May 01, 2005

The Power of Myth

Posted by Mary Madigan

In his essay The Arab Street: A Vanquished Cliché, Christopher Hitchens described how the “annoying expression” Arab street began to expire. It unofficially expired when millions of Iraqis defied the terrorist “Insurgents” by voting in January’s elections. But it was on its last legs before then:

Other Muslim streets are even more problematic for those who lazily assume that the jihadists are the voice of the unheard. The populations of Bosnia and Kosovo—populations that actually did have to confront anti-Muslim violence on a large scale—are generally hostile to Bin-Ladenism. Nobody has ever used the term "Iranian street," at least in print or on broadcast news, if only because everyone knows that Iranian opinion, as registered during the mock elections or voiced to visiting hacks, is strongly against the reigning theocracy.
When the real man on the street was allowed to speak his own mind, without fear of the secret police or the terrorist who lives next door, the myth of the "Arab Street" and the media’s dream that jihad was the "voice of the unheard" died. The Cedar Revolution was the final nail in the coffin. Hezbollah’s jihadis defied the will of the ordinary people and marched in support of the Syrian Ba’thists. Michael Totten described Hezbollahland's streets as:
a terrorist-ruled security-state within a state. The Lebanese Armed Forces are not allowed to enter Hezbollah's territory. Most Christians and Sunni Muslims never dare set foot inside. Buildings are sandbagged. Surveillance and security watchtowers are erected in front of restaurants and stores. A Lebanese-American historian based in West Beirut told me that Hezbollah is better armed and more militarily powerful than the Lebanese army.
In contrast to the average streets in Beirut:
East and West Beirut are as free-wheeling as Hong Kong, but Hezbollahland is a virtually sovereign fascist police state.
The Cedar Revolution also destroyed the cliché that Ba’thists like Saddam were secularists, opposed to the Islamists. Hezbollah and the Syrians, both inspired by fascist imagery and salutes, have been united towards a common goal for some time.

This week, we saw the benefit of the end of destructive myths - the final, wonderful victory for the Cedar Revolution. The Lebanese government formally announced the election would be held on time. Pro-independence and pro-democracy forces were able to make their voices heard. As the Iraqi voters and millions of Lebanese proved, the goals of the fascists are actively opposed by the majority of the "Arab street."

Unfortunately, also last week our President exploded another myth. He just killed the belief that American has been fighting a war against terrorism by publicly begging the financier and the source of most Islamist terrorism for a favor.

Appeasing the Saudi government and helping the Royals in any way they can has been a long-standing policy of our Government. It’s doubtful that the Democrats could criticize Bush for his actions when Clinton accepted millions in Saudi donation towards the building of his library, or when Jimmy Carter accepts many millions in Saudi donations for ‘peace’ in Africa.

But like many Democrats, the Bush administration still seems to be living in a 9/10 universe. According to this article, Pump Dreams, published in the New Yorker and in the Energy Bulletin, Dick Cheney stated that the war in Iraq was necessary to protect America’s friends in the region:

.. in August, 2002, seven months before the war started, Cheney warned that Saddam would be able to seize control of the world’s economic lifeline if he acquired weapons of mass destruction: “Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten per cent of the world’s oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.”
America's friends as in Saudi Arabia. Saudi oil wealth pays Osama bin Laden’s salary, and the salaries of most Islamist terror organizations around the world. They are responsible for 9/11. As our president held Abdullah’s hand, Abdullah’s employee and friend, chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan encouraged young Saudis to go to Iraq to kill American soldiers.
"This statement shows the real face of the Saudi government," says Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed of the Saudi Institute, based in Washington.

Al-Ahmed says that while Saudi officials — including Sheik Luhaidan — publicly oppose jihad in Iraq, privately some send a different message.

"He is telling Saudis it's OK to go to Iraq and kill Americans and Iraqis and they won’t be punished for doing that," says Al-Ahmed.

Young Saudis don’t need Al Luhaidan to tell them to kill Americans. They were happy to do that on 9/11, and they’ve been killing, maiming American soldiers and destroying the Iraqi oil fields since the ‘end’ of the Iraq war. As we can see from oil prices, terrorism has been very profitable for the KSA.

These are our friends?

We fought the war in Iraq for many reasons: the elimination of Ba’thist Saddam’s genocidal dictatorship, the threat he posed. The Iraqi elections and the Cedar Revolution wouldn’t have been possible without this war. But there’s a profound disconnect between the real world and the logic-free reasoning of the RealPolitik stategists and the energy establishment. Also from the New Yorker:

From an economic vantage point, a strategy based on Realpolitik makes sense. To meet the rising demand for oil in the coming decades, the Gulf states need to spend tens of billions of dollars on expanding their capacity, an enormous capital investment that is unlikely to materialize in a hostile environment. Some opec members already favor keeping the supply tight so that prices will stay high. As in the past, the West will have to rely on the Saudi government to be the voice of moderation. “If you are sitting on a very large reserve base, as Saudi Arabia is, you don’t want somebody coming along and saying, ‘We are really going to make a push to develop an alternative to the internal-combustion engine,’” Robert Ebel said. “You have a division of opinion within opec, but Saudi Arabia is big enough to call the shots.”
Clueless can’t begin to describe this policy. Realpolitik strategists don’t want to offend the ‘moderate’ sponsors of worldwide terrorism by discussing alternative energy? They want to give these terror supporting tyrants more power over their OPEC buddies and their neighbors in the Middle East? The myth of our moderate Saudi friends is obviously more powerful to them than the facts about Saudi support of terrorism and the slaughter of thousands of Americans on 9/11.

