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 is critical of Trump’s negotiating tactics, and argues that this deal will not solve the underlying problems with the immigration system.

“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

“Apartment bans are a case of rich vs. poor, longtime resident vs. newcomer, and, all too often, white vs. black, but they are something else too: generational warfare, a showdown in which older homeowners are telling younger renters that there’s no more room. Seen that way, the housing affordability crisis serves as a useful framework for understanding a handful of urgent American issues that have stalled out, particularly intraparty conflicts on the left like those over student debt and climate change… It doesn’t feel like an accident that the youngest woman ever elected to Congress has done more to advance climate change discourse in Washington in six months than Democrats have done in a decade… Young people in college, at planning meetings in Palo Alto, or protesting in Dianne Feinstein’s office, aren’t asking for anything radical—just for what their parents and grandparents already had.”
Henry Grabar, Slate

Many argue that “despite relentless Republican attacks, the benefits provided [by the ACA] -- guaranteed insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions -- are now seen by many as a benefit to which they're entitled. Moving to Medicare for those who want it is a logical next step toward a single-payer option, one that maintains choice for millions of Americans… 56% of Americans say they support full Medicare for All… [but] when voters are presented with the full details of the Sanders and Warren plans, support falls dramatically… I believe it's critical for Democrats to maintain their advantage on health care going into 2020, and the best way to do that is to reject Medicare for All and embrace Medicare for those who want it.”
Joe Lockhart, CNN

The political calendar and Trump's approach could give grounds for optimism. Kim, who has presided over a limited form of economic development inside North Korea, is under pressure to deliver improvements in the lives of his people… So he has an incentive to try to seek economic benefits or aid from the United States and wants punishing economic sanctions lifted — a potential opening for US negotiators… Kim must realize that his chances of basking in this kind of legitimacy with a US President other than Trump are slim. So if he fears Trump could lose in 2020, he may reason the time may be ripe for a deal. And Trump wants nothing more than a big diplomatic breakthrough months before the election.”
Stephen Collinson, CNN

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

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

“Kamala Harris won [the debate] going away. She was sharp, aggressive, and took chances (e.g., tearing into Joe Biden, and criticizing Barack Obama). She totally dominated the stage… Pete Buttigieg did well. He’s smart and calm without being soporific. He’s probably not going to be the nominee, but if Warren or Harris wins the nomination he’s going to be their vice presidential pick… [But] the Democrats have gone off the left-wing deep end… After watching last night’s debate, as well as tonight’s, you would reasonably conclude that the Democratic field cares far more about the well being of illegal immigrants than actual Americans… And tonight, Kamala Harris ripped Joe Biden up for having opposed — wait for it — school busing, one of the most unpopular policies of the 1970s.”
Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

Regarding migrant detention centers, “the vast majority of the people and the outlets that shared [the] exchange [about toothbrushes and soap] failed to note that the violations being discussed had occurred during the previous administration… Instead, they jumped straight to the conclusion that the federal government, headed up by President Trump, was deliberately inflicting pain on babies. This isn’t true. It wasn’t true during the Obama administration either. Then, as now, the violations weren’t part of an intentional or evil ploy, but were the product of the system’s being overloaded… Certainly, some facilities have taken shortcuts, as the result of either bureaucratic incompetence or limited resources. But those infractions will be fixed by additional funding, additional facilities, better oversight, and quicker processing, not by pretending that the president is a tyrant.”
A.G. Hamilton, National Review

Regarding his candidacy overall, “There’s a lot of conventional wisdom in Washington that the early front-runner always loses. And that’s true except when it isn’t… in 1999, George W. Bush dominated the polls and, except for a brief scare from Senator John McCain in the New Hampshire primary, essentially cruised to victory. A key part of Bush’s early success, not just in polls but in fundraising, stemmed from the fact that he was promising a Bush restoration…

“He was offering a referendum on the incumbent president and the scandals and partisanship that defined the end of his administration. He vowed to restore ‘honor and dignity to the Oval Office’ and to be a ‘uniter not a divider.’ The very different context notwithstanding, this is pretty much Biden’s campaign message. The ideological, activist, and Twitter-obsessed base of the Democratic party may not like Biden’s pitch. But it sure looks like rank-and-file Democrats do.”
Jonah Goldberg, National Review

“Not only did [Trump] attack the ‘squad,’ he managed to do it in a way in which no other prominent Democrat can continue to criticize them publicly, lest they be perceived as echoing the president’s contention that they should go back where they came from. At the exact moment the accusations and counter-accusations were set to do lasting damage, Trump just had to jump in and give them an attack that would unify them all. It often seems like Trump would rather have a bad news cycle that focuses on him than a beneficial news cycle that focuses on someone else… Everyone around the president can read a poll and knows that his rage-tweeting is a liability; it is perhaps the biggest liability in a presidency that, with prosperity and a perception of peace, ought to be comfortably cruising to reelection.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.