The Saudi Fatwa

Saudis Act Aggressively to Denounce Terrorism - David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion.

When terrorists in the Middle East attack innocent civilians, observers in the West often ask a pained question: Where's the outrage in the Muslim world? Why don't Islamic religious authorities speak out more forcefully against the terrorists and their wealthy financiers?

It remains a potent issue: Terrorism has damaged the Islamic world far more than the West, and too many Muslims have been cowed and silent. But a powerful and so far largely unreported denunciation of terrorism emerged last month from Saudi Arabia's top religious leadership, known as the Council of Senior Ulema.

The Saudi fatwa is a tough condemnation of terror and of the underground network that finances it. It has impressed senior U.S. military commanders and intelligence officers, who were surprised when it came out. One sent me a translation of the fatwa, and Saudi officials provided some helpful background...

More at The Washington Post.

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It's often difficult to tell how large a portion of a populace wants any given thing. The people who shout the loudest don't always speak for the populace, and the people who blow things up don't always speak for the populace...

If, per the Jones Model of "Good Governance," our job -- and that of the local governments -- is to determine, address and meet the needs and desires of the population (needs and desires as expressed by the population itself and not as perceived by the United States or the local government).

But if these needs, goals and desires of the population clash with and are diametrically opposed to the national security goals, requirements and interests of the United States -- and/or the local governments.

Then, in circumstances such as these, how does the United States/the local governments proceed?

Examples:

a. Large segments of the Iranian population want the bomb.

b. Large segments of the Afghan population want all NATO forces to leave yesterday.

c. Large segments of the Columbian and Afghan populations want to grow, manufacture and sell drugs.

d. Large segments of the Iraqi population seek to join with Iran.

e. Large segments of the Muslim World generally wish to withdraw from the "modern" world.

f. Large segments of the Mexican population wish to come to the United States immediately and to work here indefintely.

Based on the above, can the United States/local governments really base their foreign/domestic policy on meeting the expressed needs, desires and goals of the populations?

Or must a nation's foreign and/or domestic policy -- to provide for the best interests of the country -- be based on some other criteria?

PS... wrote that way too early in our morning and forgot to include this.

Re this comment:

"When we help in that suppression, it motivates acts of Terrorism against the US as well"

Are we helping in that suppression? I don't see that we are. As you've said yourself, the Saudi government doesn't need our help, advice, or approval to oppress their populace, they're quite able to do that on their own.

Again, I just can't see what, specifically, you want the Saudis to do or how, specifically, you propose to push them to do it.

I can't see our wars with Saddam as a special favor to the Saudis. We didn't fight Saddam to protect the Saudi royals, we fought him to protect ourselves: our government decided, not without some cause, that Iraqi appropriation of the Arabian Gulf oil resources was fundamentally incompatible with US interests. That's not a special favor, it's a common interest, and we will at times have interests in common with unsavory regimes. If those interests are compelling enough to us, we'll fight for them, even if we're not comfortable with the strange bedfellows that the political coin toss has set us up with. When we do so, we are fighting for our own interests, not doing anyone a favor.

In any event that is past, and it provides no leverage today. We can't exactly tell the Saudis that if they don't "talk to their populace we will resurrect Saddam and put him back in charge of Iraq".

We could tell the Saudis that we won't support them in the event of conflict with Iran, but I can't see that persuading them to do anything they don't want to do. It's an unlikely scenario in any event, and the reality is that if it came to pass we would oppose the Iranians with force no matter what we thought of the Saudi regime. An Iranian move in that direction involve attack not only on the Saudis but on Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, and the US is not going to sit back and let an overtly hostile regime grab that much oil. Again, it's not about protecting Saudi Arabia, it's about protecting the US, and that is something we will do, no matter what we think of those who share our interests.

I also don't think any such threat would win us any points with the Saudi populace.

I'm well aware of the efforts by extreme religious conservatives to gain influence in Saudi Arabia, but I've seen no compelling evidence suggesting that they represent the Saudi populace.

I suspect that in many ways the Saudi royals have listened to their populace, and what they heard was that the priority was economic reform, rather than political reform. Economic reform has been significant. I don't know how much time you've spent in the Kingdom in the last 5 years, but the impact of the massive domestic investment surge driven by the recent oil price spike is really very evident. I suspect that the Saudi populace, much like the Chinese populace, is willing to put up with authoritarian government as long as that government keeps order and delivers the goods. That might seem odd to Americans, but lots of things about us seem odd to them. They're not required to do as we would.

I'm also not convinced by the idea that the Saudi "insurgency" has been simply suppressed. Is it not a central tenet of COIN theory that once dissent reaches the point of insurgency it can no longer be managed purely by suppression? Shouldn't suppression merely exacerbate insurgency, as it has elsewhere? Are the Saudis really that much better at suppression than anyone else has ever been... or have those who have tried to promote insurgency been unable to convince the populace? Why is it that Khomeini was able to fire up an insurgency from exile, while bin Laden could not? Are the Saudis so much better at suppression, or is the populace responding differently?

It's an odd thing, but I've noted on many occasions that even Saudis who loathe their government deeply resent criticism of that government from the outside. It's not seen as support for the populace, it's seen as disrespect for the nation and the culture. Reform may be badly needed there, but the driving force for it may not be mustered until economic forces render the government unable to bring home the goods... and I see no place at all for US pressure to drive reform.