The KSA is the terrorism and the tyranny we’re supposed to be fighting. But our government is continuing its long-standing policy of coddling, pampering and legitimizing them. This destructive alliance alienates potential friends and allies.

The death of lies and myths is a good thing – we can’t fight a war if we don’t understand our friends, our enemies, or ourselves. Until we understand all of the elements involved, we can’t claim to be fighting a war on terrorism.

Posted by Mary Madigan at May 1, 2005 07:23 AM

Comments

“The Cedar Revolution also destroyed the cliché that Ba’thists like Saddam were secularists”

That’s not correct. Instead, more people now agree with me that just because the Baathist are secularists---that does not mean they will not form viable relationships with religious extremists. The enemy of my enemy is my friend is still a widely embraced attitude in the Middle East. Franklin D. Roosevelt also felt he had to work closely with Joseph Stalin during W.W.II.
Such odd couple relationships are actually quite normal. The history books are filled with many examples.

“These are our friends?”

There is such a thing as back room agreements---but I still don’t sense that President Bush is putting enough pressure on the Saudi family to change its ways. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have hesitated to rock the boat. They prefer to stay with the status quo to ensure a continuing supply of oil. This trade off with the devil can no longer be justified.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 1, 2005 07:58 AM

"Nobody has ever used the term "Iranian street," at least in print or on broadcast news, if only because everyone knows that Iranian opinion, as registered during the mock elections or voiced to visiting hacks, is strongly against the reigning theocracy."

Hitchens nails it again.

The Left cares about "the Street", or "el Pueblo", etc., only in so much as it can be used as a club against the Right.

But where that same street and the Right might be in alignment (such as in Iran), it drops off the Left's radar screen. They don't care, and it doesn't exist anymore. Similarly, and for the same reasons, the post-election Arab street in general has now dropped off the Left's radar screens.

They're so easy to figure out. Mark these words, --you won't hear them used that term again.

Similarly, political prisoners and "the children" -- which also have traditionally been used by the Left as clubs against the Right -- have dropped off the radar screens since the Right starting emptying out Saddam's dungeons.

But they still have something to say. So to counter, the Left ups the ante, claiming a billion gazillion innocent dead, because how else to justify that closing Saddam's rape dungeons wasn't really worth the cost. Amazing. But not a surprise if you understand the Left's true motives.

Their approach is multi-pronged. They can also fall back back on the another tried and true clarion call--- Haliburton! and the Carlyle Group! -- the dreaded CORPORATIONS.

So how to reconcile their concern for Haliburton with their newfound disregard for the victims of Saddam's genocide? Easy. Their true motives -- nothing more than anti-establishment, anti-status quo, anti-christianity, anti anti anti -- whose political roots can be traced in a line straight back to the Bolshevik revolution. Their causes and so-called concerns are nothing more than clubs to be used to overthrow the existing order in favor of a "new man," now transmorphed into the "enlightened man."

end of rant

Posted by: spaniard at May 1, 2005 09:15 AM

“But not a surprise if you understand the Left's true motives.”

I agree with everything you say. One does not have the right to accuse you of McCarthyism for pointing out the Marxist underpinnings of today’s dominant interpretations of liberalism. Someday I am going to have to take another look at James Burnham’s seminal “Suicide of the West.” Our intellectual classes often praise movements that will murder them at the first opportunity. Isn’t it amazing, for instance, how many gays adore the so-called Palestinian liberation movement even though it holds them in utter contempt.

The hard core Leftists are enraged that the Iraqis have been liberated. They now feel compelled to constantly find fault with Iraq’s leaders. Each and every financial or torture of prisoner scandal will be exploited to the fullest. A Fidel Castro or Mao can be cut slack---but not somebody who is friendly towards the United States. An “authentic” leader must despise the values of Western Civilization.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 1, 2005 10:16 AM

“But not a surprise if you understand the Left's true motives.”

I agree with everything you say. One does not have the right to accuse you of McCarthyism for pointing out the Marxist underpinnings of today’s dominant interpretations of liberalism. Someday I am going to have to take another look at James Burnham’s seminal “Suicide of the West.” Our intellectual classes often praise movements that will murder them at the first opportunity. Isn’t it amazing, for instance, how many gays adore the so-called Palestinian liberation movement even though it holds them in utter contempt.

The hard core Leftists are enraged that the Iraqis have been liberated. They now feel compelled to constantly find fault with Iraq’s leaders. Each and every financial or torture of prisoner scandal will be exploited to the fullest. A Fidel Castro or Mao can be cut slack---but not somebody who is friendly towards the United States. An “authentic” leader must despise the values of Western Civilization.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 1, 2005 10:17 AM

David Thomson: "Isn’t it amazing, for instance, how many gays adore the so-called Palestinian liberation movement even though it holds them in utter contempt."

