October 03, 2002

Update on Saudi Apologist W...

Update on Saudi Apologist Wyche Fowler: You know, the ex-ambassador I've written about here and for the National Post. On CNN today Fowler fulfilled his usual role of interpreting the House of Saud with a positive spin:

They like to do things in secret, for their own political regions within the region. They have to live next to the Iraqis and next to the Iranians, and there is a balancing act.
His performance was far more offensive earlier this week, when CNN's Leon Harris had him on for a program about troubled U.S.-Saudi relations. Italics are mine:
HARRIS: This is a very complex subject here this morning, and I'm going to take it for granted here that because of the time you spent there, you don't see this as simply a friend versus foe issue, do you?

FOWLER: No, we have a 60-year friendship, a solid friendship based on working together on everything from fighting terrorism, back when it was communist terrorism in the '60s and '70s, up through all of the training that we have done for the armed forces and their military in Saudi Arabia. And of course you know the story of our dependence on Middle East oil, Saudi oil, to -- for the United States. This is a country that has been a reliable ally. Many, many Saudis were educated in the United States and have gone home as being very pro-American and buy American and think American in many -- in many aspects. Obviously, you get into some rough patches and disagreements, mainly surrounding foreign policy issues, and this is one of those times.

HARRIS: Well do you see this -- at this particular time, do you see this relationship between the two countries being, as we heard in that report by Andrea Koppel, that one expert saying that this relationship is close to divorce here or what?

FOWLER: No, I think it may need a little counseling from cooler heads, but we'll save the marriage. Again, the foreign minister that you -- Saud Al-Faisel that you just interviewed, his father, King Faisel, was killed by a terrorist attack in 19 -- in the '70s. Bin Laden declared war on Saudi Arabia before he declared war on the United States. The Saudis have been fighting terrorists for at least two decades. And of course I was sent by President Clinton right after a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19 Americans but also killed Saudis. So that's when Saudi Arabia knew that it had a problem with terrorists, knew that there were cells operating, knew that there were Saudis who had become extreme terrorists and that was the beginning of our cooperation to track down al Qaeda and bin Laden himself.

So I prefer to believe President Bush and the members of his Cabinet when he says that the Saudis are cooperating. And certainly as we saw, despite the dispute over -- by some in America about our troops in the desert in Saudi Arabia, the Saudis allowed us to conduct the whole air war against Afghanistan, the terrorists in Afghanistan from that base on Saudi soil. There's far more cooperation, serious cooperation, intelligence sharing than you would believe if you listened to some pundits. They have a right to their view, but I think we will survive this patch and we need the Saudis if we're going to win this war on terrorism in any meaningful way.

HARRIS: Well let me ask you -- I'm sorry, in the final moments that we have this morning, I want to ask you about another topic that I've heard pundits mention quite a bit of late here, the fact that, in their -- in their view, that many people in Saudi Arabia and around the world believe that the U.S. has been somewhat hypocritical in promoting democracy and has not been speaking out as [vigorously] about it in Saudi Arabia as they have been about it in Iraq. And that the U.S. approach to the public of Saudi Arabia by forcing that government or at least encouraging it to move toward democracy might actually help relations in the end better between these two countries. Your view on that?

FOWLER: Well, I think that we confuse that. Sometimes we use the term "democracy" just to mean Western-style Jeffersonian democracy, a sort of one size fits all for everybody in the world. I think that we in encouraging empowerment of people, in encouraging the delegation of responsibilities and openness in society, whether it be people voting or a free and open press to express themselves in non-democratic societies, America just ought to -- it would help if we realized that they're going to as they move towards democracy remember their own culture and traditions and try to fit that plan to fit the society that they govern.

Discuss.

Incidentally, his comment about "our dependence on Middle East oil, Saudi oil," brings to mind a point that I always forget to emphasize after mining the depths of Saudi apologia -- it is about oil, kids, no matter how foolish you find the latest half-literate column by bob-haired political cartoonists. By "it," I'm talking about U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, which are of particular interest, I think, because Saudia Arabia produced 15 of the 19 hijackers who killed 3,000 on American soil, and exports the religious ideology that fertilizes the movement we have pledged to defeat. Read the transcripts of any congressional hearing involving U.S.-Saudi relations, and you will hear witness after witness explain that there is absolutely no way in hell we'd have anything resembling our current policy toward the House of Saud if we weren't so dependent on its oil. Many actively encourage the U.S. to adopt conservation measures, and develop alternative sources of fuel. These are not misguided hippies, or Naderites run amok. They are policy analysts and ex-government officials, many neck-deep in the oil industry. Something worth thinking about it.

Posted by at October 3, 2002 05:42 PM
Comments
Sometimes we use the term “democracy” just to mean Western-style Jeffersonian democracy, a sort of one size fits all for everybody in the world.

Yeah, we're bad people because we always dismiss that version of democracy which involves unelected, pampered despot dictators who treat half their population (women) worse than draft animals.

