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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Seeing the Saudis clear, &c.

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (left), talks with Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh on December 9, 2018. (Bandar Algaloud / Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court via Reuters) On a problematic ally; the current politics of the GOP; Willard Scott and Barbara Bush; and more

One of the most annoying people in the world is the person who sees both sides — and even sympathizes with both sides. You want to side with either Smith or Jones, X or Y. You want everyone else to, too. There must be no Smith–Jones or X–Y alliance.

Speaking of alliances: Our relationship with the Saudis is endlessly problematic. Personally, I would love to cut them loose. I have done a fair amount of reporting on Saudi oppression. I have talked with the family members of political prisoners. This is a vicious, nasty regime.

Think bone saw.

And yet I am told, by wise and experienced heads, that our alliance with Saudi Arabia is vital. I wrote a post about this two years ago: “The Damn Saudis.” I pressed a former president, George W. Bush, on the subject in 2016. In the summer of 2002, I pressed a national-security official on the subject. (Not the president, I should stress, but not far beneath, either.) “My gosh!” I said. “What about the Saudis and al-Qaeda and the hijackers and all?” The official said — coolly and knowingly — “The Saudis have done everything we have asked of them.” And we really needed the help then — bad.

For about 20 years, there has been a debate over releasing classified information pertaining to Saudi Arabia and 9/11. One side says, “Release! Transparency! Knowledge!” The other side says, “Foreign-policy delicacy. Dark, messy world. Realism.” I sympathize with both sides — always have. (This is annoying, for me not least.) But I would err on the side of releasing.

Which apparently President Biden has as well. I recommend a column by George F. Will (I could write those words every week): here. His bottom line is right in the

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