Debating Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Democracy
MSNBC's 'Buchanan and Press'
BUCHANAN: The president of the United States invited the Saudi ambassador down to the ranch in Texas, which is something of a major gratuity, if you will, to the Saudis. And it's to repair a damaged relationship, somewhat damaged, by an issue we're going to raise right now with Daniel Pipes, who is director of the Middle East Forum.
Mr. Pipes, one of the problems the United States has in its relationship with Saudi Arabia was a briefing which Mr. Perle, Richard Perle's Defense Policy Review Board gave in which an individual, who turned out to be a LaRouche-y, briefed this very prestigious board and said, in effect, Saudi Arabia is the kernel of evil in the Middle East and its an enemy and, virtually, after we take down Iraq we've got to take down Saudi Arabia.
What is your take on what that briefer said, and what the president is doing right now in trying to repair the relationship? Is the president doing the right thing here?
DANIEL PIPES, DIR., MIDDLE EAST FORUM: What the briefer said, Pat, was that we have to reassess this relationship, Saudi Arabia is not our friend, but our enemy. What you see the president doing, especially today, is trying to repair that.
Now, what's extraordinary about this is that the U.S.-Saudi relationship, which has been an important relationship since 1945, has always been a private one. It was one between the diplomats of the two countries, the politicians.
Now for the first time, you have this briefer, but you've much more. You have the question of Americans being abducted and held against their will in Saudi Arabia. You have the recent court case against the Saudis for no less than one trillion dollars. And much more. It's now become a public issue. And what you have is the president saying, whoa, we want to keep this a private issue between you and me, Mr. Ambassador. Let's ignore what the rest of the people are saying. And...
BUCHANAN: Mr. Pipes, let me interrupt you right there. You said in your pre-interview that Saudi Arabia is not an enemy but it is also not a friend. If they're not a friend of the United States, and certainly Iran is not a friend, and Iraq is not a friend, why don't we just pull the five thousand American ground troops out of Saudi Arabia, get our ships out of the Gulf, and let these non-friends and enemies settle their own problems without the United States having to go to war there every 10 years?
PIPES: Well, I partially agree with you. It was a mistake to put those soldiers in Saudi Arabia. They should have gone to Kuwait or some other more friendly country. On the other hand, it is very useful to have American troops in a part of the world where there is a tremendous American interest. I mean, were the oil and gas to stop coming out of the Persian Gulf, our economy would obviously be very badly hit. So we have real interests there, but it was a mistake to put troops in Saudi Arabia, I agree with you.
PRESS: Mr. Pipes, let me just ask you the bottom line question, I guess. How can we go around the Arab world preaching democracy? That what we're all about is bringing democracy to the Arab world and supporting a corrupt monarchy like you got in Saudi Arabia.
PIPES: Actually, we have not preached democracy in the Middle East.
PRESS: Well, that's what we say we want in Afghanistan, that's why we say we want to topple Saddam Hussein!
PIPES: Well, actually, we have pushed democracy in Latin America, East Europe, East Asia, but distinctly we have not done that, until June 24, when the president gave his speech about bringing democracy to the Palestinian Authority. It has been not our policy in the Middle East.
I think it should change. And, what you're suggesting is that we should start pressing the Saudis for democracy. We have simply not done that over the decades, we haven't done it in Saudi Arabia, we haven't done it in Morocco, we haven't done it in Jordan, we haven't done it in Egypt, we haven't done it in the Middle East. Time for a change.
PRESS: I want to move on to Iraq, because you recently wrote in the "New York Post" where you say that if you look at all the options the only option in Iraq is a military campaign, the only option left and you know as well as I just to remind all of our viewers that we'd go into there, here's how the sides are going to line up [visuals on screen follow].
OK, countries supporting a U.S. attack on Iraq at this point. Only one, the U.K. In fact, only one man, probably, Tony Blair. We're not even sure the British people are behind him.
Countries against the attack at this time. Now just look at this: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy--Japan, Jordan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen.
PIPES: That's a great list. How about I give you a different list? I'm going to give you a list of countries supporting the United States...
PRESS: Do you really believe that this war is in our best interests, going it alone?
PIPES: I sure do. Let me put it in a different way. Countries supporting the United States are, obviously, very few. And how about another list, of countries supporting Iraq? None! It's us against the Iraqis, with the rest of the world sitting it out. Who do you think is going to win that war?
PRESS: I have no doubt who is going to win it.
BUCHANAN: Let me not only agree with you, who is going to win it, but once the shooting starts, people will have to take sides, and my guess is nobody will line up with Iraq, and some will line up with the United States.
PIPES: There you go.
BUCHANAN: Mr. Pipes, I want to ask you this, though. During the Cold War, we had liberals and leftists were yelling for democracy and they didn't like our allies, they said they were flawed. And they helped take down the Shah under Jimmy Carter and they helped take down Somosa in Nicaragua. And we wound up with the Ayatollah and that horrible situation in Iran and we wound up with the Sandinistas down there, right there, in Nicaragua.
Are folks like you not inviting the same sort of thing; we got-not a single democracy in the Arab world, understandably. But you make them demo - more democratic-more expressive of the will of the Arab street and won't they all be in favor of a war on Israel and do you really think it's going to be better in Saudi Arabia when the monarchy goes down?
PIPES: Your point, Pat, is a very good one. You're making a very good point. Which is that we have a better relationship with the rulers than we would with their democratic successors and we have to go very carefully. I agree. I am not calling for a democracy now - getting rid of the rulers and replacing them with elections next month. I'm saying what we should do is start pressing for the development of civil society; we should push for freedom of movement and speech, for rule of law, political parties, and so forth...
BUCHANAN: Let me interrupt you right there. I would agree with all that if we could get it, but aren't they going through sort of what we went through in the 16th Century, the religious wars among the Christian nations and also with the French Revolution and all that, aren't they being dragged through and having an internal battle with modernity and isn't it in our interests to get out of that and let them resolve that themselves?
PIPES: It's in our interests that they modernize and it's in our interests to help them modernize and I think we know how. We are very modern and we can help them. Look, we've done that elsewhere. Look, for example, at Japan. We defeated the Japanese and then we guided them towards a democracy. We did the same with Germany. We should be doing the same thing with Iraq.
BUCHANAN: But democracies existed in both countries before, even in Japan.
PIPES: In Japan?
BUCHANAN: In Japan it certainly did in the 1920s. It's qualified, and certainly in Germany up until 1933.
PIPES: Well, by that token there was a much more decent system in Iraq before 1958. Look, the key point I'm trying to make is in a very cautious and slow and deliberate manner, we should look to the Middle East as we have to other parts of the world and encourage the opening of the political process. Slowly, carefully.
PRESS: OK, Mr. Daniel Pipes, from the Middle East Forum, thank you very much.
BUCHANAN: Thank you very much.
Reader comments (4) on this item
Comment on this item
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes