America needs Saudi Arabia just as Saudi Arabia needs America. Few can argue that the symbiotic relationship is based solely on need and not any genuine goodwill towards each other. Quietly, they think we’re evil and that we meddle too much in other nations’ affairs. A little less quietly, we think their traditions are antiquated and their human rights violations are only tolerable because of the source.
We both see each other as evils. The problem is we both know we’re each other’s necessary evils.
I would contend that the relationship, as fruitful as it has been for decades, is so wrought with contention today that it can no longer be viewed as necessary.
The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi is getting journalists such as National Review’s J.J. McCullough to speak out against the Kingdom.
The sad reality is that Saudi Arabia will remain a U.S. ally regardless of how deep and disturbing Riyadh’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is ultimately revealed to be. As Matthew Continetti recently emphasized, there are certain geopolitical realities — in particular the cold war with Iran — that make the Saudi–American alliance a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, no matter how appalling the Saudi human-rights record gets.
What the alleged murder of Khashoggi does do, however, is rapidly eliminate any possibility that the Saudi alliance could be seen as something defensible and positive on its own terms, rather than a necessary evil.
Our long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia is like a favorite old chair that’s tattered and starting to smell bad. It’s time to get our butts off it and push it to the curb.