Thursday, January 01, 2004

The Cave of Djinns

Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis has a monster post which describes the convoluted, madhouse nature of Saudi politics which compares unfavorably, by several orders of magnitude, with the insane semiosis of the Name of the Rose or 1984. It is a system so perverted that its survival requires a grotesque form of relief -- the jihad -- "actually a continuation of domestic politics by other means", to blow off steam. Much of Darling's commentary revolves around a Foreign Affairs article by Michael Scott Doran, the gist of which is that Saudi Arabia is at war with itself and that it is in America's interest to support a favored side.

The Saudi monarchy functions as the intermediary between two distinct political communities: a Westernized elite that looks to Europe and the United States as models of political development, and a Wahhabi religious establishment that holds up its interpretation of Islam's golden age as a guide.

Yet Regnum Crucis argues that in defiance of dramatic convention, there are no heroes in the Saudi tale. Each major party, without exception, is united in their hatred of the kuffar, America in especial, and committed to their eventual subjugation, which in Darling's view, makes any attempts by Foreign Affairs to cast Saudi factionalism in terms of moderates and radicals a kind of warmed-over and misplaced Kremlinology. "The problem is that all of this grand talk of reform in totalitarian nations generally has a way of being smoke and mirrors for gullible Western ears." And he has little patience with an analysis that, while conceding that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains the financial and spiritual home of the Al Qaeda, concludes that the key to suppressing them is to take sides in the KSA's internal politics. The brutal alternative which Darling proposes is to regard the entire edifice of Wahabism as equivalent to Nazism and to crush it entirely.

We can't wait around for a Saudi Gorbachev to appear, however. We need to cut off our economic ties to the Kingdom, give them less of a choke to bully us around with and scale back their influence within the Beltway. Find alternative energy sources and reducing our general dependence on foreign oil (or petroleum products in general) might also be a good idea - if there's one thing this war has shown us, it's that we cannot ever again allow ourselves to be de facto subordinated or potentially immobilized by a regime like Saudi Arabia's.

But it is not nearly as brutal as the Belmont Club's own estimate. Follow the Money argued:

To win the War on Terror at the operational level, these (terrorist) funds flows must not only be disrupted, but the incentives to resurrect them permanently destroyed. The first goal would be to adopt the objective of dismantling the Saudi regime and its state religion, Wahabism as national policy. The United States is not yet politically ready to take that step. Until then, the current conflict will merely correspond to Roosevelt's "short of war" Lend-Lease and Neutrality Patrol phases rather than the full-blown Second World War that came later. The true place of 9/11 on the historical timeline may not be with Pearl Harbor but the sinking of the Reuben James. The second step would be a total embargo of funds transfers to groups like the Palestinian Authority in the context of a new Atlantic Charter which would declare all payments of tribute and inducements to dhimmutude now, henceforth and forever illegitimate. This would provide the legal framework for the third step: a series of punitive proceedings of which the $1 trillion lawsuit by the 9/11 survivors against the Saudis would merely be the beginning, a financial judgement at Nuremburg that will be particularized in every country. Like the war crimes tribunal set up in Iraq to punish the torturers of the Saddam regime, the victims of terror in Israel, Lebanon, Algeria and Kashmir; and those who have been deprived of livelihoods in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Sudan should have a venue for redress. Cumulatively, these steps would not only weaken the active jihad, they would destroy all future monetary incentives to wage it.

Neither of these points of view is given. But the question is. The status of Saudi Arabia is the fundamental issue in the War on Terror. Whether it is friend or foe is a matter that cannot be evaded indefinitely.