Glenn's in New York City for the week, and he was joined by TheBlaze's National Security Expert Buck Sexton for an in depth discussion on the Middle East and Saudi Arabia.
Below is a transcript of this segment
Glenn: How are things going to change in Saudi Arabia? Who is really going to be in charge? How is this guy’s health?
Buck: I think the Saudis, there’s a couple of dynamics that are intersecting right now, and one of them is just that the Saudis aren’t quite as important to us as they used to be, and they recognize that. The Saudis, because of shale, because of the energy revolution in this country, we don’t need them in quite the same way. They’re not going to be able to play quite the same role of oh, Saudis, up your production, we need you.
Glenn: But as a guy from Texas, where all the Texas-based oil companies are currently freaking, out saying we cannot handle this, we can’t handle this drop in the price of oil this low for this long, and the new king saying he’s going to continue dropping the price of oil—
Buck: You’ve got sort of an old-fashioned price war going on. It’s not just hurting us.
Glenn: Exactly right, and they win.
Buck: It’s not just hurting us, it’s hurting other countries. Well, hopefully the technology will get even better, and that will add into this as well, but on the security side, the real overlay across the entire Middle East now, as I see it, you have the Islamists, jihadists, sort of the hardline fundamentalists on the one side and really everybody else on the other.
You also have intertwined within that Sunni and Shia, and when you’re talking about Saudi Arabia, they are not just because, of course, it’s where you find Mecca and Medina, it’s where people go for the pilgrimage, for the Hajj, they have elevated themselves as the real clear, especially because what’s happened in Egypt, they are the clear defenders of the Sunni, so to speak.
This schism which goes all the way back to the seventh century, it goes all the way back to the earliest years after the life of the Prophet Muhammad, this schism is now playing out in conflicts that include Syria, includes Yemen. It includes Iraq. I mean, you look at everything that’s happening there, there’s a Sunni-Shia divide. Iran is picking favorites. Iran is meddling, getting involved in things.
The Saudis are doing the same, and because we’re not as clear on what we want right now, both of those states have, I think, a freer hand to do that, or at least Saudis feel that they have a freer hand than maybe they did in the past because the administration is essentially saying we don’t really have a vision. We don’t really know…this current administration doesn’t really know what the Middle East should look like.
Glenn: Some people describe Saudi Arabia as the heartland of hate. How would you describe it?
Buck: Just imagine for a second that you took, sort of to give you a sense of a corollary, if, you know, Catholics, Rome, right, Vatican, the Vatican, if you had a country, let’s say all of Italy, that banned the practice of any religion that was not Catholicism, that beheaded people for actually apostasy or for trying to spread a different religious belief system, I think the world would look very unfavorably upon that.
Glenn: Yeah, I don’t think if the pontiff who had been washed in blood who, you know, had the big machetes and beheading people there at St. Peter’s, if he died, the world would not be saying he was a reformer.
Buck: Yeah, the world has embarrassed itself in the case of Saudi Arabia or at least the world media has embarrassed itself, I think, most of it, by referring to…I mean, this is really just the sort of lowest of low expectations. I think it’s a fair way to put it.
Glenn: Don’t you think it is the racism of low expectations? I’m fascinated by the way we just accept from the Middle East that okay, yes, they’re behaving like barbarians, but they’re doing the best they can. Excuse me? I mean, what are you saying?
Buck: The left in this country doesn’t really take that tone. Their tone is well, it’s different than ours. Don’t criticize it. They’re doing things differently there, and the things that are bad are actually our fault. It would be one thing if we had clarity on the barbarity, if we were all agreed that look, what they’re doing is ridiculous, guys, and maybe we can’t change it, but what you hear actually in this country is well, no, it’s one of the three great monotheisms, and this is the seat of the religion, and they’re doing things differently, but that’s okay because the Crusades or the Inquisition or, you know, you hear this just sort of hiding of the ball all the time.
People aren’t honest about the fact that not only are the Saudis…are they doing things from a human rights perspective that are just appalling, and they are, but they have been the main exporters of virulent Islamist hate for decades.
Glenn: Okay, so let me just talk about the double standard again. The new prince, the new king, is going to continue the work on the border fence.
Buck: They apparently believe in fences. They believe very strongly in fences to the north and to the south. They think that those can keep people out who aren’t supposed to be there.
Glenn: So, we’re not supposed to have one, because that’s racist.
Buck: We say it’s not possible also, which apparently the Saudis are better at engineering than we are. I doubt that.
Glenn: The Israelis build a fence.
Buck: Well, they’ve shown that it is of course possible.
