high stakes and instead decided to end her pregnancy. But it took time (which we did not have) to convince the hospital and other physicians that this was the correct course of action because of the already hostile climate for abortion… I fear what could happen to women in this situation if the [new] law and its criminal penalties go into effect. Physicians will hesitate in how to care for complex health situations -- and Alabama is already a state with an unconscionably high maternal mortality rate.”
Yashica Robinson, CNN

Regarding the deployment of an aircraft carrier and bombers, many note that the US “has a long history of provoking, instigating, or launching wars based on dubious, flimsy, or manufactured threats… The most egregious case was the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003, which was based on bad intelligence that Baghdad had active weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. The repercussions are still playing out sixteen years (and more than four thousand American deaths) later… The sense of foreboding is tangible.”
Robin Wright, The New Yorker

Trump's “goal, it seems, is to put so much pressure on Tehran that it has no choice but to completely change its behavior — but he could end up leading the countries to the brink of war in the process… Now is typically the time when cooler heads prevail, but it’s unclear if there are cooler heads around… It’s hard to overstate how avoidable this situation was.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

From the Right

From the Right

Some argue that supporting the Saudis may be the least bad option. “We once again find ourselves shoulder to shoulder with a detestable ally in the notional service of a dodgy regime that is somehow still not the worst of the contestants in the field...

“It’s a question of ugly tradeoffs. Peace in Yemen would be desirable. So would maintaining our relationship with the Saudis and through them curtailing the influence of Iran in the region. We probably are not going to get both of those, and Yemen probably is not going to get peace irrespective of any decision taken in Washington.”

National Review

The president isn’t playing protectionist here. He’s pushing a single player who needs to be confronted, a cheater and a bully. For decades, China has gotten away with theft of others’ production techniques and other intellectual property, along with technology transfers and mistreatment of US companies. Moreover, it uses its ill-gotten gains to boost its military, adding another threat… Short-term, US consumers will pay a bit more — on goods that make up less than 2 percent of the nation’s $20.5 trillion economy. But China is at growing risk of losing access to the world’s top market, because Americans can buy from other lower-wage producers if Beijing doesn’t blink… Trump didn’t start this trade war, but he’s well positioned to win it.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

“We've got to suck it up. Indeed, we must be bold here. Chinese President Xi Jinping's tariffs escalation reflects his bet that he can spike U.S. domestic fears over the economy, and a corresponding popular pressure on Trump to back down… if we stand firm, Xi will have to back down because China's economy is already weakened by foreign investor doubts, caught between rural poverty and urban wealth, and vulnerable to low-cost labor competition from the region.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“The broader context here is North Korea's crop crisis. If Kim hasn't got sanctions relief by August's end, a painful winter is coming… Absent Kim's commitment to suspend all ballistic missile tests, the U.S. should not support the provision of food supplies to the North Korean people. A North Korean long-range nuclear strike capability poses an existential threat to American society… Trump must not allow North Korea's coming suffering to dictate his decisions. Supporting North Korea with food will both prolong North Koreans' suffering under Kim and directly undercut U.S. interests.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Some argue, “It stands to reason that if Kim is willing to starve his own people, deprive his economy of any growth, and pour billions of dollars into missile tech, he will, at some point, develop weapons America and its allies mastered decades ago. And short of an invasion or a diplomatic agreement, under the present circumstances, there is very little we can do to stop him… Taking a hardline approach—what many call the ‘big deal’—or only granting sanctions relief after full denuclearization and the end of Kim’s missile programs is completely impractical and something North Korea would never agree to… only a step-by-step process of disarming Pyongyang, where each side gets a benefit for making a concession, will work.”
Harry J. Kazianis, The American Conservative

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

“The Democrats want to talk to Don McGahn, and maybe they will ultimately prevail in court to get his testimony, but what’s the point? McGahn talked extensively to Mueller, and surely everything remotely damaging is already in the report

“Congress has the report, and now it is up to it to decide. But it doesn’t want to. It’s too painful to admit that the Mueller report was a bust on Russia and that the obstruction material, while damaging to Trump, is hardly a slam dunk; that the public doesn’t support impeachment; that if the House goes through with it anyway, it will end with a whimper in the Senate; and that it’s better for Democrats to focus on beating Trump in 2020 than a forlorn impeachment.”
Rich Lowry, National Review

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

On the bright side...

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