Look, I don't have the time that you people obviously do to keep up with all the intellectual currents in society, which allow you to make sweeping statements like this.

Can you provide a few examples or links to back up this seemingly stupid, off-the-wall statment?

Posted by: VinoVeritas at May 1, 2005 11:03 AM

Can we also retire the mythic Hispanic street that politicos of both stripes are so afraid of offending they won't touch border control?

Posted by: jeff at May 1, 2005 11:13 AM

"Can you provide a few examples or links to back up this seemingly stupid, off-the-wall statment?"

Why don’t you visit Andrew Sullivan’s blog? He has mentioned this bizarre phenomenon countless times. Sullivan agrees with me completely that there is something very weird happening when radical Leftists are observed supporting reactionaries like those found in the Palestinian movement.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 1, 2005 11:39 AM

Not to get off topic but you are truly a superior blogger Mary. I don't always agree with you, but I admire your conviction and Moral absolutism.

Posted by: Epitome at May 1, 2005 01:22 PM

Religion and ideology have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia's support for terrorism and terrorist actions in Iraq, it's competition. So long as Iraq's oil fields are either unproductive or under-producing the Saudis can keep oil production down and prices up.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at May 1, 2005 01:37 PM

I’m a cynic who suspects that a number of the Saudi royal family are like the bored and affluent liberals depicted by Tom Wolfe in his 1970 best seller, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. These idiots have no interest in dying for Allah, but they freely donate money to the Islamic nihilists who pretend to allow them into their inner circle. My imagination is getting the better of me. I can readily imagine them singing the Arabic rendition of Dobie Gray's "The In Crowd.”:

“I'm in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I'm in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows (bah dah dah dah)

Any time of the year, don't you hear?
Dressin' fine, makin' time
We breeze up and down the street
We get respect from the people we meet
They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight”

http://www.leoslyrics.com/listlyrics.php;jsessionid=9B55E405C6AA43B1F94A4F167D5872B1?hid=2ArDV07Bhvw%3D

Let's face it, I'm a sick puppy.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 1, 2005 02:25 PM

"The Saudis" are NOT like any US Govt administration -- there's a king, and hundreds of princes of various power. Throughout history princely brothers have been, literally, at each other's throats.

You have to provide a lot more evidence that the Royal who Bush was talking too wasn't "our friend"; before I'll take your word for it. I have no evidence to say I disagree.

I'd like the US to "have" more influence over Saudi Arabia, but unless we're willing to invade we don't have much. After Iraq & Lebanon, taking out Syria & Iran (& stopping genocide in Sudan), while helping Kuwait & other countries become functioning democracies seems fast progress.

The Cedar Revolution isn't over until AFTER elections and AFTER an elected gov't is formed; still some months away.

I don't like kissing up to the Saudis either, but I note you fail to specify your preferred alternative.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at May 1, 2005 02:42 PM

People have friendships. Nations have interests.

I agree with Tom Grey above, where the Saudis are concerned as a state.

But David Thompson is right on with the construction existing behind the facade of the state, too. Umpteen minor princes, each with a portfolio and circle of courtiers possessed of varying importance and ambition, all swimming in the currents of more billions of dollars and multi- generational cultural arcana than any of us will ever begin to understand, and all of them at the pivot upon which the economy of the entire world turns...

I sure wish the oil had been found in Australia. Hell, even New Guinea would have been better as energy lord for the rest of the world. At least the headhunters put away their axes when they are given the opportunity to get past the stone age.

The Sauds do not govern. They rule. The distinction is important. They keep their position by making enough deals and writing enough checks to their domestic crazies to survive, with nary a tear shed for what the cost may be to anyone else. They are not responsible to those they rule... and by all appearances, our government is unwilling to hold them accountable for the policies they practice that end up producing terrorists that kill our citizens.

Bummer, isn't it?

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 1, 2005 03:41 PM

Tom - I didn't put all of the evidence of Saudi involvement into this post because of space considerations. If you feel like doing a lot of reading, most of my points are in this post at Dean's World called Hate is a WMD.

One commenter, "Hatcher," a former State Department employee in Saudi Arabia, tried to defend the Saudis. It really is an impossible job.

Otherwise, books have been written on the subject. Dore Gold's Hatred's Kingdom presents more evidence of Royal support of terrorism.

Most of these books agree with what Alan Kellogg said - the Royals are mostly supporting terrorism in the interests of profit and power.

Posted by: mary at May 1, 2005 03:48 PM

I don't always agree with you, but I admire your conviction and Moral absolutism.

Well, I don't like totalitarianism, terrorism or murder, but otherwise, I'm kind of laissez-faire.

Posted by: mary at May 1, 2005 03:51 PM

“Umpteen minor princes, each with a portfolio and circle of courtiers possessed of varying importance and ambition”

And these princes are often bored out of their mind. They have virtually no responsibilities and get up in the morning wondering what to do. Should they go to a party? Or should they remain in bed for the day? On top of everything, these guys have a lot of money to throw around. It’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it. Such wastrels are easy suckers for existentially committed radicals believing in a cause greater than themselves.