Dayuhan, quite likely, without US protection there would either be no Saudi Arabia today, or if still in existance, it would be under new management. I believe that this is a very special favor indeed. Be it Iraq continuing on following Kuwait, or an Iran, or "merely" internal dissent. They handle the internal dissent very well; but have no internal means to either deter or defeat a significant state threat on their own.

What I would suggest personally to the Saudis is that there COIN techniques for all of their immediate effectiveness, have dangerous higher order effects that they could mitigate at very low cost to themselves by making some very small, reasonable concessions to the demands of their own populace. Their terms, their concessions, their populace. Right now I don't believe they think they need to; I think they are as wrong in that assessment as the US is in our assessment as how to best mitigate terrorism emitting from the Middle East as well.

I am no on board with Dr. Nagl's program of reforming the world. I only think the world needs to rethink how it deals with popular dissent, insurgency and terrorism.

I just ran across an ad for this book. It may provide some keen insights into the turmoil within Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia And The Politics Of Dissent
"From the Publisher
Few books on Saudi Arabia deal with primary sources in examining internal Saudi dissent. In contrast, Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent relies on field work and the analysis of more than 100 taped sermons by Saudi Islamic activists, examining their personal backgrounds, their rhetoric, and their strategies. Mamoun Fandy traces the evolution of Islamic opposition in Saudi Arabia, focusing on the Gulf War and its aftermath and scrutinizing the works of Safar al Hawali and Salman al-Auda. He also documents the history of the Shi`a Reform Movement and its leader, Sheik Hassan al-Safar, of Mohammed al-Mas`ari and his Committee for the Defense of Legitimate Rights, of Sa'd al-Faqih and the Movement of Islamic Reform in Arabia, and finally the radical Usama bin Laden and his organization. By analyzing the Saudi oppositions use of modern technologies of communication and discussing the ways in which supposedly fundamentalist thinkers have been influenced by global debates and events, this book contributes significantly to the theoretical debate on domination and resistance in the current age of globalization and postmodernity."

The Saudis will never let this develop into Phase I insurgency, and will ruthlessly keep it simmering below the line of socially acceptable violence. I suspect below that line on my Model it has slid to the right well out into phase II though in terms of popular assessments of Poor Governance. When we help in that suppression, it motivates acts of Terrorism against the US as well.

Dayuhan,

Very good post. Great minds think like mine. Other minds, not so great, don't.

Col Jones...

Referring to this comment

"What I propose is not about transforming others, but primarily about not propping up or enabling those who are determined to drive their populaces into insurgency.

Their call. Want our help? Fine, you need to sit down with your populace first and talk about some things. Don't want to do that? Fine as well, we'll turn off the foreign aid, special favors, etc and work with whoever it is that is sitting in your chair in a year or so."

If we're talking about Saudi Arabia, I think this goes to the core of the problem with this proposal. The Saudis don't get foreign aid or special favors from us. We don't prop them up or enable them. They don't get anything from us that they couldn't get elsewhere, often at a lower price. They don't rely on us and there's nothing we can withdraw that will cause them to lose any sleep.

As far as I can tell the Saudis have more leverage over us than we have over them. They steer oil contracts to US companies for diplomatic reasons, though they could hire the same services elsewhere with the greatest of ease. Their arms purchases help keep our defense industry afloat, though they could get hardware adequate to their needs elsewhere, likely at better prices. They have many billions of dollars invested in US debt, equity, and real estate. All of this can change, at any time.

What can we threaten to do, if the Saudi royals don't "talk to their populace"? Stop buying their oil? I suspect they'd find other customers.

I really can't see how you propose to push the Saudis to do what you want them to do. I also don't think the effort is going to win the US any points at all with the Saudi populace. I think any US attempt to intervene in domestic Saudi politics will be instantly interpreted as a self-interested conspiracy aimed at degrading their culture, weakening their state, and seizing more influence... no matter how good our intentions are. I suspect that any US effort to direct internal Saudi policies would be very easily manipulated to hurt us and help our enemies.

I see the point you're trying to make, I just feel that there's an assumption of Saudi dependence on the US that doesn't have any foundation, and I can't see what you think we can actually DO, when we bring direction down to the level of actual policy.

COL Jones:

Thanks.

However, in my scenerio above, the difficulty and problem is not between the United States and the local governments (these guys, often, are generally on the same sheet of music).

Rather, in my scenerio above, the conflict is between (1) the United States/the local governments and (2) the populations.

In this example:

a. The national security goals and objectives of the United States -- and those of the local governments -- both hinge on successfully transforming the subject societies such that they (1) will be less troublesome to the international community and (2) be better able to benefit from, and better able to support, the global economy.

b. The people, however, do not agree with these "foreigners" and their ideas -- and with those that they perceive of as being the "agents" of these foreigners (to wit: the local governments). These populations, instead, wish to remain more exclusive, free and different.

In common circumstances such as these, could efforts made by the United States/the local governments -- along the lines of "Good Governance" -- could these efforts be perceived of as being:

a. Designed and undertaken to achieve the purposes and objectives of the United States and their partners (the local governments)? And could they be perceived of as being

b. Efforts made to defeat and overcome the desires and wishes of the people?

If the goals and objectives of the United States and the local governments (transformation/integration) clash with the goals and objectives of the populations (exclusivity/freedom/uniqueness), then will not efforts made along the lines of "Good Government" continue to cause, rather than preclude, insurgencies?

