Mohammad bin Salman has a bright future.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known by his initials, MbS, stands as the quintessential figure of our age. He represents the ultimate, larger-than-life fulfillment of the stated aspirations of the world’s many power grabs disguised as political philosophies. That “respectable” potentates and media worthies are denouncing him now is not because he allegedly had Jamal Khashoggi murdered, but in allegedly doing so, had the bad taste to reveal the blood-soaked tactics of their power grabs.
MbS is a beacon for Democratic Socialists, Regular Socialists, and Marxists. The differences between these sects are mere labeling. At root, they all believe that reward should be separated from production, which entails forcibly separating production from those who produced it. MbS has produced nothing, yet the thirty-three-year-old has rewarded himself with a $500 million yacht, a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting, and a château near Versailles for which he paid over $300 million.
Most socialists claim they’d be happy with state-provided jobs, housing, medical care, and incomes (they wouldn’t, they’re a permanently unhappy lot), so they might be a bit envious of MbS’s rewards. However, not one riyal has come from capitalist exploitation, it has all came from the munificence of the Saudi government he in effect heads. From each according to his ability to each according to his need—the government has decided he’s the country’s neediest person. He’s living the something-for-nothing dream.
What makes a mockery of Saudi Arabia is they don’t actually have to take from anybody of ability. Some people can win at poker with a pair of twos, some people can lose with four aces. The Saudis, indeed all the Middle Eastern petro-states, have managed to squander the greatest oil trove on the planet. What’s especially infuriating is that the petro-potentates and their spoiled clans start on third base, can’t make it to home plate, but still think they’re Babe Ruths.
Judging by its ham-handed efforts in Syria and Yemen, you have to wonder how much ability Saudi Arabia actually has. It does have its oil, and that funds MbS, his entourage, and the extended royal family’s extravagant lifestyles, as well as generous state-provided benefits that allow many Arabs, MbS-like, to avoid any real work. That is done by the imported help. Notwithstanding its subterranean treasure, Saudi Arabia runs persistent deficits. So MbS is a shining light for welfare-statists and Keynesians, who never met a government deficit they didn’t love. Oh, and he’s a shining light for the kleptocracy, the secret society they’re all part of but to which nobody admits.
The prince’s recent “public relations” travails have caused some consternation among western powers that be, but that will assuredly pass. He’s rich, young, and photogenic…and a giant of contemporary governance.
His foreign military interventions are straight from the US neoconservative and neoliberal playbook—the Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen chapters. Fittingly, the US and the kingdom have teamed up in Syria and Yemen.
As demonstrated in those besieged lands, Saudi and US potentates have a common predilection for regime change. Neither minds using Sunni Islamic extremists like al Qaeda and the Al-Nusra Front as proxies. Al Qaeda was allegedly behind 9/11 and the Saudis allegedly supported them. If the deaths of over three thousand Americans can be blinked away in the interests of US-Saudi comity, shoving the heinous Istanbul murder down the memory hole will be no problem.
A commonality runs between the American and Saudi military-industrial complexes: they are unable to consummate any kind of victory while killing many innocent people. The Saudi hierarchy, fed by oil revenues, and the American hierarchy, fed by US taxpayers and creditors, suffer from the same maladies.
Low-grade, never-ending wars feather too many economic and political nests. The people who make the decisions about such wars have nothing to lose and everything to gain by their continuance. With their government-provided perks and pensions and the revolving door to private industry, the US military brass is just as spoiled, soft, and removed from wars’ actual rigors as the wealthy, decadent sheiks and princes who prosecute Saudi efforts.
If, as posited in Part One, Trump’s primary motivation is power, arguments that the US should seek better relations with Iran—leader of the Shia crescent and less repressive and more democratic than Saudi Arabia—will continue to be ignored. Sunnis are 90 percent of Islam, and in the Middle East only Iraq, Iran, and Bahrain are majority Shia. Trump will back winners; that’s the logic of power. Corrupt, repressive, and destined for the dustbin as its government may be, Saudi Arabia has the largest Middle Eastern oil reserves and is the linchpin of the petrodollar arrangement.
“Powerball, Part Two,” (LINK) SLL, June 5, 2017
President Trump is in a lather, trying to figure out how to save his and Jared Kushner’s good buddy MbS while pretending he’s actually outraged by the latest outrage. Trump went all in on MbS and Saudi Arabia at the beginning of his term. To borrow from Oscar Wilde, anyone who can watch his and the establishment’s discomfiture without laughing has a heart of stone.
A deal struck after World War II makes the US the guarantor of House of Saud rule. The US provides military and intelligence support, and runs interference for the corrupt, dictatorial government in international forums. In exchange, the Saudis agree to export oil at “reasonable” prices and conduct the oil trade in dollars, an important bulwark for the world’s reserve currency. Saudi Arabia is also on friendly terms with Israel, Trump’s other go-to Middle Eastern buddy. Like Israel, Saudi Arabia spreads a lot of money around Washington, academia, think tanks, and the media.
The Trump administration will not cut Saudi Arabia adrift, and American voters won’t care. The only time foreign policy determines votes is when a candidate promises to either not get the US in a war or pull the US out of a war in which it’s already involved.
There may be some CIA-aided machinations that eventually depose MbS. It will be a face-saving maneuver to diminish international pressure, but there should be no illusions that MbS’s successor will be any less bloodthirsty and tyrannical than MbS. He will simply be more discreet. Saudi Arabia’s international mischief and denial of human rights at home, especially for Shias and women, will continue.
Whether or not MbS lasts, there will probably be some sort of rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Qatar (Qatar hosts an important US military base). The US could pressure Saudi Arabia to end its gruesome war in Yemen. The war has killed tens of thousands and threatens millions more with famine and disease. If Saudi Arabia terminates this inept carnage, some good will have come from Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
As it stands, Saudi Arabia is emblematic of the US’s corrupt and failed Middle Eastern policy, and MbS is emblematic of a corrupt and failed global elite who believe that murder is a perquisite of their positions. He’s an embarrassment, not a moral pariah. There are no moral pariahs among those parasitical hypocrites, whose pious pronouncements only cover their lust for power.
They won’t permanently ostracize one of their own. When they get around to instituting their New World Order, Mohammad bin Salman would be the ideal man to run it.