Forgetting Lincoln: Why is America Friends With the House of Saud?

Published February 14th, 2018 - 02:53 GMT
How do Americans interpret their own foreign policy? Image: Shubert Ciencia, CC
How do Americans interpret their own foreign policy? Image: Shubert Ciencia, CC

By John Lillywhite

Why does current U.S. Foreign Policy favor Saudi Arabia over other friends and tested allies in the region, such as Jordan? What do the United States and the House of Saud have in common?


Before we begin, some caveats.

This is not another article implying that all of America’s woes begin and end with President Donald Trump. America isn’t over. European aristocrats predicted the failure of a United States and American democracy before either had even come into existence. America as a federation of States, as a driver of creativity and innovation, and as a vast military power, will outlive all of us.

Neither is this a partisan point. Republican foreign policy is repugnant. The Democratic party and the Media Complex that keeps it in power are suffering from a deep psychosis. 

Finally, this isn’t an essay on globalization, multipolar geopolitics, or the birth of digital and the end of the nation state. All of these phenomena are real, and all of them are redrawing the role of the United States in significant ways.

American lifestyle apparel, technology, movies, and more broadly American power are not going anywhere. Rather, the question is this - what is America?

Since September 11th, many people are increasingly becoming unsure. If America as a civlization equals enlightenment values, enfranchisement, self-sufficiency and equality before the law, why are these things not more in evidence?

Younger millennials, schooled in Foucault rather than Lincoln, or in Nietzsche rather than Paine, might also wonder what their values - be it on issues of gender, identity, class or race - have in common with the House of Saud.

There is a danger that America could be perceived as standing for nothing. Or worse, standing for only one thing: Power.  

All Empire’s - and America is an Empire - are based on a story. The might of Rome. Rule Britannia. The American Dream, Manifest Destiny, the City on the Hill. Great Empire’s represent a vision for the future. From this vision they draw their vital energy.

There’s something sad, in watching a potent giant stumble between left or right, global or national, the founding fathers or intersectionality, faith or materialism. There is no focus. There is intelligence, and cleverness there, but nothing more. 


America’s Foreign Policy needs to change. The country needs to reinterpret its founding ideals, not abandon them.

We’ve had sixteen years of War in the Middle East. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria are contained warzones. Yemen, one of the poorest, most fragile and inoffensive countries in the world, has been bombed with U.S. and U.K. refueling support. These wars have created the largest number of displaced persons in human history.

Jerusalem, an ancient and independent city, has been made the capital of Israel. Somehow North Korea has developed nuclear weapons that can hit the U.S. and European mainland. The Iran Deal, a significant foreign policy achievement, is being undone. Six countries ratified the deal, with a view to restricting the country's nuclear program. The alternative is war. More conflict. More failure.

How do Americans interpret their own foreign policy? I don’t know.

There does seem to be a growing awareness that the 'Liberal World Order' is broken. It was never liberal in the first place. Decades of postmodern theory have accompanied and enabled a degree of cynical realpolitik in international relations, that is staggering. The distance between rhetoric and reality has become difficult to explain away. 

The lack of a shared vision in Europe and America is leading to some surprising alliances. The western world excels in its technocratic mastery, but no longer has a founding vision. It exists to expand and increase, but has forgotten why.

The United States is no longer sure what it believes in. It's choosing its friends unwisely.

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