One of the results of the Wikileaks debacle has been to highlight America’s problem with Saudi Arabia. Secretary of Defense Gates stated that the Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American. Meanwhile al-Qaeda and other Islamofascists have treated the country as an ATM, with the kingdom funding terrorist groups around the world. Of the many questionable and downright evil things Wikileaks has done, it has shown that at least some members of our government aren’t complete idiots when it comes to the danger that kingdom presents to the world.
The Saudis have a very long track record of undermining American foreign policy. It has bought off members of both the Left and the Right in Washington DC, and has avoided scrutiny of its actions. Some apologists have noted that the Saudi government has been helpful in the fight against Islamic terrorism, and that Osama Bin Laden himself hates the House of Saud almost as much – if not more – than the United States. But they ignore the fact that the Saudis are the primary bank rollers of the puritanical Islam espoused by Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and the vast majority of nut jobs with a suicide belt around their waists and a Koran in their hearts.
The founder of the Saudi regime, Ibn Saud, used Wahabism to achieve domination of the Arabian peninsula, and his family has used it to maintain power ever since. Religion was a potent weapon in Ibn Saud’s rise to power, but controlling it has been difficult. Over the decades the Saudis have funded Wahabist causes around the world in exchange for zero tolerance of any religious actions targeting the regime within the kingdom itself.
Saudi money has spread the Wahabi brand of religious intolerance to all parts of the globe. It has built mosques throughout the world, bringing Wahabism to places that it had never been before including Pakistan, Indonesia, and sub-Saharan Africa – areas with more tolerant, indigenous Islamic traditions. As the Saudis became wealthier after the oil shocks of the 1970s, their funding of Wahabist causes grew. The United States, locked in an ideological battle with the Soviet Union, even welcomed the Wahabist influence as a tool to undermine Soviets in South Asia, and as a potential firewall against the spread of Shiite radicalism that Iran began exporting after the Ayatollah Khomeini took power in 1979. Less than two decades later the United States would come to regret their support and encouragement of these Wahabist elements.
It is only in retrospect that we see the extent of which the Cold War defined American foreign policy actions until September 11, 2001. During those decades the United States didn’t see the threat Wahabist terror posed since it was locked in what it thought was a greater struggle with Communism. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s that the United States began to reassess its strategic threats, an action that the events of September 11, 2001 brought home.
But people cannot change their views quickly, especially after a lifetime of seeing the world through the Cold War prism where Saudi Arabia stood as an ally. In hindsight, however, it is becoming much more apparent that while we may have been the Saudis allies, they were never ours. With the Cold War over we are locked in yet another ideological struggle that threatens our way of life just as surely as Soviet nuclear weapons targeted on our cities. And the heart of that struggle is in the Arabian peninsula.
What is ironic is that some Saudis may recognize the predicament they are in. They don’t want an end to the status quo whereby they can stay in power by buying off discontent and forcing it to go elsewhere, but they cannot stop supporting jihadists without risking the jihadis turning on them. The Arabs were never great strategists – as T.E. Lawrence proved in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
Julian Assange wasn’t a slave to the truth; his goal was much more mundane and common amongst his Leftist supporters. He wanted to damage the United States – to punish it for its sins. But what he has inadvertently done is the opposite: he has exposed a truth that can strengthen the US if it acts upon it. And that truth is that Saudi Arabia is its enemy and must be treated accordingly.
UPDATE: SoccerDad provides some info on the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia that I wasn’t familiar with. Many thanks.