Saudi Arabia is a glorified welfare state for its elites funded by the oil in the ground. Everybody else can go to hell. Wives cannot drive an automobile, and are not allowed to leave the home without permission of their husband. Young middle class men who have attained advanced degrees are unemployable. They are often receptive to the seductive siren call of Islamic nihilism. The country is in a mess---and there’s little evidence that it will turn itself around.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 1, 2005 04:18 PM

Ms Madigan,

You missed the fact that the Saudi prince couldn't walk without assistance from GWB.

GWB was respectfull and helpful and didn't mention it.

Posted by: Soldier's Dad at May 1, 2005 05:44 PM

You missed the fact that the Saudi prince couldn't walk without assistance from GWB

I don't object to the fact that Bush was holding a man's hand. I object to the fact that a known supporter of terrorism who has committed a multitude of crimes against the American people was allowed into the country in the first place, and that this fascist was shown a respect that he doesn't deserve.

But this is a long-standing policy of our State Department.

Posted by: mary at May 1, 2005 06:02 PM

"Why don’t you visit Andrew Sullivan’s blog? He has mentioned this bizarre phenomenon countless times. Sullivan agrees with me completely that there is something very weird happening when radical Leftists are observed supporting reactionaries like those found in the Palestinian movement."

Shorter David Thomson: "I actually have no hard evidence to back up my sweeping statements about the opinions of gay people, so I'll mention "radical Leftists", name-drop a famous blogger and say that he agrees with me completely rather than provide links or independent data to prove my point."

Okay, to be fair, that wasn't that much shorter than the original.

Posted by: mistermark at May 1, 2005 07:14 PM

“Umpteen minor princes, each with a portfolio and circle of courtiers possessed of varying importance and ambition”

I read somewhere that it was in the neighborhood of 20,000 princes. I don't know that I believe that, 2,000 maybe. Here's some info on the Saudi dynasty. The assassination meter doesn't redline as it does for the Macedonian dynasty that produced Alexander, but the same sort of politics seems to be in play. Note that KSA is not a country in the European sense, rather it is the result of inter-tribal warfare and conquest in which Abdul-Aziz came out on top.

Posted by: chuck at May 1, 2005 07:27 PM

I’m a cynic who suspects that a number of the Saudi royal family are like the bored and affluent liberals

The Saudi royal family is a gang of despots who preside over a theocracy that sponsors terrorism and resists both democracy and any basic human rights for women. If that's "liberal," you must not know what "liberal" means.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at May 1, 2005 08:04 PM

Anyone who wants to vent about how Bush isn't tough enough on the Saudis better also support a $1.00 gas tax increase, a sharp increase in CAFE requirements, and a mandatory national speed limit of 55 (see today's NYTimes, restoring this would immediatly save gas).

Otherwise, be quiet, your hypocrisy is too galling.

To paraphrase, f**k the pigs.

Posted by: markus rose at May 1, 2005 08:10 PM

According to this writeup by Arnaud de Borchgrave there are 24,000 members of the House of Saud (includes men, women, and children) with about 7000 princes.

From Borchgrave's article: In Washington discussion groups, the question is frequently asked, "How long before the House of Saud falls?" And the answers vary from a few months to very few years.

Maybe this is part of the reason why the US isn't doing much against Saudi Arabia - Bush's administration is putting their efforts and resources elsewhere and is waiting for the House of Saud to crumble and fall on its own within a few years as many predict.

Here is another interesting read by Robert Baer about the problems with Saudi Arabia. Robert was a CIA agent for 21 years in the Middle East and is the author of the book "Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude."

Posted by: markytom at May 1, 2005 08:31 PM

"We fought the war in Iraq for many reasons: the elimination of Ba’thist Saddam’s genocidal dictatorship, the threat he posed. The Iraqi elections and the Cedar Revolution wouldn’t have been possible without this war."

And meanwhile totally ignored other far more brutal and dangerous regimes such as North Korea...

"North Korea is the most odious country in the world today. It has been caught counterfeiting U.S. dollars and smuggling drugs, and prisoners have been led along with wire threaded through their collarbones so they can't run away. While some two million North Koreans were starving to death in the late 1990's, Mr. Kim spent $2.6 million on Swiss watches. He's the kind of man who, when he didn't like a haircut once, executed the barber." - NY Times

Oh yeah and on top of that North Korea actually HAS Weapons of Mass Destruction. 6 of them to be exact. Nuclear ones too.

And speaking of people starving, if your reason for supporting the war in Iraq was the moral imperitive one of spreading democracy, just think of how many hundreds of millions of lives we could have saved with that $200 billion if we had instead spent it on feeding the starving people of the world, or giving basic medicines and antibiotics to third world countries to help combat infant mortality. Oh but wait those are handouts and handouts are morally reprehensible right? Spending $200 billion on missiles and tanks is a far better use of that money...

Posted by: mike at May 1, 2005 08:57 PM

gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has written much on the gay lleft's dhimmi attitude towards Islamic fundamentalists:

http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2004/07/the_elusive_pet.html
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/london/2004/05/291593.html
http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=13433

There's also these folks:
http://www.leftturn.org/Articles/Viewer.aspx?id=457&type=M
http://www.indybay.org/news/2004/01/1667070.php

who don't seem to realize that gays have equal rights and big pride marches in Israel but gay arabs flee to Israel to avoid persecution by the PA.

