Did MBS Kick A Hornet’s Nest?

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu

As I explained last night, we should be considering whether the Trump administration involved itself — even at the passive level of failing to act in deterrence — in the apparent murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Trump’s and Kushner’s relationships with the ruling Crown Prince run incredibly deep and involve not only to foreign policy but private business deals as well. Kushner and MBS once stayed up all night together in Riyadh brainstorming how these two degenerate princelings could reshape the region. The Saudis even seem to have played some role getting Trump elected in 2016. 

But there’s an additional dimension of this unfolding drama which is implicit everywhere but too little discussed. Official Washington has no greater weakness than that it has for the Western-educated and well-connected quasi-dissident from the Arab world, particularly from the Gulf Emirates and Saudi Arabia. At some level this is all for the good. Saudi Arabia is not so much a state as a great family estate. It has only the most trivial knick knacks of modern democratic government. It’s deeply repressive. Of course we like people who want to embrace some version of our own values. It makes perfect sense.

There are more unlovely motivations. Many DC hawks embrace these dissidents and human rights advocates as cudgels to break down the legitimacy of states they don’t like for other reasons besides their lack of democracy and poor human rights records.

However that may be, Khashoggi was clearly one of those guys. If you follow Twitter, you see politicians, journalists, the prestige writers and foreign policy hands all genuinely up in arms about Khashoggi’s disappearance. I am by no means criticizing this response. My point is that a lot of these people knew him and liked him. They’re very upset that such a brutal and dramatic violation of all diplomatic and international protocols could have befallen him.

As I said, he fits a type official DC cannot resist. Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen is killing people in their thousands. By and large, no one seems to care. This is a very different case. MBS may have kicked a hornets’ nest here without realizing it. It could splash over on to Trump as well. Trump may not care. But these people do.

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