Lost amidst the news of the horrific shooting at the GOP baseball practice was a vote in the Senate this Tuesday striking down Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s resolution disapproving of the Saudi arms deal.
Lest you think the effort to cozy up to the Saudis is helping us against other terror-supporting nations, this administration plans to continue weapons sales to Qatar as well, which has become an enemy of Saudi Arabia. Thus, rather than allowing our terror-supporting enemies to fight each other with us coming out on top, we service both, genuflect to their whims, and place our interests last.
On Tuesday, Sen. Paul harnessed an arcane procedure to force a vote on his resolution to disapprove a $500 million arms sale to the Saudis (as part of a deal that’s as much as $350 billion). The resolution failed 47-53, but most of the “good” votes came from Democrats. All but four Democrats voted with Paul, and almost every Republican (except for Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Todd Young, R-Ind.), voted to uphold the Saudi deal.
Yet, most of the Democrats voted to uphold the Saudi deal when Rand Paul held a similar vote last year while Obama was president. And let’s not forget that the foundation for this deal began under Obama’s watch.
Hence, the idolatry of the political party politics.
Most Americans can’t stand the Saudis, and rightfully understand that they have been funding Islamic poison on our own soil the likes of which have had worse long-term effects than ISIS. They likely new about 9/11 and might have had a hand in the terror attacks.
This should be an easy opportunity for the two parties to come together as the legislative branch of government and slow down the executive branch’s endless arms sales to the Saudi kingdom until we understand its ramifications. For example, how much is this going to commit us into the Yemeni civil war? What are we pledging to do for the Saudis in Syria? What are they asking of us in terms of pressuring Israel? What sort of “investments” are they going to make in our country?
Unfortunately, when a Democrat is president, most Democrats suddenly lose interest in the Saudi threat; when a Republican is president, most Republicans lose interest. Either way, the American people lose.
As I noted in last week’s podcast (listen here), there is a disturbing pattern emanating from Trump’s foreign policy advisors in which they are incurring all the liabilities of saddling up to the Saudis but none of the benefits. For example, we are getting sucked into the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars and pressuring Israel on “settlements” (and not moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as promised) at their behest, but we are not using their momentum to go after Qatar, Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood, and abrogate the Iran nuclear deal.
Some have suggested that the Saudis have changed their attitude and that now is an opportune time to join with them in an alliance, as witnessed by their strong stance against Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. OK, so why are Secs.Tillerson and Mattis trying to save Qatar’s rear end and now even advancing an arm’s deal with them?! Why are we not designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror group on our own soil if even the Saudis can do so for their purposes?
The reality is that we should be neither pro-Saudi nor pro-Qatar. — we should be pro-American. That means we should leverage and pressure the Saudis to do what we want and the Qataris to do what we want instead of being in the back pockets of both of them. We don’t need to sell the Saudis arms and get sucked into their neighbors’ civil wars in order to be strong on Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, aside from Trump’s personal tweets, we are not being strong on those fronts at all.
Saudi Arabia is terrified of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood for their purposes, but they don’t mind funding jihad on our soil. Same thing for Qatar for their interests. Nobody wants the insurgent snakes on their lawns, but they will continue funding it against us. We should play them against each other, instead of getting played by both sides.
That is the America-first mentality for which Trump was elected. The problem is, much like the nuances of health care, the mutual exclusive nature of his foreign policy is completely lost on him.
To that end, here is a simple list of do’s and don’ts the president should follow that will actually convert his slogans and rhetoric to real policy transformations in the Middle East:
If Trump wants to move anywhere close to an America-first foreign policy, he needs to first think long and hard about the future of a secretary of state who is thinking more about protecting his oil ties than the security of this country.