Glenn: Right, but that fence is racist. That fence is akin to the Holocaust, right?
Buck: The fence that the Saudis are building, of course, is keeping out other Arabs, so that’s the justification for it is that this is just hey—
Glenn: The world is completely silent. It’s an enormous fence, enormous.
Buck: And it’s going to be getting bigger too. They recognize that the instability that exists on the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen and also to the north in Iraq, that’s not going away.
Glenn: So, the president has to go meet the new king. Was he called and told? I mean, because honestly I don’t think the president at this point cares all that much.
Buck: I don’t think he cares all that much either, and I think that part of this might just be the sting of the condemnation that came for the administration after not sending anyone to that march. Remember, it didn’t have to be Obama. This was, I think, where the criticism was fair. Biden, the Secretary of State, somebody you would think should be there, and nobody was there. People said well, the French ambassador was there. Yeah, the French ambassador could hop in a cab and go the ten minutes or whatever it was to the march.
Glenn: Eric Holder was there, but he left.
Buck: Yeah, didn’t have time or didn’t have the inclination.
Buck: So the president, I think, wants to, again, because, you know, ego does factor into this too, and legacy, wants to seem like he’s on top of things, he’s going there. Look, we have this very strange alliance, this bedfellows relationship with the Saudis that we’re not about to abandon, and quite honestly—
Glenn: Should we?
Buck: We can’t.
Glenn: I don’t buy that.
Buck: Oh, I mean, we say abandon it entirely, I mean, what would that really even mean at this point?
Glenn: I mean we as a nation. If I’m President of the United States, and I said to you, you’re an advisor, I say Buck, here’s the thing, by the end of my administration, I want the cord cut as much as I possibly can from the Saudis. I don’t trust them. I don’t want their stinking oil. We have enough resources here. I’m not going to be held hostage by these guys anymore. They’re bad people. They oppress women. They stone homosexuals. They kill you if you’re a Christian. I’ve got nothing in common with these people. I don’t want more enemies, but they’re not exactly our friends. I don’t want any more enemies, I want out. What do you tell me?
Buck: I would tell you that the levers you have to try to prevent them, prevent not just the royal family or the regime there but try to prevent Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula from being even more so than it is sort of the wellspring of this global ideology that’s very dangerous and destabilizing all over the world, you’d rather have some input into this than no input, and then also when you add the energy issue into it, you’d rather try to steer them in directions that are useful to U.S. policy in the region than not.
Does it feel good? Does it smell good? Are we okay with this? No, but it’s going to continue. Look at Republican, I mean, this is one issue where the scorn is bipartisan. For anybody who’s going to say well, that’s just silly talk, Republicans on this issue, they are “What’s up, Abdullah? We’re all pals.”
Glenn: You know what it is? This is the biggest key that opened up my mind, and I am so glad to see so many people understand this now. When people are like oh, you know, talking about liberals, stop talking about liberals. I can live side by side with a liberal. I can live side by side with a liberal. Progressives are in both parties, and it is this idea of whether it is the UN that controls everything or the United States and its military that controls everything, that’s the progressive idea. The true independent, the true classic liberal wants nothing to do with either one of those.
Buck: This is why I won’t call them liberal. I mean, I just refuse to call progressives liberal. I hate that they’ve appropriated that term.
Glenn: I agree.
Buck: I think it should be a movement in this country to stop referring to people who are statists, who want control of the apparatus, who want to take your stuff, who want to tell you what to do, as liberal. They’re the antithesis of liberal.
Glenn: That’s why we are misunderstood in Europe, because they gave us the conservative title, which we’re classic liberals. We’re classic liberals.
Buck: And we haven’t come up with a term that is as useful or as accurate for the beliefs of people like you and me who are classic liberals in this country. It’s been appropriated by the other side. It really does hurt, I think, the discussion, because you don’t know who’s on what side. It muddies all the waters. But the Saudi problem is very real, and look, until 9/11, by the way, we had no cooperation from them on a lot of these issues. It was only after 9/11 happened that we’re like we like your oil, we know you behead people…we’re serious now, where are the bad guys?
Glenn: Are we really serious though?
Buck: We were. Are we as serious now? Probably not.
Glenn: What happens? What do you see? Give me a look five years down the road with the jihadis all around the world. What does the world look like in five years?
