This is the title of an article I would have written had a Democrat president engaged in the same obsequious behavior to the Saudis over the weekend. Given that a dignified consistency is indispensable to intellectual honesty, I’m not going to sugar-coat this because there is an alleged Republican in the White House.
Flanked by his cadre of “shallow state” Democrat advisors – Jared, Ivanka, Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — Trump gave his supporters a vivid demonstration of exactly what they detested when they screamed “globalist,” “Goldman Sachs,” and “America First” during the election. The crowning achievement of this trip was the signing of a massive arms deal with the Islamic kingdom that Trump once implied was responsible for 9/11. Under the agreement, the Saudi Kingdom will immediately receive $110 billion worth of helicopters, tanks, patrol boats, sophisticated radar technology, and anti-missile systems. An additional $350 billion in economic development over the next ten years is tentatively part of the agreement. To put the enormity of this deal in context, the much hyped “historic” arms deal we signed with Israel last September was worth $38 billion.
Immediately after the deal was signed, Saudi Arabia and the UAE pledged $100 million to the World Bank’s women’s entrepreneurship fund, a pet project of Ivanka Trump. There is no evidence of Clinton Foundation-style corrupt bargaining here, but this is something we would have criticized in a Democrat presidency, nonetheless.
Some are defending this deal as a means of signaling deterrent power against Iran. But if the Trump administration was moving in a strong direction on Iran, why did they certify compliance with the deal instead of ripping it up or renegotiating it, as promised in the campaign? Giving weapons to the Saudis while maintaining the Iran deal is what an “America last” foreign policy looks like. Alliance against terrorism? It doesn’t help that the Saudis blocked an attempt by the U.S. to sanction the Saudi branch of ISIS just two weeks ago.
Moreover, for us to focus on ISIS while downright cozying up to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhood makes us miss the trees for the forest. These regimes and entities pose a more foundational threat to our security than ISIS and Al Qaeda. The jihadists will never defeat us militarily, and most of the overseas conflicts involve sectarian violence and don’t even threaten our security. The real problems are the civilization jihad and economic jihad through immigration, funding of academia and business interests on our soil, building of radical mosques, and the Muslim Brotherhood subversion agenda.
Thus, while some laud the news of Saudis investing in our infrastructure projects as a master negotiation victory for the president, we must not forget that this is how the Saudis wield their influence and spread their Islamic poison in our own homeland.
Optics vs. actual policies
Many conservative commentators will focus today on how bold Trump was to mention Islamic terror during his speech yesterday in Riyadh. Sure, it is welcome news that Stephen Miller won out against Dina Powell and was allowed to include that line in the speech (although the administration is somewhat walking it back). But all of Miller’s speeches are good. Don’t pay attention to the speeches; pay attention to the actions. Watch the “discernable policy outcomes,” to quote the ACLU’s observation on Trump’s religious liberty order, and you will observe that they are not in line with his campaign rhetoric. As the president so often says, politicians are all talk and no action.
Speeches and optics are great, but only if they portend a broader policy shift. If the policy outcomes and definitive policy statements from administration officials countermand those optics, they are worthless distractions that serve as a pacifying tool against much-need conservative outrage. Visiting the Western Wall is great, but if he refuses to recognize that it belongs to Israel, obsesses about “settlement” construction, and is trying to create a PLO state, this visit is worthless. And of course, this is all a major distraction from his colossal betrayal of not moving the embassy to Jerusalem. His only mission in Israel today should have been touring its border wall and learning how to construct one.
Secretary Tillerson has already said that Trump is “evolving” on his views toward Islam, on the same day the former ExxonMobil CEO said that Tel Aviv is the home of Judaism, a clear snub of Jerusalem on the 50th anniversary of its liberation. Tillerson said in Israel, “We need to put a lot more effort into understanding one another better, understanding each other’s cultures, understanding each other’s beliefs..." In the same speech, Tillerson followed the lawyerly equivocation of H.R. McMaster and Sean Spicer by refusing to affirm that Israel owns the Western Wall, only acknowledging that it is geographically situated in Jerusalem. And H.R. McMaster clearly had an influence on Trump’s Riyadh speech as well, when the president said, “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations.”
Then there are the further betrayals of cozying up to Erdogan and embracing the PLO peace process. Conservatives need to wake up and smell the perfidy. We can continue denying, making excuses, or saying “at least he’s better than Obama.” Or we could realize that this administration is teetering on the brink of full-scale betrayal. The contrary forces within its ranks outnumber our allies close to the president. The president needs to hear from conservatives that we still believe the PLO, Erdogan, and the Saudis are enemies of this country – the same beliefs we held just a few months ago, when “the other guy” was in control.
With a surrendering Congress completely selling us out on health care, immigration, and the budget, foreign policy is one area in which the president has full latitude to chart his own course. There is no filibuster or parliamentarian in his way. There are no excuses for continuing Obama-era policies, and it’s time we stop offering them to him.
Editor's note: This piece has been amended to note that the pledge to the World Bank's women's entrepreneurship fund was $100 million, not $100 billion.