If so, should United States -- and the local governments -- abandon their national security interests, goals and objectives re: transforming, integrating and incorporating these societies and, instead, adapt so as to support the very different desires and wishes of these people?

Thanks again.

What I propose is not about transforming others, but primarily about not propping up or enabling those who are determined to drive their populaces into insurgency.

Their call. Want our help? Fine, you need to sit down with your populace first and talk about some things. Don't want to do that? Fine as well, we'll turn off the foreign aid, special favors, etc and work with whoever it is that is sitting in your chair in a year or so.

We scare ourselves into thinking that we HAVE to work with certain people, and its rarely truly the case. Lobbys are strong though. Oil companies have huge stakes in keeping particular governments (contracts) in place, and Dictators are wonderfully stable for that. Governments Lobby us hard as well to keep us supporting policies that are far more in their interest than in our own (SA and Israel both spring to mind). No one says change is easy. True change, not just 'fresh coat of paint and a new name' change.

COL Jones:

If the United States has serious and important national security objectives re: its foreign policy focus and initiatives; for example:

a. To contain communism (by various means) or

b. To provide for the expanding global economy (by transforming and incorporating societal outliers).

And other nations and/or population groups have opposing goals and objectives (for example: to avoid incorporation and to maintain their cultural integrity).

Then could these other nations and populations see initiatives -- undertaken in the name of "Good Governance" -- as just another way of:

a. Justifying and achieving the goals of the United States (re: transforming and incorporating these different societies) and

b. Defeating and nullifying their goals (of avoiding incorporation and maintaining their cultural integrity)?

Dayuhan,

Rule number one (for Jones COIN) is that perceptions are more important than facts, and the perceptions that matter most are those of the populace of the particular area you are focused on.

As many have noted on here, citizens of the Middle East see things differently, and value what they see differently than people do elsewhere.

Based on that, it is safe to assume that how the populace of SA views US policy and actions in the Middle East are different than how the US government views US policy and actions in the Middle East. Probably also safe to assume that whatever those policies and actions are, this divergence of perspective will always be there.

Back to rule one: The only perspective that matters is that of the populace of the particular area you are focused on.

We worry too much about our perspective, or the perspective of the government of the area we are focused on. We need to change the perspective that we focus on.

Jones COIN also makes the premise that insurgency happens when governance fails; and that foreign terrorism happens when governments support those same failed governments. (See paper on the Jones Insurgency Model published here on SWJ).

So, in a nutshell, to date we have been basing our assessments from the wrong perspectives (discounting or ignoring the positions of the populaces) and then focusing our engagement on managing/defeating the symptoms (insurgent/terrorist violence) of governance that is becoming increasingly "Poor" in the eyes of its populace.

So, either don't meddle at all (always an option, and not nearly as scary as many make it out to be; If I hear one more person state what a disaster it would be if Bin Laden somehow gained control of the Saudi State I will bang my head on the desk. Such a situation would rob them of the true Sanctuary of their non-state status, while at the same time they would still have to sell at least as much oil into the world market as the Saudis are selling currently. So, most likely, we would in fact be better off than under the current management).

Or, if we feel we must meddle (and often we feel that we must) instead of helping build the impunity of our "friendly dictators" (becoming more and more like "friendly fire" every day, by the way) by building there capacity to suppress insurgency; we should instead focus that engagement on addressing and building governmental capacity that is most apt to address the reasonable concerns of their populaces. Become the champion of the oppressed and usurp men like UBL and his AQ in that role (rendering them moot) and getting more in step with our professed national principles.

The "hows" would be tailored to each country we work with, but it begins with a top-down change of perspective.

The G*&#@^!~/ Midnight Anonymizer struck again...

The 10:15 post is from Ken White who henceforth refuses to sign in!!!

I am NOT senile. I just can't recall why I'm in this room and I have no idea who the elderly lady watching TV in my living room happens to be...

She's kinda cute, tho'

/s/ Ken White

Robert C. Jones:

"...because we need a national debate, and I fear there are important voices missing. There is more to what is going on in the world than "buisiness as usual" and "COIN is everything". Ken knows that too, or I wouldn't risk agravating him so."

No aggro to me, Mate... :)

My concern is that your good ideas may not get a fair hearing if the delivery is possibly aggravating to some potential recipients -- and debaters -- who can actually affect things.

As you know, I admire your idealism and understand you're asking for what seems best but I do keep reminding you that, as I'm sure you've noticed, a lot of busy decision makers have to deal with the art of the possible and thus will reject out of hand any ideas they see as overly idealistic. They want practical, achievable solutions.

They also get overwrought if you seem to agree with them too often or if you almost never agree with them. Balance isn't easy...

Ok, "Strategic" (just so no one thinks I'm trying to come up with some other new concept! :-) )

Hell, I'm heading back to Afghanistan in two days. Much rather debate Ken over a bit of the Irish than over the net. Deep respect for Ken, (even without the Ken White thread that still has Chuck Norris quaking...)

I only toss this stuff out because we need a national debate, and I fear there are important voices missing. There is more to what is going on in the world than "buisiness as usual" and "COIN is everything". Ken knows that too, or I wouldn't risk agravating him so.

The only thing I know for sure that I have put out previously is that we live in an age of straegic uncertainty. Anyone (to include myself) that claims to know for sure what is going on is full of Sh&#.)

I do enjoy being pressed by men like Dayuhan, Ken, and miguel, because even though I may not agree with them, I know they are sage,thinking men. I have to take seriously what they say, and I do.

Ken.

