'Overkill in Riyadh'
on Tue, 27 Jan 2015
Elliott Abrams, writing for National Review Online:
Did the king of Saudi Arabia just die, or was it Winston Churchill?
It is fitting that the United States send a delegation to express condolences upon the death of a Saudi king. We are reasonably close allies and have been since President Franklin Roosevelt met King Abd-al Aziz in 1945. The Saudis have influence over world oil markets and we share with them the desire to oppose Iranian expansionism and jihadi forces like the Islamic State.
So, send the vice president and secretary of state. Maybe add a Republican or two.
Or just send the president himself, to make the point that we value the relationship and want to continue or improve it. ...
The late King Abdullah was a pious man and undertook certain reforms, like establishing one co-ed university. But this crowd of U.S. officials will be visiting a country where women like Ms. Townsend and Ms. Monaco and Dr. Rice and Ms. Pelosi would be jailed for the crime of driving a car. In his 15 years of ruling the place, the late king did nothing to change that. Two weeks ago a Saudi blogger was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and the first 50 were actually imposed. Will our delegation mention that? How about voting? When Abdullah began ruling (as crown prince, when King Fahd became senile) in 1995, Saudis could not vote in any national election because there were no parliamentary bodies, not even fake ones, to vote for. When he died 20 years later, there were still none. Abdullah was in his way a reformer (for example, appointing women to the consultative Shura Council), and was widely respected in the kingdom, but let’s not exaggerate. He was not a historic figure.
So what’s with this huge delegation? It’s a ridiculous case of overkill, perhaps an effort to make up for the number of high-level U.S. officials whom the president sent to join the march in Paris after the terrorist killings there: zero. The Obama White House cannot seem to get these things right — too much, too little, zero, overkill — even now in its seventh year.