A CULTURE CHANGES

Posted: February 7, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Saudi Arabia has been a unified country for eighty-four years.  While many envision Saudi Arabia as a warrior country populated with fanatics running around carrying AK 47s screaming at the top of their lungs on dusty streets, nothing could be further from the truth.  While these are visions in parts of the Middle East nothing could be further from the truth in Arabia.

Saudi Arabia began to form itself into a country when King Ibn Saud took his warrior force mounted on horseback and over ran town after town and tribe after tribe until he had consolidated control of the now established Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  He had a unique method of maintain control.  Instead of trying to control by military might, he would marry a tribal leader’s daughter from a defeated tribe and when a male child was born he would declare the child to be a prince and thus a part of the ruling class.  This sealed the kingdom.

One of the main obstacles to turning the desert land into a unified country was to oust the Ottoman army and its’ rulers from the country.  The Ottomans were a Turkish dynasty that had ruled Arabia for hundreds of years.  When the Saudis defeated the Turkish army at the Hufuf Fort at the Al Hasa Oasis Ibn Saud did not opt to put the captured men to the sword.  At the time it was not uncommon to have done so.  Instead he marched them east across the sand dunes to the port fort at Al Uquair where they boarded ships for Turkey.

In the past the Saudis were famous for negotiating instead of confrontation.  As the country developed into a financial power based on crude, the Kingdom could leverage its negotiations with the aid of money.  Arabia built a military but preferred to not deploy to any hot spots.  Instead it would provide logistical support in the form of material goods and funds.  In 1967 the Arab countries sent forces on a quest to destroy Israel.  In only seven days Israel defeated the armies from the countries that surrounded it.  Saudi’s participation was light in comparison to Iran’s and Iraq’s forces.  It has been noted that the Saudi fighter aircraft stationed in Jeddah, the closest base to Israel, sent its’ planes east to Dhahran so that they would be out of range of the Israeli fighters.

In 1999 Saudi hosted a meeting in Jeddah to promote a brokered settlement between Iraq and Kuwait.  The talks collapsed but Saudi announced that they had “adjourned” and both sides agreed to come back together to talk at a later time.  That night Iraq invaded Kuwait.  Even though Iraq crossed into Saudi at least twice the forces would not go to the aid of Kuwait until an American led coalition attacked the Iraqis six months later and launched Desert Storm.

What Saudi could all ways count on was America to provide safety and security.  When I arrived in Arabia in 1978 the American presence was evident.  There were training programs to provide American assistance.  Operation Peace Hawk and Peace Shield brought Americans to Arabia to help build the military.  These people were welcome to a truly peace-loving country.  In the early 1980 we would go from Aramco to Al Khobar and play softball at the Northrop or McDonnell compounds.  These were leased facilities for the men and women that worked for these defense contractors that provided everything from aircraft maintenance support to survival training for pilots.

Over time this has changed.  America’s foreign policy has morphed into observing and talking about mid-east issues instead of being actively involved.  The Teddy Roosevelt world of “Speak Softly but Carry a Big Stick” has been replaced with “Speak Softly, Carry a Stick but Don’t Use It  and Make Sure Everyone Knows You Won’t Use It”.  This has left our allies wondering what we would really do in a case where they were in real jeopardy.  Arabia is a prime example of this confusion with American policy and they have decided it is time to act and act alone.

Last year Saudi began bombing Yemen when Iranian  backed dissidents toppled the government.  They did so without American support, American backing and without seeking American approval.  Sad that a staunch ally of the United States, the strongest in the Mid-East, felt it could not count on the great United States and decided they would act alone.  They are still bombing and with more ferocity than we are with our war against ISIS.  Now Arabia has made an even more bold statement and it is one that we need to take notice of.  Last week Saudi Arabia announced that they will send troops to Syria to fight ISIS.  This is no idle task.  They will have to cross Iraq to get to the enemy.   Supply logistics will be enormous and placing an army on the ground hundreds of miles from home for the first time in the countries history shows two things.  First, ISIS is a credible enemy that must be destroyed.  Second, America cannot be counted on to stop this threat and Saudi is going to war where it can be won, on the ground.

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