Reread the thread. I'm the anonymous idiot at 7:04. Careful, others might not know that we've actually never met even that I know that you owe me a drink with your boy in MacKeller's at Bragg.

Arrgggghhhhh. The 7:26 PM anonymous idiot is I. Me. Dummy. See what I mean about about screwups? I make about 50 a day...

Don't get cocky, Bob -- that's ten percent of the national average. :D

Steve:

With respect to only me and not others you were been mentioning, I have one correction, one question.

The correction: This "...idealistic/cynical pseudo-isolationism) going head-to-head" is incorrect on three levels. I'm not terribly idealistic, we sociopaths seldom are; I do not believe in isolationism -- far from it -- I believe in intervention but not necessarily in the vein of Robert C. Jones which is more idealistic than the US will ever be (or should be IMO); and I do not do pseudo. ;)

The question: I'm not???

Surely you jest! Who knew? Why wasn't I informed...

In any event, posts on a Blog or discussion board amount to a whole slew of generalizations, that's fer shure.

Actually, Anon at 7:04 PM is on the right track. "...art tempered with the facts discovered after the fact." Boy, is that right. Experience is what you get when you screw up a lot over a number of years and I've been there and done that... ;(

And FWIW, I agree with the good Colonel on a lot of issues. However, his delivery sometimes seems off kilter just a bit. A couple of Eons ago when I was a newly minted Platoon Sergeant, they told me I was to keep my Boss out of trouble by not letting him do dumb things. Did that. Continued to do it for a good many years as the Bosses got older, more senior and all too often not a bit smarter. Got no Bosses now (except my Wife...) but old habits die hard. ;)

Col Jones,

Re this comment: ""My point is simply that we help the King more by meddling in how he governs than we do by meddling in how he suppresses his populace".

Are you suggesting that we are meddling in how he suppresses his populace? How exactly are we meddling? As you state yourself, the Saudis are quite capable of suppressing their populace without our help, consent, or meddling.

I'm well aware, of course, that Saudi Arabia is a repressive state, and not only politically. We did not make it so; this is a product not of our meddling, but of their culture. Many Saudis - not only in the governing elite - believe that western concepts of human rights and democracy would reduce their country to chaos, and many believe that these concepts are intentionally promoted by westerners as a way of breaking down their culture and imposing western dominance and western culture. What we see as a noble defense of the populace may be seen there as self-interested meddling.

I don't believe that the question I asked earlier was answered, at all. The proposals you made seemed too general to be translatable to policy in any relevant way, and seem to rest on questionable assumptions. I may be seeing this wrong, but I sense a persistent view that the Saudis are somehow dependent on the US and that this dependence can and should be manipulated to force changes in Saudi domestic policy. I don't see where this dependence exists, not do I see what specific changes in Saudi domestic policy you're trying to produce.

So my question remains:

What specific changes in Saudi domestic policy do you want to produce, and what specific adjustments in US policy toward Saudi Arabia do you think would produce those changes?

I understand the desired end state: you want the Saudis to kowtow to us by allowing us to dictate changes in Saudi domestic policy. What you're not telling us is what specific changes you want to produce and how exactly you want to produce them. I don't see it as being "blind to the Saudis", we all know what goes on there. I speak of the need to realistically assess what we're trying to accomplish and what means we have at our disposal to accomplish those goals. If Saudi Arabia were a dependent client state, we might have means at our disposal to force changes in domestic policy. They're not a US client state. So what specifically do you propose to accomplish, and how specifically do you propose to accomplish it?

I don't think you do your thesis any favors by dismissing those who question it, or question its applicability to any given situation, as Cold War relics.

The last was my own as it were.

"At this point I almost feel constrained to point out that just because Ken is as old as God, that doesn't mean that he is God...:-)"

I'm not saying that Ken is always right. Oh , but so often he is so right. Experience is prudence and often overcomes academic rigor and the competing strife.

I merge Ken's voice into the measure of the song. It continues to flow as art tempered with the facts discovered after the fact.

A song in its own verse.

I hope that he continues to sing.

At this point I almost feel constrained to point out that just because Ken is as old as God, that doesn't mean that he is God...:-)

That said, I can't honestly say that I have a dog in this particular fight. It's interesting to note that in a way we have (in a very generalized way) the two consistent strains of US foreign policy (idealistic pan-national interventionism versus idealistic/cynical pseudo-isolationism) going head-to-head.

Might be worth making popcorn for... :-)

COL Jones,

Sir, I love you to death. I listen when you speak, but I think that you provoked this confrontation :). This ones on you. You challenged Brother Ken,

"I can only lead you to water; the rest is up to you."

God/Allah/Yawhae have mercy on your soul.

Don't discount the wise men. He's not writing to destroy you're theory. He gives critique for you to consider to better your thoughts. I'd advise to listen.

COL Jones,

Sir, I love you to death. I listen when you speak, but I think that you provoked this confrontation :). This ones on you. You challenged Brother Ken,

"I can only lead you to water; the rest is up to you."

God/Allah/Yawhae have mercy on your soul.

Don't discount the wise men. He's not writing to destroy you're theory. He gives critique for you to consider to better your thoughts. I'd advise to listen.

Robert C. Jones:

I suspect I had moved well past the Cold War before you were a Second Lieutenant if not before you started High School. My denouement on that futility (a 'war' that was never what you seem to think it was) occurred in mid Fall 1966 as I recall... ;)

"...I see as a fading model of proping up Dictators by helping them suppress their insurgent populaces; and that I believe a healthier model to be one that is more open-minded and that takes into account the reasonable concers of the suppressed populace in question."