Posted by: Yehudit at May 1, 2005 08:59 PM

Mary and I have argued about this before. The facts about the Saudis are indisputable, but I think it is more strategically wise to dance with them (very carefully) for the time being than to invade them.

Since Bush has been pretty forceful about cleaning house in the CIA and State (Goss, Rice, Bolton, firing Powell, etc.), I don't think his "coddling" of Abdullah is an expression of State's fondness for Arab regimes, but just Bush's common sense. He has shown over the past 4 years that he isn't going to do something just because State thinks it's a good idea. We are also supporting Musharraf and Putin (while scolding them about human rights) because the alternative is worse.

So what should be Bush's attitude toward SA? I mean, practically, right now.

Posted by: Yehudit at May 1, 2005 09:05 PM

Mike,

Spending $200 billion on missiles and tanks is a far better use of that money...

Absolutely, cause you got to throw the corrupt bastards out first before spending the money is going to help.

By the way, are you pushing a military confrontation with NK? Ready to join up and do your duty? Congrats.

Posted by: chuck at May 1, 2005 09:49 PM

"By the way, are you pushing a military confrontation with NK? Ready to join up and do your duty? Congrats."

Typical testosterone-loaded conservative response. When you are beaten, insult the other person's manhood. Are you going to call me a girly-man next? Seriously bro... pathetic.

Posted by: mike at May 1, 2005 10:13 PM

"Typical testosterone-loaded conservative response."

So... if you aren't a conservative, you have low levels of testosterone?

Learn something new ever' day on these here blog things.

I spent a winter in Korea, back when they were merely insane, before we gave them the tools to become a nuclear threat. Over the years I went back thrice more for deployments. My uncle spent two winters there, and the other seasons beside, actively killing and being wounded by them.

They are an appendage of China as far as military options are to be considered. And they don't export shit except for refugees, crappy weapons, and drugs, so it makes more sense to camp them than to invade them. Oh, and the fact that any military solution involves the immediate immolation of Seoul - that's with only the convetional tube artillery and battlefield rockets that have been dug in opposite the ROK capital since the ink was wet on the ceasefire in 53. No telling what the cost will be if Kim's generals obeyed an order to use NBC weapons. Note that China would benefit if the Korean Peninsuela was uninhabitable; they are already worried about the effect of thriving democracies on their border regions elsewhere and like having North Korea for a neighbor.

How screwed up does a place have to be for refugees to flee to China?

We should have used food aid against the Norks in 93. By withholding it. We not only propped up the regime, but threw in the technology and money they used to develop their nukes.

Now pardon me, I'm off to watch Hee Haw...

Posted by: TmjUtah at May 1, 2005 11:19 PM

Quote:

Anyone who wants to vent about how Bush isn't tough enough on the Saudis better also support a $1.00 gas tax increase, a sharp increase in CAFE requirements, and a mandatory national speed limit of 55 (see today's NYTimes, restoring this would immediatly save gas).

________________________________

Got that? No one who disagrees with Markus and the NYT has a right to comment on this thread. NO ONE. MJT apparently created this blog as a forum for Markus Rose to dictate US energy policy to a passive audience. Occasional, slavish expressions of assent with the NYT and MR may sometimes be permitted. Everyone must take for granted that MR has some self-evident right to post that other contributors lack. And you dupes actually thought this place was designed to host a [relatively] free exchange of ideas.

MR likes to paraphrase? Well, here's a direct quote from a recent commenter:

"your hypocrisy is too galling."

Hmmm...

Posted by: Samsung at May 2, 2005 12:04 AM

“He has shown over the past 4 years that he isn't going to do something just because State thinks it's a good idea.”

I think you are right, but my faith is weak. This quiet diplomacy stuff demands a lot of trust of those who do not attend the meetings where President Bush speaks frankly about the Saudi royal family. Let’s hope for the best.

Posted by: David Thomson at May 2, 2005 01:08 AM

Mary and I have argued about this before.

It’s not an argument, it’s just a friendly discussion :-)

The facts about the Saudis are indisputable, but I think it is more strategically wise to dance with them (very carefully) for the time being than to invade them.

I wanted to believe that Bush had some interest in fighting Islamist terrorism, but his recent actions show that he doesn’t. Yes, we’re fighting a war, and it’s been very effective at times, but we’re not fighting terrorism.

Bush is not warily dancing with the Saudis, he’s embracing them wholeheartedly, like family. His actions indicate that his strategy is the 9/10-mindset realpolitik strategy illustrated above. Bush plans to rely on the Saudi royals to be the voice of moderation in OPEC and the Middle East. He wants them to stay in power indefinitely, despite the fact that they’re still actively funding terror abroad, in Iraq and in America.

He wants them to stay in power, although most of the world, including the Muslim world, despises them.

Yes, sometimes you have to deal with nasty regimes to fight a war. FDR fought alongside Joseph Stalin, but he didn’t embrace Hitler and Hirohito.

If we were fighting a war against terrorism, we would ally ourselves with other powerful nations who also want to defeat terrorism. Our govt. would tell the truth about Saudi crimes. We wouldn’t ally ourselves with the terrorists. We wouldn't legitimize them, and we wouldn't protect them.