Buck: What’s different now or what’s different at this phase of the game is that they are playing for control of nationstates. This isn’t just a question of their hitting out at the U.S. and at Israel, and they’re trying to sort of wage this global insurgency, which is really what the jihadists are trying to do. Now they’re saying okay, where do we have a strong enough foothold that we can actually run it, we can be in charge? Because the moment you do that, and we’re seeing this with the Islamic State…why can’t we get rid of the Islamic State? Well, it’s not a bunch of guys in training camps. It’s guys that are controlling cities.
In the case of Mosul, Mosul has about 2 million people that live in that city, so to take that back, there’s no nonconventional, unconventional way to take that back, and so if they can establish control of the infrastructure of an actual state, of a country, whether it’s Libya, whether it’s Syria, Iraq, Yemen, I mean, go down the line, they’re getting more and more opportunities to do this, that changes the whole game.
The reality is that if they can do that in a couple of places, they think they can do it all across the Middle East, and that’s not…once you start to look at what the landscape is of a nuclear Iran on the one hand and this rising Sunni jihadism on the other hand in Syria, Iraq, all these other countries, who’s going to stand up again? We always hear about the moderates, and they’ll point to some blogger that nobody’s heard of in Cairo. That’s not going to cut it.
Glenn: So, if I’m President of the United States, my phone bill, my international phone bill, is mainly made up of phone calls to Israel because they’re the only ones that have the same kind of ideology that we have. You could disagree with them on a lot of things, and I do disagree with a lot of things on Israel, but they’re the only ones that have a clue as to what the Western world believes in and follows, and yet, Benjamin Netanyahu is coming, and we’re peeing all over him.
Buck: Well, the White House is.
Buck: The White House is.
Glenn: The White House is.
Buck: Unsurprising given the president’s antipathy. Look, if you’re a man of the academy in this country, I mean, if you’re somebody who your background comes from the university, it comes from a campus, right, which is the really, with the president, I mean, I know he’s a politician, but before then he’s really a guy of the academy, you tend to be anti-Israeli. That’s now taught.
Glenn: But let me ask you this. He is a man of the campus. He’s a well-educated man. He campaigned as a guy who was a constitutional scholar, so there’s no excuse for derailing the Constitution on him. He knows exactly what he’s doing. You cannot be…and this I felt on the Paris thing, you don’t send anybody? That doesn’t occur to you to send anybody? You don’t want to go to our oldest ally? There’s nothing that crosses your mind?
Buck: It wasn’t that he forgot—
Glenn: No, he chose not to.
Buck: And he chose because this administration does not want to be seen in any capacity ever as taking something that could even be construed as critical of Islam.
Glenn: So there’s no way you’re this wrong on this many things. There’s no way. You could play the odds, man. You cannot make this many mistakes, you can’t, and have it come out in favor of jihadists.
Buck: You’d be right by accident sometimes.
Glenn Once in a while you’d be like okay, well that one fell in our favor. It is falling to the jihadists and to the caliphate every single time. So, I’m Benjamin Netanyahu, is the American administration an enemy of mine?
Buck: The American administration is not an enemy, but they can’t count on—
Glenn: Show me why they’re not. Show me the time that they have said “Buddy…”
Buck: I think the administration is apathetic, and you could say that apathy in the face of rising threats all around Israel, which are clear and obvious, I don’t think anybody would disagree on what’s happening in Syria and the prospect for what will happen, by the way, probably soon in Egypt and what’s happening in Iraq, that it’s a dangerous neighborhood that’s getting more dangerous.
Glenn: And you’re making it, as the administration, you’re making it more dangerous.
Buck: I have to say I’ve always had a tough time, because there is a healthy dose of incompetence at the upper reaches. Look at the people that are making a fair amount of the administration’s decisions.
Glenn: I believe they’re all like 14 years old, I know.
Buck: I mean, there’s a healthy amount of incompetence too, and I don’t want to make it seem like they all have these Machiavellian schemes that are playing at every step of the way.
Glenn: Some do.
Buck: The president does play a lot of golf. I mean, some of these things are true.
Glenn: But they also have people like Samantha Power, who knows exactly what she is doing. She’s well thought out.
Buck: She’s well thought out. I think it’s interesting that her whole ideology of responsibility to protect, somehow that’s I don’t really know who we’re protecting, but this is what she came into office, or came into her position rather, espousing. The Israelis have, and under Netanyahu I think there’s a recognition that they’ll take care of themselves, or they have to. They will have to if things get really ugly, and I think at least right now they would agree that they can, but that could change.
Demographically speaking, Israel is very small, and the Arab world is very large, and we’ve seen United Arab armies in the recent past trying to eliminate the state of Israel. The moment you throw a nuclear Iran into the mix, I think things change pretty dramatically. That’s what the Israelis believe.