Yes, you often say that. What you equally often fail to acknowledge is that others see the same facts you see but arrive at significantly different conclusions. It is not your positions but your tendency to be dismissive of the conclusions of others that stirs up those Yellow Jackets.

Here's an example:

"As to why so many are blind to the Saudis; I know they spend Millions lobbying in the US. Many voices are bought and paid for, others just buy into their message of their own free will."

That's condescending dismissal and that attitude and approach does you no favors in the sense of having your more sensible ideas accepted -- and acted upon.

"My point is simply that we help the King more by meddling in how he governs than we do by meddling in how he suppresses his populace. By so doing we advance our own interests as well, and reduce the liklihood of acts of terror by Saudi citizens against the US, our people, and our interests."

OTOH, one could ask if we are helping the King, or if we wish to help the King or ask if we should help the King. Reasonable people can also believe we can do nothing and thus even better aid the Saudi populace. There are obviously numerous permutations and your response to those being raised is typically to just restate your position without any attempt at refuting the alternatives. One could suspect you do not even consider alternatives.

Not to mention one could really question whether any of those actions or the lack of them is likely to reduce the likelihood of acts of terror by Saudis.

Well, it appears I've poked the good Cold Warriors right in the proverbial hornet's nest.

OK, as I have stated, as the dominant world power with national interests to service, we will indeed intervene, meddle, exert our will, etc; or fade away. What I have also stated is that currently we are focused on what I see as a fading model of proping up Dictators by helping them suppress their insurgent populaces; and that I believe a healthier model to be one that is more open-minded and that takes into account the reasonable concers of the suppressed populace in question. That helping Dictators suppress insurgents in the name of CT is major contributor to what we call the "War On Terrorism." We are, I believe, making the causation that AQ feeds upon stronger by our CT focus. That intervention should instead be focused on fixing governments rather than fixing populaces.

As to why so many are blind to the Saudis; I know they spend Millions lobbying in the US. Many voices are bought and paid for, others just buy into their message of their own free will.

In 1774 the First Continental Congress formed in response to the "Intolerable Acts" and prepared and sent a petition to the King in recognition of his sovereignty and to request his help righting the wrongs that Parliment was placing on the Colonies.

In 1991 a similar assemblage of Saudi's petitioned their King as well:

"This conservative opposition secretly prepared a twelve-point Letter of Demands, signed by hundreds of prominent religious scholars, intellectuals and others. The letter was presented to King Fahd in April 1991, and then circulated more widely throughout the kingdom and provided to the international media, which angered the authorities. The short document urged a broad program of reform, including review of the kingdom's laws to ensure conformity with Islamic law; judicial independence; formation of an independent consultative council charged with decision-making in domestic and foreign affairs; Arigorous accountability for all officials without exception; removal of corrupt or incompetent officials; overhauling the media to Aserve Islam; distribution of public wealth Afairly among all classes and groups; and foreign policies that Achampion Muslim causes and eschew Aillegitimate alliances. The country's top religious and judicial bodies denounced the letter, particularly because it was made public.

In July 1992, 109 religious scholars and intellectuals circulated a longer document, known as the Memorandum of Advice, that elaborated on the Letter of Demands. It advocated freedom of expression for independent clerics, accountability for government officials, and greater consultation between government policymakers and religious scholars in order to avoid "separation between politics and religion, which defeats the very purpose of the establishment of the Islamic state." The memorandum also called for an end to arbitrary arrest and torture. The government media and the official clerical establishment condemned this document as well. Some of the signatories were questioned and threatened; other oppositionists were banned from public speaking and suspended from their government jobs. "

http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/saudi/

My point is simply that we help the King more by meddling in how he governs than we do by meddling in how he suppresses his populace. By so doing we advance our own interests as well, and reduce the liklihood of acts of terror by Saudi citizens against the US, our people, and our interests.

Here is a perfect example of the Wilsonian Paradox as reflected in COL Jones' own writings:

"...or the John Nagls, preaching that the way of the future is perpetual meddling in the insurgencies of others..."

Note in the above COL Jones does NOT favor the meddling/intervention.

This then gets answered by his next set of words:

"Adjust our foreign policy to be...more attuned to the effects of good and poor governance and shift our interventions to be more about fixing governments than suppressing populaces (when we feel compelled by our interests to intervene)."

In the first set of quotes he cries foul on the interventions, yet in the second set of quotes he champions the intervention/meddling. This is classic Wilson. It is further compounded by seeking to bypass the foreign government so as to "help the people" directly. Again classic Wilson. The Wilsonian psychosis is also used here in that we ourselves (the USA) are "suppressing the people" by having anything to do with the foreign government/regime.

The next step in the Wilson model is that a more acceptable government must come into place, unless of course that government proves to be resistant to Wilson's puppeteering. If it does become a Wilson puppet, then the next great Wilsonian in next or later US administration will repeat the cycle by again saying we are supporting a despotic government brought in by the last Wilsonian, or the Wilsonian before that. Hence the cycle repeats itself as a continuing tragicomedy.

In the event that new foreign government does not become a Wilson puppet, then Wilson (or the Wilsonian) will again seek to intervene. It's the Mexican Revolution of 1910 all over again where all of the above scenarios happened.