Posted by: mary at May 2, 2005 07:32 AM

Samsung -- you or anyone else has a right to support a pro-American pig lifestyle, pro-Saudi, pro-Bin Laden energy policy -- just as I reserve the right to assert my view that such views are contemptable.

I acknowledge however, that characterizing others the way that I do is not useful for winning over Republicans, neocons, and other anti- radical Islamists to a pro-conservation energy policy, which ought to be my prime objective. Something convinced Frank Gaffney and other anti-Saudi neocons to support higher CAFE standards, and it wasn't people like me fulminating about my estrangement from middle America.

Posted by: markus rose at May 2, 2005 07:55 AM

Anyone who wants to vent about how Bush isn't tough enough on the Saudis better also support a $1.00 gas tax increase, a sharp increase in CAFE requirements, and a mandatory national speed limit of 55.

Those were good ideas in 1973, but we should probably concentrate on developing new technologies. Americans are good at that. We’re awful when it comes to conservation, and why should we prolong our dependence on oil? We should move beyond it.

One industry that Yehudit was talking about, Thermal depolymerization, is already producing a fair amount of oil.

All cars should be hybrids (they really aren’t golf carts – our Prius goes above 100 mph. occasionally) or at least diesel. A hydrogen economy based on pebble bed nuclear reactors doesn’t have much hope with the current combination of anti-nuke environmentalists and republican oil men in the White House, but fortunately, changes in technology come from market demand, not the government.

With their support of terrorism, the Saudis have already priced themselves out the market. Cars that ran on gold would be cheaper than cars fueled by Saudi oil.

In 2001, total Saudi oil revenues were less that $50 billion.

The Saudi-sponsored 9/11 attacks cost New York city alone approx. 95 billion dollars.

They cost the insurance industry more than $8 billion

According to the World Travel and Tourism summit, the impact of the tsunami disaster on tourism in 2005 was estimated to be 40 times less than that of the September 11 attacks on the United States,

They said the tsunami cost the tourism industry approx. three billion dollars in losses.

Saudis are slaughtering Americans every day, they’re killing our economy, they're teaching hate in our schools. What do they have to do to make us angry?

Posted by: mary at May 2, 2005 08:19 AM

mary -- it is way too simplistic to say that changes in technology come from the market. In fact, lawmaking (such as CAFE standards), research grants, and government-procurement requirements (particularly by the military), can have a tremendous effect on the development of technology.

It's great that hybrids, including SUV hybrids, are getting popular now, due to high gas prices. It would have been better had they gotten popular five years ago, and this would have happened if we had eliminated the "light truck" loophole in the CAFE standards that allowed the SUV craze to happen.

Posted by: markus rose at May 2, 2005 08:40 AM

CAFE is really the wrong answer if you want to save gas, though. Gas taxes are the only thing that really works.

Everybody likes the idea of CAFE because it seems so attractive-- "Just increase mileage and we'll use less oil, without people having to pay more." Too bad it doesn't work that way in practice. When you raise CAFE standards, you decrease the price of the marginal mile by making it cheaper to drive farther. The end result is that people drive more miles than they would otherwise. This ends up destroying a lot of your oil savings. TANSTAAFL. See here among other places for some various studies. Also search on "price elasticity of miles driven CAFE" and other such.

When you raise gas prices, people voluntarily choose to drive less or to buy cars with better mileage. Since the increase in the gas tax makes the cost per mile high, you don't lose your benefits in the same way. There are also ancillary benefits for congestions, public transportation, etc.

That's why most studies have shown that CAFE is much less effective at reducing gas consumption for the cost on consumers, the economy, and society.

Posted by: John Thacker at May 2, 2005 08:42 AM

John Thacker --
"When you raise CAFE standards, you decrease the price of the marginal mile by making it cheaper to drive farther. The end result is that people drive more miles than they would otherwise."

I don't think this occurs, at least not as much, if you also have a high tax on gas, which I agree with you we should also institute.

Posted by: markus rose at May 2, 2005 08:46 AM

...anyone else has a right to support a pro-American pig lifestyle, pro-Saudi, pro-Bin Laden energy policy -- just as I reserve the right to assert my view that such views are contemptable.

Markus - do you use electricity? Do you fly in planes, drive in cars, etc.? Use plastics? Do you eat food grown on farms that use oil-based fertilizers? You use a computer - do you realize how much oil is used in the making of a computer? Who is calling who a hypocrite?

Why only $1 tax per gallon of gas. Why not $5 or $20 or $100? Where do you draw the lines? There once was a national 55 mph speed limit. Guess what - the American population ignored it (at least they did in the West where I'm from - the city I was from did a study and found that during the 55mph limit era the average speed on the freeways was 68mph). When the speed limit was raised again deaths on the roads did increase. But more people dying from traffic deaths means that the US might be using less oil overall (fewer people) so maybe the 55mph limit would actually be counterproductive in reducing oil use. I don't know how the numbers would add up on this. So often though, good intentions do end up being counterproductive to the wanted result.

Technology is what allows 6 billion people to survive on the planet. If we all went back to the ways of nature the world would be destroyed in short order. I linked to this before in a previous thread - you should read it.