Posted by: Rossz at October 4, 2002 11:28 AM

Well, our diplomats definitely do suck up to the Sauds for their oil $, and it is true we get a good portion of our oil from them. But the truth is the Saudis need to sell their oil to the world worse than we need to buy it from them. In any event, if we pissed off the Saudis so bad they wouldn't sell us a drop, that would merely mean they'd be selling it to the rest of the world and we'd be making up the difference elsewhere with barely a nudge to our economy. Oil is about as fungible a commodity as you can find. These conservation measures have an awful lot of hidden costs and in any event the best conservation tool is if the price of oil were to rise to reflect relative scarcity/high demand. Guess what- the Saudis and the mideast are losing market share to the former Soviets and West Africans and demand ain't all that hot. Throw a few hundred million barrels of postwar Iraqi oil on the market and the Saudis goose will really get cooked with oil under $15/brl. The trick is getting our politicos to see outside the box on this and get comfortable with telling the house of Saud to go fuck itself.

Posted by: Lloyd Albano at October 4, 2002 11:50 AM

Matt: You should create a separate section of your web site that collects together your posts and articles on Saudi Ambassadors turned Saudi shills.

Call it "Wyche Watch."

Posted by: Peter Caress at October 4, 2002 07:37 PM

Lloyd Albano is right on target with his analysis. SA could disrupt world oil supplies in the short run, and we would have to dip into the SPR to partially compensate, but any long-run decrease in production by SA would hurt them FAR worse than it would hurt us (by "us," I mean all world oil consumers) -- without their oil $$$ to partially pacify their subjects, the House of Saud would be out very quickly. The "oil dependence" line of argument just doesn't really hold water when one examines it more closely, which is why the liberal media never does really examine it very closely, preferring to just harangue us about SUVs and "sprawl."

Posted by: Robert Nephew at October 4, 2002 08:28 PM

What's or who's a bob-haired political cartoonist?

Posted by: Gregor at October 4, 2002 09:43 PM

Robert -- Any relation to Thomas?

I don't pretend to know squat about the "oil dependence" argument, but I find it striking (as I said in my post), how many people who theoretically *should* know squat -- oil-industry pals who have served as U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, for example, or various Congreemen -- bring up "oil dependence" literally every time they testify, or throw a hearing. I'm not talking about either liberals or the media, in this case.

Gregor -- I was talking about Ted Rall, I think. I usually try not to.

Posted by: Matt Welch at October 5, 2002 08:45 PM

Yes, he is my brothcause the next 9/11" has a far greater likelihood of belonging to a Radical Islamic Death Cult, than a local Green Party in Seattle or Santa Monica.

What I don't understand -- at all, really -- is the vehement hostility heaped on environmentalists who suggest, for example, that fuel standards might oughtta be higher in the United States. Having said that, I don't intend to participate in a great Environmentalists & Alternative Energy Sources debate here, being an ignoramus on such matters, and also being allergic to vein-bursting scream-a-thons.

Though I certainly find it interesting that my comment -- which was an accurate bit of reporting about how the witnesses & questioners of Congressional hearings dealing with Saudi Arabia routinely talk about the policy being absolutely distorted by U.S. dependence on oil, and frequently suggest alternate sources of fuel while lamenting "our addiction to SUVs" and suchlike -- quickly turned into a bash-the-Greens session.

Posted by: Matt Welch at October 6, 2002 03:03 PM
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th countries like Russia, we could be independent enough to put an oil-gun to the head of the Saudi's and watch them blink.

The group which has the most tragic impact on this Saudi situation is the enviro-group, and it's a very simple, straightforward situation to fix. We need more sources for oil, not less.

The next time you hear an enviro go off on a rant, remember that you're listening to the person who is most likely to cause the next 9/11.

Posted by: Paul A'Barge at October 6, 2002 07:13 AM

Of course it's about oil with Oilbags of SA - at least in part. Any country that supplies upwards of ten percent of our oil is going to be treated differently than, oh, Swaziland. Which is why it becomes all the more important to develop a source of replacement oil that doesn't come from a Wahabbist nightmare like Saudi - maybe, oh, a liberated Iraq, and possibly Iran?

Posted by: Bill Quick at October 6, 2002 11:44 AM

Paul -- Call me a literalist, but I'm guessing the "person who is most likely to cause the next 9/11" has a far greater likelihood of belonging to a Radical Islamic Death Cult, than a local Green Party in Seattle or Santa Monica.

What I don't understand -- at all, really -- is the vehement hostility heaped on environmentalists who suggest, for example, that fuel standards might oughtta be higher in the United States. Having said that, I don't intend to participate in a great Environmentalists & Alternative Energy Sources debate here, being an ignoramus on such matters, and also being allergic to vein-bursting scream-a-thons.

Though I certainly find it interesting that my comment -- which was an accurate bit of reporting about how the witnesses & questioners of Congressional hearings dealing with Saudi Arabia routinely talk about the policy being absolutely distorted by U.S. dependence on oil, and frequently suggest alternate sources of fuel while lamenting "our addiction to SUVs" and suchlike -- quickly turned into a bash-the-Greens session.

Posted by: Matt Welch at October 6, 2002 03:03 PM
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