It's also worth remembering that prior to WW 1 (and during it as well) Wilson was very interventionist, sending troops into both Mexico and Central America with what could be considered total abandon (especially when compared to his predecessors) and for what might be considered almost purely ideological reasons. People focus too much on what Wilson did during WW 1 and all too often forget about his actions in other places prior to the war.

Robert C. Jones:

"War is politics. You can't escape that bit of CvC. I also don't believe there is a miliary solution to the political problems we are pitting the military against today."

We agree on all that. We seem to disagree markedly on the solution to that problem...

Miguel Angel Guardia mentioned that it seemed to him that you believed all foreign policy is wrong, except for your own version which in fact would result in more intervention and more bad foreign policy. I'm unsure of the truth of that last bit but the first portion certainly resonates.

As you said:

"I may be wrong, but my thinking is my own and I am ok with that. I make similar points often because I am the only one making them."

Having belief in ones conclusions is admirable but one should always remember that they may not be the only solution to a particular problem. Everyone else is not necessarily idiotic or deluded.

I do not believe you're the only one stating many of your positions but I'll certainly acknowledge that you state them more repetitively than most.

COL Jones,

Agreed on the independent thought processes, though I opine yours to be incorrect. Rather I agree with Ken White's view that "You seem to continue attempting to apply a western construct to the Middle East -- forgetting that they do not think as do we."

In other words, applying Western standards to others is what has gotten us into the current Charlie-Foxtrots.

You wrote, "As to being branded a "Wilsonian" there are worse names to be sure. The suppression of his input at Versailles accelerated the path to WWII."

I think that to be incorrect. Wilson's input at Versailles DID accelerate the path to WWII. Not only that, WW1 could have ended earlier if Wilson would have accepted some of the overtures that were being made by Germany. Let's not forget this was really Austria's war thanks to Conrad. In addition, Wilson's fiasco in dealing with Mexico, 1910-1917, is one of U.S. History's most neglected bungles.

Unfortunately, Wilson's legacy has infected both the Democrat and Republican parties on how they deal with the world today. Almost every school that teaches international affairs, almost every military FAO and State Department diplomat is infected with the Wilsonian Paradox.

War is politics. You can't escape that bit of CvC. I also don't believe there is a miliary solution to the political problems we are pitting the military against today.

To argue military tactics and strategies in the face of a mission that is not suitable, acceptable, or feasible for the military to accomplish is folly.

The military knows duty. One aspect of that duty is to understand one's craft, and to go back to the boss with good advice when tasked with a mission. Instead the military it ripping itself apart as it attempts the infeasible; giving rise to the Gian Gentiles who plead for a return to the good old days of focusing on peacetime deterrence and wartime maneuver; or the John Nagls, preaching that the way of the future is perpetual meddling in the insurgencies of others. There are other options than those two extremes.

Mine is just one such option. Adjust our foregin policy to be less supportive of despotic leaders, be more attuned to the effects of good and poor governance and shift our interventions to be more about fixing governments than suppressing populaces (when we feel compelled by our interests to intervene). This allows us to right size and right-mission our military for a primary focus such as prescribed by the Gentiles; with a small, supporting capability prepared to do the type of work suggested by the Nagls.

So far all that Mr. Guardia has offered is that he disagrees with me. Noted.

Robert C. Jones:

Amnesty International? Careful whom you cite lest you become a laughing stock as well...

I see many of the things you mention, I just interpret them differently. You seem to continue attempting to apply a western construct to the Middle East -- forgetting that they do not think as do we.

Your ability to impute thoughts to me that I do not hold is noted and rejected. Again.

Actually, I'd prefer you not try to lead me to water. Like most people, I'm quite capable of finding my own and think that's a better idea than drinking someone else's political Kool Aid. Rather, I suggest, you might wish to ponder deeply the assessment of Miguel Angel Guardia.

I'm not a fan of political activism or public political discussion. Much of what I read seems politically, not militarily, oriented.

Even if I just took the 5% of the Saudi pop that is Shia it is enough. But it goees well beyond the Shia and is wide spread in the Sunni populace that nourishes AQ and other such organizations.

This report last year in Amnesty International but one that Dayuhan could pull up himself if he were willing to spend 5 minutes doing research.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/saudi-arabia-counterin...

It may look like "mild unrest" when the government can, and does, go into any home and and arrest anyone, for any reason, at any time, without any due process or probable cause. And then deport, detain or execute the same as they chose without any opportunity to challenge the charges against them. The grass never gets very tall in Saudi Arabia, so you need to quit looking for the forest and look at the roots.

You may applaud such "justice" Ken; heck, you may find the "respect" the Saudis laud upon the Shia as admirable; you may even think that such governance is expected and appreciated by the citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps you really can't see the causal links between Saudi oppression and the terrorism they face domestically; or our support for sustaining the current Saudi government and the attacks by Saudis against the US.

I can only lead you to water; the rest is up to you.

Robert C. Jones:

I'm unsure you did in fact answer Dayuhan's query about the Saudis as insurgents. I presume your response was:

"...The populace of the Saudi Pen. has been in a constant state of insurgency ever since the label "Saudi" was slapped on them..."

That may be true with respect to some Saudis but it unlikely to be true with respect to all -- acknowledging that you seem to see insurgencies where many of us see mild unrest.

You later say that to applaud this Saudi Fatwa of suppression is ignorant and obscene. I certainly agree you're entitled to make such a judgment call but others may not share your intensity. Regardless, the political comment at the end of your post is your prerogative but it does bring much of your philosophy into question...

