Thursday, June 09, 2005

Beyond Iraq in the Global War on Terror: The Saudi Connection

- Is the War on Terror over, then? Do we leave Iraq?

No and no. We remain in Iraq as we continue working on the next stage of the GWOT. Iraq isn't the only front in the GWOT...

- Where next in the War on Terror? The Israeli/Palestinian dispute? That's how all the terrorism started, right?

I don't think we can "solve" the Israeli/Palestinian dispute by itself. Over seventy years, all efforts to solve it directly have failed. That suggests that Israeli/Palestinian dispute is only the visible hand or battlefield of a much larger conflict.

- "The Clash of Civilizations"? The West vs. Islam, then?

Not quite. Islam comes in different varieties. I don't think it began with the Zionists, or the Palestinian problem, or Iraq. I think it began with Saudi Arabia.

- What blather is this?

"Saudi" Arabia exists because the Saudis allied with the previously obscure Wahhabi sect of Islam to conquer Arabia’s then-ruling family, the Hashmiates. In the beginning, Wahhabism was just a small and violent sect. It's main emphasis is that all Muslims must be judged by how they advance Islamic power through war, through jihad. The Saudis completed their conquest of Arabia in 1919.

- Then why hasn't Saudi Arabia been at war with the West since then?

Because the Saudi family is smart; they knew from the start they could not confront the West directly. Immediately after the conquest of Arabia some hotheads in their army attacked the British who had just conquered the Ottoman provinces that would become Iraq and Kuwait. The Saudis wouldn't permit that.

- Why not?

Can you imagine raiders equipped mostly with bolt-action rifles up against trained troops backed by tanks and aircraft? The Saudis knew their rule could not possibly endure under such circumstances. After the British responded to Arab raids with air attacks, the Saudis decided to machine-gun their own troops.

- They killed their own army?

After it had won the Saudi Family supreme power in the Arabian Peninsula, yes. The Brits let the Saudis stay in power. An unstable balance of power between Wahhabi imams and Saudi "moderates" has existed ever since.

- Why would the Wahhabi imams accept this?

Because the Saudis can point to overwhelming Western military power to argue that jihad can best be waged indirectly. The Saudis could buy off Wahhabi hostility through bribes at home and funding the Arabs of Palestine to revolt against British and Israeli rule. For years, such activities represented the limit of Saudi resources - they were dependent on Western technological expertise and the population was still small...

- Why is the population of Saudi Arabia an issue?

The Saudis tried to keep as much of their oil money to themselves as possible and let their subject population exist via subsistence agriculture, trading, or tourism. Other than oil, Saudi Arabia has few resources, and its desert offers few opportunities for agriculture; at first, the Arabs only permitted oil exploration as an adjunct to drilling water wells! With agriculture in the dumps and modern medical care practically non-existent, the population of Saudi Arabia remained small, despite a high birth rate.

A small, poor population necessarily puts a severe limit upon how much power a ruler can exert abroad. In the Sixties, people everywhere worried about population control. That included the Islamic World. The Rabat First Islamic Conference on Family Planning in 1972 ruled that save for abortion and sterilization, modern birth control techniques are not contrary to Islamic Law.

- Then what happened?

First, the 1973 oil crisis vastly increased Saudi Arabia's economic power, in the form of vast amounts of "petrodollars" that could be spent or transferred with impunity, thus disrupting entire economies. Second, the Saudi King Faisal was assassinated by one of his nephews in March, 1975.

- So?

I do not know why the King was assassinated, but maybe it was because the Wahhabis believed that he was not putting new Saudi financial muscle to use. Within a month of the assassination, birth control was banned in Saudi Arabia, then ruled illegal by the World Muslim League. Sometimes aided by oil-funded Western fertility drugs, the Arab population - especially Saudi and Palestinian components - have been exploding ever since.

- Again, so what?

Historians and even economists understand there is a connection between the size and population density of young males and their culture's warlike tendencies. As children, boys tend to form gangs and fight each other. By adolescence, their adult leaders are poised to use this aggression and experience against external enemies. (This was one of the reasons why the first Muslim armies were so effective; they had great experience fighting one another; united and experienced, they could subdue the less-united and experienced Persians and Byzantines.)

- Hey! I recall some Iraqis have written about how Islamists in Basra encouraged the formation of warlike rival gangs.

Yes, this process still exists today. With huge levels of unemployment due to underdevelopment, young Saudis, Palestinians, and other Arabs have few opportunities to make something of their lives.

- The Intifada! I remember reading it began when a group of kids started throwing stones at Israelis instead of each other! And by the mid-1990s we saw the emergence of Al-Qaeda!

It started before that, in Afghanistan, but yes; that's the connection: Al-Qaeda is the Wahhabi army, an product of an invader mentality multiplied by an exploding population. The "Intifadas" of Palestinian Arabs against Israel are a parallel development driven by exterior support, a kind of blind to Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi activities -

- Which is why direct efforts to solve "the Mideast peace process" have failed!

Exactly! The Saudis encouraged, funded, and tolerated Al-Qaeda until, frustrated by the United States abroad yet under the thumb of their rulers at home, Al-Qaeda started turning against the House of Saud. The Palestinian terrorists now have many supporters...

- Then Al-Qaeda is dead!?

The branch of Al-Qaeda devoted to destroying the House of Saud is probably destroyed. But the threat of unrestrained Islamic terrorism against secular democracy remains.

- So do we invade Saudi Arabia after all?

[to be continued...]

[This post is the second part of a series. Read the first part: Why is the U.S. STILL in Iraq?]

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