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Wednesday, January 27

Cato's dizzy advice: Al Saud very bad but keep selling them weapons

"The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization — a think tank – dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace." 
-- From the Cato website

In Stop Reassuring Saudi Arabia, a Worse Threat to the Middle East than Iran  (January 26), Cato senior fellow Doug Bandow outlines for Cato readers what he sees as wrong with the Saudi regime -- 
"... KSA ... operates as a slightly more civilized variant of the Islamic State. The royals run a totalitarian system which prohibits political dissent, free speech, religious liberty, and social autonomy." 
and explicitly warns that the Saudi regime "has become more harmful to America’s interests." He then presents his policy advice to the U.S. government: Stop treating the regime as a U.S. ally and put the relationship with the Saudis on a transactional basis:
“The two countries need a new, more normal relationship. They should work together when advantageous and disagree when appropriate. Sell weapons to Riyadh without committing to provide a royal bodyguard.”
I don't know how Bandow would justify the continued U.S. sale of weapons to Al Saud, given his criticisms of their government. But on the chance he would use a defense of free-market enterprise as justification, there is a difference between free enterprise and suicidal behavior. No rational person would sell weapons or any kind of materiel to a government he believes to be very dangerous.

Mr Bandow also writes that the Saudis trample American values. Okay, but when the people doing the trampling are demonstrably dangerous to the American state, this is not firstly an issue of values. This is first an issue of survival.

So while I laud Cato's dedication to individual liberty, before liberty must come rationality because few things are more troubling than a raving idiot at liberty. And before a defense of values must come the ability to think in non-contradictory terms. Surely the reason for this is clear; the whole concept of defense goes out the window if you keep shooting yourself in the foot.     

It's highly contradictory to argue that a regime is a serious threat to the United States (or the Middle East) but that it's okay for the U.S. to allow the sale of American weapons to the regime.

Bandow's writing for Cato only scratches the surface about why the Saudi regime is dangerous. So it could be that when he warns against the regime he doesn't view it as all that dangerous to the United States. If that's the case he would need to get better informed. But certainly, given that Cato's mission statement includes dedication to peace, it makes no sense to recommend that the United States pile more weapons into an already volatile situation in the Middle East.


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