Dayuhan, Brother, you asked for an example of a COA for how we approach this by changing our own behavior rather than demanding changes of others and I gave it above. Asked and answered.

The globe is system, interconnected and interrelated in ways we don't fully appreciate. An acion in one place has effects in others. The US tends to view itself in the pursuit of its policies as benign, distilled water poured into the system. Yet US foreign policy is thinly tolerated by our best of friends, and resisted in varying degrees by everyone else. We need to wake up to this. We can not help but step on toes, but to do so so heavily, often and without regard of the effect on those stepped upon cannot persist.

But we must act to preserve our interests or fade into the history books. My point is that we need to act with greater awareness of the impact of our actions, and to also recognize and adjust to the shifting balance of power between Governments and Populaces everywhere. We are now the champions of Despots, while Bin Laden is the Champion of the oppressed. I find that upsetting. We are better than that, and can do better than that.

To applaud this Saudi Fatwa of suppression is ignorant and obscene; and it puts our nation and our people at greater risk for no gain other than to ensure that current oil contracts stay in place for a handful of corporations, and that a particular family also benefit from those same contracts. I like to think we are better than that.

Dayuhan stated: "...that in previous posts you appear to recommend that we force the Saudis to kowtow to us, by trying to pressure them to adopt domestic policies that we think they should adopt..."

I tend to agree with this observation. It's the Wilsonian Paradox - that is preaching "peace" while being the most interventionist President ever.

Lots of Governments threw us out and refuse to kowtow to us, in fact nobody much seems to kowtow to us... most of them we manage to get along with. Our persistent problem with Iran may be partly of our own making, but by no means entirely.

It's true that Iranians don't blame the US for the existence of their government, but neither do Saudis for the most part. Hard not to mention, as well, that in previous posts you appear to recommend that we force the Saudis to kowtow to us, by trying to pressure them to adopt domestic policies that we think they should adopt.

I think the mechanism you propose for the UN might be useful, but I see no chance at all that the UN will adopt it: too many of the member governments see it as something that could be used against them. It's very unlikely that the UN or any multilateral body will accept any mechanism perceived as legitimizing external interference in domestic affairs in anything but the most extreme conditions.

The question re Saudi Arabia remains open...

Col Jones,

I do not claim any expertise on Iran. From the few persians that I've met, I've found them to be a very proud people that would refuse any type of direct intervention.

One of the takeaways from "For Neda" was the indirect support from external actors. In this case, the Green Revolution gained support from 30 year old computer geeks in the US NOT a state or military intervention. Using sophisticated programing skills, they managed to keep the internet open for the people to tell their story. It's similar to what Google is attempting in China.

One interpretation is that it's an ad-hoc version of the old USIA for the information age. It will be interesting to watch and see if the non-violent approach translates to political action over time.

COL Jones:

I am still waiting to hear what your specific experience is in KSA whereby you arrive at the opinion that it is ripe for insurrection. An Amnesty International report I would find to be not only insufficient, but highly suspect.

I have looked at your writings, and I believe you are trapped in the Wilsonian Paradox, that is preach peace, non-intervention, and that all foreign policy is wrong, except for your own version which in fact would result in more intervention and more bad foreign policy. Woodrow Wilson, the most interventionist president the US has ever had, and whose conceptual legacy is the illness known as the United Nations.

MAG - I'm clearly on record as not expert on Saudi Arabia. Sure, I lived there for 7 months, I study, I read, I pay attention, but I am no expert. My primary focus area is insurgency, its causation and cures.

I list merely one cite that popped up on the first of hundreds of pages when one googles terrorism and Saudi Arabia. Believe what you wish. In the end what you believe, or what I believe either one has no impact on what the reality is.

As to being "trapped" you are welcome to your opinion, but perhaps your own box causes you to rationalize that it is I that must be in one. I have come to where I am though a great deal of study, work, thought and analysis; I may be wrong, but my thinking is my own and I am ok with that. I make similar points often because I am the only one making them. There should be room for alternative perspectives; particularly when the conventional wisdom is failling so dramatcially.

As to being branded a "Wilsonian" there are worse names to be sure. The suppression of his input at Versaille accelerated the path to WWII.

If you are waiting for news of tanks in the streets of Riyadh to assess the presence of insurgency, then you are in good company. The best COIN is accomplished long before things get that bad. I give the Saudi's there due. They are damn good at suppressing insurgency. They should be, they've been doing it since the 1700s.

Mike,

Iran is a great case. A government we don't like (largely because it both threw us out and refuses to kowtow to what the US orders them to think and do); and a popualce that is very pro-American (ie, what we stand for, they don't want to subjugate themselves to us). The popualce does not terrorize the United States but is Insurgent. They reject the legitimacy of the government, but they do not blame the US for the existiance of that same government. (This is a critical point, by the way, for most terrorism that the US worries about today comes from the populaces of our allies).

What I am suggesting is that there is an alternative to the current three options:

a. Do nothing.

b. Conduct FID/SFA/capacity building with the Iranian government to help them better suppress the popular movement emerging to challenge their growing failures of Legitimacy, Justice, Respect and Hope; or

c. Conduct UW to assist the people of Iran succeed in an insurgency against their government.