Posted by: markytom at May 2, 2005 08:50 AM

it is way too simplistic to say that changes in technology come from the market.

Have you used a typewriter lately? A rotary-dial phone?

CAFE standards and 55 mph. limits are the 8-track tapes of energy independence. Alternative energy sources don't have to be government sponsored - they just have to be better than our costly reliance on oil from the Middle East.

Given the outrageous cost of oil from the Middle East, alternate energy already wins.

Posted by: mary at May 2, 2005 09:16 AM

Mary:

"Saudis are slaughtering Americans every day..."

Every day? EVERY DAY?

"...they’re killing our economy..."

Some Saudi terrorists did a despicable act that hit America hard. They did not kill, and are not killing, the American economy. A case could be made, however, that Bush is severely harming the economy with his horrendous deficits.

"...they're teaching hate in our schools..."

In OUR schools? In THEIR schools perhaps, but in OURS?

"What do they have to do to make us angry?"

Obviously, for you, not much.

Look the Saudi aristocracy are not angels, and Wahabism is a twisted ideology/religion that has encouraged SOME Saudis to become terrorists. But America's abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat probably did as much to fuel Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

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Posted by: VinoVeritas at May 2, 2005 09:21 AM

markytom -- your implicit assertion that I cannot call for the mandatory conservation initiatives because I am a user of energy is completely illogical.

Posted by: markus rose at May 2, 2005 11:47 AM
They’re slaughtering Americans every day:
Authored by Dr. Reuven Paz, the paper analyzes the origins of 154 Arab jihadists killed in Iraq in the last six months, whose names have been posted on Islamist websites.

The sample does not account for all jihadists in Iraq, but provides a useful and eye-opening profile of them. Saudi Arabia accounted for 94 jihadists, or 61 percent of the sample, followed by Syria with 16 (10 percent), Iraq itself with only 13 (8 percent), and Kuwait with 11 (7 percent.) The rest included small numbers from Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Algeria, Morocco (of which one was a resident in Spain), Yemen, Tunisia, the Palestinian territories (only 1), Dubai, and Sudan. The Sudanese was living in Saudi Arabia before he went to die in Iraq.

they're teaching hate in our schools:
Saudi textbooks and other publications in the collection, propagate a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treat the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avow that the Muslim’s duty is to eliminate the state of Israel;

• Regarding women, the Saudi publications instruct that they should be veiled, segregated from men and barred from certain employment and roles;

The report states: “While the government of Saudi Arabia claims to be ‘updating’ or reforming its textbooks and study materials within the Kingdom, its publications propagating an ideology of hatred remain plentiful in some prominent American mosques and Islamic centers, and continue to be a principal resource available to students of Islam within the United States.”

..more hate in our schools and universities..

Unless you want to argue that our dependence on Saudi oil is good for our economy, the last statement stands.

Some Saudi terrorists did a despicable act that hit America hard.

No, Saudi terrorists funded by the Saudi government committed an unprovoked act of war on 9/11.

9/11 was enough justification for war.

America's abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat probably did as much to fuel Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

that doesn't even deserve a response.

Posted by: mary at May 2, 2005 11:51 AM

Would that first quote mean that besides Saudis killing Americans every day, Syrians, Iraqis, Kuwaitis, Jordanians, Lebanese, Libyians, Algerians, Moroccons, Yemenese, Tunisians, Palestinians, Dubains, and Sudanese are also killing Americans every day?

Also, I'm not sure how the second quote proves that the Saudis are teaching hate in your schools. Those materials are for mosques, are they not?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at May 2, 2005 01:10 PM

According to the quote above, Saudis 'insurgents' are in Iraq under the direct request of a government official.

Supreme Judicial Council Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan encouraged young Saudis to go to Iraq to kill American soldiers.

Since textbooks are used, I assumed that the literature mentioned in the Freedom House Report is used to teach children in local madrassas. That report could just concern that hate that they're teaching in the large percentage of mosques that they influence.

Posted by: mary at May 2, 2005 01:23 PM

pro-American pig lifestyle
your hypocrisy is too galling.
To paraphrase, f**k the pigs.
your implicit assertion that I cannot call for the mandatory conservation initiatives because I am a user of energy is completely illogical.

Fine - then state your case instead of calling people names and other crap, it just makes your arguments weaker.

One issue with "mandatory conservation" is the trade-off between personal freedom and government control/power. I lean much more toward a free market and personal freedom. And where does one draw the lines? How about mandatory thermostat settings in homes too? Politicians won't go very far with these mandates for fear of losing votes.

The major issue is that these conservation strategies - 55mph, CAFE standards, etc. don't solve the problem - moving away from oil (and some of the strategies may not actually reduce oil consumption at all). Reducing oil consumption a few percent doesn't really accomplish anything. As Mary states we need alternative energy sources that are better than oil. I would rather see the government pour more money into public and private R&D facilities to come up with hydrogen or other, better energy sources to replace oil. Maybe your $1/gallon gas tax could be used to fund it. Conservation is good but it isn't the answer for issues surrounding our oil-based economy.

Posted by: markytom at May 2, 2005 01:44 PM

"What time do you think we have?" -- Saruman to Gandalf, discussing the threat of Sauron.

