American irrelevance

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Bloodshed in Bahrain

The plot of my 2008 novel, The Desert Contract, started with a Shia uprising in Saudi Arabia.  The video above shows Shia protesters in Bahrain–about 35 miles from Saudi’s eastern coast–being shot by Bahraini police (probably Pakistanis).  They are being shot in an attempt to maintain the monarchs of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

You can explain to any Muslim until the night is long, the theological differences between Catholics and Protestants, as an explanation for the two sects murdering each other for decades in Northern Ireland.  They will not get it.  Similarly, you can explain to any western Christian or secular until the night is long, the theological differences between Sunnis and Shi’ites, as an explanation for the two sects despising each other as a lower form of human and spiritual life, oppressing each other, and occasionally murdering each other–and they will not get it.

Sectarian strife is half of what’s happening in Bahrain right now.  Shia make up about 70% of the island’s population; they are also the native population of Saudi’s neighboring Eastern Province, and may still be in the majority there.  The monarchs of both countries are Sunni, and oppress and discriminate against their Shia citizens.  The Shia are fed up with being second-class citizens, much as the blacks in America were fed up in the ’60s.

The other half is a desire for representative government.  The Bahrainis are tired of absolute monarchy, much as the French were in the 18th century. 

What is the US doing to assist political evolution on the southern shore of the Gulf?  In early March, the US Secretary of Defense, Bill Gates, had an audience with Bahrain’s king, at which he insisted on seeing meaningful reform.  A few days later, Saudi sent troops, APCs and tanks across the causeway, while Bahraini police murdered unarmed protesters and even occupied hospitals.  Subsequently, the US Secretary of State and the US President ‘urged restraint’, and expressed the importance of a political settlement.  In short, Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy whose citizens supplied most of the 9/11 hijackers–and an American ally in ‘the war against terror’–has invaded a neighboring absolute monarchy to help it murder citizens demanding the rights that Americans acquired 50 to 230 years ago.  And the American government mouths mealy platitudes.

One can talk all day about pragmatism and about foreign policy being guided by strategic interests.  But absolute monarchies fall.  How does our weak-kneed support of political evolution serve our long-term interests?

Not long ago, critics of American foreign policy described Israel and Saudi Arabia as US ‘client states’.  Who is the client state now?


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