The 4th option I suggested above is that a trusted and certain vehicle be created in some international organization, such as a reformed and updated UN, where both Governments and/or populace-based groups that meet certain criteria can petition for support in addressing these causal perceptions short of violent conflict. Clearly an organization such as AQ or the Taliban would be "burned" by their violent histories, an ineligible; however this would lead to the defeat of these same groups as the populaces that support them turn to the new groups that would emerge to lead them to more peaceful and legal change.

COL Jones,

I have to agree with Dayuhan on this one. What specific experience do you have in Saudi Arabia that leads you to believe that the population is in constant insurrection or ripe for one?

Whose interest does this Fatwa against terrorism (and terrorists financing) serve?

For example:

Does it serve the interests of the people of Saudi Arabia re: the King's efforts and initiative to carefully modernize and reform the society?

In this regard, does the Fatwa also serve the interests of the United States re: its foreign policy objective -- to transform and modernize (via "Development, Diplomancy and Defense") certain regions of the world?

Stated another way, in what context should we see contemporary "terrorism?"

a. Does contemporary terrorism stem from individuals and groups who feel threatend by and who are opposed to progress and reform (modernity, globalization, democracy)?

Or (if I am reading COL Jones correctly):

b. Does contemporary terrorism originate in the ideas and actions of individuals and groups who desire to see this type of progress and reform proceed much more quickly?

If "b" above is correct, and we just do not realize this yet, then should we not agree with COL Jones' position and argument?

COL Jones,

"Iran is the most pro-American populace in the ME; we need to stop poking that nest. It's not the enemy."

I just watched the documentary "For Neda." She is considered a martyr of the Green Revolution having been killed during the post election protest in Iran.

I'd recommend watching the video. My question is- Is this the type of non-violent movements that you'd wish for the UN to support?

"Constant state of insurgency..." by what definition of insurgency?

If the Saudis have successfully suppressed insurgency "since the label "Saudi" was slapped on them", maybe we should be taking lessons from them. That would have been 1744 or so, a long time. Seems to me that if dissent were widespread and intense enough to be characterized as insurgency, suppression should only exacerbate it, as it has elsewhere. Is it not a central tenet of COIN theory that pure suppression doesn't work?

If the Saud family has successfully suppressed insurgency for 250 years, either they have developed some utterly unique and superhuman power of suppression or the "insurgency" has lacked the popular support necessary to make it effective.

In any event, the question remains:

What specific changes in Saudi domestic policy do you want to produce, and what specific adjustments in US policy toward Saudi Arabia do you think would produce those changes?

No, not KW, that was me. :-)

Gotta call BS on this:

"but the Saudi populace isn't rising up in insurgency, which renders points a and b sort of meaningless."

You really need to do a little research with an open mind. The populace of the Saudi Pen. has been in a constant state of insurgency ever since the label "Saudi" was slapped on them. The Saudis keep the grass mown pretty short, but its never stopped growing...

Col Jones,

I asked for specifics and got generalities; I'm not at all sure the generalities apply to Saudi Arabia.

Possibly is is the "right and duty of populaces everywhere to rise up in insurgency when faced with what they perceive to be despotism", but the Saudi populace isn't rising up in insurgency, which renders points a and b sort of meaningless.

I don't see where point c gets us, because as far as I know we don't provide aid to Saudi Arabia. Whatever they get from us is paid for: that's not aid, it's business. If we ceased to provide it they'd buy it elsewhere. If they did AQ would not hate us any less. If being in bed with dictators was the driving force behind the fury of terrorists, France would have been leveled by terrorist bombs years ago.

We've been over this enough times, perhaps we ought to settle it. What specific changes in Saudi domestic policy do you want to produce, and what specific adjustments in US policy toward Saudi Arabia do you think would produce those changes?

When you say this:

[i]we will accept petitions for such aid from populace groups orgainized within certain parameters and recognized by the UN; as well as from standing governments.[/i]

Do you really think the UN would sanction that kind of interference in domestic affairs? I doubt it.

I'm no expert on international law (would be go to hear from someone who is) but isn't encouraging or assisting rebellion in a foreign sovereign state something approaching an act of war? Not that it isn't done, but doing it openly and proclaiming it as policy might generate an unintended consequence or two.

I'm also not convinced that lecturing or trying to change foreign governments will win us any points with oppressed populaces. In my observation even citizens who loathe their own government tend to resent lectures or attempts at influence from abroad, especially from the US. It's not seen as standing up for the populace, it's seen as disrespect for leader, nation, people, even religion. One of the fastest ways to rally popular support behind a bad government is for the US to criticize it. Nationalism works in mysterious ways.

Robert C. Jones:

You have more faith in the UN taking any action potentially inimical to a de facto government than I. You also said:

"Any approach will have critcs. Certainly the approaches born of the Cold War are gaining less and less favor every day, yet the good Cold Warriors cling to them dogmatically."

The possible objectors to whom I referred were citizens and voters plus those they elect, not policy or military types. I doubt Cold Warriors will be your problem; most Americans today have little real recollection of the era (witness all the myths about it...) and even a number of us elderly types never really bought into much of that.

The "yet to be defined" issue is an area of significant concern. Recall the old saw, the devil is in the details.

As always, I applaud your idealism and was per usual merely suggesting factors for which I believed you failed to account. Er, possibly still fail to account...

Addendum to my comment immediately above:

Likewise, should the local government and the United States go in the opposite direction, and move toward supporting the pro-slavery/traditional society group, then the anti-slavery/pro-modern group could also honestly cry despotism, could honorably rebel and could send "terrorism" toward both our camps (that of the local government and that of the United States).