I could understand a bide-our-time-until-the-House-of-Saud implodes, except for that 9/11 thing.

The House of Saud uses the export of jihadis as a pressure valve. Got a lot of testosterone-addled, xenophobic, misogynistic remittance men with little or no chance at social advancement? Well, you've definitely got a problem on your hands. Solution? Promote a culture of lemming-like rage, and point them at the borders or better yet, put them on a plane.

I'm not as hardcore on this topic as mary, but I can definitely grok her anger. Fool me once, and all that. The House of Saud must fall.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 2, 2005 01:52 PM

The House of Saud ain't going nowhere. At least not for a few years. Too many friends in the Whitehouse.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at May 2, 2005 02:51 PM

DPU: "Also, I'm not sure how the second quote proves that the Saudis are teaching hate in your schools. Those materials are for mosques, are they not?"

No, they're not just for mosques. The Saudi's have poured millions of bucks into our institutions of higher learning and they have had a major impact in framing the Israeli/Palestinian issue at that level. I'm not Jewish but someone would have to be nearly blind not to see how the Saudi's, through their influence on our college campuses, are fanning hatred for Jews throughout the west.

Posted by: Caroline at May 2, 2005 04:56 PM

Oh, yeah ... so now you're a PIG if you disagree with MR and the NYT on energy policy. So there's been a pretty impressive spewage of insults but we still know nothing of the methodology the NYT employed in order to come to that conclusion, the experts cited, potential unintended consequences, etc. The NYT may well have a good reason for advocating increased taxation of gasoline; however, flatly stating that those who disagree with the NYT must "shut up" indicates a quasi-religious faith in the paper's accuracy. Furthermore, it's a bit hard to call someone's views contemptible if they remain unknown to you. I don't think I ever stated that I was opposed to gas taxes. In fact I am open to the suggestion but missed an opportunity to learn more about the subject because of the whole manichean, anti-tax-equals-pro-Saudi rhetorical tone (yes, I could find the article myself, but such an anti-intellectual approach just seems to be bad form).
That being said, someone on another blog posted that China's increased need for energy sources would essentially nullify U.S. efforts to conserve oil, thus preventing the Wahabbis from feeling any real economic impact. That is, the Chinese would essentially consume an increased share of oil reserves at the same price in lieu (sp) of Americans. Anyone know whether or not this is likely?

Posted by: Samsung at May 2, 2005 06:29 PM

That being said, someone on another blog posted that China's increased need for energy sources would essentially nullify U.S. efforts to conserve oil, thus preventing the Wahabbis from feeling any real economic impact. That is, the Chinese would essentially consume an increased share of oil reserves at the same price in lieu (sp) of Americans. Anyone know whether or not this is likely?

While China is definitely energy hungry, and has made energy deals recently with Canada, Venezuala, and Iran, I think that conservation would still have an impact on prices, as demand would drop regardless. China's energy needs are set by its consumption, not by how much oil is available, so less demand would still equal lower prices (lower than they would be without conservation, that is -- the price is going to rise regardless).

I'm actually curious about how much reserves the Saudis actually have. I've read a few energy analysts indicate that Saudi Arabia, along with other OPEC states, have been overestimating their reserves in order to get around OPEC production quotas. Don't know if it's true or not, but it makes for some interesting reading.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at May 2, 2005 09:48 PM

The Chinese economy is huge, and growing rapidly; its need for energy, think oil and gas, raises the overall world demand, and will lead to price increases, unless the supply of oil/gas increases more rapidly than at present.
India's fuel needs are also accelerating, and there are a billion Indians.
The supply of gas/oil rises as the price rises, allowing for a lag time. This is because what we have used up is enormous pools of easy to get at, thus cheap, fuel; the oil/gas that is out there costs more to find, more to move, no giant pools etc., but, given enough money, there is lots there.
What is happening, is that, as gas/oil becomes harder to find, and demand increases, prices go up, and other technologies become increasingly competitive, think wind turbines, solar panels etc; also, technology allows us to get more from each litre of conventional fuel.
All this takes time. Govts can and do help by setting standards; wish they had done more in the past when that method, rather than price, was what was moving us, slightly, forward.
Anyway, re the Saudis; who the heck knows what to do with that situation.
The reality is that the saudi 'world' has been very much transformed in the last 60 years and their society is under great stress, with the royals desperate to hold on ( in the country they named after their family ! ), in partnership with the islamic wahabi fanatics, with whom they share control of the country.
This saudi ruling partnership has sponsored islam round the world, spending umpteen billions, and elements of the partnership, both royal and wahabi, are encouraging jihad terrorism in iraq, and likely elsewhere.
Whether they support military jihad for religious reasons, or to export young males who would otherwise challenge the regime, is immaterial.
The U.S. is now out of saudi; will they send the army back in if their is a revolt against the regime ? Will they let the regime fall ? Will they move the army in to take over some oil fields, and let the saudis have their way with each other ? Will there ever be a successful revolt in saudi, or is the tyranny just overwhelming a la saddam ?
We must press on with new technologies, both to 'create' energy, and to do more with what we have, not only with regard to saudi, but to enhance our competitive economic standing in a world of expensive energy.

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Posted by: ccxvxcv at December 25, 2007 09:44 AM
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